Timo Juhani Lindfors | 10 Mar 16:34 2013
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to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Hi,

I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
getting new people to Debian.

-Timo

Moray Allan | 10 Mar 22:41 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 2013-03-10 18:34, Timo Juhani Lindfors wrote:
> I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
> getting new people to Debian.

I certainly don't think I have all the answers myself, but this is an 
area I am very keen to see more discussion of, so I must apologise in 
advance for giving another long answer.

Summary

Four things that I think might help:
- Fun
- Clearer paths in
- More active recruitment
- Better use of local networks, where possible.

Challenges

On the one hand, we are an exceptionally open project to new people -- 
they just need to turn up and start doing work.  Any of a web browser, a 
mail client or an IRC client is enough to start making useful 
contributions to Debian.  Adding a new package to the distribution 
requires some technical learning, but we don't require any formal 
processes, and if the package is widely useful it will be easy to find 
someone to sponsor it.

On the other hand, it can be difficult for people to find somewhere 
good to start.  Often they will be pointed at lists of bugs that 
everyone else already gave up on fixing, or at lists of packages that 
other people weren't motivated to continue maintaining.  Our "just start 
(Continue reading)

Lucas Nussbaum | 10 Mar 23:39 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 10/03/13 at 17:34 +0200, Timo Juhani Lindfors wrote:
> Hi,
> 
> I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
> getting new people to Debian.

"people" is not very specific (users? contributors? DDs?), but maybe
it's intentionally vague.

Actually, I think that it is a process with several steps, and that we
often neglect some of the steps. Let's list them:

  Step 0: Get people to use Debian

  Step 1: Get people to make their first contribution to Debian

  Step 2: Get people to make regular contributions to Debian and add
    value to the project (possibly become DM, depending on the kind
    of contribution)

  Step 3: Get people to go through the NM process and become DD.

There are different possible improvements for the different steps. For
example:

Step 0:
=======
To get new users, you get to provide interesting "products". If
all the cool kids are using $OTHER_DISTRO, well, we lose. That's one of
the reasons why it's so important to increase innovation in Debian. We
(Continue reading)

Gunnar Wolf | 11 Mar 05:32 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Timo Juhani Lindfors dijo [Sun, Mar 10, 2013 at 05:34:58PM +0200]:
> Hi,
> 
> I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
> getting new people to Debian.

Hi,

Riding on Timo Juhani's question (and not yet having read the two
answers that it has already): There was an interesting discussion
(sadly, in a private forum I cannot quote here, but the fact of having
had the discussion does not disclose private information, yada
yada...) that had as one of its interesting points the current age
distribution, based on the entered data in Debian's LDAP entries. It
shows the project as a whole is aging, and not only in the sense that
Moray describes in his platform, but in the sense that we developers
are getting older — When I joined the project I remember being happy
and proud to be slightly under the (perceived) average age (among
DebConf attendees). Today, I am 36 years old, and my age is... I don't
remember whether the mode or the average.

At the same time, now that I have started teaching at a university, we
have a once very active LUG (complete with a meeting laboratory and
all!), and it has gone almost deserted. My friends at the Faculty told
me we need a way to attract younger people into Free Software
development - It's not as easy to do it as it was ~10 years ago.

So, do you think this demographic shift towards older developers is
harmful to the project, or that it is just a fact and we should not
worry? How would you intend to attract more young, interested,
(Continue reading)

Stefano Zacchiroli | 11 Mar 13:43 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On Sun, Mar 10, 2013 at 10:32:10PM -0600, Gunnar Wolf wrote:
> There was an interesting discussion (sadly, in a private forum I
> cannot quote here, but the fact of having had the discussion does not
> disclose private information, yada yada...)

