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Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

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By Nathan Willis
July 20, 2012

Cultivating contributors is a tricky endeavor; large projects like Linux distributions need to add developers, testers, packagers, and more on an ongoing basis. But recruiting involves more than extending an invitation; training new talent on the ins-and-outs of the development process is vital, as is deftly handling volunteers that don't quite have their act together. Debian, for instance, has a multi-step process for joining that requires both contribution and a recommendation from existing members.

Gentoo has long taken the recruiting game seriously as well, but it recently decided to shut down its developer-recruitment web application, and return to its previous method of email-submitted "quizzes." Opinion is divided as to which direction the recruitment process should take; the distribution has historically found success with its structured process, pairing new volunteers with mentors for training. But if the mechanics of maintaining that process become a burden, it can drive off new contributors and mentors.

In the past, the Gentoo recruitment training process centered around a set of quizzes that each new recruit had to complete successfully before getting commit privileges. There were two quizzes: one for those who would be working with the distribution's ebuild build system or Portage tree, and another for those who would be working on infrastructure and other non-build components. Both quizzes include a mix of policy and technical questions, requiring (sometimes lengthy) essay-style answers. For example, the ebuild quiz asks:

What is the proper method for suggesting a wide-ranging feature or enhancement to Gentoo? Describe the process for getting this feature approved and implemented.

in the "Organizational structure" section, and:

You find a package that will not build on some architectures without PIC (-fPIC) code in the shared libraries. What is the proper way to handle this situation?

in the "Ebuild technical" section. The recruit would send the completed quiz to his or her mentor and, upon receiving a satisfactory grade, would advance to the next step: opening a recruitment "bug" to track the recruit's progress, which eventually culminates in account setup.

The term "quiz" might be slightly confusing to some who associate the word with brief and/or quick tests. In Gentoo's case, the recruit could take as much time as necessary to complete the questions, and might be asked by the mentor to try again through several iterations. On the plus side, this technique emphasizes letting the new developer get familiar with the documentation and the distribution's way of doing things. But it also led to new recruits taking months or even years to complete the quizzes, often while they continued to contribute back in "unofficial" ways.

The web application (at recruiting.gentoo.org) was deployed in 2010, with the goal of streamlining the process by storing the questions and answers online. Mentors could provide feedback through the application, without juggling email threads. But the web application has not proven so useful in practice: it is buggy, it has UI issues, it runs on an outdated version of Rails, and there is insufficient developer-power in the project to fix it up. All of those factors combined to convince the recruiters to move back to the old-style, email-driven quiz process.

Markos Chandras from the Gentoo Recruiters team announced the decision on July 14, saying that new recruits (not including those who have already started using the web application) should use the old quizzes instead. "We understand that quizzes is not an ideal way to 'hire' people either, but they worked ok for all these years and it is the only alternative we have at the moment." Chandras added that hopefully a future Google Summer of Code (GSoC) project will be able to improve the application.

But not everyone agreed that the old-style quizzes worked acceptably, or that the web application was the only alternative to consider. Ben de Groot said that the time involved takes away from time the new recruit could contribute to Gentoo:

The first time I did the quizzes, it took me 9 months. After having been away for a couple of years, I recently returned as Gentoo dev, and the second time I did the quizzes it took me 3 months. I've seen others take a long time doing them as well. Davide (pesa), one of our most valued contributors in the Qt team, took close to two years I think.

I think this way we lose much valuable developer time. These people could have had commit access and done much valuable work so much earlier, if there wasn't this obstacle of the quizzes...

[...]What I noticed in my own experience as lead of our Qt team, is that getting people started on the real work, being part of the developer community and process, is a good way to introduce them to how we do things in Gentoo. The Qt team has its official overlay, and it is easy for us to give new contributors access to it. That way they can learn to write ebuilds and eclasses, and how to improve them, commit them, and get used to a good workflow.

De Groot proposed improving the wiki documentation to cover the quiz material, and having mentors walk their recruits through the documentation while simultaneously helping them learn development work. Alternatively, he said, mentors could assign tasks for recruits to complete. Chandras replied that the quizzes cover a specific set of material to ensure consistency between mentors, and that doing away with them would necessitate someone else monitoring the mentors to ensure they cover the proper work. On the other hand, he did like the idea of improving the wiki, and suggested that the post-quiz review steps could be simplified, particularly if a recruit has already been contributing.

