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Re: How to volunteer for something on debian's todo list?

On Tue, Aug 10, 2004 at 10:52:20PM +0200, Almut Behrens wrote:
> looking for things in Debian that might fit my personal skills and
> motivation profile, I browsed through http://www.debian.org/devel/todo/
> And - although the list seemed rather short compared to what I would've
> expected - I actually found an item (titled "Make ifupdown stateless"),
> which looks like a neat little riddle that might provide sufficient
> intrinsic fulfillment for the type of hacker I am. In fact, a few ideas

It's an interesting problem, certainly.  And one that desperately needs to
be done.

> To be able to take a closer look, it seems I need to use "noweb" to
> retrieve the actual code (there is no regular source in the package).
> Never come across this before. At first glance it roughly looks like
> what I've heard about D. Knuth's Literate Programming -- some mixture
> of source, docs and makefile...  (little Almut is slowly beginning to
> understand why this is rated "***"... <g>)

I'm surprised it's not rated "thar be monsters" if it's in web.  If that's
literacy in programmers, I want to be illiterate.

> Anyway, before I take the trouble to install noweb, just to then be
> told that "I'll have to go through the NM process like everyone else.."
> before I can actually start doing that kinda thing at all, I thought
> I'd ask first.  Normally, this would've been the moment for me to think
> "well, leave it to those who already know what to do".  But now that we
> have this list...:
> * Assuming for a moment I really wanted to "take" that task, what would
> I have to do? What would be the usual procedure to follow?  Do I just
> tell the current maintainer that I'd like to give it a try? (if so, how
> would other potentially interested people get to know that someone's
> already decided to work on it?)

Note that some of the items on that list are marked "Taken By".  That'll be
how others know someone's working on it.  You'll also note at the bottom of
that page that it says "To add or remove items in this list, or to inform
you have taken over a task, please contact Josselin Mouette".

> * do I have to be a DD to grab something from the todo list rated as
> "***" (i.e. "advanced skills required" -- I'm not even a "**" == "New
> Debian Developer"!)

I wouldn't think so.  Those notations would be there mostly so that people
can have some idea of the difficulty involved before they dive in and waste
a couple of days drowning.

> * what would be the appropriate list to post further questions to?
> (-devel? -- for the moment leaving aside any of my worries about being
> taken seriously there, as a totally unknown debian newbie...)

Half the reason this one's got three stars is probably the political issues
involved.  There was a large flamefest on d-devel some time ago about
ifupdown and whether aj was going to do anything with it and whether he was
going to let someone else take it over and blah blah blah.  As a
longstanding and fairly deeply ingrained developer, Anthony Towns is one of
the "demigods" of Debian -- you don't go hijacking his packages.  I think
the ifupdown SF project was a fork by rebel elements, and so it goes...

But if you go through the PTS and BTS for ifupdown, you'll notice that the
last maintainer upload was made over 3 years ago, and there's a very, very
large pile of bugs on it.  That, by itself, is enough to scare most people

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is mostly going to be getting
the patch integrated into the package.  It's not the sort of thing you do in
an NMU, but there effectively hasn't been a maintainer to do an upload for
several years.

For all that, the patch is definitely worth writing, if only for the pyhrric
victory of having done it.  And you never know, someone may get the courage
up to wrestle the package from AJ's unmoving fingers and integrate all those
NMUs and outstanding patches...

> * any good recipes on how to handle "giving up"?  You know, I wouldn't
> want to say I'd give it a try, and then retract, afer having taken a
> closer look -- unnecessarily giving the male crowd another opportunity
> do indulge in their feeling of superiority and excellence ("look, told
> you she wouldn't ...").

You can easily find a long and glorious history of things that your accusers
will have screwed up (one of the benefits of a nice, public project like
ours), so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I'd say that if you decide it's too much for you, just e-mail Josselin again
and say "sorry, I've given up, set it back to Nobody", and if you've gotten
part-way through provide a link to what you've done so far so others can
pick up where you left off.

> My usual approach in such situations would be
> to have everything worked out completely before I even consider
> volunteering. But that doesn't seem like an ideal strategy :)

But then you've basically done the task already...

> * anything else I should know?

Immerse yourself in the glorious history of ifupdown maintenance, by
trawling the list archives.

> * BTW, has anybody here ever used noweb and would like to share their
> experiences?  (A one-minute googling right away turned up doubtful
> questions like "are people actually still using it?". And that was
> posted to some forum in 1997 :)  

Run far, far away.  But since you can't, revel in the minutiae.  <grin>

- Matt

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