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Re: Proposing a New App Developer Upload Process

From:  Matthew Paul Thomas <mpt-AT-canonical.com>
To:  ubuntu-devel-AT-lists.ubuntu.com
Subject:  Re: Proposing a New App Developer Upload Process
Date:  Wed, 05 Sep 2012 18:01:26 +0100
Message-ID:  <50478566.6030207@canonical.com>
Archive-link:  Article

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Scott Kitterman wrote on 05/09/12 04:39:
> 
> On Tuesday, September 04, 2012 06:01:56 PM Steve Langasek wrote: 
> ...
>> 
>> 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?
> 
> First, this elite inner circle has an open door.

Which requires using Launchpad Bugs (regardless of where you actually
track bugs for your application), knowing what "Debian" is, using the
archaic IRC chat system, signing a "Code of Conduct" that is almost
entirely about contributing to Ubuntu itself, and other things that,
for a typical application author, have no relevance whatsoever.

This inner circle didn't deliberately set out to be elite.

> Second we also have a limited supply of ARB reviewers.  Starting a 
> new review process (ARB) because their aren't enough reviewers was 
> clearly doomed from the start, so much of my "I don't understand 
> this" comes from the current process where we substitute one review
> process with insufficient reviewers for another one with 
> insufficient reviewers.

Yes, I sighed when the ARB was announced for the same reason. But the
conclusion should not be to go back to the first process that still
has insufficient reviewers. It should be to find a process that does
not require reviewers -- or at least, requires them to spend on the
order of a hundredth of the time per application that they do now.

> Additionally, I think the notion that "Oh, X has a bazillion apps, 
> so we need that many too" is mistaken in many regards.  How many 
> office suites do we need? I'd say one that works robustly, 
> reliably, and compatibly with it's proprietary competition (and 
> despite a huge amount of work by people deeply interested in 
> solving this problem, IMO we don't have it). How many solitaire 
> games do we need?  I'm not sure, but I'm confident it's fewer than 
> one finds in whatever Android Marketplace is called now.

Nearly two decades have passed since operating systems were judged
primarily by their office suites and solitaire games. Photo
retouching, online note syncing, genealogy, kiosk-style UI for the
elderly, music notation, home accounting, calendaring, paying taxes,
making greeting cards, chess, Web design, screencasting, CAD, school
timetabling, wedding planning, screenwriting. For thousands of "long
tail" genres like those, competing OSes have multiple applications to
choose from -- but the published choices in Ubuntu are either
non-existent or, not to put too fine a point on it, terrible.

Now, there are many reasons for that: difficulty of publishing is far
from the only one. But it would be a subtle error to think that an
application not existing for Ubuntu at all means that difficulty of
publishing is unimportant. It may be one of the reasons nobody
bothered to develop the application in the first place.

> Historically, Linux distros have included a curated collection, 
> some larger, some smaller, of relevant applications, libraries, etc
> that can be used on the base operating system.  That curation 
> process is one of the real strengths of Linux distributions...

That's a near-tautology. "Distributions" are named after the assumption
that selecting and packaging other people's software is a way to
produce a useful operating system.

That may work for a few hundred thousand or even a few million
notebook/desktop users, but it has failed to grow beyond that. The
distro model discourages application developers, slows application
updates (making the installed base less reliable and less secure), and
distracts Ubuntu developers from improving Ubuntu itself. Eventually
the time comes to say "enough, let's try something else".

> ...
> 
> There are a LOT of Debian/Ubuntu developers and non-developers 
> involved in packaging, so I suspect the good stuff will get 
> attention (I may be wrong).  If such a system existed, then, if it 
> was really clearly distinct from Ubuntu, I think it might make 
> sense, but what's been done so far doesn't meet that goal and 
> neither does what's specified.
> 
> ...

There are a lot of developers involved in packaging, compared to what?
Two years ago there were 160 MOTUs. Today there are 149. That isn't
how you scale to an order of magnitude more applications.

Maybe the current proposal isn't the best way to solve the problem.
But the first step is to recognize the problem.

- -- 
mpt
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