Hello, Planet Debian! (also, RFH: sponsorship-requests)

Posted on February 22, 2014 in foss • 3 min read

Hi Debian! Just to briefly introduce myself, I'm Vincent ([email protected], vincent_c on OFTC/Freenode) and I'm a recent graduate of the NM process, having attained DD-ship (is that even a word?) about a month ago in January. Before that, I was a DM since mid-2012, and just another contributor for a few years prior to that. Most of my contributions to the Project are related to packaging, especially packages maintained within the Debian Games Team. Outside of Debian, well, I'm just another 20-year-old, 3rd-year undergrad student studying at the University of British Columbia, working towards a major in computer science. I anticipate that I'll be able to ditch academia for good in 2016; just 2 more years to go...

More about my life story in my AM's report. It's fairly boring, if I say so myself.

This blog post isn't just about me; I'd like to touch upon another topic that I consider important, i.e. attracting new contributors, and in many cases that involves package sponsorship. That's one of the many things I'd like to work on as a DD, and to that effect I've dedicated a large chunk of the time I currently spend on Debian sponsoring various packages, including packages that I'm not familiar with. I would love to see the sponsorship-requests queue empty one day, but I admit that I find that increasingly unlikely to happen, now that I've gotten a taste of the time commitment involved with sponsoring.

Team maintenance and sponsorship seems to work relatively well in Debian; why does that success not translate over to sponsorship-requests / [email protected], where a considerable amount of RFS requests don't see any response at all, and merely get closed once those packages get removed from mentors.debian.net (AFAIK they automatically get removed after 20 weeks)? Well, I'm not here to offer an answer for that, but I will point out that there was a relevant thread that originated on debian-devel a month ago: <[email protected]> (and no, I'm not talking about the giant init-related threads that pop up on debian-devel every other week or so and drown out everything else on the list...).

Are DDs in general reluctant to engage in "fly-by sponsoring"?

Most packages coming through the sponsorship-requests queue are not team-maintained, and are sent from sponsorees who are not already in contact with a sponsor, and who have no other way of getting in touch with a potential sponsor (assuming that there isn't an existing team or a DD who happens to be interested in that package). Regardless of the merits of fly-by sponsoring (many arguments in favour of, and against, this type of sponsorship have already been discussed in that thread; no need to re-iterate them here), it's discouraging for potential contributors new to Debian, who may just give up and move on to something else.

I've now had the opportunity to be a sponsor (rather than just a sponsoree), and I acknowledge that being a sponsor is more work than I imagined it to be a month ago, and it can be quite tedious and not-fun at times. I suppose I can draw a parallel between sponsoring packages and RC bug fixing; neither is what I'd consider to be a highly enjoyable way of spending my leisure time, and both can eat up a large chunk of time and effort; both often involve working on something that you aren't familiar with. But both are beneficial to Debian. No, beneficial isn't a strong enough word; how about "essential" instead? Yeah, that makes more sense. Without dedicated RC bug squashers, Debian would never be able to make a release; without dedicated sponsors, the size of Debian's archive would be smaller and of lesser quality, and its community also a lot smaller.

With all that said...I hope this blog post inspires at least a few DDs, possibly more, to dedicate a little bit more of their time towards sponsoring packages. :)