Like each year, the Debian Secretary announced a call for nominations for the post of Debian Project Leader (commonly known as DPL) in early March. Soon 5 candidates shared their nomination. One of the DPL candidates backed out due to personal reasons and we had four candidates as can be seen in the Nomination section of the Vote page.
Sam Hartman, the new Debian Project Leader
While I will not go much into details as Sam already outlined his position on his platform, it is good to see that most Debian developers recognize that it’s no longer just the technical excellence which need to be looked at. I do hope he is able to create more teams which would leave some more time in DPL’s hands and less stress going forward.
As he has shared, he would be looking into also helping the other DPL candidates, all of which presented initiatives to make Debian better.
Apart from this, there had been some excellent suggestions, for example modernizing debian-installer, making lists.debian.org have a Mailman 3 instance, modernizing Debian packaging and many more.
While probably a year is too short a time for any of the deliverables that Debian people are thinking, some sort of push or start should enable Debian to reach greater heights than today.
A brief history of DPL elections
In the beginning, Debian was similar to many distributions which have a BDFL, although from the very start Debian had a sort of rolling leadership. While I wouldn’t go through the whole history, from October 1998 there was an idea germinated to have a Debian Constitution.
After quite a bit of discussion between Debian users, contributors, developers etc. Debian 1.0 Constitution was released on December 2nd, 1998. One of the big changes was that it formalised the selection of Debian Project Leader via elections.
From 1998 till 2019 13 Debian project leaders have been elected till date with Sam Hartman being the latest (2019).
Before Sam, Chris Lamb was DPL in 2017 and again stood up for re-election in 2018. One of the biggest changes in Chris’s tenure was having more impetus to outreach than ever before. This made it possible to have many more mini-debconfs all around the world and thus increasing more number of Debian users and potential Debian Developers.
Duties and Responsibilities of the Debian Project Leader
Debian Project Leader (DPL) is a non-monetary position which means that the DPL doesn’t get a salary or any monetary benefits in the traditional sense but it’s a prestigious position.
Curious what what a DPL does? Here are some of the duties, responsibilities, prestige and perks associated with this position.
As the DPL is the public face of the project, she/he is supposed to travel to many places in the world to share about Debian. While the travel may be a perk, it is and could be discounted by being not paid for the time spent articulating Debian’s position in various free software and other communities. Also travel, language, politics of free software are also some of the stress points that any DPL would have to go through.
A DPL is expected to have excellent verbal and non-verbal communication skills as she/he is the expected to share Debian’s vision of computing to technical and non-technical people. As she/he is also expected to weigh in many a sensitive matter, the Project Leader has to make choices about which communications should be made public and which should be private.
Quite a bit of the time the Debian Project Leader has to look into the finances along with the Secretary and take a call at various initiatives mooted by the larger community. The Project Leader has to ask and then make informed decisions on the same.
One of the important tasks of the DPL is to delegate different tasks to suitable people. Some sensitive delegations include ftp-master, ftp-assistant, list-managers, debian-mirror, debian-infrastructure and so on.
Last but not the least, just like any other election, the people who contest for DPL have a platform where they share their ideas about where they would like to see the Debian project heading and how they would go about doing it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I would suggest to read Lucas Nussbaum’s mail in which he outlines some more responsibilities as a Debian Project Leader.
In the end…
I wish Sam Hartman all the luck. I look forward to see how Debian grows under his leadership.
I also hope that you learned a few non-technical thing around Debian. If you are an ardent Debian user, stuff like this make you feel more involved with Debian project. What do you say?