Debian could use more manpower, but is it actually easy for new contributors who would like to help to do useful things, and get the impression that they actually improved Debian?
There are several problems here:
- Find bugs that are not too hard to fix. I don’t know about your packages, but in mine, there are some bugs that are easy to fix, and it’s just a matter of finding the time. If someone provided a patch, I would be very happy and apply it or provide feedback as fast as possible.
- Find packages with active maintainers. It is no secret that if you choose the wrong package, your patch could very well sleep on the BTS for years.
- Find bugs that actually matter. It’s not strictly a requirement. But fixing bugs in packages that should probably be removed from Debian instead is not really rewarding.
I think that other projects are better than us at providing directions to newcomers. Gnome has the whole Gnome Love thing, for example.
I’m thinking about building lists of “interesting” bugs. That would include RC bugs without patches, of course, but could also include a list of bugs based on an usertag that would mean “This bug is suitable for new contributors (it’s not too hard, and you could learn things fixing it). If you want to work on this bug, I’ll provide help and feedback and integrate your patch ASAP.”
(This is very different from the “help” tag, which usually means “I couldn’t fix this, it’s too hard, I need help.“. It’s a bad idea to direct newcomers to bugs that are too hard for the package’s maintainer!)
Additionally, a nice feature would be to be able to filter the list of bugs with the packages that the user has installed.
- What do you think?
- As someone willing to contribute to Debian, do you often find it hard to find stuff you could do?
- As a maintainer, do you have a lot of bugs that could use such a tag? Would you use it?
Comments are open, please us them ;)
This morning’s SuperComputing’07 keynote was a talk by Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the MIT. He mentioned the MIT Fab Labs, a project to bring “Personal Fabrication” to people around the around.
At our own level, that’s something I find very exciting with Free Software: it empowers people to do things with their computers that they couldn’t do if they were using proprietary software, simply because proprietary software is built to fit most people’s needs, not very specific goals some people could have. (and this is similar to the Long Tail stuff, in some ways)
Also, if you are at SC07 and reading this, feel free to ping me! I haven’t seen a lot of Debian/Ubuntuers here, even if the Free/Proprietary software ratio is very high.
I recently sponsored several uploads, and was asked to sponsor even more uploads, and that got me thinking about our sponsorship workflow. It’s a clear bottleneck in Debian, and discourages many new contributors, which obviously sucks.
It’s important to note that the same problems exist in Ubuntu (their equivalent to mentors.debian.net is named REVU).
The best way to improve the process would be to have packages of better quality when a DD first look at them. They would be more likely to be uploaded right away, which frees time for other packages. I think that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the current mentors.debian.net implementation. Here is a small list of features I would like to see.
The good thing with this whole list of features is that everybody can help. So, if you are looking for a sponsor and want to help solve this problem, start coding now ;) And if you need me to create nicenameforyourservice.debian.net, just ping me. There’s probably some code to steal from svnbuildstat.debian.net, so contacting its developers would be a good idea.
Christian Perrier is wondering why the official announcement about the Gutsy release does not even contain the word “Debian”.
It’s not new: Debian is virtually nonexistent in Ubuntu’s communication. It seems that the last Ubuntu release to acknowledge its Debian origins was Dapper (June 2006), maybe because that was the “Long Term Support” release.
The fact that there’s no “Ubuntu is based on Debian” paragraph on www.ubuntu.com was raised during Debconf, and it was supposed to get fixed, but it seems that it didn’t happen for some reason (there was such a paragraph before the website redesign).
In other news, I’ve been trying to install Ubuntu Gutsy inside qemu, but it fails miserably while booting the installer. I removed the “quiet” and “splash” options from the kernel cmdline, and discovered that after trying to “mount the root filesystem”, I get dropped into busybox with no error message to google for. Feisty fails as well, but Dapper boots fine. So much for the Ubuntu is an ancient African word, meaning “I can’t install Debian” joke!
Donnie Berkholz wrote an interesting article on Who made Gentoo Linux, and when?. Has someone already done something similar for Debian? It would probably be possible (and easy) to use the debian-devel-changes archives (available since 1998) for that.
In a lot of talks or blog posts (like Sam’s talk at RMLL, or Raphaël’s blog posts – both in french), people have been talking about what people could do inside Debian, and how it would help Debian.
That doesn’t sound like the best approach to me. When describing tasks with the objective of getting potential contributors to pick them up, we should try to make them sexy, to tell users what is exciting about them, what they will learn doing those tasks, where satisfaction will come from. We really need to sell them better.
Of course, some Debian tasks are mainly grunt work. And for some of them, people just do them because someone has to do them. But I believe that most tasks inside Debian are actually more interesting than outsiders would expect. For example, I would be very interested in reading why an i18n expert (hint: Christian!) finds i18n sexy … and I should probably try to write about QA myself.
(As you might have noticed now, the subject of this blog post was misleading on purpose — chosen so that a lot of people would read the post :P)
From time to time, I try Compiz, to see if how it has evolved. The last time was yesterday (I also switched to the xserver-xorg-driver-ati from experimental).
But as usual, after using it for a few minutes, I can’t help switching back to metacity. I don’t think that Compiz’s visual effects bring anything on the usability POV, and I just find them annoying after the initial “WOW”. Of course, it’s nice to show off, but to do actual work? Are there people really using it all the time?
After that blog post, I decided to write a mail asking a first set of questions. I sent it to developers’ mailing lists of Fedora, Gentoo, Mandriva, openSUSE, and of course Debian and Ubuntu. I got really interesting answers from everyone, except …. Debian and Ubuntu.
- I want to wait some more before publishing the answers. If you are a Debian or an Ubuntu developer, and were interested in that initiative, please answer ASAP my mails sent to debian-devel@ and ubuntu-devel-discuss@ (respectively). Not having answers from Debian and Ubuntu people would really be a shame, since everyone else I contacted was really helpful and interested.
- I plan to use a mailing list archiving software to publish the mails. Can you recommend a good mbox->html converter, that would work well in a “run once” use case, and that doesn’t take ages to set up?
- Can you think of another distro I should have contacted? At first, I don’t want to include simple derivatives of the “big distros”. I also chose to limit myself to the Linux distros, so I didn’t contact the BSD or Nexenta folks. Both of this could change: my current plan for the future is to try to setup a mailing list+wiki, so everybody could join.
if you like to monitor the number of RC bugs, you are probably annoyed by the graph on http://bugs.debian.org/release-critical/. The graph starts in 2003, making it impossible to read short-time changes. There’s a bug about that: #431299: RC bug status graph timescale is too long. And I provided a patch a few months ago, but it hasn’t been included yet.
So, in the meantime, you can use my private copy (generated daily):
Also, if you like graphs, Yves-Alexis Perez (aka Corsac) generates cool graphs about Debian:
And if you want to have all the interesting graphs on the same page, you can use this page.