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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.

Comments 21
  1. That is a nice post, but also a bit dangerous because Gentoo’s tech side has nothing to do with Gentoo’s legal side and cannot replace Gentoo’s legal side. Gentoo’s legal side – The Gentoo Foundation – has a job to do and is responsible for making the invisible, boring work that keeps the Gentoo platform secure. I don’t think that Daniel Robbins is “the savior”, but I think he raises some serious issues on the legal side of Gentoo. Gentoo’s trustees are people that were trusted to keep the Gentoo Foundation working and, if some reports are right, the Gentoo Foundation no longer exists because the trustees failed to do what they were responsible to do. Can the trustees still be trusted? Where are they, after all?Disclaimer: I don’t care who “wins”, I just want the legal side of Gentoo secured, so that we all win.

  2. I sincerely don’t care much, if at all, about Gentoo Foundation. Mostly because it’s legal stuff, but just for United States (where I don’t live and I have very little interest).For what I’m concerned, I don’t care if Daniel or anybody else wants to take care of Foundation things. I just don’t want any single person to impose a “focus” on Gentoo from the _tech_ perspective.

  3. Having one person determine the technical direction is pretty ridiculous for a community based distribution in my opinion. It won’t help, won’t solve the real issues.The cry for a strong leader is always a sign of people feeling chaos and having no idea what to do so they want one person to solve everything. It’s retarded.

  4. I agree with you, the legal side of Gentoo and the technical side of Gentoo shouldn’t overlap.But I don’t think anyone can impose tech focus on Gentoo, mainly because it’s a volunteer project. People can’t be forced to do things they don’t want to do. But there’s nothing wrong in trying to make people more interested in a certain tech focus, without forcing them. Maybe some users might be interested in contributing on that specific area.

  5. I just wanted to say I felt pretty bad when reading this particular sentence in your blogpost:”we get no money from our users”after I just donated few days ago through the front page. I am pretty much just your ordinary user since 2001 and like using Gentoo. I donated the money because I just installed Gentoo on my laptop and thought that I would give a bit of money since I didn’t pay for any other OS and since that is the only real way I with my current skills and time available am really able to contribute to Gentoo even though I would like to do more.I don’t know if I am the only one giving money like this, but your words made me feel sorry that I gave the money, at least for a minute or two until I realized that hopefully someone does appreciate me donating these money and will use them for the good of Gentoo.The donation I made was in my current situation not just petty cash even though it isn’t a fortune either.Your words probably wasn’t meant that way, but it gave me another bad impression of the developers. If you accept Daniels offer or not is of course up to you guys. But no matter what you choose I feel at least you could show Daniel a bit of respect and not for example speculate about all kinds of bad motives on his side or say mean things about him. The man really did an amazing thing getting Gentoo up and running and he did it at great personal costs … I hope that Daniel doesn’t feel the same way I do, but I feel you developers as a group are being pretty mean to him.I want to thank you for the work you do as a developer, I appreciate it even if you don’t do it because you want me to have a good experience being a user of Gentoo.Thank you

  6. You misunderstood the context of it. I’m thankful to users like you who actually donate to projects you use. If you look at the top left of the page, you’ll also see I’m thanking a few users already.The point is, we don’t have the relation “we do stuff because we get the money”, on the other hand we have the relation “we get money because we do stuff”, like other volunteer distributions. Canonical, RedHat, Novell have the other kind of relationships, and can thus have a focus on their own.As for what I do for Gentoo now, I never said I do that _just_ because I need stuff, at the moment. If I did, I wouldn’t be maintaining PAM for instance. I only talked about how I _did_ start, which is a totally different issue.As for what Daniel is concerned, I don’t really care if he gets money out of Gentoo or not, really I don’t. I just don’t want him, or anybody else for what I’m concerned, giving me _orders_. I take well suggestions, I take well style rules and policies. I don’t take well orders when I’m not working to be paid.I would suggest you a thing: read this blog, don’t stop at this entry. See how much time I poured into Gentoo in the three years I’ve been a developer, see what I did even after I risked my life for a pancreatitis. Then you might reconsider my “being mean” to Daniel.

