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[wlug] Debian Package Maintainer Steps Down, Complaining About 'Old Infrastructure'

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Peter Reutemann fracpete@w...
Mon Mar 11 15:52:11 NZDT 2019

'Michael Stapelberg, maintains "a bunch" of Debian packages and
services, and says the free software Linux distro "has been in my life
for well over 10 years at this point."

Today he released a 2,255-word essay explaining why he's "winding
down" his involvement in Debian to a minimum, citing numerous
complaints including Debian's complicated build stack, waits of up to
seven hours before package uploads can be installed, leading to
"asynchronous" feedback -- and Debian's lack of tooling for large

The closest to "sending out a change for review" is to open a bug
report with an attached patch... Culturally, reviews and reactions are
slow. There are no deadlines. I literally sometimes get emails
notifying me that a patch I sent out a few years ago (!!) is now
merged. This turns projects from a small number of weeks into many
years, which is a huge demotivator for me.

Interestingly enough, you can see artifacts of the slow online
activity manifest itself in the offline culture as well: I don't want
to be discussing systemd's merits 10 years after I first heard about

Lastly, changes can easily be slowed down significantly by holdouts
who refuse to collaborate. My canonical example for this is rsync,
whose maintainer refused my patches to make the package use debhelper
purely out of personal preference. Granting so much personal freedom
to individual maintainers prevents us as a project from raising the
abstraction level for building Debian packages, which in turn makes
tooling harder.
There's also several complaints about old infrastructure -- for
example, "I dread interacting with the Debian bug tracker. debbugs is
a piece of software (from 1994) which is only used by Debian and the
GNU project these days." Stapelberg also complains that the "painful"
experience of developing using Debian "leaves a lot to be desired,"
and adds that "It baffles me that in 2019, we still don't have a
conveniently browsable threaded archive of mailing list discussions."

"My frustration level ultimately exceeded the threshold," Stapelberg
writes in the essay, adding "I hope this post inspires someone,
ideally a group of people, to improve the developer experience within
Debian." He'll soon transition packages to be team-maintained "where
it makes sense," but also "orphan packages where I am the sole
maintainer... For all intents and purposes, please treat me as
permanently on vacation..."

"I will try to keep up best-effort maintenance of the service and the service, but
any help would be much appreciated."'

-- source:

Cheers, Peter
Peter Reutemann
Dept. of Computer Science
University of Waikato, NZ
+64 (7) 858-5174

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