It all started with a blog post
by Daniel Robbins. That was on January 11. But of course, it didn't really
start there. That's just when the internal furor over the revocation of the
Gentoo Foundation's corporate license became public. Developers had been
trying to figure out what to do in the internal gentoo-core mailing list
for about a week, and as such things do, it leaked.
The larger-scale problems didn't even start there. The Gentoo Weekly
Newsletter hasn't been posted for 13 weeks, and the Gentoo homepage hadn't seen any changes in the
same amount of time. Furthermore, Gentoo's second release of 2007, dubbed
2007.1, never happened and on Monday was announced canceled.
What do these problems mean? Is Gentoo collapsing? Another blog
post by Daniel Robbins suggests part of the answer—serious
communication problems exist between developers and the rest of the Gentoo
community. The relevant aspect here is that developers are so focused on
working in their little areas that they fail to tell the world what they're
doing. Everyone wants to develop, and nobody wants to spend time telling the
world what's being developed. Most developers don't want to spend time doing
anything but develop. In the same way, developers don't enjoy spending time
dealing with "boring" issues like donations, copyright, tax returns, etc.,
nor are they generally any good at it.
Development remains active in the background—new versions of packages
appear, bugs are fixed, the gentoo-dev mailing list is quite active, and so
is IRC. Developers continue to blog on Planet Gentoo. But none of that is
apparent to Gentoo users, who go to the homepage, read the weekly
newsletter, and wait for the next release. To users, things can look like
they're in stasis.
That's where Gentoo needs to concentrate its efforts: telling the world what
developers are doing. To accomplish that, the project will either need to
find new contributors interested in doing this or streamline its processes
so that less effort is required to communicate (for example, automatically
including Planet information or new versions from packages.gentoo.org on the
homepage). Specifically, one hope with the foundation is to hand off the
work to people who enjoy dealing with it, so developers can concentrate on
development—people at Software in the Public Interest, or the Software
Freedom Conservancy. An announcement on the Gentoo homepage proposing a move
to a monthly newsletter brought nearly 20 offers of help in only 2 days, so
it may be that the project hasn't been looking for non-development help in
all the right places.
Gentoo isn't dying, but its developers need to tell that to the world.
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