Today it is 23 years ago since Ian Murdock published his intention to develop a new Linux distribution, Debian. It also about 20 years since I became a Debian developer and made my first package upload.

In the time since:

  • I've retired a couple of times, to pursue other interests, and then un-retired.

  • I've maintained a bunch of different packages, most importantly the PGP2 software in the 90s. (I now only maintain software for which I'm also upstream, in order to make jokes about my upstream being an unco-operative jerk, and my packager being unhelpful in the extreme.)

  • Got kicked out from the Debian mailing lists for insulting another developer. Not my proudest moment. I was allowed back later, and I've tried to be polite ever since. (See also rules 6.)

  • I've been to a few Debconfs (3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 15). I'm looking forward to going to many more in the future. It's clear that seeing many project members at least every now and then has a very big impact on project cohesion.

  • I had a gig where I was paid to improve the technical quality of Debian. After a few months of bug fixing (which isn't my favourite pastime), I wrote piuparts in order to find new bugs. (I gave that project away many years ago, but it seems to still be going strong.)

  • I've almost ran for DPL twice, but I'm glad I didn't actually. I've carefully avoided any positions of power or responsibility in the project. (I live in fear that someone decides to nominate me for something where I'd actually have make important decisions.)

    Not being responsible means I can just ignore the project for a while when something annoying happens. (Or retire again.) With such a large project, eventually something really annoying does happen.

  • Came up with the DEP process with Zack and Dato. I also ran the second half of the DEP5 process to get the debian/copyright machine readable format accepted. (I'm no longer involved, though, and I don't think DEP is much now.)

  • I've taught several workshops about Debian packaging, including online for Debian-Women. It's always fun when others "get" how easy packaging really is, despite all the efforts of the larger variety in tooling and random web pages go to to obscure the fundamental simplicity.

  • Over the years Í've enjoyed many of the things developed within Debian (without claiming any credit for myself):

    • the policy manual, perhaps the most important technical achievement of the project

    • the social contract and Debian free software guidelines, unarguably the most important non-technical achievements of the project

    • the whole package management system, but especially apt

    • debhelper's dh, which made the work of packaging simple cases so easy it's nearly a no-brainer

    • d-i made me not hate installing Debian (although I think time is getting ripe to replace d-i with something new; catch me in a talkative mood at party to hear more)

    • Debian-Women made an almost immediate improvement to the culture of the larger project (even if there's still much too few women developers)

    • the diversity statement made me a lot happier about being a project member.

    I'd like to thank everyone who's worked on these and made them happen. These are important milestones in Debian.

  • I've opened my mount in a lot of places over the years, which means a lot of people know of me, but nobody can actually point at anything useful I've actually done. Which is why when I've given talks at, say, FOSDEM, I get introduced as "the guy who shared an office with Linus Torvalds a long time ago".

  • I've made a number of friends via participation in Debian. I've found jobs via contacts in Debian, and have even started a side business with someone.

It's been a good twenty years. And the fun ain't over yet.