The DSA dilemma

For once, Clint blogged on something that I can understand. :-)

I don’t buy everything he says, but in the case of DSA, the part where he says “you cannot have a functional and respectable subgroup if it maintains autonomy like that” is a real problem.

The leadership problem I mentioned is real. And it can theoretically be solved by undelegating one of the problematic side of this DSA-internal dispute. But which one? Given the unwillingness of Joey to discuss the problems, he makes an easy target… which would leave DSA up to Ryan, James and Phil.

But is that a desirable thing? If DSA is perceived as being an “autonomous” group which is not involved in Debian’s main discussions and which is somewhat disconnected from Debian’s day-to-day life, it’s largely due to the behavior of James and Ryan. E-mail communication with them is very difficult as they’ll respond only if they really care about something. And despite the setup of the request tracker, they have barely been able to make proper usage of it… the idea was to use RT tickets to track everything that DSA does but they don’t use it as such. For example, James setup a “wikiadm” group and he never reported anything to the related ticket (#194) (I did it myself once I found out). Also there’s an internal ticket about the replacement of ftp.debian.org (that I created because ftp.d.o ran out of space regularly) and AFAIK Jeroen has been in touch with James to setup that replacement, but nothing got reported to the tracker. Ryan promised me once to put his DSA TODO list in the tracker so that other people can jump in and help out. He never did.

So while Joey is definitely a pain for DSA, at least he’s a visible participant of the team and he interacts with the community. James and Ryan are not, they interact only through private channels and do not share their opinions or their vision of Debian.
I believe this is a real problem. On the other hand, most of the interesting changes in the last months are the results of James’s work. But he’s also implicitly blocking addition of new members as long as the leadership problem is not solved.

I tried to fill the communication void of the DSA team by various means. I follow everything as closely as I can so that I can report changes on other channels, mailing lists when needed. I made efforts to document stuff on the wiki page, etc. But this is not a long term solution, the communication issue must be fixed within the team.

The path ouf of this mess is still not very clear, but something is going to change soon. Not quite sure what though. What would you suggest? And if you were DPL, what would you do?

Since private discussions and negotiations lead nowhere, it’s tempting to bring the issue in the public area. In theory, they have no way to escape discussions and they’ll have to communicate their grudges against the other side if they want to have some fair judgment between both parties. Unfortunately, given the habits of James and Ryan, they probably won’t participate in any public discussion and either resign or stay where they are waiting for any decision…

Comments welcome.

Additional Resources

Get the Debian Administrator's Handbook

After a successful liberation campaign, the Debian Administrator's Handbook is now freely available. If you appreciate my articles and what I do for Debian, check out the book and grab a copy.

Comments

  1. No-one responds to things they don’t care about. Somehow, I don’t think repeated public mudflinging such as this is the way to solve it, either.

  2. daniels: But then they should open up for people who cares about those things instead of just treating it as a alias for /dev/null

  3. Daniel, in general I agree with you. But when you have responsibilities, you can’t afford to ignore the help offered on stuff that you know that you don’t manage well. You have to make that little effort to respond to volunteers so that you actually get help.

    And before blogging on this topic, I invested many hours to help, I discussed with James at debconf, and various ideas have been tried, without any success. So I’m really looking for input on things to do before we have no other choice than even more mudflinging on debian-vote because of a GR…

    I would have rather preferred that the current team could agree on someone to add to the team, but it’s not the case.

  4. Did I mention in my last comment (1) about this that communication
    is part of team-work?

    (1)
    http://www.ouaza.com/wp/2007/09/26/dsa-needs-a-leader/#comment-12701

  5. Thanks for staying on top of this.

  6. Olivier Berger says:

    Maybe you forgot to tell non-DSA aware people just what DSA stands for ? … it’s hard to understand otherwise…

  7. Hi Olivier,

    sorry for the jargon. DSA stands for the “Debian System Administration” team. See http://wiki.debian.org/Teams/DSA for more infos.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Raphaël, what about castrating non-responsive developers? We could probably solve the dilemma by […]

  2. […] should never loose hope apparently. After my previous posts on the topic, Sam put some more pressure and expressed strongly his disappointment in the lack of […]