Dev Week -- DEX - how cross-community collaboration works -- nhandler -- Tue, Jul 12th, 2011

   1 [20:01] <nhandler> Hello everyone. My name is Nathan Handler. I am an Ubuntu Developer and a member of the DEX team.
   2 [20:02] <nhandler> I am also spending the summer participating in Google's Summer of Code with Debian, where I am working with Matt Zimmerman and Stefano Zacchiroli on creating some tools for DEX.
   3 [20:03] <nhandler> This session will probably be on the shorter side. So please feel free to ask questions at any time in #ubuntu-classroom-chat. Please be sure to prefix them with QUESTION:
   4 [20:03] <nhandler> The first thing I am sure some of you are wondering is, "What is DEX?".
   5 [20:04] <nhandler> DEX is the Debian dErivatives eXchange. Normally, Debian-based derivatives pull packages from Debian and then merge in changes that they have made.
   6 [20:04] <nhandler> The goal of DEX is to get these changes applied in Debian to make things easier for the derivatives and to allow all of the derivatives to benefit from the changes.
   7 [20:04] <nhandler> The DEX homepage is available at
   8 [20:04] <nhandler> Currently, the only derivative that is actively participating in DEX is Ubuntu.
   9 [20:05] <nhandler> We organized our first project, ancient-patches, several months ago.
  10 [20:06] <nhandler> Details about the project are available here:
  11 [20:07] <nhandler> One issue that we had with that project was that it took too much time to create a new project, and all changes had to be committed to the VCS on alioth (which required membership in the alioth team).
  12 [20:07] <nhandler> That is why I am spending the summer creating a new dashboard and some other tools to make DEX easier to use. You can see what the dashboard currently looks like here:
  13 [20:08] <nhandler> Keep in mind, there are still many bugs and other issues that need to be fixed before the dashboard can be deemed stable.
  14 [20:09] <nhandler> One thing you will notice is that there are now two projects showing up on the dashboard. There is the old ancient-patches project, but there is also a python2.7 project. This python2.7 project is being organized by Allison Randal.
  15 [20:10] <nhandler> There is a brief FAQ available for using the dashboard:
  16 [20:11] <nhandler> It explains how projects can either be created by applying special usertags to a set of bugs in the Debian BTS, or they can be specified in a plain text file by connecting via ssh to
  17 [20:13] <nhandler> The table (while currently not functioning) will eventually support adding and modifying tasks via the web
  18 [20:14] <nhandler> This means that there will be no need for every participant in a DEX project to have membership in the alioth team like there was for ancient-patches
  19 [20:14] <ClassBot> rww asked: Those dashboard graphs look pretty. What did you use to generate them?
  20 [20:15] <nhandler> rww is referring to the graph that is displayed at the bottom of each project to track the number of open tasks versus time. These graphs are currently updated once each day via cron using matplotlib. They still have some issues that need to be sorted out, but they should be functional.
  21 [20:16] <nhandler> Eventually, there will be a second graph on each project page. This graph will be a bar graph that shows the most active people in a DEX project. The idea is to allow new contributors to get instant visual recognition for their contributions
  22 [20:16] <ClassBot> pleia2 asked: So everything is handled through Debian BTS? So other derivatives can participate without DEX specifically having to take into consideration their BTS (launchpad, bugzilla, etc)?
  23 [20:17] <nhandler> Eventually, I might add some support to the dashboard for downstream bug trackers. But for now, the goal of DEX is to get those downstream changes applied in Debian, which will involve a bug getting filed in the BTS.
  24 [20:18] <nhandler> If a derivative has a project whose tasks are downstream bugs, DEX would allow them to do this, but it would not pull in any additional information about those downstream bugs (i.e. status, owner, package, etc)
  25 [20:18] <ClassBot> pleia2 asked: Even though Ubuntu is the only one actively participating, have many other derivatives shown serious interest?
  26 [20:20] <nhandler> I have not seen that many posts from other derivatives on the mailing list. However, the debian derivatives front desk put together a census shortly before DEX started up. They got a fairly nice response: . I have a feeling some of the larger derivatives will get involved in DEX once it gets more stable and organized
  27 [20:21] <nhandler> At this point, some of you are hopefully wondering how you might go about getting involved with DEX.
  28 [20:22] <nhandler> If you are interested in helping out with a project, you could help out with the python2.7 project. We will also soon be starting a large merges project that you might be interested in.
  29 [20:23] <nhandler> Most of these projects will be discussed on the debian-derivatives mailing list (
  30 [20:23] <nhandler> You do not need to be an Ubuntu or Debian developer to help out. For the ancient-patches project, most of the people involved were not Debian Developers.
  31 [20:24] <nhandler> A lot of the work tends to be triage-related. We need to figure out whether the change is needed in Debian, whether it has already been applied, search for and report bugs on the BTS, and talk to the package maintainers to decide on the best approach. While packaging knowledge might help, being an official developer is not needed to perform those tasks.
