Matthew Vernon's Opening Speech

Debian continues to expand. We continually have more and more packages in the archives, our user base grows, and we are seeing several distributions based on Debian (Storm, Coral, etc.) becoming publically available. To my mind, this shows that we are getting things right. It also brings new challenges (the new-maintainer problems being the example most in people's minds at the moment). Clearly, Debian needs to adapt to these new challenges whilst maintaining those things that enable us to be the best distribution in the World.

The Debian developers are a great bunch of motivated, competent, well-intentioned people. As such, the DPL in my opinion should have a fairly hands-off approach; in particular, as Debian continues to expand, the DPL will need to delegate some of his responsibilities to others, so enabling them to concentrate their energies more efficiently. The DPL is the public figure-head of Debian, and has to give interviews, and handle queries from people (though this may involve passing the inquiry onto an appropriate mailing list). Also, they have to enable efficient communication between developers and groups of developers (problems like the one that arose with new-maintainer should be able to be predicted, and so hopefully prevented, for example). There are times also when the DPL needs to intervene with a swift decision, and I recognise that these are not times for procrastination; I have experience in dealing with such situations, and consider myself competent to deal with them.

To return to my previous theme of Debian's expansion, this shows we are doing well, but we mustn't rest on our laurels (though they are manifold). There are areas of Debian that could be improved. The boot-floppies continue to get better, but the installation process is probably one of Debian's weaknesses (it's fine for experienced users, but some newbies do find it pretty tough). There is a large backlog of new-maintainer enquiries, but nm will be re-opening Real Soon Now. More frequent releases would be nice too. And, with about four thousand packages in the archives, there are a lot of open bugs, and plenty of work for the archive maintainers.

How do I intend to deal with these issues? No one person has the abilities nor the time to write user-friendly installation code, fix vast numbers of bugs, write excellent documentation, deal with new-maintainer applications, and the numerous other tasks that need doing, least of all me. Therefore, I intend to delegate these tasks to groups of people (the QA team are an example of this in action, albeit an under-publicised one) who are motivated and competent in those areas, and get them email addresses so they can have a forum to discuss the relevant issues in, away from the heavy traffic of lists like -devel. I would also monitor such mailing lists, to offer advice, and check that everything is going according to plan (particularly with regard to people not feeling over-worked or under-appreciated).

Dale's management of the fledgling nm team in the last week has been excellent, as has Raphaƫl's revitalisation of debian-qa. These are the sort of things that I would like to encourage, and then encourage people to join! In particular, I would like to increase the profile of the QA people considerably, in the hope of getting more people to help out on that front - the more people are working on bugfixes, the better Debian is, and the faster we can get new releases out. I hope the above gives an idea of what I intend to do as DPL if elected, and explains why I think it's the right direction for Debian to be heading as we come towards the end of the 20th century. I'm always open to advice or suggestions, and will try and make myself as accessible as possible as DPL. Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re seems the best way to manage Debian developers (and people in general). I look forward to being able to make Debian even better, for users and developers alike.