Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Trouble on the Debian Front? 255

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the everyone-has-their-burnout-limit dept.
Linux.com is reporting that Matthew Garrett, one of the more active Debian developers, has called some ongoing problems with the Debian project into focus with his resignation. While he didn't hold any actual office, many prominent Debian developers described Garrett as "high profile". From the article: "In his own blog, Garrett relates his gradual discovery that Debian's free-for-all discussions were making him intensely irritable and unhappy with other members of the community. He contrasts Debian's organization with Ubuntu's more formal structure. In particular, he mentions Ubuntu's code of conduct, which is enforced on the distribution's mailing lists, suggesting that it 'helps a great deal in ensuring that discussions mostly remain technical.' He also approves of Ubuntu's more formal structure as 'a pretty explicit acknowledgment that not all developers are equal and some are possibly more worth listening to than others.' Then, in reference to Mark Shuttleworth, the founder and funder of Ubuntu, Garrett says, 'At the end of the day, having one person who can make arbitrary decisions and whose word is effectively law probably helps in many cases.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Trouble on the Debian Front?

Comments Filter:
  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel&bcgreen,com> on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:32AM (#16031764) Homepage Journal
    In the early net, some people would regularly confuse the anarchy (lack of fixed leaders) of the Usenet/Internet universe with lack of any rules... ("I can do whatever I want! (and you can't -- i.e. you have to put up with my stupidity).)

    Lack of leaders is not the same thing as a lack of rules, and I expect that the real problem with the Debian project is that they haven't yet gotten to the point of fully defining rules that enable decent and useful conversations while discouraging the less productive kinds of conversations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:33AM (#16031765)
    "From the article: "In his own blog, Garrett relates his gradual discovery that Debian's free-for-all discussions were making him intensely irritable and unhappy with other members of the community. He contrasts Debian's organization with Ubuntu's more formal structure. In particular, he mentions Ubuntu's code of conduct, which is enforced on the distribution's mailing lists, suggesting that it 'helps a great deal in ensuring that discussions mostly remain technical.' He also approves of Ubuntu's more formal structure as 'a pretty explicit acknowledgment that not all developers are equal and some are possibly more worth listening to than others.' Then, in reference to Mark Shuttleworth, the founder and funder of Ubuntu, Garrett says, 'At the end of the day, having one person who can make arbitrary decisions and whose word is effectively law probably helps in many cases.'""

    Wow! Sounds a lot like the cathedral model. Doesn't it?
  • by pepeperes (731972) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:45AM (#16031778) Homepage Journal
    I doubt many of Debian's greatest contributors would have been there building stuff for these years had the organization been different. Much of Debian's beauty and attractive for many is based precisely on its 'loose' or rather free structure. If it survives, or if it will disappear we do not know yet, but it right now its offspring have shown they are really strong and effective, and I guess thats one of the main reasons-to-be for almost any entity, be it living or algorithmic.
  • by ciurana (2603) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:51AM (#16031787) Homepage Journal
    ...with great power comes great responsibility.

    I believe that Ubuntu is on the right track because of the rules they have in place. Some open-source advocates confuse structure with lack of innovation, or with coerciveness, and thus eschew these rules which, in the long run, will hurt their cause. Anarchist behavior appears to be a good thing only in fiction. In real life it leads to erosion of the institutions that harbor it.

    The open-source community wields great power now that our software is being adopted for solving a wider range of problems. Our responsibility is to create an environment that will promote cooperation and the continuous evolution of our products and services. An environment where flamewars and egos are flaring all the time will always end up hurting the projects until they wilt and die. This hurts our collective credibility and hinders our ability to bring more open-source projects in-house.

    Cheers,

    E
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:57AM (#16031799)

    Lack of leaders is not the same thing as a lack of rules, and I expect that the real problem with the Debian project is that they haven't yet gotten to the point of fully defining rules that enable decent and useful conversations while discouraging the less productive kinds of conversations.

    The sad bit is that you usually need a leader to help make rules; when it comes down to it, the top couple of people most interested/involved/popular/whatever set some basic rules. Too many cooks etc. Add in egotistical or socially clueless people...and the number of practical cooks drops. Radically.

    The really sad bit is that "just enough" of the people left out will devote endless amounts of time to arguing about said rules. BTDT in many clubs, for example. The best approach is to write the first draft of rules to be simple, un-evil, and able to be modified in the future, but not too easily.

