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Re: Q for the Candidates: How many users?

On Fri, Mar 26, 2010 at 04:52:19AM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> So at the start of the week, I asked:

Eh, kudos for this "experiment", even if people on IRC commented that
there might have been a second reason for your question :-P, I didn't
see this coming.  I feel like replying to a couple of your comments,

> There's a bunch of people who use Ubuntu as their main systems these
> days who've said things like "yeah, I know, I'll install Debian on it
> some time, but this was just easy for now". For me, I tend to consider
> them to already be using Debian systems -- I mean, they're already
> using all the Debian-specific programs I've written or worked on for
> Debian, so what difference does it /really/ make if it's all coloured
> brown or purple instead of swirly and red? I don't see a difference,
> so I count them as Debian users personally. YMMV (if it does, I'd be
> interested to hear what important differences you see)

It is the same or it is different according to which angle of the
user<->distro relationship you consider.

In the above, you seem to consider only the angle of the "pride" of
having someone benefiting of our work, which is a well-known motive to
sponsor volunteer work in FLOSS. I'm truly happy to know that many of my
changelog lines (and the work they entail) are part of the Ubuntu
installation of millions of user. According to this angle, Ubuntu users
are Debian users.

However, a user in FLOSS is generally someone that contribute back, in
various ways: from bug reporting, to patch contribution, and possibly
even co-maintenance. According to this angle, Ubuntu users are not
Debian users, in the sense that they contribute their feedback and
patches not directly to us, but to a different intermediate entity (and
yes, Ubuntu is not special in this analysis, any or our derivative
distros is in the same ballpark).

Now, in a perfectly working FLOSS ecosystem, this happens at all levels
(e.g. are Debian/GNOME users "direct" GNOME users?) and it makes no
difference if you are a direct or indirect user of something, because
contributions flow seamlessly in all directions: a patch contributed via
Ubuntu lands in Debian, a patch contributed to Debian lands upstream,

As we know, this is not always the case: contributions can get stuck at
some point of the contribution pipeline. That is why the distinction
among "direct" and "indirect" users---and its n-level
generalization---matters and, ultimately, this is why there is some sort
of "competition" among the amount of users of tightly related projects.

As I've written in my platform (search for "derivatives") we should do
as much as we can to not be an element of the contribution pipeline
where contributions get stuck. Nevertheless, as long as such pipeline do
not work perfectly---and that does not depend only on us, but also on
the behavior of our downstreams---it is just natural to make some kind
of distinctions about our direct and indirect users.

[ minor quote re-ordering ]
> And presumably being able to say "we've got $BIGNUM of users" is
> useful for promotion, and "we've got $PRECISE users" might be useful
> for capacity planning to some extent. I think those probably should be
> things prospective DPLs should think about, at least briefly.

I concur with this ...

> The other aspect is, how can you say "we're listening to our users?"
> if we don't even have any idea how many of them there are?

... but not with this. To say that you're listening to our users you
need to show that you react to their contributions (assuming naively
that the main kind of "talk" we receive from users are contributions,
from bug reporting up), no matter how many they are. It might be a cheap
argument from logics, but the goal is that FORALL contribution you
receive, you react to them: to prove that you really don't need to know
how many users you have.


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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