Rich Freeman expressed surprise at the lengths of time taken by some recruits, but agreed that the quizzes have weaknesses, saying "I did struggle because policies were not always spelled out" and "sometimes the indirectness of some of the questions was frustrating," but that he completed his quiz in eight hours, and learned a lot in the process. He also suggested improving documentation, in particular by creating step-by-step tutorials for ebuild, which could guide new recruits through learning the system (in contrast to the existing documentation, which is predominantly reference material).

Several people responded that the absolute time required to complete the quizzes was not the issue, rather it was finding the free time to devote to the process amidst all other responsibilities (including Gentoo contributions). Peter Stuge commented, jokingly, that "the idiots that the quizzes are designed to keep out can spend two (or four/eight if they need) days to pass anyway with a little dedication, while less idiotic idiots such as perhaps myself need years because we're doing whatever work as opposed to learning foundation bylaws by heart."

Freeman also speculated in several messages on the impact the recruitment process has on the overall Gentoo culture, apart from the method used to indoctrinate new developers. On one hand, he suggested that the need to ensure a training regimen stemmed from technical choices like using CVS (where commit access is required). Using Git instead would alleviate some of the concern about adding new developers, because they could still do useful work in their own trees. More developers with more freedom to improve packages, he said, "would be a good thing. The all-or-nothing model too often turns out to be nothing."

On the other hand, Freeman argued that the non-technical topics in the quizzes — such as learning to work within teams, ask questions, and build consensus — are more important in the long term:

What really causes havoc around here is when people change ebuilds without consulting with the maintainer, or when they go tweaking system packages without a great deal of care and being part of the appropriate team, and so on. [...] Many of these issues have dwindled in recent years, and I think it is precisely because teams like the recruiters have been paying more careful attention to them.

Freeman may have summed up the feelings of many Gentoo developers: the specifics of the training process are less important than the fact that is it deliberate and guided by active mentors and recruiters, because the end goal is to integrate the new developers into the Gentoo community — not to train them on a particular suite of tools. On that front, the web application still has its share of fans. Theo Chatzimichos said he prefers it to the email-driven quizzes because it simplifies keeping track of recruits' answers. Chatzimichos said he mentors two or three recruits at a time, and proposed putting out a call for volunteers to revamp the web application, while making sure to not let the web application get out-of-sync with the quizzes.

In an email, Chandras said that Gentoo averages 10 to 15 recruits per year. That may not be many when compared to large distributions like Ubuntu or Fedora, but in a sense it only makes the recruitment process more critical. It is clear from the discussion that neither the old email-driven quizzes nor the recent web application quite meet everyone's needs — but at least the recruiters and the mentors are committed to sticking with the process even in spite of its awkward points.


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Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 20, 2012 22:15 UTC (Fri) by pkern (subscriber, #32883) [Link]

FWIW the "multi-step process" of Debian is also based heavily on quizzes.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 27, 2012 3:09 UTC (Fri) by BenHutchings (subscriber, #37955) [Link]

Not any more; it's now supposed to be an assessment of work that the applicant has already done.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 5:49 UTC (Sat) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

the concerns about someone tinkering with ebuilds without dealing with the maintainer, or tweaking core packages, etc are exactly what DVCS systems like git are good for. Let them go ahead and produce their tweaks, it does no harm until it gets merged with the main repository. You need people policing such merges, not trying to police the generation of the variants.

If the ebuild maintainers need to be involved in any case, then they should approve the merges that change any e-builds they maintain.

for the core system, you need a benevalent dictator, or a team of such (depending on rate of change and trust)

The key is that you are changing the "gentoo developer" status from being an all-or-nothing type of thing to a degree of trust type of thing, where the amount of trust may be different in different areas.

For example, in kernel development David M is highly trusted to make changes in the networking area, but if he started sending patchsets in that made changes in filesystem, memory management core, syspend/restrore, etc without calling the changes out as such and working with the maintainers of those sections, he would get blasted for doing so. (not picking on David M, just using him as an example)

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 3, 2012 16:26 UTC (Fri) by shentino (subscriber, #76459) [Link]

The problem with using DVCS is data bloat.