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrNaz (730548) * on Sunday September 03, 2006 @02:27AM (#16031842) Homepage
    I disagree with this developer's comments, and suggest that perhaps his way of thinking is perhaps not suited to a meritocracy. Perhaps he needs an authority to appeal to in situations of disagreement.

    While having one point of authority is good if you are looking to conduct a project under corporate type structures, it is undesirable if you are looking to adhere to principles of community involvement and community focused agendas.

    I agree that it must be acknowledged that not all developers are equal, but disagree that this must be explicitly stated somewhere. In an open, meritocratic forum, relative skill levels become apparent fairly quickly, and if you need full and formal recognition of your work, then you are out of place in the open source community.

    I have found the Debian mailing lists to be quite helpful, and if there genuinely is a lack of an appropriate forum for technical discussions, then this is a minor administrative problem (i.e., get a moderator to keep discussions on topic in the developer lists), not an intractable structural problem.

    In any case, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I find it difficult to accept that the "Debian Way" is broken when the project is so old, so well regarded, and so successful.

    Garrett: If you are unable to work in the Debian project becuase your ideas conflict with it, then don't be blaming the Debian project. It may simply be the case, as with many relationship breakdowns, that your ideals and theirs are simply incompatible.
  • by grammar fascist (239789) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @03:05AM (#16031889) Homepage
    Because we're all a bunch of intellectually narcissistic gits?

    That's a serious answer.
  • by misleb (129952) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @03:13AM (#16031897)
    Wow, this wasn't even off topic. Try -1 nonsensical
  • by cloricus (691063) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @03:17AM (#16031904)
    Debian's demise is an annoying catch cry for all those who want to start pointless flamewars instead of helping the community move forward. Ubuntu has many problems and cannot hope to replace Debian, ever, as the focus just isn't the same. Linux isn't Windows, in that it wants to be everything for every one, people so please remember that and really if you don't like the way some thing is run go where you do like it...That being said I hope any well thought out points that make sense in this mans blog are implemented for the betterment of the Debian community.
     
    Just for the record I use Debian and Ubuntu in server and desktop configurations daily at home and work and I enjoy both.
  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @03:40AM (#16031927)
    Besides, Ubuntu would not exist and remain in existence without Debian.

    Errr, what would keep Ubuntu from continuing if Debian simply and abruptly came to an end? Perhaps it would somewhat affect the course of Ubuntu's development but it wouldn't spell the end of Ubuntu or any other successful Debian-based distribution should Debian itself become defunct.

    H. Sapiens remain in existence today despite the fact that H. Erectus ceased to exist long ago. Perhaps Debian is reaching the end of its predominance and the frontrunning Debian-based offshoot, Ubuntu, is finding its place as a replacement. It really looks to me like evolutionary development occurring within the Free Software ecosystem--Linux went from being a student hacker's experiment, to a hobbyist/enthusiasts toy, to a few rough-around-the-edges distributions managed usually by individuals (eg. Slakware), to full-fledged community-driven collaberative efforts (Debian) and commercially-driven products (Red Hat, SuSE).

    Since the commercially-driven efforts continually evolve (Red Hat dropping consumer-level products and establishing Fedora, Mandrake and Connectiva merging and re-inventing their businesses, SuSE being bought by Novell and releasing a community edition of its own) what should keep purely community-driven efforts from evolving as well? Ubuntu is a reponse to influences and pressures of the Free Software community--it shares the same technology, much of the same content and has some common roots in its founders and contributers. It keeps Debian's strengths (package management system loved by many, lack of direct corporate influence and commitment to the concept of Free Software, relatively high commitment to stability etc.) and abandons other characteristics that are weaknesses (lack of organisational structure, political disputes impeding on technical progress, slow pace of development at times, unpredictable release cycle).

    This is exactly what makes Free Software so valuable--even if Debian were to disintegrate as a project there will be nothing to keep Debian's code and heritage from living on in new projects that pick up the pieces and move forward in great and exciting new directions. I have personally seen a couple of closed software applications of great value pretty much die because the companies responsible for development went insolvent, and for what I can only think are financial reasons nobody ever let the code go Free (perhaps doing so would make the intellectual property asset worthless from a balance-sheet perspective--in one case the receiver sold all IP to a competitor and all that remained of its applications were what was incorporated in the competing product. In the other case much of the software became abandonware).

