After some serious thinking, I’ve decided not to nominate myself in the Debian project leader elections for 2016. While I was doing that, I wrote the beginnings of a platform, below. I’m publishing it to have a record of what I was thinking, in case I change my mind in the future, and perhaps it can inspire other other people to do something I would like to happen.

Why not run? I don’t think I want to deal with the stress. I already have more than enough stress in my life, from work. I enjoy my obscurity in Debian. It allows me to go away for long periods of time, and to ignore any discussions, topics, and people that annoy or frustrate me, if I don’t happen to want to tackle them at any one time. I couldn’t do that if I was DPL.

NOT a platform for Debian project leader election, 2016

Apart from what the Debian constitution formally specifies, I find that the important duties of the Debian project leader are:

  • Inspire, motivate, and enable the Debian community to make Debian better: to be the grease that makes the machinery run smoother. It is not important that the DPL do things, except to make sure other people can do.
  • Delegate what work can be delegated. The DPL is only one person, and should not be a bottleneck. Anything that can reasonably be delegated should be delegated.
  • Deal with mundane management tasks. This includes spending Debian money when it makes things easier, such as by funding sprints.
  • Represent the project in public, or find people to do that in specific cases.
  • Help resolve conflicts within the project.

I do not feel it is the job of the DPL to set goals for the project, technical or otherwise, any more than any other member of the project. Such goals tend to best come from enthusiastic individual developer who want something and are willing to work on it. The DPL should enable such developers, and make sure they have what they need to do the work.

My plan, if elected

  1. Keep Debian running. Debian can run for a long time effectively on autopilot, even if the DPL vanishes, but not indefinitely. At minimum, the DPL should delegate the secretary and technical committee members, and decide on how money should be spent. I will make sure this minimum level is achieved.

  2. While I have no technical goals to set for the project, I have an organisational one. I believe it is time for the project to form a social committee whose mandate is to step in and help resolve conflicts in their early stages, before they grow big enough that the DPL, the tech-ctte, listmasters, or the DAM needs to involved. See below for more details on this. If I am elected, I will do my best to get a social committee started, and I will assume that any vote for me is also a vote for a social committee.

Social committee

(Note: It’s been suggested that this is a silly name, but I haven’t had time to come up with anything better. I already rejected “nanny patrol”.)

We are a big project now. Despite our reputation, we are a remarkably calm project, but there are still occasional conflicts, and some of them spill out into our big mailing lists. We are not very good, as a project, in handling such situations.

It is not a new idea, but I think its time has come, and I propose that we form a new committee, a social committee, whose job is to help de-escalate conflict situations while they are still small conflicts, to avoid them growing into big problems, and to help resolve big conflicts if they still happen.

This is something the DPL has always been doing. People write to the DPL to ask for mediation, or other help, when they can’t resolve a situation by themselves. We also have the technical committee, listmasters, GRs, and the expulsion process defined by the DAM. These are mostly heavy-weight tools and by the time it’s time to consider their use, it’s already too late to find a good solution.

Having the DPL do this alone puts too much pressure on one person. We’ve learnt that important tasks should generally be handled by teams rather than just one person.

Thus, I would like us to have a social committee that:

  • is reasonably small, like the technical committee
  • attempts to resolve conflicts at an early stage
  • is delegated by the DPL to have authority to do this
  • doesn’t necessarily have direct authority to remove people from mailing lists, IRC channels, or expel them from the project, but has authority suggest such measures to the appropriate team
  • may do other things, such as educate people on how to resolve conflicts constructively themselves, or deal with chronic conflicts in addition to acute flare-ups

About me

I’ve been a Debian developer since 1996. I’ve been retired twice, while I spent large amounts of time on other things. I haven’t been a member of any important team in Debian, but I’ve been around long enough that I know many people, and have a reasonable understanding of how the projects works.