Platform for Ted Walther


I am no stranger to controversy. Almost everyone in Debian knows I am not afraid to speak my mind and stick to an unpopular position, if I believe it is the right one. I am your conscience. I say the things you don't dare to. That is why you need me to represent your interests. Because I will, without letting small personality issues get in the way of the more important integrity and user friendliness of the project.

Debian is a large, well-established project. It isn't moving fast, but it is moving, like an elephant through the underbrush. You can hear the twigs cracking, and the leaves whispering as it rushes down upon you. Do you have the guts to herd it into the corral and tame it?

After ten years, I am still using Debian as my developement, server, and multimedia desktop platform. It is the best Linux developers platform in the world. It is also an excellent server platform. Alas, I can't say that about the Desktop. When a close relative got frustrated with virii on her Windows boxes, I chose to put Ubuntu on it. I didn't have time to hunt down a dozen different install and netinst cdroms, which may or may not be current, and may or may not work. I didn't have time to spend days configuring audio, printing, and X windows, and the rest of the desktop for her.

Are we going to take that lying down? Is that where we want Debian to go?


Some people have complained about Ubuntu. I think they are off their rocker. My relative is computer illiterate, yet she is happy as a duck using Ubuntu for web, email, and listening to her MP3 collection. When I tried switching another computer illiterate friend over to Debian to do the same tasks, he kept having problems and draining my time.

Debian is a volunteer project. Many of us joined it and are working on it out of love. We do what we want; there are no deadlines or bosses. And that is how it should stay. But some of the work of putting out a GNU/Linux distribution is not fun, and few people want to do it for free. When projects like Ubuntu and Progeny come along and pay people to do the boring parts of the work, we should be ecstatic. We should be leaping and dancing in the streets. Hey, they're contributing! Great! We can fold their work back in to our distribution and carry on, stronger than ever.


It takes a special kind of person to get into Free Software. Usually they are broken and messed up in some way. Who in their right mind would write quality software and just give it away? Most of us are disfunctional in various ways. Some more-so than others. Aspergers syndrome is more common among Linux zealots than it is among your typical bread and butter working class Windows programmer.

Knowing this about ourselves, we should show more tolerance for each other. Maybe someone didn't say something in the most back-scratching and warm-fuzzy of terms. Maybe someone wasn't sensitive. We communicate mostly over email and IRC. These text mediums strip out almost 90% of the context information we use in face to face communication. Being quick assume an insult was intended is corrosive to our project, yet I see it happening continually.

Some Debian Developers have made a habit of complaining about the social skills of other developers, to the point of trying to get them kicked out through use of our General Resolution mechanism. I see such behavior as far more harmful and divisive to the project than the occasional salty joke, risque image, or even outright insensitivity. When elected, I will put forward a General Resolution to the effect that, if a person tries to get another person kicked out of the Debian project, and they fail, they themselves will be kicked out.

I am in Debian to change the world for the better, and have fun while doing it. If you aren't in it for those reasons, then you are part of the problem in Debian. There are too many sticks up too many butts. Try relaxing once in a while. Sure, we are making history. Sure, historians will be examining our email archives hundreds, thousands of years from now. Do you want those long distant scholars to report to their peers "Debian could have been interesting, but was ultimately done in by its own sense of self-importance and reluctance to take risks"?

For the record, Andrew Suffield's post to debian-devel-announce was hilarious. He made his point in a way that everyone could appreciate. Call me a Dinosaur, but that is the kind of spunk we need in this project. If you can't laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at others. However, I disagree with Andrew's point; the post about Debian/Ubuntu collaboration he objected to was appropriate and useful to the Debian group at large. I am grateful to Raphael Hertzog for having written it.


Debians current New Maintainer process, which determines who can be a Debian Developer and who cannot, has evolved over a long period of time. I am a Dinosaur, from the days before we even had a New Maintainer process. All it took was getting your PGP key signed by another Debian Developer or two, then waiting for Martin Schulze phone you up from overseas and ask if you were "moral enough" to join the Debian project. Then you had to wait six months (or less) for James Troup to find enough time to add you to the official Debian Keyring and create your email account.

I'm not the only one who never went through the New Maintainer process as it exists. In fairness to the majority of developers today who did come into the project through the NM (New Maintainer) process, I will put forward a GR (General Resolution) when elected. The GR will require all current developers who didn't go through NM to go through it within the next year. From that point on, every developer would be required to renew their membership every three years, similar to drivers licenses. For people who are already developers, with keys in the keyring and packages in the archives, the process wouldn't be too intrusive.

Many people are getting stuck in the New Maintainer process, or are passing through it, and then not being added in as developers very quickly. Even worse, a few are repeatedly asked to restart the process all over again. This has had the benefit that only people who were truly committed to Debian achieved membership as developers, but has also contributed to making Debian appear impossible to contribute to. It may be worth examining the root causes. Is the delay in the process deliberate, or is James Troup run off his feet? Should we hire him some attractive young personal assistants? Is there anything he needs to delegate to others? We should spare no expense to make sure he has all the resources he needs, considering the important job he is doing for the project.


For many years James Troup has been the gatekeeper of the Debian project, managing our download servers and adding in every new developer to the database by hand after they pass through our New Maintainer hazing procedure. As DPL I would solicit opinions on the best way Debian can honor him for his long years of service to the project. I'd recommend a life-size statue on the grounds of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Nothing to rebut. See you at the polls.

Your fellow concerned Debian Developer,

Ted Walther