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Wednesday, 18 March 2020 08:23

Two men, one woman in race for Debian project leader's post

Two men, one woman in race for Debian project leader's post Pixabay

Three developers — two male, one female — have thrown their hats into the ring for the post of Debian project leader for 2020-21, with the poll set to be held online from 5 April to 18 April.

The trio — Jonathan Carter, Sruthi Chandran and Brian Gupta — have all announced the platforms on which they will run and have time to campaign until 4 April. The new project leader's term will begin on 21 April.

Carter, 38, who did not specify how long he has been a developer, has cited four points in his platform: continuing to do what the project does well, making Debian attractive to contributors, reducing the bottlenecks that affect contributors and improving the project's housekeeping.

Among the things that Debian does well, Carter has listed technical excellence, the promotion of free software, packaging of software, new released and updating the stable distribution. Debian has three lines of development: stable (the last release, which gets security updates), testing (more recent software comes into this branch after spending some time in the third branch, unstable), and unstable which, as the name implies is just that, receives all the latest software and often breaks.

Carter indicated that Debian could do better to publicise itself, saying that better visibility could be brought to work that was being done within the project. He said getting more feedback would ease up issues that contributors faced and opined that there should be better visibility and transparency about funds received and how they were spent.

"I'm running for DPL because I think Debian is worth protecting and worth working for making it an enjoyable and productive environment, I think in some ways we ended up in survival mode and we need to evolve past that and allow the project to thrive," he said in his nomination email.

Chandran, 32, has been a developer since May 2019 and a maintainer since 2016. A librarian before she was introduced to free software in 2015, she is now part of the Ruby, JavaScript and Golang teams in the project.

She said the main reason for running was her concern over the skewed gender ratios within free software projects.

"This DPL candidature is also in fact one small step towards that. How many times did we have a non-male candidate for DPL? My primary goal of contesting for DPL is to bring the diversity issues to the mainstream," she said in her platform.

"I am aware that Debian is doing things to increase diversity within Debian, but as we can see, it is not sufficient. A good amount of money is also spent, but are we getting quality diverse contributors? We need to find answers. We need to find out better and effective ways."

Chandran said one method she rated as effective to encourage diverse people to contribute was to have more visibility for diversity already within the community.

"I would encourage more women (both cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people who are already part of the project to be more visible instead of staying hidden in some part of the project (like I was doing until recently)," she added.

Gupta, a Debian member for about seven years, said he had a single goal in sight: the creation of Debian foundations in the US and the EU, adding that the rationale was to enable Debian to move faster on financial, legal and trademark issues.

He pointed out that while Software in the Public Interest had been an organisation through which Debian could work in the past, the extent to which Debian was the focus of SPI had grown less over the years. Hence, the need for foundations of the sort he had proposed, Gupta said.

"When establishing these foundations, I would start with Debian US, as I am based in the US (New York City)," he said. "The Foundation's board would be elected by the Debian Project Members, and the DPL would automatically be a full member of the Foundation's board. (Initially a temporary board may be assembled by DPL to bootstrap.) Board members must be Debian Project Members but otherwise should have no geographic restrictions.

"Once the Foundation is operational, an early goal would be for the Foundation to hire a part-time administrator (20 hours per week) who would take direction from the DPL and the board and would be available to assist the DPL, and Debian's various bureaucratic teams, including but not limited to DPL-helpers, Treasurer, and Trademark."

The current leader, Sam Hartman, told iTWire recently that he had decided not to run for a second term right now.

The results of the 2020 election are likely to be known on 19 April. The Debian GNU/Linux project produces what is arguably the best community Linux distribution since its founding in 1993. It has been the foundation for many other distributions, with the most widely used distribution, Ubuntu, being among those based on it.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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