Grant Goodyear had a pretty good blog post summarizing the current situation from his perspective. I am glad that he is diving in and tackling Foundation issues, and I'm also glad to see that the Gentoo releng team, Donnie Berkholz and others are stepping forward to improve the quality and quantity of communication emanating from the Gentoo project as well as Gentoo community interaction as a whole. Those are all good signs, and I hope they are signs of long-term positive change.
My perspective at this stage is that there is effort being made to address some of the serious issues surrounding Gentoo.
Now, what about my offer? I made my offer to return, primarily to run the Foundation and provide some direction and a more community-oriented angle for the project, and it wasn't accepted, or at the very least not accepted in the time frame I specified. However, now there are people working to address the very concerns that led to my offer in the first place. So I'm quite satisfied with how things are playing out.
I should also mention this - I care about Gentoo, but I did not look forward to returning to the project to clean up various messes. It's just something I felt obligated to do if no one else was going to do it. So I do appreciate those who are doing the work that I would have otherwise been doing myself.
I also realize that many Gentoo users would like me to return to lead the project. I realize that there is a lot of energy out there in the Gentoo user community and a desire for change, for Gentoo to have a rebirth of sorts, and frankly I understand and in many ways share that desire. This isn't a desire for me to be in control - it's just a desire for Gentoo to be more than it is right now.
And now we come to the title of this blog post - what to do? What is the next step?
On one hand, the Gentoo project has recently been held accountable by its user community in a pretty remarkable way. I think this is healthy and commendable. And now, we are seeing that developers on the Gentoo project are making efforts to be more accountable to their user community. I think the proper response to this is to be supportive and encouraging, and yes, even genuinely appreciative of these efforts by the Gentoo project, and encourage this process to continue.
On the other hand, many users are wanting major change, not just little incremental improvements here and there. They're fed up. They want to clean some house, or maybe fork the project. The perspective of this group is that we can do better - way better - than what's been the norm over the last few years. They have basically given up on Gentoo as it currently exists and they are tremendously motivated for some kind of regeneration or even a revolution.
I have thought about this carefully, and this is what I would like to do. Well, first, here's what I don't want to do.
I really don't want to be part of the official Gentoo project if I can avoid it, whether as a developer or in some kind of leadership role. It's not something I would enjoy long-term. Yes, there are things I like about the project but there are still too many things I don't. There are things I could try to fix as a part of the official team but I am not convinced it would be very productive or a place that I would really fit in. In other words, I'm not a big fan of the current culture. However, I support the recent signs of change with Gentoo and hope that they will continue.
I also don't want to fork the project and create a "new" Gentoo, and try to convince everyone to join my project and use my new improved version. The fork option only really appeals to me in a petty and wrong way, so it is clearly not the right thing to do. Too much time would be spent on organizational issues rather than actually improving things technically and from a community perspective, so it would be wrong in a couple of ways. And it would split the community into two rival camps, and it could get ugly at times. Some things could get better, but some other things could get quite a bit worse.
But what I do want to do is to see Gentoo get better. I actually think I can do a lot more by working independently on some technical and community initiatives to benefit the larger Gentoo community.
That will probably involve me importing the Portage tree into a git, mercurial or bazaar repository sometime soon, not for the purposes of forking but for allowing me and others to work on improving Gentoo more easily and independently from the main project. The goal is to improve the technology and improve collaboration in the larger Gentoo community, a vastly under-tapped resource. This is an effort of collaboration, not competition, and one that does not exclude the official Gentoo project either.
I think this will result in much more positive change than a fork. And I'm at peace and comfortable with this direction. I'll share more about these efforts in future posts. Right now, I need to talk with a bunch more people.