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Re: What will improve Debian most?

On Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 09:05:07AM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> So looking through the nominations, platforms and the current -vote
> threads, I'm left wondering if any of this actually matters. Only
> two candidates running, no IRC debate or rebuttals added to the
> platforms,

[ Don't worry, you will have your rebuttals. FWIW mine has been sent to
  the secretary already. ]

> Debian used to involve lots of people with different ideas about how
> to improve free software; not just a handful of different ideas
> about how to run a free software project.

Nevertheless, you ask what will improve _Debian_'s value most, which
sounds like a different question to me. I'll try to address both.

>     Over the next twelve months, what single development/activity/project
>     is going to improve Debian's value the most? By how much? How will
>     you be involved?

When I joined in 2001, Debian was The Distribution that a lot of users
were using and all my friends knowing Free Software was dreaming of
contributing to. Things have changed since then: newbies now use
Ubuntu or Fedora, and contributors can easily join their communities.
Debian is too often seen as the old distro that some old timers still
use, having a rusty process to join which is not worth trying.

The Debian's value that needs to be improved the most is changing
that: putting Debian back into its place. A place it deserves for what
he has done for free software and for what it is continuing to do even
if people sometime are not aware of that. That requires agreeing on a
vision: we are not Ubuntu, and clearly don't target the same people;
but for the people that we want to target (i.e., sysadmins,
developers, power-users, derivative maintainers), we should be the
obvious right choice.

Now, 12 months are probably too few to reach that objective, even
because it is not as measurable as your percentages. Still, if elected
I will use my influence (towards the press and inside the project) to
get as nearer as possible to that goal. More practically, I think the
following topics are addressable in 12 months and will contribute
significantly to make us re-taking the "lead" we deserve:

- Open up.

  We are perceived as a project to which it is *too* difficult to
  contribute. That needs to change and can be changed in 12 months.

  Just yesterday I was at lunch for a keysigning with a guy which has
  maintained, via sponsoring, a popular scientific software of him in
  Debian for something like 6 years. Still, he was too scared by the
  NM process (thanks to frustration emails of other applicants) to
  attempt joining and only now, thanks to DM, he decided to try
  becoming one of us. That fear is unacceptable.

  In 12 months we can:
  * Decide upon the mechanism we prefer to be a more accessible
    project with different level of commitments. A project in which
    all potential contributors find the role they prefer, and get
    credit for it.
  * Send a big message to our community that we have become more open
    and that we are looking for them.
  * (In case you insist in having numbers) Measure the success of the
    experiment by counting the number of contributors we got

- Contribute back.

  I feel we have the obligation of setting the example on how to
  contribute back our changes to the free software ecosystem, mainly
  towards our upstreams. I believe we are the only one that can show
  the path:
  * we have the largest package base (yes, Ubuntu is similar thanks to
    our work, but their "best" packagers are on a smaller package set,
    and "universe" patches are mostly originated from us)
  * we have been hit badly by not pushing back changes and we have to
    show we have learned the lesson
  * we have promised to do so in our social contract
  * our diversity is unique and will help, e.g., in choosing DVCS to
    better work with upstreams

  In 12 months we can set up a mechanism to track publicly which,
  among all our patches (or custom DVCS branches), have been sent
  upstream and at which "level" of acceptance we have brought them.

Thanks for this inspiring question.

Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science \ PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Dietro un grande uomo c'è ..|  .  |. Et ne m'en veux pas si je te tutoie
sempre uno zaino ...........| ..: |.... Je dis tu à tous ceux que j'aime

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