Formalities are boring.”

Old Faithful

I’ve been following the discussion around the potential switch from Banshee back to Rhythmbox for Precise, and I really don’t have all that much to add. Though I did come across an interesting post from an upstream Tomboy developer that deserves some wider attention. He argues that “upstreams would be more than happy to do a lot of stuff for Ubuntu if only Ubuntu actually let them know what they wanted in some sort of predictable fashion.”

Ubuntu either doesn’t know how important they’ve become, or they don’t care. Developers in upstream apps know that getting exposure in Ubuntu means an incredible influx of new users, which in turn leads to new bug reporters, which finally means new contributors. It’s well known that each of these groups is an order of magnitude smaller than the last, so making sure the user group is as big as possible is vital for an application. And because upstream knows this, they are willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Ubuntu’s wishes.

He also tells a story about Tomboy nearly being dropped last cycle due to depending on a number of libraries that the desktop team wanted to drop form the CD images. He goes on to suggest that formalizing the procedure around these sorts of things would reduce a lot of confusion and let upstreams know where they stand.

This seems entirely reasonable to me. The Banshee issue aside, it would be great if there was a formal announcement at some set point in the cycle where the targeted development goals for the platform are laid out in one place. If you follow closely this information is already announced, but it is in a trickle of different messages to the devel and desktop lists. The  idea would be to compile this information into one clear widely-publicized announcement. It would be early enough in the cycle that upstreams, derivatives, and other stake holders would have time to react. It would also make clear that any discussion before that point is just that, discussion not  decisions. The existing Feature Definition Freeze would probably make for a nice fit.

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