DM and internal politics

If you don’t follow debian-vote, you have missed this.

It’s really worth a read before casting your final vote on this issue. As I explained in my reply to Russ, this vote is not about details but whether we want to have an intermediate level between DD and nothing, or not.

If you don’t give an initial policy, then people against DM will use that “hole” to block it because “it’s not how DM must be done” (and then you’ll need another GR to define a correct implementation and overrule those who are blocking). Yet people keep mixing issues when discussing DM. For some, DM is okay if we had a working NM system. For some, DM would be okay if the responsibility to give upload rights didn’t rely on DD but on a sort of QA committee. For some, DM would be okay if it were integrated in NM. There are also people who are opposed to this second class of contributors but I don’t think they are a majority. Still we might loose a nice opportunity because people want to solve too many things at once instead of doing a first step in a new direction.

Is forking NM good?

In a discussion with Bdale, he suggested that DM is seen as forking NM. And some people do not like forks. They are not opposed to DM in principle but do not want it outside of the current NM team.

Obviously DM tries to respond to cases that NM is not prepared to handle. Furthermore, the DM discussion has been active for quite some time and the various members of the NM team (Frontdesk, DAM) have not participated much in the public discussion. Only when it comes to a vote do we hear some more (negative) opinions. I don’t see that as a sign of willingness to integrate DM or something similar in the current NM structure.

So people who are requesting DM to be integrated in NM, please take it up with the frontdesk/DAM… and don’t oppose the principle just because of organizational matters.

Internal organization always change and adapt themselves to the situation. Joey is right when he compares this to the introduction of the sponsorship process. I was one of the main actor in that process. I introduced the concept without the consent of the NM team (James Troup, Martin “Joey” Schulze) at that time.

It was a fork, a new way to proceed and it became mainstream with the creation of the current NM process. It’s the natural way of doing things in a free software project.

That said, I’m not opposed to improving our NM process. It really needs to be reworked in a “Membership Process” and be open to various kinds of contributors. That’s why I created a dedicated wiki page: http://wiki.debian.org/Projects/ReformedMembershipProcess

Let’s see if we’re ready to really fix that! I hope to have comments from all the people who look to be so eager to fix the NM process. :-)

On Debian Maintainers

I won’t re-explain in great length why I think it’s good to endorse the concept of Debian Maintainers. I have been enough involved in the debian-vote discussions (and the previous debian-project discussions).

I would just like to remind everybody that we elected sam to see changes and progress on many areas. We haven’t seen many results yet, but I know that sam has been working hard and I’ve been helping him as much as I can on the problem of our DSA team (one day I might blog about it or even start a GR if the situation continues to not improve despite the numerous efforts that we’ve put into it).

Here we have a concrete proposal for a change, and I believe a change for the better. But just like for every change, people have fears: they fear people who only care about technical excellence and not too much about philosophy, they fear that the quality level will drop, they fear that nobody will care about NM afterwards, etc.

It’s legitimate to have concerns, to express them and to discuss them. But we should not let them take us over or we’ll end up abandoning all initiatives that are required to evolve and adjust to our moving environment.

We need to encourage people who are ready to try out new things. In cases where it’s not entirely clear how the situation will evolve, it’s better to try out and react accordingly instead of doing nothing and hoping that people will wait us. When we do things while hoping for the best, the worst won’t come up true so easily.

Have faith in our future.

Alioth and OpenID

Stratus seeks for comments from Alioth admins.

Yes I’d like to see OpenID integration with Gforge. The upstream situation is a bit difficult, so I don’t think that you’ll have official opinion from them.

In my case, I want OpenID integration because it would be cool to offer a standard wiki and be able to define ACL on some pages which refer to the Alioth accounts that people are used to use. In the longer term, we have other web services which are going to need authentication (DWTT, new version of the PTS, …) in order to provide customized content and it would be great to rely on OpenID for that part.

I’m waiting your patches! ;-)

And next time you want an opinion from the Alioth admins, please mail us instead of hoping that we won’t miss your blog entry in planet.debian.org.

Some words about dunc-tank

Madcoder decided to quote some bits of an IRC conversation held on #debian-devel-fr and (of course, given his current frustration) he munges the meaning of my quote.

I was explaining that for me dunc-tank was definitely not perfect but that it was a first step in a global direction that I’d like to explore. I explained my long term project with dunc-tank in a french blog entry and I also explained it to Bruce Byfield who interviewed me as a member of dunc-tank.

