Getting the news out

After my previous post about manifestos I’ve had a short conversation with Neddy about the need to know more about the candidates when you come to vote.

I agree at the moment there isn’t much material to go by to judge candidates from. Last year we had a GWN edition in which the candidates there interviewed on a few questions. Unfortunately I’m afraid there is not enough time for a similar GMN edition this time, for two main reasons: 1) the election is not in the scheduled timeframe; and 2) the time was shortened to two plus two weeks instead of the old one plus one month.

What I’m going to write about now is some ideas I had in the last two days about improving the situation, looking at next year’s election, rather than this year, that is done as it is already. It’s not something that I started thinking just two days ago though, I discussed about similar issues with Araujo before, when I mistakenly thought his project was abandoned, and it was discussed before too, as users thought Gentoo was dying because we failed to put out news on what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s a recurring problem.

The first problem is that there are too many “silent” developers in the project. I tend to write a lot on the blog, not only about my personal stuff, but also about Gentoo work, ideas and development (which is what appears on Planet Gentoo). When I’m doing something, it’s likely that both other developers and users following the Planet will know about it and its details. Almost always better than those who only follows the mailing list, as I admittedly fail when it comes to write status reports on the mailing lists (I’ll return to that later).

While I’m criticised for writing about details, and alleged to do that just to make small things appear like a big deal (which is never my intention, I just think people should know about details too, I don’t usually minimise others’ results, and if the others don’t write about what they do it cannot be my fault), I think other developers should try to follow this path by writing more about what they are doing in their roles.

I suppose I could try to make a bot follow Planet Gentoo and create some statistics of who blogs there and how much.

But this is far from being the only solution we have. Although the idea of doing regular Status Reports by various teams seems not to get going too much (we tried that before, but after a couple of iterations people tend to forget about it entirely), there is a different approach that I don’t think we tried yet. It requires more workforce, although non-developers are perfect to deal with this. Instead of waiting for teams to provide their Status Reports, query them repeatedly at a given time so to know what they have been doing.

Instead of looking at FreeBSD Foundation, like William seems to want, I’d say we look at the FreeBSD Project, and in particular at their Quarterly Status Report, which summarises the most important things that are going on in their project. If you want the minutiae, instead, you can refer to Planet FreeBSD where developers seems to write a lot about their internals.

Another possible approach is the one taken by the KDE project, with their KDE Commit Digest (I would have linked to it but they are in the middle of a move). We could have users looking at the commits happening in a given week, and put out a summary of the notable changes. With notable I mean version bumps for new major versions that the user might be interested in, new USE flags that allow doing stuff that wasn’t possible before, long-awaited fixes, and obviously changes in frameworks like Portage, Layman, Catalyst, and so on.

Looking again at all the BSD-based projects at once, now, you can also note that bsdtalk has quite some issues out there, with interviews to a wide range of developers. Although LinuxCrazy covered Gentoo in the last few issues interviewing Donnie, Neddy and Mike, we can’t really compare the two at the moment, can we? Kudos to David for the effort up to now though.

And returning on something I wrote about recently, Ohloh’s journals can be useful for keeping in touch with users, too. As far as I can see right now I’m the only one using them for the Gentoo project, but it would be nice if more people said what they are working on sometimes, just to let it be known, even if they don’t want to write a full blown blog about that.

This entry is getting longer than I expect actually, so I’ll probably cut short now, and wait for people to comment on this, I really would like to know opinions of developers and users on the issue and on my proposals.

Later, or tomorrow, I’ll write more specifically on how to improve the knowledge available to make a decision on council elections.