Steve McIntyre's DPL platform, 2009
I've been a Debian Developer since October 1996. I originally joined to maintain the Debian version of mikmod; I was the upstream developer at the time, and wanted the Debian version to work well too. In those days, the NM process was rather simpler than today: I installed Debian, then two days later I mailed Bruce Perens with a PGP key and asked him for a Debian login. He responded almost immediately with account details - I was in!
Since that point, I've worked on quite a wide range of packages, some large and some small. Probably the most noticeable technical work I've done for Debian is within the debian-cd team, both developing the debian-cd software itself and using that same software to create the official CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray disks that accompany each Debian release. I've been involved with the CDs for almost every major and point release since Hamm.
I host two of our buildds (ball and toffee), and help with local admin work on two more (cats and grieg). I also keep my own little farm of machines covering the majority of our architectures. This helps me to debug problems in my own packages, and I give out accounts to other DDs as well where helpful.
Standing for re-election
I am the current DPL, and I am standing for re-election this year. I believe that I have done a reasonable job for the project in the last year, concentrating on three major themes:
- Teamwork - I organised a review of how the various teams in Debian were performing, running a survey and then working through the results of that survey. In several places where they indicated that core teams were not working as well as we needed/expected, I helped the people involved to bring in new blood or to improve working methods as appropriate. I've also encouraged people to meet face-to-face where it has helped, and I have spent Debian money to help achieve that when needed. I'm not going to claim all the credit for the improvements that have happened in the last year, but I'm happy that Debian as an organisation is in much better shape now than at this point last year.
- Internal communications - I've spent a lot of time this year talking with Debian folks: encouraging them to spread the news about what they're working on, what they need help with, what problems they're facing. I haven't quite posted as many "Bits from the DPL" mails as I'd have hoped for this year, and for that I apologise: sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day. More about that later! I have also helped solve a number of disagreements this year, mediating in arguments before they cause real problems.
- External communications - I've represented Debian a lot of times. This includes talking to the press multiple times: about being elected, about problems in Debian and how we solve them, and about Lenny and why they should care about it. I have presented several talks about Debian to a variety of audiences, and I have been involved in multiple discussions with other FLOSS projects including some of the other Linux distributions.
There's more to the job too, more than I can really cover in this space. I gave a talk at FOSDEM last month about this if you're interested in more details, and the video team captured it on video too.
Standing with an assistant - Luk Claes
One thing I have learnt in the last year is that the DPL job is a big one. To do the job effectively takes up a lot of time: in my opinion more time than one single person will have, unless they are a student or they have a very accommodating employer. Due to this, I did not manage to make as much progress on my goals as I hoped for in the last year and so I'm changing my plans a little. I have asked Luk Claes to join me as an assistant DPL this year if I'm elected, and he has accepted my invitation.
Luk started contributing to Debian in 2003 and became a DD in 2005. He soon joined the release team to help prepare the release of Etch, and following Etch he continued on as part of that team. He was one of the two RMs for Lenny and is staying with the job for Squeeze. Besides working on the release, he has also recently joined the new buildd infrastructure team. On top of his various other Debian related commitments, he is an elected board member of Software in the Public Interest, our main legal and financial umbrella.
Much of this platform will be familiar to people, as it is largely based on what I have said at this time in previous years. Many of the things I want to work on in Debian are well known problems, issues that have affected us for a long time. The two main ones that I see are:
Communications within the project
This is a long-term bugbear; DPL candidates have been promising to work on improving communication within the project for as long as I can remember. There are several places where communication has been problematic in the past. I believe I have already helped with this in the past, but there is more still to be done.
I'm convinced that the more we talk about what we're doing, the more motivated others will be to help us in our tasks. A vibrant, open, friendly project depends on the periodic introduction of fresh blood wanting to work with us. Let's make that easier!
