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Re: Q for the Candidates: How many users?

Ben Finney <ben+debian@benfinney.id.au> writes:
> Russ Allbery <rra@debian.org> writes:

>> We're running somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 Debian stable
>> servers. I'm afraid running popcon on them is a non-starter so far due
>> to concerns about information exposure. When this was previously
>> discussed on debian-devel, it became clear that we're far from the only
>> ones in that situation.

> Right. One possible explanation for such a low popcon result for Debian
> is that those who are concerned about popcon exposure also want fine
> control in many other areas, including support for many
> marginally-popular packages, and so selectively prefer Debian. Those
> hosts would therefore not show up on either list.

> Other explanations are possible, of course.

I suppose I shouldn't really be discussing this too much since it's a
question for the DPL candidates rather than a general discussion topic,
but I can't refrain from pointing out something else: my personal goal for
Debian is not for it to be the most popular distribution.  It's for it to
be the best distribution, for a definition of best agreed upon by the
people who work on it.  In other words, in the grand open source
tradition, we're creating something for the broad community, but in the
process we're largely solving our personal problems and scratching our
personal itches.

I want Debian to continue to be an excellent server operating system that
I can use for Stanford University's internal IT infrastructure.  If it
changed in a way that made it a bad server operating system but made it
much more popular in the broad sense, that to me would be a bug, not a

Obviously insofar as we can, we all want Debian to be all things to all
people, and I think we all owe each other an obligation to try to find
good solutions for everything that people want to use Debian for, among
those people who are working on it.  But, even acknowledging good
questions about how to attract new contributors, I don't think pure
popularity should be a driving goal for the project, and certainly
shouldn't override other goals such as sound technical judgement.

AJ's question, and particularly his other longer response to the question
about disappearing DPLs, really highlight what I think are some
disagreements between he and I about how we see Debian.  I fundamentally
do not believe in the "grow or die" model or think that projects need to
constantly move on to the next shiny thing.  I don't believe in it for
economies, I don't believe in it for businesses, and I don't believe in it
for Debian.  I don't think that's a goal to pursue (or, for that matter,
to not pursue).  I'd much rather focus on doing good work and encouraging
and mentoring contributors and letting metrics like total user count do
whatever they do.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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