The portage tree by its nature consists of files with limited lifetimes, because ebuilds are inherently volatile.

They get created when new versions of the software they control are released, and are deleted periodically when no longer needed.

This creates a lot of churn with file addition and removal that is highly atypical compared to standard repository usage.

I think that this is one of the few cases where CVS is a superior solution.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 3, 2012 17:44 UTC (Fri) by jimparis (subscriber, #38647) [Link]

That doesn't make sense. CVS is terrible with file addition and removal -- you can't delete directories and it has no concept of file renames. Git, on the other hand, fully supports renames or even the fact that a new file is substantially similar to an old one. And, critically, changes like adding, deleting, or moving files can be represented as all being part of a single changeset, which CVS cannot do.

Openembedded is using Git just fine and that seems like very similar usage to the portage tree.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 3, 2012 17:47 UTC (Fri) by johill (subscriber, #25196) [Link]

Plus, if you actually care all that much about the data transfer, you can use shallow clones.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 5:59 UTC (Sat) by stefanor (subscriber, #32895) [Link]

10 - 15 new recruits a year isn't that bad. I sit on the Developer Membership Board in Ubuntu, and I don't think we do that much better.

We are currently approving somewhere around two upload applications a month [0]. But people often go through the board multiple times, as they apply for wider upload rights [1], so the number of new developers is somewhat less than that.

[0]: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DeveloperMembershipBoard/TeamReports
[1]: http://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuDevelopers

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 7:49 UTC (Sat) by akeane (guest, #85436) [Link]

I wonder how a certain Finnish student would have fared, in 1991, with such "quizzes" ?

I suspect he would have just dismissed it as a time wasting exercise and messed about instead with extending/forking Minix, thus creating the very bedrock that all of these distributions rely on...

Also, should anyone really care if they are a <insert distribution here> developer? What's actually in it for them, if their code is good enough and widely deployed, the disties will grab it and package it anyway without the actual developer having to get involved in the politics and squabbles per distribution...

They can just get on with producing actual code, rather than wasting time filling in quizzes!

Oh, and google ;-)


Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 8:34 UTC (Sat) by stefanor (subscriber, #32895) [Link]

It shouldn't be a blocker on getting things done.

Generally in the free software world, anyone can contribute patches to anything, and they'll be reviewed by the maintainers. One only needs to go through a process like this to get direct commit access / upload rights. You learn the skills you need from doing, and by the time you apply for commit access, you can trivially answer any such quizzes.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 9:13 UTC (Sat) by akeane (guest, #85436) [Link]

Ah, ok, so it's more of a tool to work out who can have responsibility
to direct access to a particular repo and be trusted not to muck it up.

I guess it also reduces the workload for a maintainer accepting/merging patches, which is a good thing!

But, wouldn't a trusted developer be known to the community anyway, namely the time/effort/dedication to a project would already be known to his/her peers?

Seriously, I am not trying to criticise a particular distributions policies for commit/upload access to their repos, but talk of "quizzes" has the very faint smell of Corporate HR filtering tactics, and in some ways perhaps a little bit patronizing, wouldn't the fact that google exists and the answers are easily discoverable mean you would have to fall back on a particular developers community reputation anyway?

Disclaimer: I detest all forms of application forms/paperwork ;-)

Bonne Weekend!


Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 17:07 UTC (Sat) by tetromino (subscriber, #33846) [Link]

But, wouldn't a trusted developer be known to the community anyway, namely the time/effort/dedication to a project would already be known to his/her peers?

Seriously, I am not trying to criticise a particular distributions policies for commit/upload access to their repos, but talk of "quizzes" has the very faint smell of Corporate HR filtering tactics, and in some ways perhaps a little bit patronizing, wouldn't the fact that google exists and the answers are easily discoverable mean you would have to fall back on a particular developers community reputation anyway?

First, Gentoo has 280 people with commit rights to the main repository. Numerous experiments have shown that an average human brain can't deal with relationships in a group of >100 peers or so (the size of an ancient tribal band). So some degree of bureaucracy/HR is absolutely required for a project of such size, otherwise you get chaos.