Working effectively; asking for help
Continuing on from the previous point: another part of the DD's job is to work effectively, both on individual packages and within the project as a whole. This includes simple things like handling the bugs in our packages in a timely fashion, but also includes bigger things, such as considering the impact of changes on the release schedule. Working effectively is not just important for our own gratification; it also makes a major impact on how long we take to release and the experience our users have with using Debian.
In my opinion, a key part of working effectively is honesty. We can all suffer from a lack of time to do the jobs that we've promised to do. After all, real life has a nasty habit of intruding on our so-called "spare" time. So long as we don't let things delay too far, we can cope and still contribute. But at some point, we need to be more honest with ourselves and actually admit that we can't continue with the jobs that we've promised to do. It's a hard thing to do, but in a friendly community where we're all working together towards a common goal there should be no shame in asking for help.
In a larger scope, procedures exist for DDs to temporarily leave the project if real life has overtaken them, and re-join when the situation changes. Again, there is no shame in doing this - we should be happy to acknowledge all the contributions that people have made to Free Software when they could. But, still, many people don't take this route and instead simply become missing in action (MIA). It can take quite a while to pick up on DDs who have simply dropped out of the project.
How to fix these, aka "getting things done"
I want to see improvements made where they are clearly needed. There are cases where communications are lacking, or people and teams might not be working as effectively as they want to or need to. In those cases, I want to help and encourage the people involved to make those improvements. If that is not enough, then we may need stronger actions.
This goes for all of us, both as individuals and as a project. Sometimes it can be all too easy to let nay-sayers slow us down or discourage us from working on the projects that interest us. If people are not contributing, ask them to help. If they don't want to help, then ignore them and find others who will. Let's keep Debian what it should be - a great, thriving community of people having fun by working together on our shared goals.
Why vote for me?
I believe I can continue to do a good job as DPL due to the following qualities:
I've been a developer within Debian for over twelve years. I've done large amounts of packaging work, I've seen Debian evolve a great deal in that time, and I've been involved in lots of different discussions. My time working as DPL this year means I already have a good insight into what the DPL job entails, and I'm happy I can do it. I'm also aware of just how big the job is, which is why I have asked Luk to help me.
Besides packaging, I've done a lot of promotional work for Debian. I've organised Debian stands at lots of shows and expos over the years. I've been an admin and a mentor for Debian in the Google Summer of Code for three years running and hopefully for a fourth: fingers crossed! I have been running the sponsorship team for Debconf for several years, meaning I've been actively going out and talking with a variety of companies and other organisations, promoting Debian and asking them to support us publically. All of these help raise awareness of Debian and its goals.
I've had a fair experience at "cat-herding" so far, including arranging travel for groups to Debconf, FOSDEM and other events. I'm currently the treasurer of the Debian UK Society, and I run the debian-uk mailing list.
I'm a programmer, which means I have strong opinions on many subjects. (*grin*). Despite that, I believe I am honest, generally approachable and easy to work with. I am a good communicator and negotiator, and I have made many friends in the Debian and wider Free Software Community over the years.
I have touched on some issues here that are hopefully not surprising to most of our community. I must also acknowledge the fact that the DPL mostly does not have the power to simply impose changes as he/she sees fit. The best that the DPL can do here is to encourage us to improve, sometimes by discussion and debate and sometimes by leading by example. I don't claim to be perfect, but I believe I can continue helping us achieve some of the goals I have listed here.
Thanks for your time in reading my platform, and I hope you will support me in my goals.
Well, this year there's not very much to say here as there is only one other candidate. Stefano is a nice guy and a good developer and when I've worked with him in the past it's been a pleasure. He makes a lot of reasonable, sensible points in his platform and I applaud him for that.
I only have two concerns. I'm not sure he will have the time to do what he's planning: time always runs away more quickly than you expect. :-)
Stefano also says he'll probably appoint a 2IC if elected. That I can understand completely, but I'd be personally much happier if he was to name his proposed assistant before the election. I deliberately did that with Luk, as I want people to be able to vote for a known quantity rather than somebody unnamed.
That's it, really. Good luck to Stefano in the election and I hope the new DPL (be it me or him!) will do a good job for Debian.