Third term

So the results for this year’s council election are out, and it seems like my fellow developers voted me in for the third time. Thank you guys! And thanks for confirming most of the previous concil too.

So just to make it clear, tomorrow I’ll officially ask for comments on a proposal to change the council GLEP so that there won’t be a new opportunity to call off a council based on a practical mistake.

The rest of my TODO list for the week, that seems to be quite cooler than the past one, standing to all the weather forecasts I checked, counts finding a way to fix .la files after removal of stuff like libpopt’s (that break a lot of other .la files). The nice thing is that the complex script that we exected to need before (fixing the VDB for the mtimes and md5sums) is not needed; recent enough Portage versions will be removing the modified .la files anyway so sedding them out after gather will suffice.

Also, I’ll have some more docs to write, will try to do my best to keep you updated on these.

Again, thanks to all the developers for the trust they gave me (and us) again! THANKS! :)

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.

What I think of the manifesto b…s….

NeddySeagoon wrote tonight that it’ll be hard for him to take seriously the people running for council who are not going to write a manifesto with some points he brought up.

I sincerely find this idea totally wrong, and really makes me shiver, as it reminds me tremendously of Groenig’s Bureaucrats in Futurama.

I don’t even want to enter the points themselves, which are anyway totally political issues, while the Gentoo Council is supposed to be a Technical committee.

The point is, why should the Gentoo Council be elected over what developers write just to get elected? Sorry but if I were to trust politicians based on what they promise during the campaign, well, I’d probably be voting the wrong people. Just like I read about all the candidates when I choose who to vote, the choice for the Council shoul happen on the basis of what candidates actually did since they joined Gentoo.

I sincerely think I’m more serious by just speaking my mind repeatedly on the issues at hand, than someone who might not write at all for 11 months of the year and then writes one essay about all the possible issues Gentoo has. I’m not picking on any candidate at all by the way, I didn’t even checked the previous election results myself.

You want to know what I think about various Gentoo issues? Just skim through myblog. You can easily just look for council and find posts I wrote during my first term (two terms ago), like this or this . If you want you can check what I answered for GWN last year and judge if I did keep myself up on that or not (funny, when that issue was released I wasn’t even online, I was in the ICU :/).

If you vote just on the basis of a manifesto, then I’ll be happy not to have your vote. If I’m not elected, that doesn’t matter. If people I don’t like get elected, well I always have the option of retiring and deciding to employ my time somewhere else, no?

But I care about Gentoo, I hold this project dear, and I’ll do everything I can to make it good and better, even if that means NOT being politically correct at all, and even if it involves controversial issues.

How can someone miss a meeting?

dscn0942

Well, shit happens people, and it seems like the extraordinary meeting that was supposedly scheduled yesterday night found Donnie and Wernfried (amne) alone in the channel.

As people seems to either look at this as a sign of the council misbehaviour, or just as an escape route from an hostile council, I’d like to let people know how it is possible at all that this happens.

Let me start saying that yeah this was a bad mistake and that it’s all the council members faults. Although this counts in both Donnie and Wernfried as well as us five missing the meeting. This does not mean, though, that this was done intentionally or that the council doesn’t care.

During March meeting we already seen that it’s sometimes difficult for all of us to remember the exact day of the meeting. Myself, I find it particularly easier to remember an appointment when it happens the same day every month (like my credit’s card bill due the 5th), rather than the same day of the week of the given week every month, which is the schedule that Gentoo Council meetings always had since it was enacted almost three years ago.

For this reason we activated ourselves in two direction: first, the council members exchanged contact information (mostly phone numbers) and second a calendar on Google Calendar was created for us to be able to get reminders of meetings and other stuff like that. Although many people may dislike the choice of using Google – I also dislike it as it doesn’t work with Konqueror – it’s the only easy thing we have available at the moment, so that will be it.

