Who I Am
I am a 33 year old Tunisian and French, living near Paris, France. I've enjoyed using Linux since high school, and installed Debian for the first time circa 2000.
I work for EDF (« Électricité de France ») as a technical manager to a group dedicated to HPC related tasks (High Performance Computing) where I have the pleasure of working on getting Debian ready to use out of the box for some TOP500 ranked machines. We focus on making sure that Debian is ready for real-world HPC environments and deploy Debian to the HPC clusters. During the fourth quarter of 2016, we have been deploying Debian on our newest HPC cluster Eole.
At work, I also have the pleasure of interacting with several DDs. The changes we make to our internal Debian-based distribution are also (partly) contributed back to Debian (slurm-llnl, OFED stack, Debian Installer, Debian Live, security support, along with various bugs/patches). We started to release some parts of our Linux distro for Scientific Computing, Scibian. And we will publish our HPC solutions in 2017.
You can find more details on my past Debian contributions in my platform for last year's election.
Debian is a big project. Actually, one of the biggest free and open source software projects. Today, we are facing some problems inherent to our size and amplified by our culture of technical excellence.
Some of the ideas that I mention in my platform focus on the complexity of collaboration inside Debian. Debian has grown so much that it has become a federation of team-sized, smaller projects. As a consequence, we are having a hard time making solutions that scale up to the size of the bigger project. This becomes an even more challenging problem when the number of packages grows more rapidly than we're able to onboard new contributors.
My first experience as DPL was quite challenging and helped me to have a better understanding of what I believe should be priorities for our project. I have shared my thoughts about my vision for the project in my platform for last year's election. I will try to outline in my present platform concrete actions that I will work on if I am re-elected as DPL.
Our distribution is the main product delivered by our project to the world. I tend to believe that we don't only package upstream projects and publish new releases. Debian offers more than that and has its added value. Release Goals were one way to show how our distribution is original, relevant and innovating. Even on a social level, it is important to set some goals in order to continue to motivate prospective contributors into joining Debian. We, as the Debian community, should work to publish and maintain a roadmap, and strive to implement it each cycle. It is not necessary to have it done in time for a release, but it is more important to follow its progress.
I have explained the goal and advantages of a roadmap in my DPL talk at DebConf16 and organized a BoF to identify potential volunteers and gather comments from the community. After the Stretch release, it will be a perfect time to start a project-wide discussion about the organizational aspects of the roadmap and how it will benefit to Debian Developers and the project in general.
I will initiate the roadmap effort ; have each item described in a S.M.A.R.T way and make sure progress is made. I am sure that each team has its own set of ideas to implement. However, it is important to centralize those ideas to give them more visibility and have a better understanding of the big picture.
Recruitment is hard. Yes. Yet, we did not try all the possibilities. I am convinced that the review of processes and documentation will help in that regard. Many potential contributors do not join because of the lack of documentation (as outlined in past DPL campaigns). I don't think it is possible to address this issue within a year, but I agree that we should continue our efforts on that front.
In February 2017, I participated in an Open Source event which was jointly organized by EPITA (an engineering school) and Société Générale. During the event, I had the chance to meet a hundred students and talk about our philosophy and project. It was a great opportunity to attract attention on Debian where it is not necessary well known. I was happy to help some students to find an internship with tasks related to Debian, even if it was not about contributing directly to the project.
In order to strengthen our participation in internship programs, I agreed during my first mandate to provision funds for at least one Outreachy internship per round on an ongoing basis and I will continue to do so if I am re-elected.
Adapting Debian to the continuously changing world
Sometimes we are so much focused on our daily tasks that we don't notice how the world is moving around us. We should make sure Debian is still innovating and embracing new challenges.
In 2016, I strongly supported the organization of the Debian Cloud Sprint where Debian Developers worked a few days on a plan with some cloud providers. I am sure this sprint will impact positively Debian in the next years. Next, I think we should be looking at which important changes should be developed in Debian's Installer and how we can get there!
We have heard a lot about this subject in the past and we had an announcement during DebConf15 that remained not implemented. Even if last announcement dates back to two years ago, we still lack a clear and complete explanation about why this didn't happen yet. It might be obvious for some project members, but it deserves to be better communicated.
