Idea: creating a “Distributions Developers Forum” ?

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, 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 thoughts on “Idea: creating a “Distributions Developers Forum” ?

  1. +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. 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…

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

  4. +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. :-)

  5. 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.

  6. +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.

  7. 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).

  8. +1 for such a mailing list. But avoiding flamewars & trolls would probably be very difficult. Strong moderation without mercy required :)

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