  7. What do you think about the “Software Freedom Conservancy” option? It seems like a win-win situation, they take care of all the legal issues and nothing more, so the developers don’t get their hands dirty. Big projects like Inkscape or Boost are members. Maybe I’m missing something but for what I read it is *the* solution.

  8. SFC is not accepting new members right now as far as I know. But SFC, SPI, or whatever else offers such a service, sure I’d go for it myself.

  9. I am very grateful towards the Gentoo community as a whole, and to you and all the other devs. This blog has really been a rewarding read the last few months. However, I don’t think it would really be that difficult for you to understand that we’re a bit concerned about the future for the project we love?

  10. You shouldn’t be! Even if the Foundation is dead, it does not mean the project is dying! At the very worst case we’ll have to rename. But you can easily see that renames happens.Think of Pidging, Firebird (and Phoenix), Gnomeeting, and so on.Think of all the project who _don’t_ have a Foundation. FreeBSD started a foundation just a couple of years ago, and they are way bigger than Gentoo anyway, though they still worked fine without a Foundation covering their backs.I know you are concerned, I just think you shouldn’t be, you’re just being mislead by sites like Distrowatch and Slashdot. Do I have to remember that last year they titled basically the same because Daniel left right when he could have rejoined because he couldn’t have his way, a bit after _I_ left Gentoo myself?

  11. Well, I for one would hurt if it were to rename. I’m gonna keep my fingers crossed that all this ruckus make more nerds than myself consider again about emailing

  12. @Flameeyes: I think the “problem” (if there is one!!) is more than only the legal aspects. When was the last time that you’ve browsed through the gentoo-website??Have a look and see – top of the page features the last GWN from 15 october. – the shop carries CD’s with the 2006.0 and 2006.1 release.Not really a good impression for new users to be honest.I do agree that the tree does indeed keep moving forward, but some heavily used packages stick for ages in bugzilla. For example the latest driver from nvidia dates from 20 Dec 2007. However it is still not in the tree (testing or masked!!) even though it is the first nvidia-driver that supports the 8000series and fixes a serious deadlock bug for the 7000series.For a comparison: In my brief excursion into FreeBSD some months ago I found that the ports-tree was actually way more up to date then the testing-branch from Gentoo. Not what I would have expected Now I run Gentoo Stable, which to be honest gives me more trouble when updating than I ever experienced with the testing branch.

  13. Thank you Flameeyes for your reply, reading your post again you are right, I misunderstood the context.I didn’t mean you specifically being “mean” to Daniel it is more the way the developer community, as a whole, has been reacting (from what I can see, it sure is a given there are many many things here that I am not aware of and I might be totally wrong in how I “feel”) to Daniel since he got out of Microsoft and started being able to spend some time on Gentoo again.I will take your suggestion and if not read the entire blog, then at least look through it. I really am thankful to people like you who give so much time and resources to Gentoo so that people like me can have a wonderful OS.It is not my understanding that Daniel’s intention is to give you or anyone orders … that just doesn’t work in a project like this where people work as volunteers, my main reason for wanting Daniel back is really that I think he would be the right person to handle what the foundation is supposed to handle now but have for many reason not been doing all that well. One very important thing of these is to improve the communication between users like me and developers like you without the communication wasting to much of your time or energy that you would rather spend on developing and that I would actually also rather have you developing since I love the Gentoo that you and other developers are making and maintaining for me.

  14. Just a little post to fix the typo in the url I left on the two other posts … doh!

  15. Hi Diego,First of all, I hope you feel better these days after your difficult health problems.After reading blogs and forums about the Daniel proposal, I think the biggest dissatisfaction of the community with the project is due to lack of communication. The complaint is always the same: not GWN anymore, not information about the cancellation of 2007.1, not knowing where the project, or many sub-projects are directed, etc.So from the point of view of users is like there were not progress in Gentoo, just internal fights, flame wars and developers running away in mass. Obviously, none of these things are true in an absolute sense, but they are the only ones that get publicity.But if you take some time to read the Changelogs and gentoo-dev, you will find that are plenty of good things happening. Portage-prefix is awesome, and even normal portage has seen a lot of improvements in the 2.1 branch, e.g. sloted dependencies which was a very long request. Baselauout 2/OpenRC seems very promising too. The introduction of wxGTK 2.8 and TexLive were a hell of a job, the developers worked very hard and at the end us users get a very flexible package, as is always in Gentoo (Compare for example the installation of TexLive in OpenBSD, splitted in just 3 packages. I’m sure in this way you end with a lot of stuff you don’t want in your system).I think one way to change the current situation is to maintain informed the community about these kind of things in the GWN, or GMN. I mean, back in 2004 when I started with Gentoo, those things regularly appeared in GWN, and I felt proud of being a Gentoo user. Besides them, it would be nice to see the status of the different projects that compose Gentoo. I read a good thread the other day in gentoo-dev about this. Personally I would like to know too about the status of the SOC projects, like FreeBSD does in a terrific way, for example. It has been proposed interesting ideas, but to this day I don’t know how they ended or if they are integrated into the project.Just my 2 centsCarlos

