Update (2008/04/18): 19 Debian Developers accounts were created today! See this post for details.
It has now been more than 4 months since the last Debian developer account was created. 18 contributors have been through all steps, and are simply waiting for this simple administrative task to be done.
We are sending a terrible message to potential contributors. We have strong requirements on the technical level of our developers. During the new maintainer process, we ask them to answer about 80 questions about Debian. We ask them to do grunt work. We review their reports twice (New Maintainers’ Front Desk, then Debian Account Manager). But even after we are totally satisfied about what they did, even after they became more qualified than many of our current DDs, we ask them to wait for months, so that the only person allowed to create accounts can finally do his “job”.
It discourages the contributors currently in the NM process. I’ve seen several signs of frustration, or even depression. Some of them reduce their involvement in Debian, so we lose them before they even became Debian developers. Some of them consider resigning from the NM process. We should all feel guilty about that.
But it also discourages people from joining Debian. Instead, they go to other more welcoming projects, which is totally understandable. Debian isn’t the only distribution with developers from the community those days. There’s Gentoo, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE. Some of those have nice programs for new contributors, like “school” sessions. Sure, Debian is the “biggest” distribution without a company behind it. But is independance worth all the trouble?
Of course, we have Debian Maintainers. DM is great for people who want to work on their packages. But, when we are trying to release lenny, we need more: people who are going to go through RC bugs, submitting patches. Who are going to do QA work. In short: people who care more about the whole distribution.
Can we afford not recruiting anybody? Can we run Debian with the current manpower? I don’t think so. There are more than 550 RC bugs in lenny, many packages are currently blocked from migrating to lenny because they are RC-buggy, and many packages are orphaned or neglected. There are also a lot of bugs which haven’t been filed yet (I asked for help with running piuparts, which would probably result in 100-200 new RC bugs, but nobody had time to help). Most of the work that needs to be done is not rocket science. We could use a lot more manpower. Currently, the same small set of developers is doing most of the grunt work. They will get tired too.
So, what can we do, as simple developers? There’s no magic solution, but we can try a few things.
- It seems that some people disagree that there’s a problem. Let’s prove them wrong: we could start a blog meme with “I, too, agree that the Debian accounts and keyring situation is severely hurting Debian, and that a solution needs to be found RSN.” It’s not going to solve the problem by itself, but it will at least show that we consider it very important. Pressure could help.
- We could start discussing solutions together. Our newly elected DPL said that he would talk with the problematic teams to determine how the situation could be improved. Unfortunately, this has been tried in the past (and failed). It might work this time, of course, but we could prepare a backup plan. So let’s find one or two good plans, and vote on them. (I liked the idea of giving accounts creation/management to DSA. After all, it’s only an sysadmin task once the report has been approved by FD and DAM.)
- We could push forward Josip Rodin’s proposal about infrastructure teams. It might not solve the DAM problem immediately, but would probably help avoid similar problems in the future.
1. Maybe the 18 waiting accounts will be created today or tomorrow. Even if that happens, it won’t solve anything. Waiting 4 months for a simple administrative task is not acceptable, and we need to fix that problem anyway.
2. Account creation is not the only problem. Some people have been unable to upload packages or to vote for the DPL election, because their PGP key expired, and nobody updated it even if they have been asking for more than 4 months.