Now back to last week’s meeting: with the long list of topics to discuss, we reached two hours and a half after the meeting started. On the timezone me, Luca, Wernfried and Markus are, that would have been midnight. I think Petteri is even further along the timezone line, so that would be 1 or 2 AM for him. I was quite sleepy already, and I sincerely expected the meeting to end sooner. I took off basically at the time you can read my last line in the log (22:32 < FlameBook+> [reschedule to special I mean]), I got to the bathroom, then came back, checked if somebody called me, I seen Donnie saying I was okay with the reschedule, I didn’t pay much attention, closed the laptop and gone to sleep. Wernfried gone to sleep earlier, Luca I suppose went about at the same time as me. Nobody else from the council but Betelgeuse and Donnie seems to be around in the log.

Did I read summary or log the day after? Sincerely, no. I did think I was there till the end, as we were already late, and I don’t tend to read them usually anyway, I’m there during the meeting why should I read the summary? I usually read the replies but not the summaries themselves; I can tell you that Duncan on -dev made the point of the log being missing, so that I surely read. I didn’t even remember to ask what we had to do for the special meeting, and that’s entirely my fault, I should have asked. But I barely remembered saying I was okay with rescheduling, considering the lateness of the whole thing.

Now of course the problem is that life goes on, and if you don’t do something right away you most likely will never do it. That particular thing to do would have been writing the meeting up in the calendar. I’ve made an habit of writing down appointments, meetings, calls, everything in a calendar, even if it means having many calendars to keep synchronised. But as I said, it was late, and I didn’t really get up to that point that the meeting was already appointed to yesterday. Nobody else added the meeting to the calendar.

This should have been a task for the council of course, but the calender is set up in such a way that anybody can add it and invite other people to it. At any rate, nobody did this, but it’s still the council’s fault for none of the seven members to write it down.

Ordinary meetings are announced by Mike’s mailer, but this didn’t happen this time as it wasn’t an ordinary meeting. There was no traffic on the council alias or on the mailing list reminding us of the meeting. Life goes on, the time of the extraordinary meeting arrives, and Donnie and Wernfried are the only ones to show up.

I received exactly one reminder of the meeting, by Sput (quassel’s author), who sent me a message on Jabber. Unfortunately I’m working on a deadline and I’m working almost all day long – I’m taking time to write this while I have dinner. When I’m working on a deadline I tend to keep IMs on a different desktop, and limit myself to be disturbed by filtered email messages and SMS. Neither arrived so I kept going till late, and then I decided to sleep.

Now of course technically the fault is entirely of the council members. I still argue this does not trigger the rule of the 50% attendance, as we did held a meeting this month anyway, and the date of the new meeting wasn’t agreed upon by all the members at the end of last week’s.

But still, am I the only one who thinks that it sounds tremendously like a last exit to get rid of the council when people point everybody at the rules, asking a new election, without having tried a thing to get the meeting actually happening? It reminds me of somebody watching from a window while someone else gets beaten, and after the fact screaming that police should have been there to save the victim. It’s true that police should have been there, but are you sure you couldn’t have done something about that?

Now that I explained how it is possible that the meeting was missed by almost everybody, let me reiterate that my official position here (and I repeat mine, not the council as a whole, I’m writing as a single developer here), is that the 50% attendance rule does not apply to this case as the meeting wasn’t officially scheduled through a voting process. As some people like to call in governments legislation and other law terms, I’d say there was no meeting of the minds on this meeting at all – sorry, pun almost certainly intended :)

And, Donnie, Wernfried, I’m not blaming you, hope you understand. As I said we all screwed up, and I’m probably to blame extra as I was the one who started the idea of the calendar, and should have at least remembered to ask. I wanted to document the whole happening also because the next council, which will be elected anyway this summer, will know what not to do to make sure that people get in the meeting.

What am I afraid of about the council

I just slept 3 hours, and I should wake up in less than four, but I’m not able to sleep, as I’m thinking more and more about tonight’s council.

I think I owe everybody a public apology about my harsh lines, and in particular to Mike (KingTaco), as I attacked him a bit (although I still don’t like that behaviour and I’ll explain now why).

