Better mentors.debian.net/REVU to improve our sponsorship workflow?

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.

  • Integration of some QA tests in mentors, as soon as the package is uploaded:
    • does the package build cleanly?
    • piuparts test?
    • lintian/linda checks?
  • Better list of packages awaiting sponsors, with info including:
    • does the package fixes bugs (number of bugs fixed per severity)?
    • is that package already in Debian?
    • is that package a new upstream version?
    • popcon score
    • how long has the package been waiting?

    This would allow potential sponsors to prioritize requests.

  • A commenting system, for each package, so comments for rejected packages are not lost, and the next potential sponsor can double-check
  • A way for sponsors to mark some sponsorees as “friends”, so it’s easy to find all the requests from people I “trust” (for some definitions of “trust” ;)
  • Maybe, a scoring system, where providing good comments on other’s packages would make you win “karma points”, and improve your classification, which could later be used by sponsors to choose what they are going to sponsor next.

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.

Re: Giving credit where due?

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!

Selling Debian tasks

In a lot of talks or blog posts (like Sam’s talk at RMLL, or RaphaĆ«l’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)