April 7, 2006

Debian electing new project leader

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

Every year, Debian developers are asked to choose one of their own to serve as Debian Project Leader (DPL). It's that time again, and once again it's a crowded field. Seven developers are running this year: Jeroen van Wolffelaar,
Ari Pollak, Steve McIntyre, Anthony Towns, Andreas Schuldei, Jonathan (Ted) Walther, and Bill Allombert. Retiring DPL Branden Robinson is not running for re-election.

The "turnout" for this election has been a bit low, with only 319 developers, out of 972 eligible, casting ballots as of April 7.

McIntyre suggested that the low turnout could be due to the fact that several candidates "have very similar ideas what to do" or "voter apathy so quickly after our GFDL [GNU Free Documentation License] vote." Allombert also noted that the DPL election was very close to the vote on the GFDL, and says that "a lot of developers are not involved in Debian on a weekly basis, and voting require extra work of them, especially with seven candidates."

Once again, some of the candidates are more serious than others. Pollak says he's running as this year's "half-joke candidate" because "I don't have the humor potential to be a fully-joke candidate. Additionally, if elected, I would only serve as half-DPL." His proposal for a Debian GNU/Plan 9 port, dubbed "Snakes on a Plan 9" is a bit amusing, but seems unlikely to garner a large number of votes.

Though Walther appears to be a serious candidate, his platform page is a bit less than serious, including several "hidden" references.

The Debian New Maintainer (NM) process is infamous in its complexity and the amount of time it takes for a candidate to become a full-fledged Debian developer. Walther, having joined up before the NM process was instituted, suggests that "all current developers who didn't go through NM go through it within the next year" and that all existing developers renew their membership every three years.

It seems unlikely that this proposal would be popular among Debian developers, and Towns is "concerned that this will stress the resources we devote to process new maintainers unduly, making it even harder for new people to enter." However, he suggests that a trial run might be in order. "I suspect the easiest way of determining this would be for an interested volunteer to resign from Debian, and to rejoin using the full new-maintainer process, and prepare a report on its flaws when complete. I would be happy to support Ted in that, if he wished to so volunteer."

Last year, the Sarge delays were a major issue in the campaign. With Sarge safely out the door, communication between Debian developers seems to be one of the main issues raised by DPL candidates.

McIntyre suggests that Debian "should learn a lesson from Ubuntu with their code of conduct. Free Speech is an ideal that many of us within Debian hold dear, but the negative, abusive language that often appears on the development mailing lists and IRC channels is not productive. Because of this, many people within and outside the project are becoming leery of contributing to our technical discussions." As a result, part of McIntyre's platform is for Debian developers to agree on a code of conduct and to abide by it.

Another interesting topic is the proposal of a DPL team -- a concept that was put in place last year during Robinson's term. Schuldei, a member of the DPL team under Robinson, writes in his platform that "I am convinced that a DPL Team is the way for the project to move forward. I have witnessed how much potential it holds when like minded people work closely together and provide feedback to each other."

Likewise, van Wolffelaar, also a member of the DPL team, wants to continue the idea of a DPL team, but with himself at the head. However, Towns says that the teams "didn't work so well last year" and don't seem likely to do any better this year. "At a minimum it failed to provide enough help to Branden to reach his goal of monthly reports, and likewise failed to reach its own goals of making public minutes and agenda available for its meetings."

The prospective candidates also participated in an IRC debate, which can be found on the Debian site. Ballots will be accepted until April 9, at 00:00:00 UTC, and the new term for the DPL will start on April 17. Good luck to all the candidates, and may the best developer win.

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