Tech side overcomes differences

Just so that people know, Gentoo’s tech side is currently formed by a lot of developers with different views. Many people consider this a lack of focus, I consider it a gain in point of views.

An easy example I think I wrote about before too is me and Donnie. You probably couldn’t find more different opinions on forward and backward compatibility: I’m for extended compatibility, Donnie is for fast progress. And is this difference that usually can put stuff in balance: I’d oppose if Donnie wants to fast track to something new breaking older systems, and he’d would oppose if I want to keep something old just for the sake of compatibility.

Just impressing a single idea on the whole technical part of Gentoo would probably solve nothing and create more animosity: at the moment, to a wide degree, any dev is able to work on what he cares about. If we didn’t have this freedom, being a volunteer organisation we’d most likely lose a lot of developers, which would then either just fork or go using/developing something else. I think this already happened in the past for a few devs that couldn’t get their way through (and their way clashed with just enough developers not to be viable in parallel).

There is little interest from the main developers to support portage for prefixed installations. Nevertheless, there is a prefixed portage project that is alive and active, officially, and in parallel with all the rest. If we had a single person controlling the technical side (whoever that is), and that person didn’t like the idea, he could just kill the project. And then? If you expect the devs working on it to just take their time and pour it on something less maintained in Gentoo (say, Kerberos), well, you’re dreaming. As we’re volunteer, it’s way more likely that those devs would just have more free time to work on different projects, or would just resume working on the same prefixed project outside of Gentoo, it would then be a loss for Gentoo that the project wouldn’t be consider part of Gentoo project.

The reason why that would happen is the same for which the “loss” for Gentoo I just mentioned would just be a loss of image: we get no money for our work, we get no money from our users, so we can’t really lose anything but image. Of course a loss of image wouldn’t be nice either, as that would mean that less people would like to be associated with Gentoo, and we thus lose our sponsors too. You can’t expect volunteer to just feel like they have to do something for Gentoo, and thus if they can’t work on what they do find interesting, they have to fallback on something different.

This is why having a varied tech side is a bless rather than a curse. Although I’m afraid a lot of users (especially those calling for a dictactor because they don’t see Gentoo moving toward a single goal) can’t see that. I think the culprit in this is that people tend to expect other people to try mimic “successful” projects, and as Ubuntu started it with their Bug #1, they expect every distribution will tend toward having a similar Bug #1. Well, sorry to break the news to you, but there is not always a primary goal to get to.

You want to know why I moved from Debian to Gentoo? I was compiling xine-lib, xine-ui, Wine, XMMS, Apache and PHP by hand on Debian. I was told Gentoo allowed you to compile stuff more easily, and I thus moved to Gentoo. Simple as that, there was no ideal I wanted to follow going to Gentoo. Gentoo was for me a tool to do what I was doing already. And from that I started changing ebuilds, not for “a greater good”, but simply because I wanted things that were otherwise not possible. I started my first overlay without any SCM, I simply tarred it up and put it in my old site. Whenever I found an interesting project in kde-apps or kde-look I prepared an ebuild, added it to my overlay, and every day updated the overlay in the site, saying on kde-apps and kde-look pages that the ebuild was available there for who wanted. After a while I started sending the ebuild on bugzilla, and started having it merged into the main tree.

And already when I joined I wasn’t focused on one thing. Carlo asked me to join for KDE applications, luckyduck asked me to join for helping with multimedia, and AngusYoung asked me to join Gentoo/FreeBSD. I accepted at the third request, and at the time I was also working on what became wxlib.eclass (at the time I used both VLC and aMule that used wx, and I wanted wx to use GTK2, so I simply looked at the ebuild and …); too bad that I wasn’t able to fix the few remaining problems so that it could be split. I also lost interest in that as I started not using wx at all anymore 🙂

So I certainly want to treasure the differences we have in the tech side, rather than having “a focus”, as myself for one don’t have a focus of my own.

So I’m with tsunam, ferdy and lu_zero. And if you follow stuff you should know that me and ferdy are not certainly on the same page (nor side) for a lot of things, but while we both have different views, I’m quite sure that we both would do anything to make sure the other is free to work on what he cares about.

To our users: don’t pretend to know the answer to all Gentoo’s problems: you probably don’t even know all of them, and most likely never will understand them unless you’ll become involved in Gentoo or another big opensource project.