There’s been an inevitable (retrospectively) culture shift happening in Gentoo over the last few years. Gentoo has been steadily moving towards Debianisation. I know there are people out there who will read that and go “yeah? so what, Debian’s great.” And to you I say, “yes, Debian is great, but it’s not Gentoo. Debian is great because it was able to spawn things like Knoppix and Ubuntu.” Debian is also great because you can pick a CD (stable please) and throw it onto a server (not too new please) and be relatively sure that things will work as expected when you install it. Becoming a Debian developer is not great (from the anectdotes I’ve heard). There’s simply too much bureaucracy, too much of a waiting period, and too much of a niche you have to fill to become one.
Similarly, the dark clouds over gentoo really boil down to how fun it is(n’t) to be a Gentoo developer these days.
Even before Daniel left Gentoo, the culture shift had started. There was a small (and vocal) minority — they always tend to be hugely vocal — that was pushing the line that Daniel had “too much power.” Three years later, nobody seems to have enough power. The buck doesn’t stop, it just keeps getting passed. The council vows this year to make some changes, but honestly, the closest thing to a buck-stop we’ve had in the last few years is SpanKY. He happily lays the smack down and issues finalities. And I’ll tell you this: we need that in developer-land.
Part of the reason for the Seeds throw up (and prior to that, the overlays massacre) is that there is no focus for the project as a whole. We’re a multiheaded snake (where each head thinks the others a nuisance) trying to go in as many different directions. There’s no focal point where projects as a whole can point toward; there are no goals to which we can aim.
Now that the board of trustees is beginning to slim down (from an unhealthy and obese 13 people, to a slimmer 5), I hope that sees more of a change. I hope that the council will be a lot more proactive.
Probably the healthiest thing would be for Gentoo to die and then re-emerge (natch!) from its ashes. By this I mean that the project should get rid of all of its cruft. Start with people: get rid of the people who do not add any value to the project, people who have half-baked ideas with no follow-through and a list of unresolved bugs a mile long. Then, get rid of packages. Everything that has a bug to maintainer-wanted should just go. Then find everything else that isn’t maintained and get it out. Let the overlays handle them.
The ideal model would be to slim gentoo down to just a handful of developers working on the core system (base system, compilers, userlands, some editors, livecds, installers, etc). Get everything else into an overlay. There can be official overlays and unofficial overlays with a defined set of standards that determine what becomes deemed “an official overlay.” Those ones get mentioned in make.conf.example as a source of packages. Then you’d have an X overlay, a gnome overlay, a kde overlay, a java overlay, a clustering overlay, a science overlay, a graphics overlay, etc ad nauseum.
This would be a painful process, and it would create very bad blood between a lot of folks. It would also cleanse Gentoo.
There’s a lot more I could say on the subject, but I’ll let you, dear readers, say some stuff first. Feel free to flame me, insult me, whatever, just please put one constructive thing in your responses, that’s all I ask. I don’t ever censor comments (except for the spam-get-this-rolex type ones), so do what you do.