Idea: creating a “Distributions Developers Forum” ?

September 14th, 2007 by lucas

Scientific papers always have a “related works” section, where the authors describe how the work they are presenting compares with what others did. In the Free Software world, this is nearly non-existent: in a way, it seems that many of us are thinking of their projects as competing products, fighting for market share. On a project web page, I would love to read something like:

This project is particularly well suited if you want XX. But if YY is more important to you, you might want to have a look at ZZ.

Or simply links to similar projects for other environments, etc. All in all, I think that the goal is to improve the global satisfaction. Not to win a few users, who won’t be totally happy, because the project doesn’t really suit their needs.

While some projects cooperate and share ideas, like I think desktop environments do inside freedesktop.org, most just ignore each other. I am both a Debian and an Ubuntu developer, and I’m sometimes amazed that Ubuntu discusses technical choices that were discussed (and solved) a few weeks earlier in Debian. And it’s even worse with the other big distros out there.

Couldn’t we try to improve this ? We could just create a mailing list, where developers from various distributions could present the way they do things. This would allow to discuss future developments (“We are planning to improve this, what are you doing about that ?“) or simply to improve people’s knowledge of the various distributions.

Of course, this could easily turn into flamefests, but they are technical ways to avoid that, like moderating posts from trollers…

Does something like that already exist ? Do you think that it would be interesting ? Would you like to contribute to such a forum ?

Some examples of things that could be discussed:

  • How many packages do you have, and how do you support them ? Do you have several “classes” of packages ?
  • How do you manage your releases ? Goal-based ? Time-based ? Bug-count-based ?
  • Which kind of quality assurance do you do ?
  • How many contributors do you have ? Are they split into different “classes” ? Who has “commit rights” ? Can you give out “commit rights” restricted to subsets of your packages ? A organized sponsorship system for people who don’t have commit rights ?
  • etc, etc, etc.

14 Responses to “Idea: creating a “Distributions Developers Forum” ?”

  1. sander wrote on 09/14/07 at 6:39 pm :

    +1 Cartels are not illegal for open-source projects, only for companies operating in a market protected by anti-cartel rules :-)

    btw: this is the same view as Mark Shuttleworth…it’s what he tries to do with Launchpad :-)

  2. Alban wrote on 09/14/07 at 6:53 pm :

    In the Free Software world, this is nearly non-existent

    But there is some exceptions. Look at the printbill project website:
    http://ieee.uow.edu.au/~daniel/software/printbill/printbill-vs-pykota-vs-printquota.shtml

  3. Vincent Untz wrote on 09/14/07 at 7:47 pm :

    While the idea is kind of interesting, the examples you’re giving are not that interesting :-) “How to properly do graphical boot” would be a better example.

    On the other hand, I have the feeling people are already talking to each other, but that might be because I’m working on an upstream project…

  4. Justin Kirby wrote on 09/14/07 at 9:30 pm :

    There is https://launchpad.net/

    It is setup by canonical (e.g. ubuntu ) to yelp manage distributed bugs and the like… e.g. sf on steroids

    It doesn’t go into ppl collaborating, but its a took to make that easier

  5. Lucas wrote on 09/15/07 at 12:05 am :

    sander,Justin: I’m not talking about *collaborating*, I’m talking about getting people to chat together. It’s not about technical solutions.

  6. Raphael Hertzog wrote on 09/15/07 at 9:32 am :

    +1 from me as well. Recently someone from Fedora asked Debian how they handled a specific technical problem and kindly posted on debian-python (see his mail). It has been a rather positive discussion and I’d like to see more of such discussions.

    I’d definitely participate. You might want to discuss it with Sam, he has been in contact with Mandriva about a project to share patches between distributions… this might be the right place to create such a forum.

    PS: You should install the subscribe-to-comments plugin on your blog… your are always posting articles which are inviting people to discuss and comment. :-)

  7. acreal wrote on 09/15/07 at 7:36 pm :

    This idea is very interesting IMO. Such a ML could even be extended to a wiki describing the common (accepted) things, as well as the different decisions (and rationale behind it) made by particular distros.

    Possibilities are pretty much endless, for example:

    - sharing (and testing) patches
    - making common (accepted) decisions more visible (eg about the Python Eggs guidelines)
    - obvious package management discussions/flamewars

    So, while not being a distribution developer myself, i do believe this could prove to be a very nice move.

  8. Felipe Contreras wrote on 09/16/07 at 3:45 am :

    +1 on this one.

    I would really like if developers from different distributions would gather to together and create a set of administration tools. I think each distribution has its own, or at least Fedora does, and it really doesn’t make sense.

    I also would like package-management-agnostic distributions, but I guess that’s for a more distant future.

  9. Matej Cepl wrote on 09/19/07 at 11:17 am :

    I think that instead of metadiscussion (“how to discuss”), it’s better just to do it — being a Red Hat employee (and happy Fedora user) I asked couple of times some questions on #opensuse and being former Debianist on #debian IRC channels and I have never met any resistance from anybody there (except for some stupid bigots, but they happen everywhere).

  10. yoho wrote on 09/21/07 at 11:23 am :

    +1 for such a mailing list. But avoiding flamewars & trolls would probably be very difficult. Strong moderation without mercy required :)

  11. The Linux Index » Lucas Nussbaum: creating a “Distributions Developers Forum”: follow-up wrote on 09/22/07 at 11:36 am :

    [...] 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. [...]

  12. Felipe Contreras wrote on 09/23/07 at 11:42 pm :

    Why don’t you use mailman like everyone else?

  13. L'antre du reptible Bigouden wrote on 10/2/07 at 9:43 am :

    La collaboration inter-projets communautaires…

    Les relations inter-projets concurrents sont souvent ignorées dans l’inconscient collectif des lecteurs de sites Internet techniques. Pourtant, les projets ont fleuris au cours du temps dans le but évident d’aboutir à un effort moindre et une qual…

  14. Home Oxygen wrote on 12/11/10 at 3:03 pm :

    I was lucky, because everything installed without major hazzles