    So while this news may be cause for sadness towards a legendary Free Software project, it is far from cause for alarm. Debian itself will evolve into something better, or perhaps go extinct while its resources fully migrate over to a new project, likely Ubuntu. In the end we'll all get better software as a result.
  • by twitter (104583) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @03:42AM (#16031928) Homepage Journal

    Things are looking good as far as a mere user like me is concerned.

    Exactly. What problems are actually showing up in software?

    A developer is leaving, that's a problem. It's sad to see a talented developer go, but someone else will step up the the plate and prove that every developer indeed deserves a voice.

    A developer claims that mailing lists made him irritable. That's a problem that has one of two causes, the lists have been infiltrated by trolls or he needs to more tolerant and less easily bothered. The solution treats both causes. Realize that some people on your list are intentionally provoking you and ignore them. Realize also that differences can always be worked out and that not everything has to go exactly your way. If you are right, the project will get back to your way even when it makes mistakes.

    Free software has enemies, that's a problem. Back in 1998, Microsoft declared war on free software with their Halloween Document and targeted the user community. Trolling lists is something they have been doing all the way back to Steven Barkto. It disrupts useful activity, promotes ill will and distrust of your neighbor and can even move organizations to the wrong conclusions and in the wrong directions. Eventually, the truth comes out so the strategy is ultimately wasteful. There is nothing M$ can do to make non free software competitive and they can't really shut down free software. There are far too many projects and damaged communication channels are routed around. The co operative spirit of free software depends on good will, but free software creates that good will in abundance.

    The answer is not to make a king. If you think your peer is annoying now, imagine them with the king like power to make decisions you want for yourself.

    None of these problems is an actual software problem. The kind of people who pretend such things are a big deal are the kinds of people that said free software could not make a friendly user interface, usable documentation, a coherent distribution, a kernel, a compiler, a text editor, etc. Etch is a fantastic distribution that shows that things are working very well.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @04:07AM (#16031953) Homepage
    Who would've thought that civilized, focused discussion would be more productive than a free-for-all...

    I love Debian, but I've long had the suspicion that part of the reason Debian has such a long time between releases (which I view as a mostly good thing) is because they've got too much of a "free form" development process. That's good for small projects, and it served Debian well in the past, but Debian's scope has broaded so much in the last 5+ years that new considerations should be made...
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jsebrech (525647) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @04:28AM (#16031968)
    In any case, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I find it difficult to accept that the "Debian Way" is broken when the project is so old, so well regarded, and so successful.

    Speaking as a disgruntled ex-debian user, I can assure you that a lot of people only consider the project old, not well regarded or successful. I consider it a niche OS that will remain a niche OS until it gets its act together.

    The failings of the debian project that made me move away from it were numerous but revolved around a lack of direction. The project came across as a collection of developers that solved their own pet problems, instead of a community focused on a clearly defined central goal, led by knowledgeable leaders. What I wanted out of debian was first of all for it to be up-to-date (something it never succeeded in, despite many attempts to "fix" the system), and for it to be well-suited both as a server OS and as a desktop OS. It was well-suited as a server OS, but only if you didn't need to run anything too new, and only if you weren't afraid of the command-line. The only way to make it usable as a desktop OS was endless tinkering.

    It's no mystery why the most successful OSS projects have strong central leadership. Vision can't be parallellized. You can maintain a piece of software in cooperative fashion, but if you try to apply direction to it you need one or a few people who have the authority on what that direction is, or your ship will just sail in circles.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 03, 2006 @04:40AM (#16031985)
    This is insightful?

    It's paranoid shit. This guy actually blames people's irritability with FOSS mailing lists, not on zealots, leeter-than-thou sorts, etc... no, couldn't be them, I mean, after all, no-one's seen anything like that on Slashdot. It must be ... Microsoft!

  • by LordLucless (582312) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @06:21AM (#16032090)
    Nope. The Cathedral and the Bazaar talks about the source of contributions. This is talking about project management. Ubuntu can still receive code from anyone who wants to write some; that's the Bazaar model. The project management decides which code, of all received, they want to use. If someone disagrees with the project management of Ubuntu, they can fork it, and manage it in the way they say fit. It's all still Bazaar.
  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @06:57AM (#16032132) Homepage
    While having one point of authority is good if you are looking to conduct a project under corporate type structures, it is undesirable if you are looking to adhere to principles of community involvement and community focused agendas.

    While that may be true in some cases, it's not true in cases like Linux, or Perl, or Ubuntu. Therefore, while I am not going to suggest that your point is incorrect, I am going to suggest that your point is diminished by counterpoints.


