July 3, 2008

1563 words 8 mins read

Unsoung Heroes… the Sponsoring Queue 3

I’m constantly amazed of what people in the Sponsorship Process get done on both sides: patch contributors and sponsors do amazing work to make Ubuntu better.

I talked to Iain Lane who has been doing some awesome work in the last months. He seems to be busy all day and night working on merges.

dholbach What has your sponsoring experience been like up until now?

Laney I have found all of the sponsors I’ve worked with to be really quite helpful. Most of the time if I need some help or a sponsor has a comment on a change I’ve made then I can hop over to #ubuntu-motu and have a quick chat and clear everything up quickly. Everyone is always willing to help when there are problems, and quick to sort things out, and most of all really friendly to newcomers :D

dholbach That sounds excellent! Did you learn a lot in the process of sponsoring? Do you remember the last things you learned?

Laney I have learned so much about the packaging work that we do. A couple of recent examples looking back through my bugmail would be in bug #241441 I asked for sponsorship for an upgrade that we no longer needed to support. Daniel quickly picked up on that one! Slightly differently, when I was trying to merge the Debian changes to the vegastrike package, I was getting some bizarre errors from the compilation. I eventually (with some help on IRC, of course) managed to track this down to an error in our version of the boost library, which I managed to correct by updating our version. This was a difficult problem for me to solve, but I learned a lot about the system in the process!

dholbach Awesome - I’m very happy you’re enjoying the ride. :-)

dholbach Which packages do you mostly look after? Do you follow some kind of strategy when you try to fix bugs and make Ubuntu better?

Laney I don’t really shephard any particular package, but I guess that the one I feel closest to looking after is darcs, a DVCS written in Haskell (great language ;). I’ve spoken with the new Debian maintainer about this, and we’ve almost managed to converge on an identical package, but a bug in Ubuntu’s development tools is slowing us down at the minute. A general strategy when hunting down bugs is to first be able to reproduce/confirm them yourself.

Laney Some bugs will be obviously solvable at this point, and that’s great. You can then go and do the fix and make sure whoever needs to know (Debian or upstream) is kept informed. Otherwise it may be more difficult. Search other bug trackers (again Debian’s and upstream’s are good bets) for the same or similar reports and add any useful information - perhaps this will give you the insight you need to solve the problem yourself - or file new bugs if they aren’t there. You’ll then be notified via email of any progress. If you’re really keen then you can talk to relevant people and offer your help for working with them to make things better. Bug work can often be like detective work - they can be quite slippery - but solving one is very rewarding, and you know that you’ve helped someone get over a problem they were having and made the whole system better in the process!

dholbach Absolutely and in addition to that you get in touch and get to know a lot of people: upstream authors, maintainers in other distros and users

dholbach It just feels great to be part of that community and make the world a better place together.

Laney Oh yes, I’m just getting started on that part but becoming a part of the broader community also comes naturally!

Laney And is one of the big pluses

dholbach Yeah :-)

dholbach Is contributing to Ubuntu hard? If so, what should be easier?

Laney I don’t think it’s very hard if you’re willing to undertake the preparation. The hardest things that I found at the start were the practical things - setting up pbuilder chroots, knowing when to build what and how, generating debdiffs and so on. But these are all things for which information is out there if you know where to look for it, and people on IRC are very willing to help you get started. I hope to see the MOTU school return soon too, that was tremendously useful ;) I do think that, while the MOTU wiki (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MOTU) has a lot of useful content on it for new contributors like me, it’s often hard to find it. We should probably have a look at reorganising this.

dholbach At this point I’d like to plug https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MOTU/GettingStarted because it links to all the important docs like the packaging guide and process documentation etc and #ubuntu-motu because that’s where you find answers and nice people :-)

dholbach Is there a message you would like to go out to the Ubuntu sponsors?

Laney Carry on rocking! You guys have been invaluable to me, and I’d like to thank you all for that. Please keep on reviewing and uploading my patches ;)

dholbach One to new contributors?

Laney Get on IRC, it seriously makes solving all your problems loads easier. Other than that, don’t be afraid to get started! You won’t get everything right (I know I don’t, not even the hallowed MOTUs do all of the time ;), but that’s why we have sponsors to keep us on the right track. Getting started is easy, friendly and fun, and you get to make Ubuntu better for everyone. What more could you want? :D

dholbach Thanks a lot for the great work you do! Keep it up!

Laney You too! :D


Next I talked to Michael Bienia who is doing great in lots of areas - he’s also member of the MOTU Council and right now a bit busy with his studies - still he finds time for doing sponsoring.

dholbach First of all thanks for doing sponsoring! That’s very much appreciated! :-)

dholbach Do you still remember when you first were being sponsored yourself? What did it feel like?

geser Yes, I still remember my first sponsored upload as it was the beginning of my way towards MOTU (as it turned later out). It was really easy and a nice feeling. Till then I just reported occassionally bugs but nearly got the feeling that filing bugs for packages in universe was useless as they nearly everytime got ignored (now I know why it feels like it). I started a last attempt to get attention to a bug on IRC and was guided how to prepare a debdiff and get it sponsored. I didn’t expect that the sponsoring was that easy and also fast. After that I started to work also on other packages. Thanks again to Daniel Chen who did most of the sponsoring for me at that time.

dholbach That sounds great - I guess it was not only rewarding (to be able to fix a package easily) but also you learned a lot, right?

geser Right, I’ve been following the Debian mailing lists some time already, so I did already know some theory about packaging but never found an easy entry point to contribute back to Debian and use that knowledge. After finding out that it that easy in Ubuntu, I started first with easy tasks, like rebuilds for unmet deps and moved on slowly to more complicated tasks.

dholbach Great and we’re happy to have you in the MOTU team today! :-) Where do conversations with people you sponsor happen? Do a lot of patches need discussion?

geser It depends. As I try to get sponsoring request processed fast (at least the ones I find time to do), I check first if the sponsoree can be reached though IRC (#ubuntu-motu) and comment on the bug if not. There isn’t much discussion needed, as most sponsorees seem to work on packages they feel capable to handle.

dholbach Super - so you’re generally happy with the quality of patches and proposed packages?

geser For the sponsoring requests that I find time to look on, that’s true. But as I don’t have currently that much time to do sponsoring like I’d like to (I hope that changes soon again), I did pick the easy ones, so my impression may not be true for all sponsoring requests.

dholbach Ok, that makes sense. What kind of packages do you mostly sponsor? Is there packages you like more than others or is there something contributors could help you with?

geser I don’t have a strong preference. Due to my limited time recently I concentrated mostly for sponsoring my merges/syncs as I still remembered most of changes and it was easy to me to judge if it got merged correctly or if the sync request was correct.

geser I currently concentrate on fixing FTBFS, NBS and unmet deps where the changes are often small (if not only a rebuild).

dholbach Is there a message you would like to go out to new contributors?

geser We need you! Keep on contributing :) If someone is interested in working on those tasks I mentioned, I’m open for offering help and sponsoring.

dholbach Rock and Roll! :-)

dholbach Thanks a lot for your great work.

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