Playing Nicely and Benefitting without Belonging

May 17th, 2008

Awhile back I wrote about how I don't think software development is a team sport. True, there are many different roles in a complete software project, from designers, to DBAs, to programmers, to qa and usability testers, but their processes are not mutually dependent and can occur independently of one another. That's really the point I was making.

Russell Coker wrote an interesting post about the subject of software development teams, arguing that software development is a team sport. I really liked how he mentioned that the success of software can sometimes depend upon how well a developer can work with others.

With that in mind, I've just posted a few messages to the punbb and fluxbb forums, letting them know that I've forked and rebuilt their codebase into a new project called phunkybb. While I'd usually be prone to just let them find out on their own, it felt good to communicate. Hopefully I won't get bashed!

When thinking about this post, I remembered another post by Russell about the waiting times some Debian members have to wait before their membership is activated. He opined that there is plenty to do in the meantime that would benefit Debian without requiring the capabilities that their membership offer, so waiting isn't a big deal.

I agree. And I have to say the idea of fulfilling all the requirements needed to become a debian developer gives me the willies. I respect that those requirements are needed to make such a large, diverse and disparate volunteer organization work well, its just that I know myself, and I know I don't have the patience or attention span to follow through on fulfilling the requirements. That being said, I highly doubt I will ever try to become a debian member, besides, why would I want to be a member of a group that would have me as a member?

My ambivalence towards membership doesn't mean I don't want to "further the cause" by helping to advance debian. I actually do want to help out a lot. What do I do to help debian? I write extensively about it, tell my friends and family about it, help people use debian, link to the debian web page, test out and review the software included in their distribution, setup my own debian style repository, and also write software which is compatible with the debian social contract, even software which is specifically targeted (at least for now) at debian systems. I hope these efforts eventually find a way to benefit debian, as its a really good thing TM.

In light of the friction between debian and upstream developers that occurs from time to time, I've been thinking about how to help that, and I feel it really has to do with the community at large. From bug reports to peer reviews, its important that distributions stay "open" even if their membership requirements are high. I guess that's one thing I would change about the debian organization if anything at all - making a new type of community member which has no privileges, but can easily provide feedback in a variety of ways that they can control. That's something needed for Ubuntu as well. Launchpad is nice, but too "canonical". :)

To sum it up with a general note - you don't have to be an elected official or government worker to benefit your society.


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