Reader's Questions to the Debian Project Leader
Debian Projekt Leader Anthony Towns and his deputy Steve McIntyre give answers about the Debian project, the tasks of the Project Leader and future directions. The questions have been selected by Pro-Linux from the proposed questions of the readership.
Developer conflicts are a growing problem as time goes on. We're working on ways to help reduce their impact, and to help people get along better. There is an ongoing effort to define some guidelines, while at the same time a recognised part of the DPL's job is to act as a mediator when disagreements require it.
And that leads nicely on to the last part of the question - I don't see the DPL's job vanishing any time soon. But it won't carry much power - in fact, even now Debian's constitution is quite carefully worded to make sure that the DPL has very little direct power! The places where the project leader can make a difference are more acting as support for others in the project: helping to guide technical discussions to conclusions, acting as a mediator in disagreements when needed, being an external point of contact for Debian. I don't see those jobs going away any time soon...
Question: Finally, we would like to see you reflecting on a question of your own (maybe something our readers might have completely missed). Could you please articulate this question and your answer?
Anthony: It's a bit self-interested, but I'll go with "What ways are there for your readers to help Debian out?" :)
That's probably the most important question in free software, because without people who use free software spontaneously doing things to help it out, there wouldn't be any free software development at all. And it's an interesting question because while it's easy to think the only thing that matters is hardcore hackers who know perl and C churning out code in the dead of night, there are many other activities that are also important but don't come to mind so easily. That includes things like writing documentation for people who don't know the difference between fprintf and sprintf, or finding and analysing bugs so developers have enough information to fix them, or helping promote free software and encouraging other people how to use it so there are more developers and users who can contribute back, or raising awareness amongst politicians or executives who might make laws or policies that make it harder to use or create free software, or just supporting your local free software developers with an encouraging word or by shouting some of your local LUG members a free beer or pizza.
Steve: There's a question that I've been asked by lots of people recently, and I'm surprised wasn't mentioned here: when will Etch be released? Our release managers are aiming for a release by the end of 2006. That's still looking likely - we need to start freezing bits of the distribution quite soon to allow us to stabilise. Then we need to get working on reducing the number of release-critical bugs. It'll be hard work for all of us, but I have confidence in the RMs that they can keep in control and meet the schedule. Oops, I'm predicting the future again! :-)