A Parade of Poisons

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months, actually. Maybe years. I’m likely to get quite a bit of stabby glares from all sorts of circles because of this. That doesn’t matter to me, because the truth has to be told.

Yes, people, I’m about to declothe some emperors on this one. As I indicated in the prelude posting, Ciaran is only the latest in a series of jerks As up in arms as people get about him every few months, the truth is that he isn’t what will bring Gentoo down. This will be a bit of a meandering journey through some of the jerks in Gentoo’s history.

A year ago, Ciaran’s “case” was being reviewed by some sort of devrel committee with the aim of deciding what action to take to solve the circus of issues around him. I believe (and someone please correct me, if I’m wrong) what got to devrel’s attention was the fight between Brian (ferringb) and Ciaran. Now, DevRel has never been a particularly liked team within Gentoo. And over the past few years, it has gotten undermined pretty severely (each time, its power to actually do anything decisive has been stripped gradually). A year ago was the last time that that happened, and the truth about Gentoo’s actual power structure became plainer to a few more people.

Someone in infra decided that since Ciaran’s case was up for review, he was going to be removed from Gentoo development soon anyway, so why bother with the waiting for the actual trial and review to revoke his access. Instead, it was deemed smarter to just go ahead and revoke it. Despite many logical arguments being made, emotion won out. Sort of. What infra managed to do was undermine devrel to the point of obsolescence. There’s a jerk in this story, but we’ll come back to him in a minute.

First of all, most people can read about the “golden age of gentoo” in any number of blog posts. Well, it wasn’t all that golden back then, either. There were always upset people, hurt egos, stamped on toes. But things were certainly simpler. Daniel was the buck stopper, period/full-stop. That meant that if you didn’t agree with him, you either swallowed your pride and went on, or you left, or you had an argument and/or threw a hissy fit. Or some weird combination of those things. Anyone from the period can attest to my own numerous hissy fits. Or those of Daniel’s. (We had rock-steady forces in the mix though: Grant (g2boojum), