Picking up the pieces
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 ).