  16. Ferdy, in the post in the link at the bottom of the article above, says this:bq. I simply can’t trust Daniel Robbins after what he tried to do the last time he tried to come back. Has everybody forgotten that? I hope not.However, I don’t see that anybody has linked the story or explained what _did_ happen the last time, so…Short analogy/summary (regular gentoo-dev lurker user view): DRobbins can rightly claim that Gentoo was originally his baby. Eventually, that “baby” grew up, and as any good father, DRobbins did his best to prepare it for the rough world out there, then, when the time came, with naturally mixed feelings he helped it move out on its own.Great. As with most parents, he did a perhaps surprising good job. Only thing is, as with any parent/adult-child relationship, it can get a bit uncomfortable at times if the parent doesn’t exactly approve of the decisions his adult child is making, and what they are doing with their life.So last time, DRobbins decided he’d like to be a developer again, which in the analogy I’ve chosen, is sort of like moving back in with his kid. Well, as with other parent/adult-child situations in which that happens, it entails some serious adjustment in roles on the part of both parties.Unfortunately, he didn’t like the behavior of one (in particular) of the folks his kid was hanging around with, and, as what amounts to a guest in what is now his kid’s house, slipping back into the parent telling his kid’s friend he’s no longer welcomed, he demanded the other guest leave. Either that other guest leaves or he leaves, he said. Only thing was, he’d apparently forgotten whose house he was in now — that it wasn’t his young kid and his house any more to make that demand, but rather, it was now the adult kid and the adult kid’s house, and both the parent and the other party were invited guests.Well. the adult kid (Gentoo), faced with that ultimatum, basically told his dad that if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to stay around. The father (DRobbins) didn’t, high tailing it out of there only about a week after he’d come back.Fast-forward to now. “Dad” is now effectively inviting the kid to come home, to _Dad’s_ house, since Dad doesn’t think the kid is doing so well on their own. Well, the kid has its problems, everybody does, but given Dad’s behavior as effectively a guest in the kid’s house, can you blame the kid any for saying “No way” to what from their viewpoint is a meddlesome and over-controlling parent figure who basically thinks their kid is a failure. How many people do you know that would move back in with their folks under _those_ conditions?FWIW, “here’s the LWN discussion”:… on it, with further links, including to the original gentoo-dev list thread.Duncan (hoping the markup help is correct, as preview doesn’t seem to want to work)

  17. I have to add this. Don’t most parents only want what’s best for their offspring? 🙂

  18. It sounds to me like simply getting the newsletter back would calm a lot of nerves.The analogy is good, but it’s not the reality: Robbins has two kids already, and any parent will tell you that’s a whole different feeling to anything you’ve every worked on, no matter how much love, sweat or tears you put into it.The overriding impression I get from the whole thing is: this is business, and I’ll be as ruthless as I have to be.Certainly he’ll have had to make a business case for the time commitment to his employer.