Besides, I am yet not sure everyone has the same understanding of the idea behind Bikesheds. I feel there are different ideas that do not necessarily match with what our project needs. But we can think of a reasonable plan that can make us happy. The plan should cover the whole workflow, and not focus specifically on the archive side.
Recently, I was approached by some Debian contributors asking about the progress of Bikesheds. Given our project is volunteer based, I cannot give any guarantee that this will eventually happen. Instead, I can organize a sprint with all involved parties (FTP-masters, Wanna-Build team members, Release Managers and DSA). The outcome of this sprint would be:
- Have a common understanding of the concept
- List missing pieces to get the agreed concept
- Document the necessary steps to implement it
- Make a summary to the project
If this event is successful and provides us with answers and a specific plan, I will strongly encourage and potentially organize more sprints to make this move forward. If it requires resources we do not have in our project, we will make a specific call for help or propose an alternative but more realistic plan.
Fund-raising takes a huge amount of energy from DebConf team every year. This is not sustainable. We should focus our energy on what we love to do the best: Make the best free software operating system in the world with the help of the most exciting community!
Today, we are facing planning issues because:
- We are unable to plan hardware renewal with certainty and we rely too much on historic hardware donors
- We are unable to budget in advance big events like DebConf or small events like Sprints
Fortunately, we have a comfortable asset held by our Trusted Organizations. This helps to have a vision for a couple of years. But we should engage a real work with sponsors and historic donors and supporters and build with their help a partnership program where they would commit on some kind of support for a few years. This will brings up the following advantages:
- Easing planning expenses over years
- Taking most of fund-raising burden off DebConf team responsibility to make them focus more the organization of the event
With the help of the new partners team I formed during my first term, we started to make a list of current partners and sponsors. We are working on the new program and I hope we will be able to make its first version public in time so that it can be beneficial to DebConf17. With that in place, we will be able to discuss with potential partners the terms of their support.
Furthermore, I think it becomes very important to start producing yearly financial reports for Debian. Now that we have updated books at SPI, I think we can reasonably expect a 2016 report with the help of the Auditors team. This report will include a balance sheet and a statement of comprehensive income and expense over a period of one year. This document may help us to build a new and more efficient financial strategy. Having accurate budget lines can also help future DPLs to share the load and delegate some tasks (e.g. approving budgets for sprints, approving budget for the roadmap team, pre-approving budget for hardware purchase and renewal, approving budget of a typical DebConf, et…).
The DPL role is central and every DPL has had to deal with various kinds of requests (financial, legal, social, technical, political). These requests not only take a serious amount of energy to deal with but also represent some fair percentage of the overall DPL activity.
I intend to be as transparent as possible. I will maintain a DPL journal listing current subjects and planned actions. I will communicate on these subjects and try to describe progress made. I want DPL communications to reach out to more people. In order to achieve that, I don't want to rely solely on d-d-a. With the help of the publicity team, I'd like to count on bits.d.o as a communication tool which will help to reach a broader audience.
I do not intend to centralize all tasks, but will call for help Debian contributors whenever possible. I will invite Debian contributors who are good speakers to represent the project, rather than have the project rely solely on the DPL.
I will act as a facilitator, mediator, take part in important discussions and work to create clear summaries in order to clarify lengthy threads. My hope is this helps us to reach consensus more effectively.
I will continue on the same strategy as past DPLs and encourage developers meetings (sprints, bug squashing parties, and mini-debconfs). Furthermore, I will try to encourage multi-team sprints when relevant.
As DPL, my priorities in 2017-2018 will be :
- Ensuring the community remains safe and fun
- Working on a Roadmap
- Clarify the status of Bikesheds
- Partners Program
The DPL role is very time-consuming. To be able to do it seriously, I will put on hold my other Debian activities for the duration of the mandate.
I will not be able to be a full-time DPL. Instead, I have the full support of my employer, who is very supportive of the work we do on Debian. I will be able to dedicate 20% of my work time to Debian tasks.