Even last night, there was little proceeding in what we’re doing, we’ll wait for Stephen to come back with the EAPI=1 documentation (hopefully) and to provide an actual QA project (hopefully); Brian will write the Reply-To documentation this weekend (hopefully), and Infra will document how not to be bitten by SPF before next council (hopefully). The only point we discussed that didn’t result in an hope, is also the one that Mike considered not our business and rather a Trustees issue.

First of all, I want to say I wasn’t trying to deprive of authority the Trustees, at all; I was assuming that the previous Trustees handed the open issues to the new ones, but it seems at least this one was forgotten (even if I asked for this last year in gentoo-core before mailing it directly to Trustees)… I still don’t think it was a difficult decision to take (and this is demonstrated by the Trustees taking a decision about it in a flash), and that’s why I was expecting after an year and a half that either they decided or they weren’t caring (seems like previous Trustees didn’t care).

On the matter of it being council business or not, I still think that if Trustees failed at address the issue, it would still enter in the definition: « The elected Gentoo Council decides on global issues and policies that affect multiple projects in Gentoo. ». This was a global issue, because bad PR would be bad for Gentoo as a whole (as Mike said, we already have lot of it, why adding more?); maybe it didn’t involve so many of the projects; somehow it involved none, as the pages seemed to be unmaintained to start with, which would, in my opinion, leave it up to the highest technical body: the council.
But this is over now, Trustees handled it quickly, and talking with Grant I now know that anything that was submitted previously has to be considered not handed over and thus needs re-submission, unless otherwise stated. (I also hope next Trustees change will be less painful on this matter).

So, returning to the topic of this blog, what am I afraid of about the council? I’m afraid that fellow developers are seeing it more and more like an empty body unable to enact anything, my own words that can be found on the log («let’s start with the easy one» or something to that effect, my memory fails me) can tell you why I brought the icons affair to the council’s attention: it was an easy task to show being enacted, so that we could at least try to do some impression; I know it’s quite vague, but psychologically it couldn’t but do good. Unfortunately, we failed at it.

Why do I have this fear? Well in three months, there was no GLEP presented in front of the council; we listened to a lot of status reports, but that’s hardly something that needs a council to be done; the two matters that were brought to council attentions last month (SPF and Reply-To mangling) are still to be considered not addressed, although they didn’t require any behaviour change (as we decided to accept both things as were provided), the relative documentation is still missing (with more or less reason, of Brian we know the problem – being that rare thing called Real Life – but we know nothing about the status of the SPF documentation from Infra, at least Robin provided on the bug some more information for mutt users, maybe the best course of action would be to find someone else to update the documentation?).

As I said at the end of the meeting, I’m not sure if I still want to be part of this bureaucracy, even if I am here by choice of others, because it’s not driving us anywhere… but I’m not sure I will resign from the position, first because I consider the words of one of the rare Italian politicians I consider worth a vote, who said that things has to be changed from the inside, even if you don’t like the place you has to get into, or it’s a coup; second because I couldn’t see much in the Council GLEP regarding what would happen if a member resigns, I can only see notes about slackers and the boot, yet another thing that has to be extended, mind you.

Maybe, a good course of action would be to ask some more trustees o be present on the Council’s meetings to address the concerns about who’s responsible for what on the spot, although that would bring us to square one if it’s not a legal matter but not even a technical one.. who should take care of that then?

[Rant] Council progresses

I’m not sure if this can be considered totally ethical, as I’m going to write about the way the council acted up to now, without asking to any other member of the council itself; I still think this is just this way, as it’s only my opinion on how things are going. And I don’t think things are going all too well.

Tomorrow there will be the third council meeting for this second council, of which I’m part thanks to the votes of my fellow developers; I’m honoured of being able to have a place in this representation, but I hoped to be able to do something more than what we achieved in the past three months.

The past two meetings were quite dull, we listened to the status reports of Infrastructure (they’re working on Bugzilla, had coped with a few technical difficulties due to the way both MySQL and Bugzilla work), of QA (he’s working on the documentation… slowly), we decided the scheduled of the meetings (postponed one hour compared to the old council), and we talked about two mail problems brought on by other developers on the mailing list.

