Collaboration with Debian: a balanced proposal.

Lucas Nussbaum lucas at
Thu Jan 19 20:05:23 GMT 2006


After the recent threads on the Debian lists and discussions with both
MOTUs and Debian developers, I worked on this proposal regarding Debian
collaboration that aims at satisfying both parties (Debian and Ubuntu).

I'm posting this first on ubuntu-devel and ubuntu-motu to get the first
comments, and will then move to Utnubu-discuss.

== Introduction / Rationale ==
There is a lot of disagreement between Debian and Ubuntu regarding the way
Ubuntu "gives back" to Debian.
 * Debian developers would like Ubuntu developers to file bug reports on
 the Debian BTS about issues they fix in Ubuntu.
 * Ubuntu developers, especially MOTUs, are already very busy and
 understaffed, and can't really handle additional work.
 * Debian developers feel that Ubuntu "steals" the Debian packages by
 taking them and only rarely giving back.
 * Ubuntu developers feel that the bugs they submitted on the BTS are often
 left unanswered and ignored, or not dealt with promptly enough.

== Scope of this proposal ==
This proposal deals with packages which are (or might be in the future)
slightly modified in Ubuntu, not those which are closer to a fork in
Ubuntu. The packages which are only slightly modified most likely reside in
the universe and multiverse components of Ubuntu[0], but some of the packages
in main can qualify too.


Some packages are largely modified in Ubuntu (think of GNOME, for example)
and can't be easily fed back. The feedback process must then be handled
directly by the Ubuntu developer who made the changes. Such changes mostly
are in ''main'' packages, and ''main'' Ubuntu developers have been quite
good at feeding patches back to Debian. If needed, the Debian maintainer can
contact the Ubuntu developer responsible for the changes to find a way to
import the changes in the Debian package.

The goal of this proposal is to make collaboration a win-win process for
both Debian and Ubuntu. To achieve this, we ask the Debian maintainers to
choose between two ''modes'' for their packages.

We also introduce a team called DCT (Debian Collaboration Team) here.
Members of this team are Ubuntu Developers (or would-be developers)
interested in collaborating with Debian.

=== Mode 1 : Passive giving back ===
This is what is currently in place. Debian maintainers have access to
patches[1] for their packages as soon as the modified packages get into

Ubuntu developers file bugs on the Debian BTS on a volunteer basis (when
they have time, and not for every issue).


=== Mode 2 : Feedback handled by the Debian Collaboration Team (DCT) ===

Debian maintainers willing to have a more fruitful collaboration with Ubuntu
contact the DCT to switch to this collaboration mode for all or some of
their packages. This mode includes duties for both parties.

==== Rights and Duties for the DCT ====
 * The DCT reports all valuable changes (for Debian) in the Ubuntu
 package to the Debian BTS, in a reasonable time (depending on the team
 workload and manpower).
 * The DCT has the right to refuse to monitor a package if it considers 
 the package has been ''forked'' in Ubuntu (changes wouldn't be of interest
 anymore to the Debian maintainer).

==== Rights and Duties for the Debian maintainer ====
 * The Debian maintainer reacts promptly to all input by the DCT.
 This mean acknowledging bug reports and commenting them in days, not weeks.
 * The Debian maintainer has to upload a new package with the changes as
 soon as possible to keep the divergence between Debian and Ubuntu as low
 as possible. This means weeks, not months.
 * The Debian maintainer can refuse patches from Ubuntu. However, of course,
 he must make the reasons clear in the bug log.

Rights and Duties for the DCT and for Debian maintainers are of course
subject to the usual rules:
 * We all are volunteers, and have lives. This sometimes creates additional
 * Delays indicated above are subject to conditions (waiting for a testing
 transition or freeze in Debian, holidays, UpstreamVersionFreeze or
 FeaturesFreeze in Ubuntu ...).

== How would the DCT work ? ==
 * By monitoring new versions of the Ubuntu packages being uploaded to
 Ubuntu and reviewing the changes in them.
 * By being pinged by other Ubuntu developers about specific issues. (by
 IRC or mail, making it as easy as possible for the Ubuntu developer. Note
 that pinging DCT is not mandatory for Ubuntu developers.)


Advantages for Ubuntu Developers :
- those not willing to deal with Debian can just ignore Debian
- those willing to help Debian, but not knowing how to do so, can rely
  on others
- good way to stop the "Ubuntu doesn't give back" claims
- Ubuntu developers who prefer to interact directly with DD can continue to
  do so: going through DCT is not mandatory!

Ideally, I see the DCT as being a group of developers with different
skills. We would need somebody familiar with GNOME, a KDE expert, a Python
developer, etc.

What do you think ?

Do you think it would work ?

Do you see some open issues not addressed here ?

Would you be part of this DCT ?


PS: "DCT" doesn't really sound good, but "Naibed" is really not an option
| Lucas Nussbaum
| lucas at |
| jabber: lucas at             GPG: 1024D/023B3F4F |

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