Samstag, 11. Oktober 2008

Popular things are often not the right thing to do

No, this has nothing to do with the presidential elections in the US; but yes, it's about politics. To quote from a mail send by dwmw2 to fedora-devel:

I propose that each FESCo member should try to work on at least one
package review per week. Each week at the FESCo meeting, we'll ask
members which reviews they've worked on in the past week.

Nice idea, but for me that sounds like a pre-election promise to lower taxes or like big and rich politicians handling out food in a soup kitchen or a: It will help a few people and gives good press because it's popular, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem at all. In fact it's even worse, because time gets wasted instead of solving the underlying or other problems (that might be bigger or smaller).


Sure, putting pressure on FESCo members to do reviews will force them to face some of the problems in the review process. That might result in some small improvements to the review process that might make things easier in the long term (but for that to really become true we also would need to have the same "should try [...] at least one package review per week" suggestion for members of the Fedora Packaging Committee as well); and of course the review queue gets a tiny fraction shorter due to the reviews that get done. But the time imho would be *way* better spend if some FESCo members would directly work on improving the review process with people that are doing lots of reviews (hello tibbs), because only that will improve the situation in the end (if done properly) and solve the problem (as far as it's possible to solve).

Ideas for making things easier and better are there; they are afaics well known among contributors and the different committees that are responsible. Just nobody is working on them:

* improve rpmlint and other tools to automate more of the checks to less the burden on the reviewer

* make review exchanges easier; maybe even force/guide/direct people a little bit to do exchange reviews (e.g. a little bit like, but not as strict as "if you want to get your packages reviewed you have to review a package from somebody else first")

* look more actively for new sponsors and be less strict when choosing them (like it has been in the past); we all make errors -- it's the ability to learn from them and to fix the errors once they got made

* be less strict with sponsoring people like it was in the early Fedora Extras days in 2005. We can do that now that new packagers don't get access each and every package in CVS

* add one more level between new packagers and sponsors; soon-to be sponsors there could work together with new packagers and keep an closer eye on them; by that they could get work of the real sponsor and show their ability to become a real sponsor sooner or later

* let FESCo and the Fedora Packaging Committee work together to make review and packaging guidelines easier to understand. We have done that two times in the past iirc (once in the days and the last time it iirc mainly was spot's work with some help from mschwendt, scop and some others in the early FESCo days before the FPC existed). I tend to say it's overdue to do it again. Guidelines for corner cases in that process should get moved to special add-on documents or sections that are hidden by default. That will make the main things easier to understand and remember. Otherwise we soon have guidelines that will look like a code of law/statute book that nobody really understands as knows, as they are long and quite hard to read. Maybe splitting the guidelines might make sense as well: a "this is how it works in general" could be the quick ans easy start; a "here is how it works in detail" could serve as reference doc wher you have to look for the details and special treatments when it comes to perl/python/mono/java/...

* there are likely more ideas floating around...

And note, package reviews are just a fraction of the the area that FESCo is responsible for. So in the end instead of wasting time in each FESCo meeting with questions like "which reviews did you work on over the past week" it would imho be way better to ask "what did you do over the past week to make Fedora (the distribution and the project) a better place for contributors and users". That would also help to answer the "whom to vote for in the next election" question a lot.

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