Chapter 2. Applying to Become a Maintainer

Table of Contents

2.1. Getting started
2.2. Debian mentors and sponsors
2.3. Registering as a Debian developer

2.1. Getting started

So, you've read all the documentation, you've gone through the Debian New Maintainers' Guide, understand what everything in the hello example package is for, and you're about to Debianize your favorite piece of software. How do you actually become a Debian developer so that your work can be incorporated into the Project?

Firstly, subscribe to if you haven't already. Send the word subscribe in the Subject of an email to . In case of problems, contact the list administrator at . More information on available mailing lists can be found in Section 4.1, “Mailing lists”. is another list which is mandatory for anyone who wishes to follow Debian's development.

You should subscribe and lurk (that is, read without posting) for a bit before doing any coding, and you should post about your intentions to work on something to avoid duplicated effort.

Another good list to subscribe to is . See Section 2.2, “Debian mentors and sponsors” for details. The IRC channel #debian can also be helpful; see Section 4.2, “IRC channels”.

When you know how you want to contribute to Debian, you should get in contact with existing Debian maintainers who are working on similar tasks. That way, you can learn from experienced developers. For example, if you are interested in packaging existing software for Debian, you should try to get a sponsor. A sponsor will work together with you on your package and upload it to the Debian archive once they are happy with the packaging work you have done. You can find a sponsor by mailing the mailing list, describing your package and yourself and asking for a sponsor (see Section 7.5.1, “Sponsoring packages” and https://wiki.debian.org/DebianMentorsFaq for more information on sponsoring). On the other hand, if you are interested in porting Debian to alternative architectures or kernels you can subscribe to port specific mailing lists and ask there how to get started. Finally, if you are interested in documentation or Quality Assurance (QA) work you can join maintainers already working on these tasks and submit patches and improvements.

One pitfall could be a too-generic local part in your mailadress: Terms like mail, admin, root, master should be avoided, please see https://www.debian.org/MailingLists/ for details.

2.2. Debian mentors and sponsors

The mailing list has been set up for novice maintainers who seek help with initial packaging and other developer-related issues. Every new developer is invited to subscribe to that list (see Section 4.1, “Mailing lists” for details).

Those who prefer one-on-one help (e.g., via private email) should also post to that list and an experienced developer will volunteer to help.

In addition, if you have some packages ready for inclusion in Debian, but are waiting for your new maintainer application to go through, you might be able find a sponsor to upload your package for you. Sponsors are people who are official Debian Developers, and who are willing to criticize and upload your packages for you. Please read the debian-mentors FAQ at https://wiki.debian.org/DebianMentorsFaq first.

If you wish to be a mentor and/or sponsor, more information is available in Section 7.5, “Interacting with prospective Debian developers”.

2.3. Registering as a Debian developer

Before you decide to register with Debian, you will need to read all the information available at the New Maintainer's Corner. It describes in detail the preparations you have to do before you can register to become a Debian developer. For example, before you apply, you have to read the Debian Social Contract. Registering as a developer means that you agree with and pledge to uphold the Debian Social Contract; it is very important that maintainers are in accord with the essential ideas behind Debian. Reading the GNU Manifesto would also be a good idea.

The process of registering as a developer is a process of verifying your identity and intentions, and checking your technical skills. As the number of people working on Debian has grown to over 1000 and our systems are used in several very important places, we have to be careful about being compromised. Therefore, we need to verify new maintainers before we can give them accounts on our servers and let them upload packages.

Before you actually register you should have shown that you can do competent work and will be a good contributor. You show this by submitting patches through the Bug Tracking System and having a package sponsored by an existing Debian Developer for a while. Also, we expect that contributors are interested in the whole project and not just in maintaining their own packages. If you can help other maintainers by providing further information on a bug or even a patch, then do so!

Registration requires that you are familiar with Debian's philosophy and technical documentation. Furthermore, you need a GnuPG key which has been signed by an existing Debian maintainer. If your GnuPG key is not signed yet, you should try to meet a Debian Developer in person to get your key signed. There's a GnuPG Key Signing Coordination page which should help you find a Debian Developer close to you. (If there is no Debian Developer close to you, alternative ways to pass the ID check may be permitted as an absolute exception on a case-by-case-basis. See the identification page for more information.)

If you do not have an OpenPGP key yet, generate one. Every developer needs an OpenPGP key in order to sign and verify package uploads. You should read the manual for the software you are using, since it has much important information which is critical to its security. Many more security failures are due to human error than to software failure or high-powered spy techniques. See Section 3.2.2, “Maintaining your public key” for more information on maintaining your public key.

Debian uses the GNU Privacy Guard (package gnupg version 1 or better) as its baseline standard. You can use some other implementation of OpenPGP as well. Note that OpenPGP is an open standard based on RFC 2440.

You need a version 4 key for use in Debian Development. Your key length must be greater than 1024 bits; there is no reason to use a smaller key, and doing so would be much less secure.[1]

If your public key isn't on a public key server such as subkeys.pgp.net, please read the documentation available at NM Step 2: Identification. That document contains instructions on how to put your key on the public key servers. The New Maintainer Group will put your public key on the servers if it isn't already there.

Some countries restrict the use of cryptographic software by their citizens. This need not impede one's activities as a Debian package maintainer however, as it may be perfectly legal to use cryptographic products for authentication, rather than encryption purposes. If you live in a country where use of cryptography even for authentication is forbidden then please contact us so we can make special arrangements.

To apply as a new maintainer, you need an existing Debian Developer to support your application (an advocate). After you have contributed to Debian for a while, and you want to apply to become a registered developer, an existing developer with whom you have worked over the past months has to express their belief that you can contribute to Debian successfully.

When you have found an advocate, have your GnuPG key signed and have already contributed to Debian for a while, you're ready to apply. You can simply register on our application page. After you have signed up, your advocate has to confirm your application. When your advocate has completed this step you will be assigned an Application Manager who will go with you through the necessary steps of the New Maintainer process. You can always check your status on the applications status board.

For more details, please consult New Maintainer's Corner at the Debian web site. Make sure that you are familiar with the necessary steps of the New Maintainer process before actually applying. If you are well prepared, you can save a lot of time later on.



[1] Version 4 keys are keys conforming to the OpenPGP standard as defined in RFC 2440. Version 4 is the key type that has always been created when using GnuPG. PGP versions since 5.x also could create v4 keys, the other choice having been pgp 2.6.x compatible v3 keys (also called legacy RSA by PGP).

Version 4 (primary) keys can either use the RSA or the DSA algorithms, so this has nothing to do with GnuPG's question about which kind of key do you want: (1) DSA and Elgamal, (2) DSA (sign only), (5) RSA (sign only). If you don't have any special requirements just pick the default.

The easiest way to tell whether an existing key is a v4 key or a v3 (or v2) key is to look at the fingerprint: Fingerprints of version 4 keys are the SHA-1 hash of some key material, so they are 40 hex digits, usually grouped in blocks of 4. Fingerprints of older key format versions used MD5 and are generally shown in blocks of 2 hex digits. For example if your fingerprint looks like 5B00 C96D 5D54 AEE1 206B  AF84 DE7A AF6E 94C0 9C7F then it's a v4 key.

Another possibility is to pipe the key into pgpdump, which will say something like Public Key Packet - Ver 4.

Also note that your key must be self-signed (i.e. it has to sign all its own user IDs; this prevents user ID tampering). All modern OpenPGP software does that automatically, but if you have an older key you may have to manually add those signatures.