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My adventures with NM - part 5a (T&S)

Hi Everyone,

I think that anyone who has spent much time on the #debian-women IRC channel over the last few days will have realised that I am enmeshed in a battle with my T&S questions. I think I am winning, but at the moment it seems like a near thing...

My Application Manager (AM) sent me a list of Tasks and Skills questions, plus a few other packaging-related things to do, about a month ago. I've been tackling them easiest-first :)

Fun with packaging and Debian Mentors:

The first thing I did (and the easiest) was fix a set of small mistakes that my AM found in my packages. The hardest one for me to work out was a problem with the Build-Dependencies for one of them. I was confused about it, so I posted an email [1] to the debian-mentors mailing list [2]. Several people responded in a very helpful fashion, which helped a lot, and the problem was soon solved.

Debian-mentors is a really useful list for anyone who is interested in becoming a Debian Developer to be on. There are lots of packaging-related questions asked, which are answered quickly and in a helpful fashion. There is also a mentors IRC channel, #debian-mentors, where people can drop in to ask a question, or hang around to see what kinds of things people are asking. It's often quiet in there, though, so it helps if you are able to stay around long enough for someone to read your question who can help with it.

Fun with licenses:

Fixing the problems in my packages was not that difficult, though that process lead to me discovering other problems in some of them. I have therefore spent a lot of time in the last few weeks trying to understand and appropriately deal with a set of licensing issues. My advice to everyone: never trust an upstream author to have their licensing right, and check it all, every file, before you start to package something. In retrospect that would have saved me a fair bit of grief.

Licensing is confusing stuff, and it is quite a difficult thing to write to a copyright owner who may not know anything about Debian, and explain clearly and nicely what it is that we would like and why. Hopefully all that will be sorted out soon. One good thing about this exercise is that I finally braved the debian-legal mailing list. Actually, they don't seem to be as scary as their reputation suggests :) Maybe it helps that I am really trying hard to do the right things... Anyone who wants to get as confused as I am can check out my ramblings on the issues in my emails to the debian-legal list [3] [4].

Fun with Tasks and Skills Questions:

The most recent thing I have been tackling is the set of T&S questions posed by my AM. For an idea of the types of things asked, see the templates [5], but bear in mind that different AMs will ask you different things anyway, so there is considerable variation.

To be honest, I am finding some of these questions very difficult. I am finding that I don't have enough background knowledge to even understand what the question is asking, for some of them. It is difficult and discouraging (and people who have been about much on IRC will know that I have been stressing...). My confidence in my ability to do this is low, at the moment, and I have been wondering what is really posessing me to even try it. But, I am eventually making progress. I've been re-reading lots of the policy and the developer's manual, and asking questions on IRC when I am stuck. I have answered all the questions but a few really hard ones. Fortunately, the responses I've had from my AM so far have not been too bad - a few things wrong that needed fixing, but not that many.

I am deeply thankful to all the people who have been helping me with technical advice and hints, and to the people who have simply been encouraging. You know who you are :)

So, to finish up, here are my thoughts of the week:

- I wonder how many NM people are so stressed by the whole exercise, at some point, that they go stressing to their AM (thanks Frank), their sponsor (thanks Ben), and anyone else who will listen (thanks #debian-women people). I wonder whether this is suprising to the AMs and the sponsors, or not...

- I wonder how people manage who don't know who they can ask questions of when they get stuck? Surely there aren't many people who can get the answers to everything by themselves. I guess that this is good for letting people learn how to ask people for help when they are stuck, which I am realising is a really important skill for Debian Developers.

- I wonder whether there are ways to approach this thing so it is less stressful than I have been finding it over the last few weeks...

Anyway, that's all from me for the time being. Hopefully the next installment will be a bit more cheerful than this one, but I did promise you I would say if it got difficult, and it has, at least for me...


1. http://lists.debian.org/debian-mentors/2004/12/msg00296.html
2. http://lists.debian.org/debian-mentors/2004/12/msg00296.html
3. http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/12/msg00258.html
4. http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/12/msg00295.html
5. http://cvs.alioth.debian.org/cgi-bin/cvsweb.cgi/templates/?cvsroot=nm-templates

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