10 years of Debian

By Chris Lamb

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my first contribution to Debian GNU/Linux.

I will not recount the full history here, but my first experience with Debian was a happy accident. I had sent off for a 5-CD set of Red Hat from The Linux Emporium only to discover I lacked the required 12MB of RAM. Annoyed, I reached for the Debian "potato" CD that was included gratis in my order due to it being outdated at the time…

Fast-forwarding a few years, whilst my first contribution was trivial, it was Thomas Bushnell's infectious enthusiasm that led me to contribute more, eventually becoming a Google Summer of Code student under Daniel Baumann, and finally becoming an official Debian Developer in September 2008 with Thomas Viehmann as my Application Manager. (Some things may never change, however as I still struggle with the bug tracker's control@ interface...)

The response I got to my patch always reminds me of the irrational power of providing attibution. I've always liked to tell myself I'm above such vanities but perhaps the truly mature approach would be to accept that ego is part of the human condition and—as a community—take steps to avoid handicapping ourselves by underestimating the value of "trivialities" such as having one's name listed.

I've since been fascinated by the number of maintainers who do not attribute patches in changelogs, especially from newcomers or when the changes are non-trivial — a handful in particular have stung me fairly deeply.

I would certainly concede that it adds nothing technical and can even be distracting, but it seems a reasonable concession that dramatically increases the chance of future efforts or, frankly, is simply a kindly gesture of thanks and good will. Given our level of technical expertise, I fear we regularly suffer from not having sufficient empathy for newcomers or first-time users who lack the context or orientation that we possess.

Anyway, here's to another ten…

Chris Lamb is a freelance software developer and the current Debian Project Leader. You can read other posts by me, see software I have written or read more about me. You can also follow me @lolamby.

Tags: GNU/Linux Hacks

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Monday 19th December 2016

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