Re: Patch committers

From: Selena Deckelmann <selenamarie(at)gmail(dot)com>
To: Emmanuel Cecchet <manu(at)frogthinker(dot)org>
Cc: Bruce Momjian <bruce(at)momjian(dot)us>, Peter Eisentraut <peter_e(at)gmx(dot)net>, Robert Haas <robertmhaas(at)gmail(dot)com>, pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: Patch committers
Date: 2009-11-12 19:07:08
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I'm not addressing the complaints Emmanuel has about patch submission,
but was inspired by what he said. I hesitated to post this to
-hackers, but my hope is that my comments are taken in the spirit of

I've been thinking about the Postgres community and things that
differentiate it from other FOSS projects for a few years. We lack
both a benevolent dictator, or a single-corporate backer... We have an
incredible reputation for technical expertise -- most knowledgeable
FOSS developers fear and are in awe of the quality of code our
community produces. I hear criticism for the way in which our
development community operates, and how we communicate with
"outsiders". But few people are able to offer concrete suggestions on
/how/ we might change, as opposed to the /particular things/ that they
think should change.

So on this point:

On Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 7:30 PM, Emmanuel Cecchet <manu(at)frogthinker(dot)org> wrote:

> The commitfest started to
> address some of the most obvious issues but there is probably much more that
> can be done by looking at what is happening in the other open source
> communities.

Speaking from a cultural, and organizational standpoint:

* Distributed revision control as standard for the project

Using a distributed revision control system, and working from
developer branches which are pulled & pushed directly between
developers is consistently reported to have a positive impact on
solving problems and sharing information. Summer of Code mentors
consistently mention DVCS as having a huge positive impact on
productivity for their students - both because it's easy and cheap for
students to commit to their local repos, and because the merge/pull
tools are intuitive for the mentors and students.

This is how people work and share code "out there". I realize that
Postgres has an established cultural norm of posting patches to the
mailing list, and I'm not suggesting that people stop doing that.

I think more developers should be sharing branches as well. should probably be reorganized to clearly divide
repos between postgresql-core and other projects (contrib, add-ons,

We should also publish more information about how our developers are
sharing code with each other through repos.

* Decision making

Is there a project you'd point to as a model for decision making?
(serious question)

This is a volunteer organization, and as such, we're subject to who
has the expertise + time/energy to devote to the patches and projects.
Going back to what Bruce has said about skill drain -- if more
individuals were able to get their time sponsored to devote to the
technical challenges posed by the patches, then it might be possible
to have more coordinated/streamlined responses and decision making.

My experience in FOSS projects is that Postgres does fairly well on
execution compared to other projects (getting a new release out the
door every year, and now the alphas every couple months), but has some
issues with a couple large, important patches. Part of the problem
there appears to be people being stretched too thin, and inconsistent
communication practices.

More involvement from people really focusing on improving
communication between developers would be helpful to make those issues
easier to work around.

* Volunteers, funding and burnout

It's challenging to keep up with the technical discussions on -hackers
even if you are a very knowledgeable developer. If you're only doing
that on your free time, and say, you have a family? Most of the
developers that I know in other projects in leadership/commit manager
roles don't have young children, and very few are women.

So, another thing that we could use are more people like Bruce that
can devote a great deal of *work* time to thinking about and acting on
the issues around community management and recruitment. Robert Haas'
time spent on commitfest, for example, if sponsored by a foundation
would be very helpful. Maybe he could have bought a new dishwasher. :)

Also, we could use an individual dedicated to raising funds and
consistently executing on distributing the money out for non-code
"infrastructure" projects. Like:

* release management,
* marketing,
* dedicated public relations (driving things like new software release
articles, organizing interviews with press, and getting new case
studies written), and
* keeping track of our relationships with other organizations (Summer
of Code, conferences, commercial forks).

A lot of this work falls on Josh Berkus to coordinate. There are many
more tasks, and some are delegated to others & coordinated on
-advocacy. Again, this is work that could be funded through a
foundation, or as part of positions in particular companies.

IMO, it's about providing incentives that encourage people to use
their time wisely, and to help prevent burnout on the difficult tasks
around people management. And to say definitively that the people
tasks require organization and management, and we as a development
community value that.


-- - me - work

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