My long term project always involved that decision-making of what to fund would be shared between the donors and all Debian developers. I sincerly hope to avoid many of the current criticism with this infrastructure but I can’t be sure. In the mean time, the current experiment is not run because it’s perfect and ready for generalization but because we want to see if it’s possible to get enough funding, and if it’s actually worth to invest more time in developing something more acceptable to everybody. (And also because we would really love to have etch release in december)

This is my opinion: I’m not speaking for dunc-tank although I have the feeling that others members of the board are there for similar reasons.

Update: following sam’s bad interpretation I fixed my wording to say “…decision-making of what to fund would be shared…”.

Steering committee or board?

There’s a new idea floating around: creating a steering committee for Debian. I like the principle but I think we should aim for a broader change in the constitution.

I don’t think creating a new separate structure is a good idea, because in my opinion the DPL should be the steering committee. Of course a single individual can’t play that role. And in fact, this is true for almost any task that the DPL currently has to handle.

So we need to get rid of the DPL and to replace it with a board. And that board would be the steering committee and would also have the responsibilities that come currently with the DPL hat. Why?

First of all, the role of DPL is to provide a vision but most recent leaders have not been able to do that as they tend to get overwhelmed by simple administrative work. If you remove the hope to effectively lead Debian by giving that power to a committee, then you scare everybody that wanted to be DPL because it effectively become an administrative position with no interest.

Then, in recent years, the DPL position tended to become a multi-person thingie, first with the DPL team idea and this year with the 2IC (sort of a “DPL assistant”). So it looks like we’re ready to switch to a fully multi-personal leadership: one of an elected board.

And last point, since the DPL tends to be active only on internal organizational issues, for most persons he’s only working on “political” stuff and he’s not valued as contributor leading the distribution where it needs to be lead: to the next release.

That’s why I suggest that the board should be elected for an entire release with a maximum of 21 months. After each release we elect a new board and it should be in place for 18 months ideally.

Tying the term to a release seems like the right approach to me: at the beginning the board is effectively doing most of its work as steering committee (setting/approving release goals) and at the end, during the period where we’re freezing it has more time to concentrate on organizational issues.

The questions is now: how is that going to work with the release managers? Will that position become only an administrative work of low-level coordination without any influence on the whole distribution?

Improving Debian as a whole

I have to agree with Joey, I have the feeling that we’re not doing many “transversal” improvements and that we’re busy enough simply trying to keep up with new upstream version of software. That’s not completely true but I also wouldn’t want Debian to evolve in that direction.

I think that less people are interested in doing large scale changes because the coordination with 1000 maintainers and 10000 packages is simply too complicated and taking too much time. Luckily we had significant improvements recently that should ease that coordination work. I’m thinking mainly of the usertags that allow us to use the BTS as big TODO list. But usertags are obscure to many people and not well documented yet.

So there’s room for improvements: that’s why I proposed a project for Google’s Summer of code called “Distribution-wide tracker tools” (see list of accepted projects here). Check the project proposal of Arnaud Fontaine to have a more precise idea of what it could give.

I want this infrastructure because I think it may help Utnubu to effectively coordinate the integration of Ubuntu improvements and because it may help Debian be more on the leading edge (instead of trying to catchup with derivatives). And last but not least, I believe many more people (with different level of skills) will be able to effectively work on some projects once the work to do has been clearly identified and registered in such a system.

The project is about to start, so all ideas/comments are welcome of course!

Leader election: last chance to vote

Given the low participation, it looks like the choice of a DPL is difficult this year. It probably means that the platform of the candidates do no suit everybody… however with DPL teams, there’s more than just the DPL and in theory each member should have their own platform. That’s not the case for me because writing a platform is a big job… which I can avoid since I’m not candidate. :-)

However I now do feel the need to tell what I would like to propose (and do) if I’m part of a team so that you know better what to expect if you vote for a team where I’m involved. I’d just like to give a warning, those items are quick notes and are in no way full- and flesched out solutions, they will need to be discussed and refined in all cases, and somes ideas may be dropped of course.

  • Discuss with the core teams, ask their opinion on the problems / critics made outside. Make propositions and implement them myself when possible in order to unblock the situation when needed. Communicate the results to the DD.
  • Discuss with NM, DAM and ftpmasters how to make the NM process evolve. An example of a possible solution sketched out on the basis of recent discussions could be :
    • Require from candidates entering the NM process to setup a wiki page listing their regular contributions to Debian in the last 6 months.
    • Allow NM who have been successfully sponsored on a package to upload themselves this package (and only this one, no NMU).
    • Implement changes in the LDAP database to differentiate privileges (upload, unix account, vote, email) so that people who are not requesting upload rights can have a simplified NM process
  • Ensure that the scripts to help management of keyring-maint have been written.
  • Suggest to the press team to work with an associated debian-press mailing list which could review the announces before being sent and which could make proposals of announces as well.
  • Make irc.d.o point to OFTC to put an end to the useless split on two networks.
  • Discuss with DAM to change the expulsion process: the first step should be a mediation with the DPL (or someone delegated for that task) and not a public call for “seconds”… and if the process goes further, then the message indicating that the procedure continues will be posted by the mediator which should allows for more moderated messages.
  • Try to moderate the first message of a new thread on debian-devel in order to redirect misplaced messages to the appropriate list and increase the quality of the list and get back people who unsubscribed because of the noise level.
  • Try to document as much as possible from the working of core teams in some wiki pages.
  • Ask everyone what decisions they would like the DPL to take (maybe use polls to evaluate suggestions).