Second, it's not enough for the answers to quizzes to be discoverable. Much of it is information you need to know by heart, so you don't make mistakes and break user machines or community rules in the first place, instead of merely being able to google for how to fix the mess you had made after the fact.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 17:10 UTC (Sat) by tetromino (subscriber, #33846) [Link]

280 people with commit rights

s/280/267/. Turns out I can't count.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 21, 2012 20:49 UTC (Sat) by boudewijn (subscriber, #14185) [Link]

KDE currently has 2626 commit accounts -- http://websvn.kde.org/trunk/kde-common/accounts?revision=... -- and no quizzes. Of course, not all of those are active right now, and there's plenty chaos, but a remarkable amount of productivity and very little disruptive chaos.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 26, 2012 19:17 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

yup, and openSUSE also manages to get by just fine without such bureaucracies. I won't call it ridiculous outright but it certainly doesn't sit well by me.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 2, 2012 12:22 UTC (Thu) by TRauMa (guest, #16483) [Link]

But there is a company behind it, which means full time employees and a hidden bureaucracy layer. Gentoo doesn't have that.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Sep 6, 2012 9:34 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

True, SUSE and the other companies behind openSUSE mudd the waters a bit here. But Gentoo has corporate involvement too, does it not?

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Oct 3, 2012 23:51 UTC (Wed) by Duncan (guest, #6647) [Link]

> SUSE ... openSUSE.
> Gentoo has corporate involvement too, does it not?

Not in the same way. While various companies (corporation and otherwise) may provide mirrors and/or donate hardware and the like, and google itself is a notable example of a gentoo downstream (with chromeOS), gentoo seems to be much like the kde of the front-page article, in that it's very much individual developer driven, with companies as such not allowed to get too close.

I believe there's a parallel to debian there. Both gentoo and debian are 100% community distros without a sponsoring corporate parent, as such. The model is quite different from that of fedora/rh, or opensuse/suse, or mandriva (closer to mageia I guess).

It occurs to me that I don't know where arch fits in, community/corporate-sponsorship-wise.

Duncan

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 22, 2012 11:01 UTC (Sun) by mchandras (subscriber, #81428) [Link]

This number is a bit inaccurate. We currently have 41 open retirement bugs which means that the potential number of active contributors is 227. Plus, we do have some people listed in that list that have no commit access so, again, the number of potential active contributors with commit access is ~220. Then again, not all of them are active. I am quite confident that there are no more than 190 active developers right now in Gentoo. This is not as bad as it may sound, since this number remains constant for the last 3-4 years.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 22, 2012 9:16 UTC (Sun) by akeane (guest, #85436) [Link]

>First, Gentoo has 280 people with commit rights to the main repository. Numerous experiments have shown that an average human brain can't deal with relationships in a group of >100 peers or so (the size of an ancient tribal band). So some degree of bureaucracy/HR is absolutely required for a project of such size, otherwise you get chaos.

That's an interesting point, but isn't at least some of the benefits of using a software repository/version control is that some of this complexity (i.e. multiple folks changing the same codebase) is contained?

>Much of it is information you need to know by heart, so you don't make mistakes and break user machines or community rules in the first place, instead of merely being able to google for how to fix the mess you had made after the fact.

I meant using google to pass the quiz ;-)

Also it really possible/useful even these days, to know everything by heart? After many moons of coding I certainly don't bother to remember everything I do or have done if I can find it easily. Also having to fix things last minute via muscle memory ESC ESC wq: :-) implies a rushed deadline, and/or bad QA and testing cycle prior to release...

I guess fundamentally I find it difficult to believe a quiz is a better way to assess somebody, rather than previous interactions with maintainers say, or a community reputation - which can't be "faked" with l33t google skilz.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to answer my points, it's certainly interesting to see how different parts of the community are trying to handle these problems.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 23, 2012 15:41 UTC (Mon) by sumanah (subscriber, #59891) [Link]

Disclaimer: I've never taken the Gentoo quizzes, and I'm talking more generally about the merits and disadvantages of bureaucratic processes.
I guess fundamentally I find it difficult to believe a quiz is a better way to assess somebody, rather than previous interactions with maintainers say, or a community reputation - which can't be "faked" with l33t google skilz.

