Bdale Garbee led off the linux.conf.au 2005 Debian "miniconf" with a
discussion of the state of the Debian project as he sees it. He covered
several topics of interest to the Debian community - and beyond.
With regard to the recently-concluded project leader election: Bdale was
clearly not entirely comfortable with Branden Robinson as a project leader
candidate. He did say, however, that Branden clearly wants to do the right
thing with Debian, and that the community should work with him to make that
happen. It will, he says, be interesting.
In general, there are difficulties with the whole concept of the Debian
project leader. The Debian community prizes cooperation and working
together to create the best distribution possible, but the project leader
process focuses, instead, on singling out an individual. The job is too
much for one person to handle, and, in any case, that one person can only
do so much to affect the development of Debian. And the election process,
which extends over a nine-week period, takes far too long relative to a
The Debian technical committee is not working as well as it could be
either. Its current composition needs to be reviewed; some of the
committee's members have not been active participants for some time. The
committee could take a more active role in directing Debian's development.
At the same time, the people who complain that the committee is
insufficiently active could also step forward and try to influence things
on their own.
Scud is an initiative to create a sort of advisory committee to help
the Debian project leader in his work. This project was endorsed by
Branden Robinson, so one assumes that it will be implemented in some form.
Bdale noted that not everybody is comfortable with this idea. The
committee's role, as it relates to the project's constitution, is not
particularly clear. The committee is self-selected, and is not necessarily
representative of the entire project. Some people feel left out. Bdale
feels that Scud might improve the situation. But, he says, it's a hack,
and the project can do better.
Bdale's proposal for doing better is to amend the constitution to bring
about a significant change in the project's governance. The Debian project
leader would be replaced with an elected board. A board could divide up
the work, and, hopefully, give more attention to what needs to be done.
Board candidates could emphasize how well they can work with a team.
Running for a board seat is less intimidating than going for a single
position. The result of all this could be that more qualified people run
for (and are elected to) board seats.
Bdale hopes to get some discussion of this idea at Debconf5, to be held in
Helsinki this July. If some sort of consensus emerges, a general
resolution could be proposed to the community as a whole. The idea could
change a lot in the process, but, Bdale says, there is a pressing need to
think creatively about how to evolve Debian, or it will eventually cease to
With regard to the sarge release: Bdale noted (jokingly) that he was the
last Debian project leader to have overseen a Debian stable release. There
comes a point where you have to simply list the remaining hurdles and
summon up the will to deal with them. Debian is, he says, getting to the
point where it is ready to do this and get sarge out the door. After that,
he would like to see Debian go to a more predictable (and shorter) release
A question was asked about shipping XFree86 4.3 in sarge, long after most
other distributions have moved over to the X.Org release. It is, of
course, simply a question of getting the sarge release out the door. Now
is not the time to replace such a large and fundamental component of the
system. It would have been better if sarge had shipped some time ago so
that this sort of issue would not come up, but there is little to be done
about that now.
Meanwhile, Bdale's plots of the number of Debian maintainers and the number
of packages continue to show a linear increase over many years. Debian
continues to grow, and is showing no sign of stopping. The project must,
it seems, be doing something right.
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