You mean the discussion (re)started publicly at:

  https://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2013/01/msg00091.html

 ? :-)
--

-- 
Stefano Zacchiroli  . . . . . . .  zack <at> upsilon.cc . . . . o . . . o . o
Maître de conférences . . . . . http://upsilon.cc/zack . . . o . . . o o
Debian Project Leader . . . . . .  <at> zack on identi.ca . . o o o . . . o .
« the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club »
Moray Allan | 11 Mar 15:24 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 2013-03-11 07:32, Gunnar Wolf wrote:
> Riding on Timo Juhani's question (and not yet having read the two
> answers that it has already): There was an interesting discussion
> (sadly, in a private forum I cannot quote here, but the fact of 
> having

I believe you're referring to the discussion I summarised in 
http://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2013/01/msg00091.html

> So, do you think this demographic shift towards older developers is
> harmful to the project, or that it is just a fact and we should not
> worry?

I don't that that having older developers is harmful in itself, but I 
think that we should try to take contributions from all groups, 
including younger people.

We should equally be looking to recruit, for example, more older 
retired people, where we would certainly benefit from their experience.

> How would you intend to attract more young, interested,
> talented people?

In the -project thread and my platform I've mentioned a few ideas.  I 
think that all of the points in my reply to Timo (fun, clearer paths in, 
more active recruitment, better use of local networks, where possible) 
could be applied to recruiting younger people.

I am aware like you of some LUGs and university computing societies 
that have faded away, but also of other ones that have grown up in 
(Continue reading)

Lucas Nussbaum | 11 Mar 15:43 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Hi,

On 10/03/13 at 22:32 -0600, Gunnar Wolf wrote:
> Timo Juhani Lindfors dijo [Sun, Mar 10, 2013 at 05:34:58PM +0200]:
> > Hi,
> > 
> > I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
> > getting new people to Debian.
> 
> Hi,
> 
> Riding on Timo Juhani's question (and not yet having read the two
> answers that it has already): There was an interesting discussion
> (sadly, in a private forum I cannot quote here, but the fact of having
> had the discussion does not disclose private information, yada
> yada...) that had as one of its interesting points the current age
> distribution, based on the entered data in Debian's LDAP entries. It
> shows the project as a whole is aging, and not only in the sense that
> Moray describes in his platform, but in the sense that we developers
> are getting older — When I joined the project I remember being happy
> and proud to be slightly under the (perceived) average age (among
> DebConf attendees). Today, I am 36 years old, and my age is... I don't
> remember whether the mode or the average.
> 
> At the same time, now that I have started teaching at a university, we
> have a once very active LUG (complete with a meeting laboratory and
> all!), and it has gone almost deserted. My friends at the Faculty told
> me we need a way to attract younger people into Free Software
> development - It's not as easy to do it as it was ~10 years ago.
> 
(Continue reading)

Toni Mueller | 15 Mar 22:46 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian


Hi Lucas,

On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 03:43:16PM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote:
> First, I don't think that age matters that much.

imho, age does matter. See Bulbullle's notice why he doesn't run. I've
seen people leaving other projects by eg. way of heart attack or traffic
accident, too. Younger people tend to have less of the health problems,
as well as more spare time.

> You write about attracting people to free software. I'm not sure that we
> have a problem here.

I think we have. In my opinion, many users don't realise the value of
"free as in free speech", and only see the value of "free as in free
beer". Although I have tried to campaign in that direction, I have
utterly failed to explain this issue to many people (esp. business
people).

> The number of free software users increases. Free

... mostly by way of accident, eg. by getting Ubuntu after their
umpteenth computer breakdown due to a virus attack.

> So we need to get more free software users to use Debian, more Debian
> users to contribute, more contributors to become regular contributors,
> etc. But I think I addressed that in my answer to Timo in
> https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2013/03/msg00014.html

(Continue reading)

Lucas Nussbaum | 16 Mar 11:21 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Hi Toni,

You quoted my mail by taking only one sentence of each of my paragraphs, so my
answers look much less subtle in your email than they were in my email. ;)

On 15/03/13 at 22:46 +0100, Toni Mueller wrote:
> Hi Lucas,
> 
> On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 03:43:16PM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote:
> > First, I don't think that age matters that much.
> 
> imho, age does matter. See Bulbullle's notice why he doesn't run. I've
> seen people leaving other projects by eg. way of heart attack or traffic
> accident, too. Younger people tend to have less of the health problems,
> as well as more spare time.
> 
> > You write about attracting people to free software. I'm not sure that we
> > have a problem here.
> 
> I think we have. In my opinion, many users don't realise the value of
> "free as in free speech", and only see the value of "free as in free
> beer". Although I have tried to campaign in that direction, I have
> utterly failed to explain this issue to many people (esp. business
> people).
> 
> > The number of free software users increases. Free
> 
> ... mostly by way of accident, eg. by getting Ubuntu after their
> umpteenth computer breakdown due to a virus attack.