One thing to consider: the merits of objective procedures. When a community says "here's the procedure for how to get such-and-such privileges," and they are clear and scalable and don't depend on forming relationships with specific people, then that community reassures its members that it's being transparent, objective, and fair in distributing those privileges. This reduces a risk of unfair discrimination based on prejudice, and makes the user interface of the community a lot clearer for newbies. Of course, the procedures themselves become a center of discussion around what actually constitutes merit and what skills should lead to which privileges, and that sort of discussion should be happening anyway. And sometimes communities struggle to consistently apply the rules, but at least they're talking about that instead of letting the issue simmer beneath the surface.

Bureaucracies scale better than personal judgments, and can do better at fairness and accessibility. But they also put off some kinds of participants, and, if improperly administered, can cause inefficiencies and frustration.

I applaud the Gentoo community for thinking and working on this from both approaches; I agree with Nathan Willis's summary: "the specifics of the training process are less important than the fact that is it deliberate and guided by active mentors and recruiters".

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 24, 2012 18:49 UTC (Tue) by akeane (guest, #85436) [Link]

>One thing to consider: the merits of objective procedures. When a community says "here's the procedure for how to get such-and-such privileges," and they are clear and scalable and don't depend on forming relationships with specific people, then that community reassures its members that it's being transparent, objective, and fair in distributing those privileges. This reduces a risk of unfair discrimination based on prejudice, and makes the user interface of the community a lot clearer for newbies. Of course, the procedures themselves become a center of discussion around what actually constitutes merit and what skills should lead to which privileges, and that sort of discussion should be happening anyway. And sometimes communities struggle to consistently apply the rules, but at least they're talking about that instead of letting the issue simmer beneath the surface.

google: how do I get the procedure for how to get such-and-such privileges?

So, google in a clear and scalable, objective way answers that, how do you tell you tell it's not google doing that, guess it's the policy vs mechanism thing...

You may think these things need to be scalable, more bureaucratic, but I notice that there are many linux devices physically around me right now, like the embedded MIPS linux controller in my TV, or ARM linux in my wireless router, phone...

And this is something that got created without a huge bureaucracy, you can just turn up on lkml without a quiz and see how it goes.

At the end of the day, none of these distributions would exist without the kernel that somehow got produced (with it's millions of lines of code and thousands of contributors) without quizzes/HR stuff.

I guess, I am asking why not just adopt that model, as it obviously works, seems scalable, produced good stuff over the last two decades?

Or are the people who actually produce the stuff that the distros use/sell/possibly make money with, on a daily basis just a bunch of statistics to be processed/filtered according to, well, a bureaucratic process?

google: what should I do now?

Play Knee Deep in zDoom :-) and stop trying to spell bureaucracy

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 24, 2012 21:06 UTC (Tue) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198) [Link]

The kernel model is to have a Benevolent Dictator for Life at the top who can act however they want. You can show up on LKML and drop some patches and see if you get quizzed or not...Linux code review is famously harsh and sometimes the procedures to get changes accepted are arbitrary and inscrutable. You notice that vendors shipping a lot of linux derivatives but just because you shipped millions of units doesn't mean that your changes will get added to the Linus kernel on kernel.org, just ask the Android team about that. 8-)

Just because Linux development works doesn't mean that it is the best method or that it's methods are applicable to other organizations.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 6, 2012 9:59 UTC (Mon) by philomath (guest, #84172) [Link]

>Numerous experiments have shown that an average human brain can't deal with relationships in a group of >100 peers or so

Interesting.
link, please?

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 6, 2012 11:28 UTC (Mon) by jwakely (guest, #60262) [Link]

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 26, 2012 18:35 UTC (Thu) by justincormack (subscriber, #70439) [Link]

I would never do a quiz to join an open source organization. Happy to have contributions reviewed, and discuss them (which works well I think), but I wouldn't ever do a quiz.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 26, 2012 19:29 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

join openSUSE then ;-)

Serious, I am a bit surprised at the rules ppl have to go through in most distro's. I knew that debian, fedora and Ubuntu where full of committees and rules and such. But even Gentoo? Where did the fun go? This is mostly distributions, am I right? It isn't in GNOME/KDE, or most other projects, afaik What is it that made the other big distro's so bureaucratic? And what saved openSUSE?

