DSA needs a leader

Seriously. Now that we have been using the request tracker for quite some time, it’s even more obvious that the DSA team is not up to its task.

Use login “guest” and password “readonly” if you want to check the RT tickets linked in this article.

The facts

  • 65 public tickets open (and 5 private tickets)
  • 68 tickets closed. Here are some unscientific and manual stats (I counted one each time that someone was involved for the work or for closing the ticket):
    • 27 for James Troup (elmo)
    • 26 for Phil Hands (fil)
    • 13 for me (buxy)
    • 3 for Martin ‘Joey’ Schulze (those I manually forwarded him)
    • 3 for Ryan Murray (neuro)
    • 3 for Matt Taggart (taggart)
    • 2 for Josip Rodin (he handles tickets concerning the mirrors until they have a dedicated queue in the RT)

Note that myself and Matt do not have the needed rights to fix most of the tickets, so we provided help on a best-effort basis. Otherwise we would have done more.

The communication problem

It’s a multi-level problem. Each of the members has some problems with one or more other members. Joey’s behavior has been part of the recurring problems mentioned: he doesn’t use the RT, doesn’t read the DSA email alias and doesn’t follow the DSA IRC channel but he still does stuff very regularly without reporting anything and obviously problems happen. Ryan and James tried to impose him a rule to document what he does, without success apparently. On the other side, as far as I know, Ryan and James also don’t impose themselves to document everything in a central changelog. Joey has refused to provide me an explanation for his behavior. He just reminded me that he holds grudges against James and Ryan because as ftpmasters they didn’t cooperate well with him while he was stable release manager.

In general, outside of all personal griefs that they might have, the DSA members do not communicate very much (at least not on their own official channels). Some examples have already been given concerning the request tracker, but it’s not much more effective on IRC. Most of the traffic on the channel is made up by local admins fixing the problems themselves without any intervention by any DSA.

I also use the channel to regularly ping some DSA about simple issues and/or stuff that they usually handle. It used to work somewhat but lately fil has been busy (with the kernel summit and other conferences) and I simply got no answer at all… for example I pinged elmo, neuro and fil several times in the last weeks in the hope that they handle the tickets of the security team (#150, #157, #164) without results.

There’s room for improvement.

The leadership problem

The team has no designated leader and every time that there’s a decision to take, they are blocked. Joey wouldn’t communicate and give his opinion, Ryan is extremely requiring and perfectionist, there’s not much room for compromise…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Joey and elmo were friends. It’s even Joey who gave root rights to elmo. Nowadays, it’s rather James that is sort-of leading the team but he’s fed up of the situation and hasn’t managed to get out of this mess.

He refuses to take drastic measures by himself because he’s not clearly the leader and doesn’t solicit a decision of the Debian leader (or the project) because he believes that the DSA team is not under the scope of the constitution!

This can’t last any further. We’ll have to do something about it. Stay tuned.

Thanks sam!

I really appreciated your last Bits of the DPL.

I discover a DPL taking position on hot topics of the moment. I’m glad to have a DPL who is trying to fulfill his duty of leading discussions amongst developers. He gave his opinion on the current vote about “endorsing the concept of Debian Maintainers” (he’s in favor because it dilutes power) and also about Apt’s change to install Recommends by default. I’m glad to hear the encouraging news concerning volunteers for ftpmasters.

By the way, if you have voted for Sam, and if Sam’s opinion bears any importance for you, you still have until saturday midnight (UTC) to change your vote if you wish so (like Russ did). Right now, only 289 DD have voted.

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. 🙂