    I agree that it must be acknowledged that not all developers are equal, but disagree that this must be explicitly stated somewhere. In an open, meritocratic forum, relative skill levels become apparent fairly quickly, and if you need full and formal recognition of your work, then you are out of place in the open source community.

    I'm going to 100% disagree here. It has been my sad experience that -- as someone else mentioned here on Slashdot -- "megaphone democracy" is what you get. The person who speaks loudest the longest wins. But I'm not even upset about that, now that I've experienced that and understand it. You see, the core group that does the most is very often very small. And they're surrounded by a large group of sorta-disconnected sometimes-contributors. That large group is not well informed, and you cannot blame them. They have lives. They've decided that other things are priorities. That's fair. But that also means that they cannot be expected to judge who has skills. All they know is who has been helpful for the 3 interactions they've had on the project. And sometimes, the person who has been helpful to them was a PITA to everyone else.

    This is how humanity is. I do not blame, because I've had to pick & choose what gets my attention, too. But now that I understand this, I know that your argument that skill levels become apparent just ain't so. Not for the majority. It's a pipe dream. Especially in this context -- chatter on mailing lists.


    Garrett: If you are unable to work in the Debian project becuase your ideas conflict with it, then don't be blaming the Debian project. It may simply be the case, as with many relationship breakdowns, that your ideals and theirs are simply incompatible.

    That may be true. It may also be the case that as an insider who has been a good contributor, he has seen the core of the apple, so to speak. He may be in a good position to reveal what's rotten. Write him off at your own peril.

  • by kan0r (805166) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @06:59AM (#16032134)
    Just for information: Ubuntu *would* have a problem if Debian came to an end all of a sudden. Look at the Ubuntu development cycle, for instance: Ubuntu developers take a Debian 'unstable' snapshot (which wouldn't be there if Debian was dead), freeze it, stabilize it and release it as Ubuntu. They depend heavily on a proper working Debian!
  • Churchill (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Britz (170620) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @07:18AM (#16032150) Homepage
    "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    That's what Churchill had to say about such matters. Indeed many people still don't know how to deal with trolls. Some people just like to get all up in arms from time to time I suppose. Other than that maybe he should have just announced that he was ignoring some people and that replies to those people should be marked somewhere so that he can sort them as well automatically. So that those people that like to respond to trolls can do so and don't confuse the ones that don't.
  • by bettyfjord (787431) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @07:19AM (#16032151)
    Although no one's come and out explicitly mentioned it yet, it strikes me that Mr Garrett is saying that traditional corporate structures work best when developing software.

    Enforced rules of conduct, a formal structure, an acknowledgement that not everyone is equal is skill or knowledge and a single leader who has the power of final decision. Strip out the jargon and it sounds pretty much exactly like a traditional office environment.

    Does this mean that while OSS has made many people rethink distribution and revenue models, open source development will mature into exactly what we have now?
  • Re:Doo? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aadain2001 (684036) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @09:03AM (#16032307) Journal
    I think you have some good points, and some bad points. For any server that will be accessed by the public or even just on the company intra-net, Debian Stable is the best choice. But that doens't mean that Ubuntu is a 'toy' Linux distro. Don't discount the developer-GUI interaction. I've found Ubuntu very stable with a clean, consistent GUI that makes it easy for even beginner Linux users to interact with the system. You call it a Windows replacement, which I will agree with. It does provide a complete desktop OS, not just a 'toy' developement environment. With Ubuntu you can develope, research, and do business desktop operations such as Email, office documents, etc. That doesn't sound like a 'toy' box to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 03, 2006 @09:40AM (#16032403)
    US vs European Union

    How are they that different? Both are corrupt superstates.
  • by morgajel (568462) <slashreader&morgajel,com> on Sunday September 03, 2006 @09:43AM (#16032414) Homepage
    The Community didn't want help moving forward; that was part of the problem. There's a saying on freenode that #Debian is where all the assholes go. It's sort of amusing sitting in another [unnamed] distro channel and watching a trickle of debian people come in (the same way I did) and were shocked at how friendly the channel was despite having almost 1000 people in one of it's 20 or so channels.

    I also know a developer (who is probably one of the more skilled developers I know) try to get in and help with the debian project and he was denied at pretty much every step. He finally said screw it and that there were better uses for his time than battling Debian beaucracy.

