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Re: Proposing a New App Developer Upload Process

From:  Steve Langasek <>
Subject:  Re: Proposing a New App Developer Upload Process
Date:  Tue, 4 Sep 2012 18:01:56 -0700
Message-ID:  <>
Archive-link:  Article

Hi Scott,

On Tue, Sep 04, 2012 at 05:50:12PM -0400, Scott Kitterman wrote:
> On Wednesday, September 05, 2012 12:11:18 AM Emmet Hikory wrote:
> >     For application developers who prefer standard locations, I don't see
> > any reason we oughtn't simply add their packages to the repository with
> > immediate backport: in addition to allowing application developers to put
> > their files in any policy-compliant location, it automatically provides a
> > safe upgrade path for users.  Even for software with release cycles that
> > require significantly more frequent updates than typically provided by our
> > release cycle, there are few barriers to keeping this updated in backports,
> > and users who have installed from backports will remain with backports, so
> > their most active and interested users may be expected to always have the
> > latest version, while highly conservative users will be able to enjoy a
> > consistent ABI during the life of a given release (although these users
> > would need to wait for our next release before using the package).

> +1.  I've never understood why there is resistance to this.

There's a general sense that the Ubuntu archive can't scale out to the
degree it needs to in order to take on the next challenges for the platform. 
While Debian packaging isn't hard for you or me, and while it's definitely
gotten much easier over the past 4 years or so, it's still not so easy that
we blindly trust outside contributors to get the packaging right without
review by an Ubuntu developer.  We do not have an infinite supply of Ubuntu
developers to do this review.  Should the set of software available to
Ubuntu users through apt be limited to only that software that Ubuntu
developers (or Debian maintainers) have time and interest to take care of
directly?  Or should users have better (not perfect, but better) ways to
install software that's not gotten the attention of the elite inner circle?

The intent of Extras was always to make it easy for upstream developers who
know nothing about packaging policy to get their software in the hands of
users in as reliable and bug-free a manner as possible.  To date, it has
fallen far short of this goal.  We see 130 apps written for the recent app
contest that will never make it into Ubuntu or Debian, because no one will
ever package them the traditional way; and I think this is the tip of the
iceberg.  Provided we can address the app isolation issues and streamline
the packaging helpers, doesn't it make sense for us to make this software
available to our users - all of it, not just the ones an Ubuntu dev looks at
and decides are personally interesting to them?  Sure, there's going to be
some low-quality stuff in there that our users aren't going to want.  But
isn't it better to let users judge this quality for themselves instead of
having it pre-judged by what Ubuntu developers choose to work on?  I may
know a lot about putting together a distribution, but I'm a terrible judge
of what the next big thing will be that's important to users, and I'd rather
our users didn't miss out on it because of my poor ability to pick the

Given this goal, then, backports is not a solution.  Backports is a
necessarily heavy-weight process, of getting the package prepared,
sponsored (possibly after several rounds of feedback), through the NEW queue
for the devel release, and only then backported.  That works for some
upstreams who can invest that time and energy, but it won't work for all of
them, and if it did I think the backports team would quickly reconsider the
workload.  And it's a process that largely doesn't map to the goals of the
upstream who is trying to get their software into the hands of the users
running the current stable release, *not* to get their software integrated
into Ubuntu itself.  It's entirely possible that some of this software won't
be relevant by the time the next Ubuntu release comes out!  Why put an
upstream through a process optimized for long-term integration of the
distribution when all they care about is getting an app out to users that
gives them information about this month's beer festival?

Does this explain better why there's resistance to using the backports
process for this class of package?

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                                     

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