  19. Flameeyes,You are one of my Gentoo heros-I enjoy reading your blog posts and truly appreciate your work. I am, however, surprised that you have so quickly “sided” with tsunam and ferdy.Firstly none of you guys were around when Drobbins departed-so what you know about his departure is filled with word-of-mouth rumours and speculations. This in turn has led to a great deal of speculation about his motives and suspicion of his intent.Drobbins misfortunate attempt at becoming a dev again backfired due to an aspect of his personality- Drobbins honed in on exactly those developers who have spread the most discontent and contributed the most poison in dev relations- and he wanted to remove these troublemakers- in so doing he provoked the in-group identity mechanisms which cast the whole episode as a us vs. them argument.He did this because he rightly saw how certain devs have been systematically undermining the Gentoo project, creating the horrible rift between users and devs which we are now seeing, yet he failed to see that this rift had in fact grown so strong that user-dev relations had been supplanted by the dev-dev relations.( the absence of user-dev relations the devs had no one else to relate to than other devs).Just look at the disconnect in perceptions-most users were happy that Drobbins chose to single out ciaranm and were unhappy when he withdrew as a developer, whereas many devs saw this a mere powerplay by Drobbins to reassert some long lost authority.Drobbins has made it perfectly clear that if his offer was accepted that he take over the legal issues effecting Gentoo and create a new foundation with people capable and willing to handle this aspect of Gentoo. Furthermore he states that he would construct the foundation with a view towards increasing the user-dev communications to help heal the rift between users and devs.In other blogs from Drobbins he has made it clear that he would prefer to see Gentoo being composed of far more autonomous projects-yet you and your fellow devs act as if Drobbins offer to return is a ploy on his behalf to usurp power and tell you what you need to do.I don’t see any basis whatsoever for this conclusion. The freedoms you have had as a developer in Gentoo are a result of the Gentoo project which Drobbins created-he envisioned exactly this- that devs should have a maximum of freedom to choose where they invest their energy. Drobbins and the old core crew of devs, who built Gentoo originally, sacrificed their own freedoms in order to enable devs like you to have yours.What really baffles me is that you like many other devs prefer mobbing and other peer pressure phenomena to that of allowing someone to have the authority to root out individuals who spread derision in the community. No less than half a dozen developers have left the project due to the poison of a couple of devs-they left because of mobbing, a little clique of asocial personalities who bullied everyone around them.And you place your own, IMHO unfounded, worries about being told what to do by Drobbins higher than your concern about the future of the user-dev relations and competent management of the legal framework of Gentoo.Solving the legal issues is not going to resolve what has erupted in the last days. The problems are not *merely* superficial and will not magically disappear by changing GWN to GMN or by releasing 2008.0. Either genuine effort will be made to resolve the dev-user rift or a number of users will abandon Gentoo, as will, likely, many devs.Please consider the whole when thinking about these issues. Dev “sides” are the root of this entire problem anyway-and under no cicrumstances a solution to these problems.

  20. Sure, I was not around when Daniel first left. I was around when he came back last year and got away again (okay, technically I shouldn’t have been around, but I was, trust me). And that I didn’t like.I’m not one to judge easily other people, I tend to have a quick first impression, but not act on it, and then have a second impression on which I act once I start to know the person better. I hoped for a good impression out of Daniel’s, but I didn’t like my second impression.But this is hardly the point. I don’t care if Daniel takes over the legal aspects of Gentoo, because I don’t care about the legal aspects. For what I’m concerned he can take over the Foundation and reign supreme on it for as long as he likes. I just don’t want him, or anybody else for what matters, being a single technical head.I don’t care if it’s Daniel, Ciaran, Mike (whichever Mike), or even myself. There hasn’t to be one.As for my freedom as a developer, no it’s not Daniel who allowed me to do this, really. First because even if Daniel was never around in the first place, I would have been free all the same to go with another project. He didn’t even create the freedom inside Gentoo which allows me to take care of projects without having to deal with bureaucracy, as when he left there was a very heavy metastructure, which the developers as a whole voted off in favour of the current one.And you probably don’t know me at all if you think I’m siding with ciaranm. I already left Gentoo once for one (or two) of his groupies, and I certainly don’t want to have to deal with him at all if I can. On the other hand, I don’t want _anybody_ to have such a power that the developers as a whole can’t decide upon.I don’t want a “benevolent dictator” because benevolent is always a subjective matter. If such a dictator is appointed, him being Daniel or anyone else, I’ll just leave Gentoo definitely, and focus my free time on something different.Sure there are problems, mostly communication problems like Donnie and Steve said, but Gentoo is far from dying, and having a dictator is no good way to solve this problem. What would he do? _Force_ us to write PR communications for big changes? I don’t think anyone can _force_ anybody in Gentoo for the simple reason that nobody is paid for the time he’s employing. If writing documentation and PR is something that a developer wants to do, good, otherwise he’d probably still continue not doing those. And if that means that he’s “fired”, that’s just a lost for Gentoo, surely not for the developer.Remember: we don’t gain anything in Gentoo beside good karma and (somewhat rare) donations. If we don’t like to do something and it’s not necessary, we might as well just decide not to do anything on the project at all. This is why bureaucracy in Gentoo will never work.