(Continue reading)

Serafeim Zanikolas | 16 Mar 15:31 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 11:21:05AM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote [edited]:
> But asking students to contribute to Debian during university projects is quite
> difficult (I have thought about it numerous times, but never found a
> good-enough idea).  it would be interesting to share feedback on that, to
> identify and suppress potential blockers.

If you refer to university students in some software-related discipline: have
you considered assignments for the preparation of patches for wishlist bugs in
native and pseudo-packages (eg. infra-related sw projects)?

More generally, I think that our needs for native development are not nearly
as well advertised as are those for packaging-related work (WNPP).

--

-- 
Every great idea is worthless without someone to do the work. --Neil Williams

Gergely Nagy | 16 Mar 15:47 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Serafeim Zanikolas <sez <at> debian.org> writes:

> On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 11:21:05AM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote [edited]:
>> But asking students to contribute to Debian during university projects is quite
>> difficult (I have thought about it numerous times, but never found a
>> good-enough idea).  it would be interesting to share feedback on that, to
>> identify and suppress potential blockers.
>
> If you refer to university students in some software-related discipline: have
> you considered assignments for the preparation of patches for wishlist bugs in
> native and pseudo-packages (eg. infra-related sw projects)?

That doesn't really help, in my opinion. It will be a 'forced'
contribution, one which will not continue past the assignment. That's
not really what we should aim for. Unless you make it interesting and
worthwhile for them to continue contributing, they will not do anything
more than strictly required, simply because that's not what they find
satisfactory.

Prove them that it's worth it, that having significant contributions to
Debian (or any other bigger free software project for that matter) on
their resume is a good thing, and  you're much closer to the
goal. Simply telling people to do this and that, because you have the
power to tell them will have the exact opposite effect. Instead, we must
find a way to make these tasks not only visible and known, but
interesting and worthwhile to pursue too. (Which also means we need
people on the Debian side too, to help and mentor the students - without
that, it's an exercise of futility.)

> More generally, I think that our needs for native development are not nearly
(Continue reading)

Moray Allan | 16 Mar 18:02 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 2013-03-16 17:47, Gergely Nagy wrote:
> ...and this highlights another issue I have with our infrastructure:
> wnpp can be quite an intimidating mess, with over a thousand packages 
> in
> ITP and RFP state. That's a lot. I get scared just by looking at the
> number, and I'd like to think I'm not the only one.

Yes.  I think the RFP list is one area that could do with volunteer 
curators.  If a few interesting/important/easy packages were 
highlighted, we could avoid as many people spending hours looking 
through the list, then giving up without finding anything, or giving up 
due to inability to decide.

Though, as a related matter, I would like people who have an ITP bug, 
or who look seriously at at RFP requests, to post more updates and 
comments to the bug reports -- even when the comment is about a lack of 
progress.  For example, if you look at an RFP bug then decide it's 
uninteresting/worthless/difficult, or have a doubt about the licensing 
status, please send a short message to the BTS to help save time later 
for others who look through the list.

--

-- 
Moray

Toni Mueller | 17 Mar 15:34 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian


Hi,

On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 03:47:57PM +0100, Gergely Nagy wrote:
> Serafeim Zanikolas <sez <at> debian.org> writes:
> > If you refer to university students in some software-related discipline: have
> > you considered assignments for the preparation of patches for wishlist bugs in
> > native and pseudo-packages (eg. infra-related sw projects)?
> 
> That doesn't really help, in my opinion. It will be a 'forced'
> contribution, one which will not continue past the assignment.

that depends. If the course is compulsory, it would be a forced
contribution, but if you offer such kind of work as one option for an
assignment with a significant duration (a master's thesis has already
been mentioned), things change. In that case, the time frame would be at
least equivalent to a GSOC project, and voluntary committment can be
assumed as well.

