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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 10/03/13 at 17:34 +0200, Timo Juhani Lindfors wrote:
> Hi,
> I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
> getting new people to Debian.

"people" is not very specific (users? contributors? DDs?), but maybe
it's intentionally vague.

Actually, I think that it is a process with several steps, and that we
often neglect some of the steps. Let's list them:

  Step 0: Get people to use Debian

  Step 1: Get people to make their first contribution to Debian

  Step 2: Get people to make regular contributions to Debian and add
    value to the project (possibly become DM, depending on the kind
    of contribution)

  Step 3: Get people to go through the NM process and become DD.

There are different possible improvements for the different steps. For

Step 0:
To get new users, you get to provide interesting "products". If
all the cool kids are using $OTHER_DISTRO, well, we lose. That's one of
the reasons why it's so important to increase innovation in Debian. We
need to make Debian look like a very cool project.

Step 1:
In the past, we often failed to say "we need help!". Debian
works very well from a user perspective, so it's not always very easy to
realize that we need help.

It's also hard to find possible things to do. Often bugs are hard to fix
(beyond what can be expected for a first contribution). A long time ago,
I proposed to tag easy bugs where the maintainer would be willing to
provide mentoring with a "gift" tag (see
http://wiki.debian.org/qa.debian.org/GiftTag). However, this quite
failed (looking at the number of tagged bugs). I'm not quite sure if
this failure was caused by a lack of publicity, a lack of interest by
potential contributors, or something else.

Finally, it's incredibly difficult to contribute to Debian. One need to
read and understand a lot of things. And sometimes it's not even
documented. I wrote a packaging tutorial that aims at reducing the
barrier to entry (see platform for pointers). That's why I think it's
important to simplify our development procedures, advertise good
practices more clearly, improve our documentation, etc.

Step 2:
Once someone made its first contribution to Debian, it's important to
encourage him/her. Looking for reviews or sponsorship (using -mentors@
or inside teams) is often very hard, for example.

At this step, inside teams, it's also very important to welcome the
contributions and make it clear that the work is good and appreciated.

Again inside teams, it's also a step where it's important to help guide
the new contributor to other possible contributions, so that it can
slowly /grow/ to being a key member of a team.

Step 3:
The NM process has gone through several evolutions and works well
currently. I don't see anything to change there.

General remark:
I often see people complaining of the lack of manpower. It's important
to see that starting to contribute to Debian is a very long and
difficult process. It often takes at least two or three years from the
first contribution to playing a key role in a team.


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