This list is neither complete nor definitive. Not all items will be achieved but each of them is a real progress IMO and I’d like to be able to work on them.

For people who are concerned by those changes, I’m sorry if you discover my ideas by this post even before I had the opportunity to talk to you… I’m posting those ideas now because they may be considered by people who are currently voting, but it does *not* mean that I’m not interested to discuss them with you.

It’s also true that some of those ideas can be implemented without being part of the DPL team and I’ll certainly try to implement some whatever the outcome of the election, but I really believe that being part of a DPL team helps greatly because you have access to some important informations, and you can effectively discuss with core teams which are otherwise difficult to approach for non-technical discussions when you’re a random DD. And last but not least, the trust of the developers is a big motivation (at least for me) to work effectively on those problems.

See this post for my personal vote recommandation and see you in 3 days for the result of the election !

My favorite candidates

So the DPL vote just started and I crafted my ballot. So it’s my turn to give you my opinion on the various candidates. Here’s my top 3 by order of preference:

  1. Jeroen van Wolffelaar
    I had the occasion to work with Jeroen due to our common involvement in Debian-QA and his work on the PTS. He’s only Debian Developer since 2004 but he’s the proof that you can get involved in core teams if you’re willing to work. His commitment to Debian is impressive. He’s also a strong proponent of the DPL team concept, and he managed to gather a well-balanced team. With some changes to the DPL team concept, this can make a big difference this year.
    Yes, I hope to be able to serve the project as a member of his team.
  2. Steve McIntyre
    I worked with Steve on numerous occasions due to our common involvement in debian-cd. He’s very moderate, appreciated by many people and could be very effective in mediating internal conflicts since he’s not involved in any core team. I look forward working with him, his platform is very attractive.
  3. Anthony Towns
    Anthony has been doing a great job for a long time, and I really appreciate his efforts to communicate what he does. I like his idea to bring momentum to the project… and he proposed the last general resolution to bring us to a conclusion on the GFDL problem. That’s the kind of initiative that I’m also expecting from a leader. His strong opinions do not suit everybody but at least he’s trying new ideas.

All the other candidates are well-intentionned (except one) but they do no match all my (fuzzy) criterion for a good DPL.

Revisiting the DPL team concept

I have not been very much involved in this year DPL campaigning, but I’m part of two DPL teams, thus I feel the need to give my point of view on the subject.

I’m not really satisfied by how the current DPL team worked out, and being on the DPL candidate team of both Jeroen and Andreas gave me the opportunity to gather information on what really happened. Also I’ve met Bdale yesterday and he gave me his opinion as well (and I really enjoyed that dinner. Thanks bdale!).

Just for the record, I’ll try to sum up what really happened: Branden had agreed to be a participant of the DPL team concept, but wasn’t a major proponent of the idea. This, combined with his personal problems, explains why he didn’t make use of the full potential of a DPL team.

Does it invalidate the DPL team concept? No, I don’t think so because the concept will evolve this year. Let’s see how it can change.

Both DPL teams would this year receive all the mails sent to leader@debian.org. This means that the members are involved from the beginning and not only on request of the leader, which means that they can pro-actively take over if they see that the DPL doesn’t manage to follow up up to its expectations (which hopefully won’t be needed this year). Furthermore I expect that the team would be informed of what the DPL does, so that the team can give its opinion on everything done, and prevent big errors (nobody is perfect, errors do happen).

But the most important thing is that the team should not stand behind the DPL, but next to him taking initiatives, and I expect the DPL to work with the team members for the best of Debian. As such I expect the DPL to accept most of the proposals of his team if there’s a consensus on it, even if he doesn’t personnaly think that’s it’s a priority for his DPL mandate.

If I am part of an elected DPL team, I will work on that basis. I do have many ideas to try, and will make proposals. I ran once for the DPL election, and if you check my platform, you can see that I always had ideas for Debian and you can see that I worked on several of them which are nowadays very common (such as the PTS, alioth, collaborative maintenance). I won’t miss an opportunity to get the project moving forward.