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Re: Standardization, large scale changes, innovations

On Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 06:07:19PM +0100, Raphael Hertzog wrote:
> On Thu, 25 Mar 2010, Wouter Verhelst wrote:
> > >    How can we change our processes so that doing/organizing such changes
> > >    is less of a burden?
> > 
> > They are not.
> I can't accept the premise that we can't do better at this level.
> I managed to get my own project through the end (it's deployed, people can
> use the new source formats) but other worthwhile projects have not (or not
> yet) and I believe we should enhance our processes so that we can more
> effectively work _together_ on common goals (think of ddebs for example).

To be honest, I'm not sure I understand what the problem you're
discussing here, is.

Within Debian, and within the larger free/open source community, the
most popular way to convince people that some code is a good idea, has
always been to let the code speak for itself. If you want people to send
patches your way, then write the nice and innovative ideas first; the
grunt work will follow. If you want people to accept that something is a
good idea, the best way to do that is to make sure it actually *is* a
good idea. If enough people agree with you on that, the rest will go

A very good example of that is debhelper; nobody ever told anyone to use
it, yet most of our packages do, directly or otherwise.

"Common goals" will be worked on by many people if they are, indeed,
common goals. If someone does not believe ddebs are a worthy goal, it
will be very hard to make him work on that.

I believe that's a good thing, because it means that only those things
which actually are found to be good ideas by "most" people will actually
be worked on.

> Such projects are very difficult to do as one-man show in particular when
> you have no idea whether your work is going to used/deployed or not.

That's normal in Free Software, and it's something we all have to live
with. I've started working on ipcfg with the hope that someone would
eventually use it, but I've so far not convinced many people yet. I can
only assume this is because it's Not There Yet, and will have to
continue working on it.

Sure, that can be demotivating, but that doesn't mean I'm doing a bad

> > I think the debhelper way is the best way to achieve standards within
> > Debian: rather than trying to convince people through arguments, we
> > convince people through technology.
> I try to convince through technology, I advertise the result through
> arguments. And I keep improving the formats based on the feedback that I
> explicitly request.

I don't think there's any better procedure than that in convincing
people to use your technology.

> > > 5/ I have the feeling that Debian is innovating less than it used to do.
> > >    We are more often followers rather than leaders.
> > > 
> > >    Do you share that feeling?
> > 
> > Yes, to some extent. But I'm not convinced that trying to standardize on
> > anything will change that -- on the contrary.
> > 
> > >    What shall we do to make that change?
> > 
> > To encourage innovation, people must have the freedom to experiment.
> > Innovation is impossible if too many standards are imposed on people.
> Please don't relate that question to the standardization question, it was
> not meant to.

Okay; that wasn't clear.

> You answer is rather limited, I hope you can elaborate.

Not sure I can.

> We all have the freedom to experiment, we have all the sources, so why
> aren't we any longer innovating?

I'm afraid I don't have an answer to that one. Perhaps it's because
there isn't much new that can be done anymore which lies strictly within
the realm of what a distribution does? Or perhaps it's because we just
don't attract the kind of people who would do innovative new ideas?

I'm not sure either way.

What I am sure of, however, is that the lack of "current" innovations
don't necessarily mean that nothing is happening. After all, whether
something is a good idea only becomes clear once several people have
actually tried to use it, and were convinced. So that means that it
takes a while before a new innovation is well-known within the

> And innovations only counts if it reaches a released product, otherwise
> it's only research. How can we go from successful experimentation to
> real innovations in our releases?

Upload And Blog About It(TM). If it's a good idea, people will use it.
If it's not a good idea, it will rot. Such is life.

The biometric identification system at the gates of the CIA headquarters
works because there's a guard with a large gun making sure no one is
trying to fool the system.

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