  32 [20:25] <nhandler> We also would appreciate help testing the dashboard, and any suggestions for tools and other improvements that we could make to make DEX easier to get involved with.
  33 [20:26] <nhandler> Finally, if you are interested in starting a DEX project of your own, either for Ubuntu or another Debian-based derivative, simply send an email to the debian-derivatives mailing list or stop by #debian-derivatives on oftc, and we would be more than glad to help you get started.
  34 [20:26] <nhandler> Any questions at this point?
  35 [20:28] <nhandler> In that case, I'll take a few minutes to go back and talk about why DEX is doing what it does.
  36 [20:28] <nhandler> In the first part of the Ubuntu release cycle, we spend time pulling updates packages from Debian. If we have not modified them in Ubuntu before, we can use tools to automatically do this (sync).
  37 [20:29] <nhandler> If we have made changes, a developer needs to manually update the package (merge).
  38 [20:29] <nhandler> Similer tasks occur in other Debian-based erivatives.
  39 [20:30] <nhandler> If we take some time to get the changes made in Ubuntu back into Debian, it means less work for us, as we get to sync the package in the future.
  40 [20:31] <nhandler> It also means that Debian, and all other Debian-based derivatives get to benefit from our changes. If other derivatives do the same thing, we get to benefit from their changes as well.
  41 [20:31] <nhandler> So everybody benefits from this work, not just Ubuntu or Debian.
  42 [20:31] <nhandler> Any questions on that?
  43 [20:33] <nhandler> Finally, I'll talk a bit about what will be happening with DEX in the future.
  44 [20:34] <nhandler> First, the dashboard, as a GSoC project, should be done in about a month. This means that it will be available for all DEX projects to use.
  45 [20:34] <nhandler> We are also working on ensuring that we have plenty of documentation about how to get involved with DEX and the individual DEX projects. This should make it trivial for people of any skill level to get involved.
  46 [20:35] <nhandler> As you can see on , the python2.7 project is slowly but steadily progressing. That project should finish up soon.
  47 [20:36] <nhandler> Once it is done, we will be starting a large merges project.
  48 [20:37] <nhandler> This project will find the Ubuntu packages that differ the most from their Debian counterparts and attempt to send as many of our changes upstream to Debian as possible.
  49 [20:37] <nhandler> That will probably be the first project to rely entirely on the DEX dashboard.
  50 [20:39] <nhandler> Once that project is underway, I hope to talk to some of the people involved with the census that I linked to earlier about getting some other derivatives involved with DEX. It will be great being able to see a long list of projects that are being worked on.
  51 [20:40] <nhandler> Any questions about any of the future plans?
  52 [20:40] <ClassBot> rww asked: (sorry, I went afk so this is about something from earlier) For people looking to get into DEX, what sort of skillset are you looking for? Programming? Packaging? etc.
  53 [20:41] <nhandler> The specific skills will depend on the project. For the large merges project, packaging knowledge will definitely prove useful. For the ancient-patches project, it was mainly triage work. So anyone able to navigate LP, the BTS, and changelogs was able to help out.
  54 [20:42] <nhandler> However, due to the nature of DEX, most of the tasks are fairly similar and repetitive. That is why we are going to spend a lot of time ensuring that projects are properly documented.
  55 [20:43] <nhandler> This means that you should be able to work on a task, follow the documentation, ask a few questions, and get it sorted out. After doing that a few times, you will probably be able to handle most of the non-special tasks in a project.
  56 [20:44] <nhandler> Finally, before I conclude here, I want to make sure everyone is aware of some links and resources that might prove useful if you choose to get more involved.
  57 [20:45] <nhandler> First, there is #debian-ubuntu and #debian-derivatives on oftc (oftc is the irc network that most of the Debian channels live on). #debian-ubuntu is for the Ubuntu specific DEX stuff, and #debian-derivatives is more about DEX in general.
  58 [20:46] <nhandler> You should be able to ask most of your questions there and get pointed in the right direction.
  59 [20:47] <nhandler> is the main DEX website. is the Ubuntu DEX Team website. They are slightly outdated right now, but still have some useful information.
  60 [20:48] <nhandler> is the current location of the DEX Dashboard. It is still a work in progress, and the URL will probably change once it is stable.
  61 [20:49] <nhandler> is the debian-derivatives mailing list (this is, not That is where the projects will be discussed and announced. It is relatively low-volume, so I would suggest subscribing.
  62 [20:50] <nhandler> Finally, you can always email me or PM me on IRC (the same is true of most members of the DEX team) with any questions/comments you might have.
  63 [20:50] <nhandler> That is all that I have. Does anyone have any last questions?
  64 [20:52] <nhandler> In that case, thank you everyone who attended the session. This concludes my DEX session and the second day of Ubuntu Developer Week. I will stick around until the end of the hour in case anyone thinks of any more questions.

MeetingLogs/devweek1107/DEXCollaboration (last edited 2011-07-13 09:29:29 by dholbach)