0th Debian Conference Summary

July 11th, 2000

The Zeroth Debian Conference which was organized and sponsored by the Bourdeaux Linux User Group (ABUL, in French), took place last week from July 5-9 2000 in Bourdeaux, France, in parallel with the Libre Software Meeting.

During the conference many topics were presented, including:

Two presentations about Debian's Internal Organization (presented by Nils Lohner) and the New Maintainer process (presented by Dale Scheetz) were presented together in one session. A lot of discussion was encouraged in this session to get feedback from both Debian developers and users to see how these issues are regarded and how to improve the problems that are being faced in these areas.

Dale pointed out that if Debian keeps growing at the same rate as during the past five years there could be 1600 developers maintaining 40000 packages by the year 2005. This makes clear that Debian needs to present a clear organizational structure to developers, would-be developers and users to allow people to become familiar with Debian more quickly and allow them to help if they so desire.

Nils suggested putting up Project Pages to present tasks that need doing in Debian both for developers and non developers. Several people at the conference manifested interest in the idea and discussion will be taking place on the debian-qa mailing list. The idea is to keep track of on-going projects within Debian in terms of their existence and their current status, as well as listing tasks that can be picked up by people.

To enable people to better understand Debian's organization Nils also suggested that people in Debian explain (one or two paragraphs would suffice) what they are doing, so this information can be collected and placed on the website. This would allow people who have concerns or suggestions to immediately find the correct person in Debian to talk to.

He also pointed that long term goals of Debian need to be both as a project and as a distribution to ensure that Debian continues to be a good distribution and continues its leadership in the free software community.

Another point discussed was the need for getting people into Debian for tasks other than maintaining packages such as writing documentation and doing administrative work. One of the questions left open was how to attract people to do that. A possible solution to this would be to add these tasks to the proposed Project Pages. It was mentioned that the name "Debian developer" and the fact that Debian appears to be a "show me the code" organization scares these potential helpers away.

The suggestion was made to package things such as documentation and website source to enable more people to submit patches against it. This would lower the amount of work put on the shoulders of the webmasters and people in charge of the different sections.

Another solution proposed was to find sponsors to pay people to work on Debian related tasks. This could help the project, but first the work to be done must be clearly identified. The Project Pages again could help in this regard.

At the end of this session everyone agreed that many of the resource problems stem from not passing information around and/or not having this information readily available to people both inside and outside of the project. Debian needs to increase the level of its internal organization to allow non developers to be able to comment and contribute more easily and to enable new maintainers to more quickly understand the current organization.

All in all the meetings were very interesting for everyone attending the conference. Many of the developers had a chance to meet face to face for the first time and exchange ideas regarding many aspects of the project.

This conference will likely be held again next year. Bordeaux will be the site to host it again as there was an excellent infrastructure (accommodations, meals, conference rooms, net access, etc.) and this year's conference was a success even though the organization was done in three months. With more time to organize next year's conference more developers should be able to attend and a more diverse program of presentations and round table discussions should be possible.

Debian would like to thank Thierry Laronde <thierry.laronde@polynum.com> for organizing this event. Great work!

This article was submitted by Marcelo Magallon <mmagallo@debian.org>.