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Re: to DPL candidates: How do you plan to represent Debian externally?

On 2013-03-11 00:56, Paul Tagliamonte wrote:
I'd ask the DPL candidates to speak a bit about how they intend to
represent Debian externally

A few points:

I see the DPL as a kind of "chair" position rather than a "do everything" one. For some aspects of external relations it may be useful to show commitment by having the DPL speak/write/visit, but this should be part of a wider approach which tries to connect Debian contributors directly with people doing relevant work in external organisations. Therefore I will answer your questions in a wider way than by only focusing on the DPL's own representative role -- that role should be used as a tool to bring about wider goals.

both in terms out downstream outreach

We should show our downstream users that we value them, including by actively seeking good relationships with downstream distributions. It would be appropriate for a new DPL to reach out to them, and in a more personal way for larger ones.

It is normal that downstream distributions have different goals and views from us, or they would be working in Debian. (In some other cases people just don't realise they could do the same work within Debian, which is a different issue.) While being firm on our own principles, we should be make it clear to our downstream users that we are glad for them to use our work in this way -- even if in many cases our long-term hope is that their contributors shift to working directly in Debian.

We should also seek to work with downstream distributions better at the individual package level. For more complex packages, maintainers can benefit from starting a dialogue about issues and possible future approaches, as happens in some cases already. Future technical advances, such as a shared VCS representing all Debian packages, may make it easier for downstream maintainers to take advantage of our work, and also easier for us to pull useful changes back from them.

https://lists.debian.org/debian-derivatives/ is a good initiative for talking with downstreams, that I would like to see pushed forward further.

More generally see http://wiki.debian.org/Derivatives/Census and help with http://wiki.debian.org/Derivatives/Integration

as well as upstream (or even side-stream) relations.

Debian contributors already attend many major free software events where they can discuss with people working on upstream projects. And many Debian contributors are themselves part of upstream projects relevant to their Debian work. In this area targetted relations may be more useful than DPL speeches, though both can be used to advance our agenda.

Just as we should look how we can work better with downstream distributions on a technical level, we should try to improve the example we set by pushing Debian changes back upstream. This happens in many cases, but there are other cases where improvements get stuck in Debian. (Clearly we do publish Debian patches in a consistent way, but I'm not sure that all upstream projects would know where to look, and we can't expect them to check for changes in every distribution that exists. Perhaps we should at least attempt to more visibly flag up packages with significant code changes in the PTS etc.?)

What sort of plans do you have to collaborate with other F/OSS
communities? Other distros?

Relationships with non-derivative distributions are even more likely than ones with downstream distributions to be seen as purely competitive. But it will help our users and free software if we try to work more closely with them. Again, at present some package maintainers look at changes in unrelated distributions, but we have seen in the past problems from cases where we work in isolation, including for important security features. Again, we can hope that DVCS technology helps here, though the fundamental issues are social ones. While targetted relationships are probably most useful, in some cases DPL contact may help make connections.

At a higher level, we should see what we can learn from the approaches and processes of other distributions and other large software projects. (Their experiences have certainly informed our discussions about release methodologies in the past.)

Realtedly, what sort of messaging (on this topic) can we expect
from the future DPL?

I think I have more or less answered this above. While these "external" topics should be addressed much more widely than by the DPL, it can help our overall approach if the DPL makes public statements and actions that show that we value our downstreams as well as upstreams, and that we see ourselves as part of a wider free software community that we wish to see flourish.


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