  21. Flameeyes,Fair enough. I certainly did not want to phrase things in such a way as to create the appearance that you devs should all just acquiesce to Drobbins because he started the project, perhaps I did just that, and if so, then I apologize.My point about freedom, and perhaps this ties into your comment about the heavy metastructure that was voted down when Drobbins left, is that dev freedom also entails responsibilities, even in the absence of monetary compensation, to the well being of the project.The way it stands now-at least from my reading of things(I may be wrong!)- is that we have lots of devs who work on their own little bits and anything which falls beyond that which impacts these little bits directly is simply not dealt with by the devs.If this is accurate this means that there is an absence of a structure(or what structure exists is impotent to effect change) which is concerned with that which lies beyond these little bits, ie. how does Gentoo deal with poisonous people, how can the work the devs do be coordinated so the devs are working with one another as opposed to on another, etc.Now how does one solve this? I am not sure and I am certainly no expert. It seems to me the devs, rightly, do not want anyone else(non-devs) telling them what or what not to do, yet it also seems as if the devs are not willing to police themselves and to work towards and equitable sharing of the load as regards that which lies beyond their particular areas of focus.I maybe wildly mistaken-but this seems to be a description of the current status quo.One of things about authority, and I use this word instead of dictator, because dictator is by definition unchosen, is that one can *choose* to allow one or more persons to have the authority to make the decisions and take care of those things which the individual devs do not wish to do, or do not have the time, interest or expertise to do.You said yourself that you do not care about these legal things-and this is your right- yet if you are not willing to authorize someone to take care of these things and are not willing to do them yourself they simply will not get done.The way I look at things is that you only have some number of options and none of these options are perfectly ideal yet some are better than others. Yet beyond this particular issue there a number of other issues, IMHO, larger issues which are not being addressed.The current rift between the users and the devs seems to me root of the problem , one manifestation of which, was allowing Gentoo to lapse into legal uncertainty. I sense that if the rift between users and devs could be bridged that people would step forward to help with these issues, and that no one did step forward only shows this rift.GWN did not fail due to devs not doing their job but due to lack of community participation to produce enough material and manpower for GWN. The no show of 2007.1 did not happen because releng failed to do their job but because releng did not engage the community to find creative solutions to the problems they were encountering.Users are screaming “the devs won’t listen to us”, the devs are screaming “we are all alone and not getting anything for the work we are doing”, these are symptoms of breakdown in the sense of community.I really used to love the Gentoo community I contributed countless hundreds of hours to helping people in the forums and contributed some documentation and even a handful of bugs- but when cianarm started stirring up trouble in the forums I stopped contributing-and I am surely not the only one.I want to be able to contribute again, I want to see the sense of community reinvigorated and this is not going to happen if only the legal status issues are resolved or if GWN becomes GMN, and 2008.0 is released.Something needs to happen -and I am not sure what-but something which can recreate some of the community feeling -something which can reduce the feeling of isolation in both camps and the sense that the contributions of both camps are not sufficiently appreciated by the opposite camp.Gentoo needs a spokesperson, not a dictator, some one or some group with sufficient authority to make the uncomfortable decisions and deal with those things which the devs and users cannot or will not deal with. I personally believe Drobbins would be good for this role- but honestly I don’t care if it is him who takes on this role-as it stands Gentoo lacks anyone around which the community rallying call can form and thus the community becomes balkanized, characterized by infighting and mudslinging.The only other option I see is that each of the developers would have to commit themselves to shouldering the load equitably to make sure that those things which are not the subject of their own expertise gets taken care of-and this would impinge on the freedom you enjoy as a developer to not have to concern yourself with stuff like the legal status issues. The status quo is IMHO not working and not an option. If I am totally offbase with my comments here I will refrain from future postings, I do not wish to become a troll.

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