From my various packaging events I've noticed there's always great attendance and great interest in packaging, but not many people seem to go through the gauntlet of becoming an MOTU, or even much of a packager at all.
I've not done much, but it seems to me that the documentation is getting better, but there are so many tools, cases, rules, exception to the rules, that it's just hard to get through it without some hands on experience. That's why I really believe packaging jams, where someone with experience can guide people is a great way to move packaging forward. The trouble is getting them organized, find volunteers to hold them, scheduling, etc. So what if we could take a level of teaching, such as in a jam, and move it to a self paced online class. In many ways I think packaging lends itself to this.
Take the hands on documentation currently in the Ubuntu wiki. You start out by fixing a contrived bug. You learn some basic layout of where to look for things, make a correction, debuild it, and then generate a debdiff. An online tutorial could walk you through most of that. At the end of the lession you could then upload your debdiff and the web app could tell you how you did. A diff between a known good debdiff and the uploaded one should be easy to handle.
The next case was an upload of a known package. Again, there's nothing in this hands on excise that could not be scripted and allow a potential packager to walk through it, and at the end of the lesson get feedback and suggestions on the work.
What's great about this is that it would a step by step guide. The users could be directed to irc to ask questions, the web app might include a web based irc app in a window. The people in the irc channel would be able to easily know what the user was doing. The app could even let certain users (any MOTU for example) to view the uploaded debdiff in order to provide feedback in real-irc time.
With a structured program there could be several small steps that users perform on their own. After a certain stage they might get a mentor. The reason for delaying the mentor is that you want to make sure the student has put in enough time/effort to convince us that they are going to be a good student and are interested in moving forward.
Mentors could track progress of the students through this web application and review the student's uploaded materials. Once a mentor signed off on each lesson the student could be allowed to progress to the next. Once complete the student should be pretty close to being ready for MOTU status.
Coursework could begin with straight Q&A type material.
- Q. What file would I look for the package description, version number, etc
Then it could work into the more hands on activities in small scale.
Finally it should allow the mentor to assign some bitesize bugs to the student and view progress as the student works on the bug and works through a good debdiff for the bug.