Of all these topics, the only things we had anything to decide about, or rather to steer someone into taking care of something, were the two mailing problems one being the presence of SPF records for the gentoo.org domain, and the other being the Reply-To mangling not being enabled in gentoo-core mailing list, both of which also only regard developers and not the users (or rather it could have involved users if we were to decide to disable mangling of Reply-To header for all the lists, but that was an unlikely case).

Anyway, the decisions taken about the two issue were to document a simple procmail rule that was told and explained in gentoo-core multiple time in the Developers Handbook, so that people could just decide to mangle Reply-To for themselves, and to update the documentation about the Gentoo SMTP server, so to tell developers they are invited to use it for Gentoo-related mails (even if they have already an ISP’s server available) and to document the behaviour of SPF, and how to avoid being greylisted because of mails sent with @gentoo.org addresses through MTAs that don’t rewrite as needed the sender address (Gmail for instance is fine, as well as most of the authenticated servers, while ISP servers without any login at all are usually bad at this).

Now, you’d think that in one month time, from one council meeting to the other, there’s plenty of time to write at least some blurbs, that can be translated to GuideXML by almost anyone with a clue about that format… and instead both tasks are currently in a waiting state. Now I understand Brian has a lot of things to do and little time, but he offered and I asked him before if he had time to take care of it or wanted someone else to take care of writing the Reply-To thing (I don’t understand the SPF problems enough to write the documentation about that; although I don’t really care of Reply-To myself, as KMail on that is at least a decent mail client, this thing is something I could write).

I brought a couple extra points to attention for tomorrow’s meeting, I hope I’ll be able to discuss, and as some of them requires people with powers I don’t have to be fixed, I hope I’ll be able to find someone ready to help me on proceeding to enact the decisions we’ll take, whatever they’ll be. But I’m afraid we’re not gonna provide much improvement compared to the previous council if we don’t start to enact things ourselves.

Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s

Not sure if such a phrase is used in English, but it’s used in Italy to say that you have to state the things how they actually are, so it’s good for a title to me.

Stefan, I’m not happy myself with the outcome of the problem with Ciaran’s DevManual. To be honest, I would have preferred the problem followed the proper channels for escalating, via the QA project to either devrel or userrel (depending on what you prefer to think the problem of), without a direct intervention of the Council.

But when you say

A 2-minute change you think? Not for Gentoo – In Gentoo everything is more complicated. A quick council decision resulted in putting the page out of action hurting the whole community and now it is on the long queue of things for the infrastructure team to do. Some hope that it will be a matter of days to get it back.

(emphasis is mine), you’re misrepresenting what happened.

Council didn’t decide anything on the matter, although we were considering putting temporarily offline the devmanual till the problem was fixed. The decision to take the host offline was instead taken by Kurt, who acted immediately when he knew of the license issue.

I’m not blaming Kurt here, as he probably acted in the best interests of the project he’s part of (Infrastructure), although better coordination would have probably helped all the developers and users, too.

Again gitarella

So, last night I couldn’t sleep, and I then decided to continue with what I do when I cannot sleep: code. I think this would be one of the last times that I have time to do this tho, but I’d wait the official results to say that.

Now gitarella loads fine repositories in which there are merges (commits with more than one parent), as ruby-hunspell came to be, plus I’ve added the tag display à-la GitWeb, and added an option to rename the title of Gitarella pages.

Other than that, I’ve cleaned up and improved it a bit more, but it’s not ready for a new release yet of course. I hope to implement commitdiff soon and that would be a good start, for once.

On a totally unrelated note, Marius published his two Gentoo/FreeBSD wallpapers (the ones I named a few posts ago) on KDE-Look: Floating and Dark Skies . Marius, I love those wallpapers :)

So soon you’ll be seeing some screenshots of Gentoo/FreeBSD used as a desktop, with Marius wallpapers on the background ;)

Okay now that’s official and I can say it. seems like I’ll be on the new council, which means that my free time is going dooooown the sink.. I hope that at least the two amarok problems (tunepimp and mtp) can be cleared up…