OTOH, we're then quite late in the game - we should find methods of
engaging people earlier.

Kind regards,
--Toni++

Lucas Nussbaum | 16 Mar 16:28 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 16/03/13 at 15:31 +0100, Serafeim Zanikolas wrote:
> On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 11:21:05AM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote [edited]:
> > But asking students to contribute to Debian during university projects is quite
> > difficult (I have thought about it numerous times, but never found a
> > good-enough idea).  it would be interesting to share feedback on that, to
> > identify and suppress potential blockers.
> 
> If you refer to university students in some software-related discipline:

(yes)

> have
> you considered assignments for the preparation of patches for wishlist bugs in
> native and pseudo-packages (eg. infra-related sw projects)?

YMMV, but due to the way student projects are organized in France, the
following problems are often blockers:

- Tasks are not long enough. Typically, what you need is something that
  would take an experienced DD about 40 hours (for part-time projects
  with groups of 2 to 4 students). Many of tasks are much
  smaller than that, and you can't just aggregate several tasks, because
  then, the project loses interest in terms of "project management".

- I don't know the software, and there's no one willing to act as
  backup-mentor on the Debian side, in case I cannot answer the
  students' question.

- (for infrastructure) setting up a development instance is not
  documented, impossible, or extremely difficult.
(Continue reading)

Serafeim Zanikolas | 17 Mar 14:54 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 04:28:03PM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote [edited]:
> On 16/03/13 at 15:31 +0100, Serafeim Zanikolas wrote:
> > have
> > you considered assignments for the preparation of patches for wishlist bugs in
> > native and pseudo-packages (eg. infra-related sw projects)?
> 
> Have others thought about that/tried to organize such university
> projects?

There's this (master's, I think) module, ran by an academic who's a FreeBSD
member, with goals amongst others:

Appreciate and understand maintenance activities
Be able to change existing systems

http://www.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/ismr/intro/indexw.htm
http://www.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/ismr/index.htm

You can see in their "hall of fame" examples of successful contributions.

> YMMV, but due to the way student projects are organized in France, the
> following problems are often blockers:
> - Tasks are not long enough. Typically, what you need is something that
>   would take an experienced DD about 40 hours (for part-time projects
>   with groups of 2 to 4 students). Many of tasks are much
>   smaller than that, and you can't just aggregate several tasks, because
>   then, the project loses interest in terms of "project management".

Assignments don't necessarily have to have a patch as the sole deliverable.
Smaller ones could very well be about producing a design or triaging bugs
(Continue reading)

Lucas Nussbaum | 17 Mar 15:21 2013
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Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

On 17/03/13 at 14:54 +0100, Serafeim Zanikolas wrote:
> On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 04:28:03PM +0100, Lucas Nussbaum wrote [edited]:
> > On 16/03/13 at 15:31 +0100, Serafeim Zanikolas wrote:
> > > have
> > > you considered assignments for the preparation of patches for wishlist bugs in
> > > native and pseudo-packages (eg. infra-related sw projects)?
> > 
> > Have others thought about that/tried to organize such university
> > projects?
> 
> There's this (master's, I think) module, ran by an academic who's a FreeBSD
> member, with goals amongst others:
> 
> Appreciate and understand maintenance activities
> Be able to change existing systems
> 
> http://www.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/ismr/intro/indexw.htm
> http://www.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/ismr/index.htm
> 
> You can see in their "hall of fame" examples of successful contributions.

We are talking about two different things.

Your example is a course on Open Source Software Engineering. The
project's goal there is "have students discover the inner workings of a
Free Software project." Typically this is achieved by having the
students fix a few bugs, so that they have to understand all the
project's structure and procedure.
In that case, all the students following the course work on [possibly
different] Free Software projects.
(Continue reading)

Gergely Nagy | 16 Mar 13:32 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Hi!

Instead of answering Timo's question directly, I'll answer to Gunnar
instead, in the hopes that I can answer both of them in a satisfactory
manner.

