Picking up the pieces

May 30, 2011 · Posted in Gentoo, Linux 

Lately I’ve been doing some “undertaker” work. Many of you might not be aware of that so let me explain that to you. When a developer is slacking without apparent reason, someone has to poke him about his status. This is usually done by sending two e-mails before declaring him officially away and let the infrastructure people disable his account etc. When we retire a developer, all of his packages are going to the notorious maintainer-needed list. Unless a developer picks some of these packages, they will remain on tree as long as no outstanding bugs appear on bugzilla. In this case, treecleaners will remove them. However, since the very beginning as a developer, I tried to be as close to users as possible. This is why I act as a proxy to quite a lot of them. This actually makes me feel happy and more useful, than playing solo if I may say. So, when we retire a developer, someone has to take care of his packages, reassing bugs etc. What I usually do is to search through the open bugs for easy fixes like stabilization requests or bugs that have a patch attached. This is actually a 2′ fix that would make another user happy :) But that is not enough. In my opinion, portage is growing much faster that we can handle, leaving too much craft behind in case someone retires. Quite a lot of herds are almost empty, so packages are maintained by a single developer not by a group of them. So, when he retires, nobody is taking care of his packages anymore.

In a few weeks we have council elections and everyone will start promising shiny stuff for Gentoo, but nobody actually understands that new cool stuff cannot hide deeper fundamental problems. A year ago I have requested monthly status updates from every project, just to know which of them are dead and act as appropriate. Obviously nothing happened, and this is why we have a lot of open bug assigned to dead projects that nobody is ever gonna fix. I am seriously considering a run for Gentoo Council this year, but not to promise “yet another git migration and uber-cool shiny tools”. Maybe it is time to stop pretending that everything works perfectly and that we are  awesome. We focus too much on technical stuff without caring about our PR and our users overall. Well, not as much as we could anyway. I have a strong feeling that we are a small group of developers who are just developing cool stuff for themselves. Many of you (especially the devs) might not agree with me, but please take a look on bugzilla. There are thousands of open bugs with a 2′ fix attached. Half of them are assigned to dead projects ( why?! ) and other are just there waiting for someone like me ( I think Patrick is fixing packages here and there too) to run through them and  fix them. Why?? This is really demotivating. I guess there is a reason that Gentoo developers retire after 2 years of service ( on average ).


6 Responses to “Picking up the pieces”

  1. user99 on May 31st, 2011 3:33 am

    Git trees are a nice hope that users can contribute by and large though the user is still not empowered. Overlays a nice parallel to the kernel trees and still it is not enough.

    List the packages and sing the names loudly…if none can hear the chorus sing louder. If none answer then perhaps the matter is dead after all and time is better spent elsewhere.

    The portage tree is too large? Trim the tree. If the package is important enough then someone will step forward.

    Each of us as users have overcome obstacles to gain the knowledge necessary to have a Gentoo system. No small thing in and of itself. Train us and show us what you and we need.

  2. Markos on May 31st, 2011 9:26 am

    We always list the unattended packages every time we retire a developer. But still, 98% of them remain unattended. Yes, trimming the tree would be nice. However, this would require centuries if only 1-2 people are working in this area. I am aware of the technical capabilities of our users, this is why I want to work with them. They are not just users, but rather “lovers” of Gentoo, so I am trying to please as many as I can. Like I said, there are various ways for users to help us


  3. Jeremy Olexa on May 31st, 2011 3:27 pm

    On a similar token, I’ve been keeping a mental note about the number of weekly new package additions vs removals and 9/10 weeks (mental guess), the additions out number the removals. Likewise, I haven’t seen /that/ many new devs joining the ranks.

  4. nico on May 31st, 2011 4:55 pm

    Give each herd its own overlay. That way it would be easier to track their activity. It would also be a lot easier to become a developer. Eventually, you could make the tree smaller when users start getting their packages through the different overlays.

  5. gav on June 1st, 2011 2:42 pm

    I think overlays fragment Gentoo too much IMHO but I know there is no other way to get software in ones system unless you trawl through bugzilla downloading things to local overlays. My focus has always been on sound applications but I also try to send fixes in for other software I that I do use and think that it somehow doesn’t work as expected. Sometimes even when a project is not considered dead upstream it gets removed from the Gentoo tree through “lack of developer interest”, no mention of sunrise or anything. I really do not mean this as a dig at anyone and I really appreciate all the work that every Gentoo dev puts in but if there are users that want a package and are testing it, why remove it from the tree if there is a working ebuild in bugzilla? More manpower is needed. I think USER99 is right in saying “Train us and show us what you and we need”. Sunrise is good but it’s not the be all and end all, there are tons of packages stagnating there too. WBR

  6. Markos on June 2nd, 2011 8:01 pm

    Overlays is not a solution. I think shrinking the portage would be nice but this requires too much resources. I don’t have a plan right now on what should be done. Believe me, I am trying to come up with a viable solution :)

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