    Debian got too big for their britches and got complacent. They need to be taken down a few pegs.
  • by QuaintRealist (905302) <quaintrealist.gmail@com> on Sunday September 03, 2006 @09:48AM (#16032434) Homepage Journal
    I have to agree with you - Debian is still live and kicking. Still I also think that Debian, like everything else, will have its day and then pass into history.

    That's what the ensuing flameware will be about if you boil it down. How fast is Debian dying.

    All this developer is saying is that he personally feels that the egalatarian/authoritarian balance is probably skewed in favor of the former in Debian.

    And I have no opinion re Mark Shuttleworth, but ask all students of history: When does a benevolent authoritarian run a more efficient state than a republic/democracy? Every time. The trick is how to keep a succession of benevolent authoritarians...
  • Wait a minute. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Sunday September 03, 2006 @10:01AM (#16032464) Homepage Journal
    Just because having one person at the top (fascism) is simpler in some ways for some issues, doesn't mean it's the best way, the right way, or the even the easiest way. It's not like the debian project couldn't VOTE to administer a code of conduct. It's not like the chaos method they've been using the whole time hasn't resulted in one of THE BEST OSES IN HISTORY. Can we get more news, and less arbitrary opinions from nut jobs who admire low level thinking as it's own virtue? That goes for the government here, as well as for /..
  • by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @10:02AM (#16032468)
    So you say that the American, German, English, French, Dutch, Argentinian, Brazilian, ..., ..., ..., ..., system of representative democracy should not be described by the word 'democracy'. That general word is reserved for the form of government that was in vogue in a small city state, 2.5 millenia ago (and in small kantons in Switzerland). Sorry dude, but in the real world we'll be using the general form for the general case. I.e., if we're talking about modern age governments, 'democracy' always means 'representative democracy'. We can reserve the word 'direct democracy' for the exception: Switzerland.
  • by alcmaeon (684971) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @11:14AM (#16032682)

    This discussion sounds a lot like the divisiion between Marx's authoritarian communism and Bakunin's libertarian socialism.

    Garrett's comments can be summed up as: "I don't develop for Debian because people don't treat me with the respect I think I deserve. Debian needs a dictator to make everyone be nice and make me feel happy."

  • Free 2B U and Me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @11:34AM (#16032755) Homepage Journal
    So Garrett didn't fit in with the rest of the Debian community, despite his technical aptitude. There are plenty of social specs that take priority in communities, even mailing lists, which are often independent of technical qualities. Garrett apparently didn't like the Debian "anything goes" style in developer discussion, so he left.

    No problem. He can switch to Ubuntu's team. Sounds like they'll be glad to have him. And interested people in the Debian community can still use Garrett's Ubuntu work to improve Debian, as it's all GPL. This is the strength of openness, both in the software and in the groups of people. When we can choose how and with whom (and with what) we work, we can work the way most productive for us. And thereby, for everyone else in the cycle.
  • Re:Moo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cid Highwind (9258) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:05PM (#16033111) Homepage
    "It may not be perfect, but there is a huge process behind things."

    The same is true of federal tax regulations. That doesn't make them (or Debian) good, logical, or pleasant to deal with...
  • re: Moo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bishop (4500) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @01:18PM (#16033157)
    Please install Ubuntu. You will probably stick with Debian, but you should give Ubuntu a try.

    Install Ubuntu with the default Gnome desktop and without the Universe repository. It will give you the best feel for what Ubuntu is all about. I found the Gnome desktop to be well integrated and everything more or less just worked. (And I don't like Gnome.) If you find that you are adding multiple packages from Universe or switching to one of the other desktop environments, you are better to stick with Debian. Debian will generally have better support for those extras.

    Why would you care what Ubuntu is like? Maybe you will prefer the well integrated Gnome desktop. Perhaps Ubuntu is just the thing for your parents computer.
  • by fuzzix (700457) on Sunday September 03, 2006 @02:56PM (#16033565) Journal
    The downside is you can't always trust a strong leader. I'm stuck with GW running (and ruining) the US.

    There's a difference between a democratically elected asshole and a Benevolent Dictator For Life. :)

    There's a trust relationship between the users of a distro and the distro's BDFL. As a Slackware user I trust Patrick Volkerding to make sound decisions and he mostly does. If he started making a lot of decisions I didn't like I'm free to fork Slackware and do it my way or simply choose another distro.

    You can't fork a nation state so easily but I suppose you can choose another one to "use"... at least until the establishment of The World Government ;)

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.

Working...