Gunnar Wolf <gwolf <at> gwolf.org> writes:

> Timo Juhani Lindfors dijo [Sun, Mar 10, 2013 at 05:34:58PM +0200]:
>> Hi,
>> 
>> I'd like to have each DPL candidate briefly discuss the challenges of
>> getting new people to Debian.
>
> Riding on Timo Juhani's question (and not yet having read the two
> answers that it has already): There was an interesting discussion
> (sadly, in a private forum I cannot quote here, but the fact of having
> had the discussion does not disclose private information, yada
> yada...) that had as one of its interesting points the current age
> distribution, based on the entered data in Debian's LDAP entries. It
> shows the project as a whole is aging, and not only in the sense that
> Moray describes in his platform, but in the sense that we developers
> are getting older — When I joined the project I remember being happy
> and proud to be slightly under the (perceived) average age (among
> DebConf attendees). Today, I am 36 years old, and my age is... I don't
> remember whether the mode or the average.
>
> At the same time, now that I have started teaching at a university, we
> have a once very active LUG (complete with a meeting laboratory and
> all!), and it has gone almost deserted. My friends at the Faculty told
(Continue reading)

Gunnar Wolf | 19 Mar 19:53 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Gergely Nagy dijo [Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 01:32:32PM +0100]:
> I see people around me teach their children to use and control
> computers, to build things with them, even before they learn to
> write. They have their toys, they build stuff, sometimes they
> unknowingly write programs - before the age of eight. I find that
> astounding (I used to be so proud at writing my first program before I
> could write - now it isn't all that rare, and that's a good thing, that
> people have the opportunity to do that).
> 
> The thing is, Debian is often not available on the devices younger
> people start off with - and even if it is, not by default. Someone who
> just began to experiment, to play, will not install a whole new world
> onto his/her device. That's advanced stuff.

Well, Debian is *almost never* available by default on the devices
they start off with, and has never been. We have always been of appeal
to the technically minded (and less so to the very-freedom-minded)
public. Of course, we have tried to go beyond our natural "limits",
but -outside of some local governments providing Debian-based
solutions for a wide spectrum of their society, which cannot of course
be downplayed- have been unable to.

> Debian is also not impressively different, so to say. We have a distinct
> culture, we have great technical solutions, but those are hardly enough
> to impress someone who just casually looks. We need to reach out and
> show them that there is much more under the hood than they may imagine,
> that we can, and we do provide something unique.
>
> And we need to impress them. That's a very, very hard thing to do, and
> something that we'll need lots of help to accomplish, and not
(Continue reading)

Gergely Nagy | 29 Mar 23:05 2013

Re: to DPL candidates: getting new people to Debian

Gunnar Wolf <gwolf <at> gwolf.org> writes:

> Gergely Nagy dijo [Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 01:32:32PM +0100]:
>> Debian is also not impressively different, so to say. We have a distinct
>> culture, we have great technical solutions, but those are hardly enough
>> to impress someone who just casually looks. We need to reach out and
>> show them that there is much more under the hood than they may imagine,
>> that we can, and we do provide something unique.
>>
>> And we need to impress them. That's a very, very hard thing to do, and
>> something that we'll need lots of help to accomplish, and not
>> necessarily from technical folk. (Which is why one of my primary aims is
>> to reach and and recruit non-technical contributors to Debian.)
>
> How would you suggest "impressing" them? A new, shiny user interface
> is not what it takes, or at least, not all it takes. We have packaged
> *great* user interfaces for a very long time. Even other Linux
> distributions, aimed at the desktop, have given a lot of extra shine
> and polish to their UIs, someof them (i.e. our derivative Ubuntu)
> developing completely new frameworks, targetted IMO to touch-devices,
> which are all the rage now. And I still cannot say it impresses or
> dazzles newcomers.

It's not the UIs I would focus on - everyone is doing that, and it's
never going to be really impressing, in my opinion. Impressing anyone
with technical gizmos is hard, and most often, only possible when
they were interested anyway. We're not going to reach too many people
that way.

How we can reach a lot more - see the end of my previous mail. The
(Continue reading)


Gmane