August 3rd, 2010 by lucas
Stefano raised again the issue of providing some kind of Debian membership to people that contribute to Debian in unusual ways (not involving deep purely technical skills), like doing translation, documentation, marketing, design, etc.
Each time this discussion comes back, people seem to think that we need another membership status for them. But what for?
It’s true that the name “Debian Developer” is suboptimal for non-programmers. But it’s also suboptimal for most DDs, since most of us don’t strictly develop software: we “just” maintain packages, mainly developing meta-data around the upstream source code. “Debian Developer” is how we call our full-fledged project members. Do we want to classify those non-programming contributors as second-class citizens? If not, we need to make them “Debian Developers”, not some strange other name.
Of course, there’s the issue of security and trust. Debian Developers have upload rights on all packages, and access to the project’s machines. And it’s a bit strange to trust non-programmers with that level of power. On the other hand, we have many Debian Developers that are mostly inactive, became DDs half a decade ago, and have the same access rights. Worst, it’s possible that they remember how to use
dput, having used it before! And 95% of DDs (me included) should probably not be uploading the libc, even if they can. Why should they be more trusted than active non-programming contributors that probably would be quite scared by the idea of breaking something?
Overall, I think that this issue is actually a non-issue. We should:
- Acknowledge that, when a non-programming contributor has made notable contributions to Debian (proven by the advocacy of current members) and passed the relevant parts of the Philosophy and Procedures check, it should be made a Debian developer.
- Orthogonally, acknowledge that we have a problem with security due to the size and the volunteer nature of the project, and address it independently. For example, shell accounts could be disabled after 3 months without connecting to Debian machines (and be re-enabled by the DD on http://db.debian.org/). And upload rights could be limited to non-core packages (and extended by the DD on http://db.debian.org/ too). It’s not about adding intermediate levels of membership, just about giving the possibility to developers to add a safe-guard against themselves.