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 27, 2012 8:28 UTC (Fri) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

You (or anyone) are perfectly welcome to contribute to Debian without having to become an official »maintainer«. You can create packages or in general do all sorts of things to help improve Debian. You only need to go through the new-maintainer process if you want to be trusted to upload packages directly into the distribution.

If you're not a Debian maintainer then your contributions will need to be reviewed by somebody who is before they can go into the distribution, but it seems to me that that is exactly what the original poster was asking for – so he should feel quite at home with Debian.

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 28, 2012 7:08 UTC (Sat) by speedster1 (subscriber, #8143) [Link]

> If you're not a Debian maintainer then your contributions will need to be
> reviewed by somebody who is before they can go into the distribution, but
> it seems to me that that is exactly what the original poster was asking
> for – so he should feel quite at home with Debian.

That is also possible with gentoo, where users team up with official developers on the proxy maintainer team and don't need to go through recruitment to contribute:

http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/qa/proxy-maintainers/index.xml

"What it takes to be a Proxied Maintainer

Enthusiasm

Teamwork

Interest

Patience"

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Jul 30, 2012 10:46 UTC (Mon) by zack (subscriber, #7062) [Link]

Jos, if you write oversimplifications like these ones, you really make it seems you just have an agenda of promoting openSUSE's recruitment system!
As I suspect that was not your intention, I suggest bringing a bit more depth to the discussion.

It is indisputable that "quizzes" (an actual misnomer, as written in the article) and similar joining process tend to be more bureaucratic, one should investigate what are the reasons behind them. For instance, in the case of Debian, the reasons are quite profound and have been covered by an interesting paper by Biella Coleman, called "three ethical moments in Debian" (see e.g. https://lwn.net/Articles/149031/ ).

While you can get rid of most "quizzes" to verify technical abilities (like we've done in Debian, as observer by Ben Hutchings in the comments here), verifying alignment of visions and principles is a tad more tricky.

-- Stefano Zacchiroli

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Aug 2, 2012 4:09 UTC (Thu) by scientes (guest, #83068) [Link]

The linked pdf's in that email you linked to are gone.

However the Web Archive has them.

http://web.archive.org/web/20110726143855/http://healthha...
http://web.archive.org/web/20081002094929/http://healthha...

Gentoo debates recruitment schemes

Posted Sep 6, 2012 9:53 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

Ok, lets discuss. Sorry for the late reply :D

You are basically saying that the test Debian does, besides checking for technical abilities, tries to assess the social side of things: is there a cultural match.

While I understand (and agree with) the need for cultural compatibility between potential joinee and project, I'm not sure a 'test' helps much - if at all. Culture is conveyed and verified in social interactions, not written stuff, tests or bureaucracies. Written stuff can help, that's why organizations like KDE and GNOME and openSUSE and Debian and others have written down their philosophies and point folks there. But it is the day to day work in which you really 'learn the ropes'.

Before you give people commit access to the central repositories, a informal check 'around them' makes most sense - that's how KDE does it, GNOME too I believe. Likewise, openSUSE leaves such decisions to the teams maintaining parts of openSUSE (KDE, GNOME, etc) and we have a git-like branch/merge request system which kind'a negates the need for much more formality. I think that's a good approach: work around formality and bureaucracy in the tools. Once someone learns the tools and works with folks on getting packages in, build up relationships, and those folks around him/her decide to give him/her maintainership access to the shared pool of packages they maintain, I think the 'wider community' or 'project' has no business doubting their technical and cultural fit anymore.

For giving people formal influence, it makes sense to let them give some sign of support of the project philosophy - we let people sign the 'Guiding Principles' before they can join the openSUSE Membership. But we don't "test" their fit anymore, other than looking at their contributions: if you're accepted in the informal community processes, who are we to deny you access to the governance of the project? That would just serve to make the whole project become a stale, immovable, conservative object. Rings any bells?


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