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Fri, 01 Oct 2010

Four days: Removing some uncertainty from debian-mentors

Prospective Debian contributors typically follow this process:

  1. Read the New Maintainers' Guide.
  2. Find something they want to package.
  3. Create a package.
  4. Email the debian-mentors mailing list asking for someone to review the package, and if it passes review, upload it.
  5. Feel increasingly lonely and sad, as the days pass without a reply on the list.
  6. (Optional) Blame themselves when no one seems to care, when in fact they submitted a perfectly fine package.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating that last point. But I'm very interested in improving the culture of Debian, like I promised as follow-ups for that Debian for Shy People talk.

I was talking about the email list on the #debian-mentors IRC channel. I got this vote of confidence from andrewsh:

<andrewsh> silence is bad

When there are humans involved, silence isn't always golden. So now I have a plan: Niels and I promised that any email to debian-mentors will be answered within four days.

Maybe we'll say, "Sorry, we all seem to be busy!" Or maybe we'll say, "I'll try to review that next Thursday."

The goal is to replace self-doubt and worry among contributors with feedback and clear expectations.

(Thanks to Karen Rustad for help with editing.)

[] permanent link and comments

Thanks for under-taking this!

Most things I've tried to get sponsored through mentors have eventually made their way into the archive, but that period of uncertainty is hard. "How long should I wait to ping the list again? It's been a whole week, is my work forgotten about? Are people going to be mad at me for spamming the list if I send a reminder?"

Also, sponsors, a quick thanks for the work email is appreciated greatly. Most of my uploads magically make it to the archive with no comment. (Well, I find out who did it anyways by looking at the changes file...) I guess that means my work is good, but that's not how you engage new contributors and get them to deepen their commitment to the project.

Posted by andrewsomething at Sat Oct 2 03:39:27 2010

Hi Andrew! So nice to see a comment! (-:

I'm glad to hear that the idea makes sense. I remember that period of uncertainty myself.

In the beginning of my mentorship, I was lucky that Daniel Baumann decided he'd sponsor my (as well as many other people's) packages. He was pretty communicative in private, but the on-list feeling was always sort of loneliness and terror.

Interesting point about the quick thanks email, too! I'm starting to think it would be helpful to have a "Debian Welcoming Committee" or something... but for now it's bedtime.

Posted by Asheesh Laroia at Sat Oct 2 06:03:10 2010

Thank you for putting energy into this!

At Front Desk I've seen quite a bit of people who had trouble getting their packages sponsored. DM and teams have improved things considerably, but mostly by diverting the problem away from an underpowered Mentors.

Also, Application Managers sometimes end up being mentors when their applicants are not very experienced, although it's not what they signed up for. NM should be more of a system to wave in already experienced people, and we are trying to push it that way. For example we encourage people to be DMs already before applying. But doing that properly depends on having a working Mentors project.

Good luck. I really appreciate your efforts!

Posted by Enrico Zini at Sat Oct 2 09:26:52 2010


Thanks to everybody making Debian the finest distribution in the whole Universe ^_^

Posted by Debianero at Tue Oct 5 19:17:09 2010

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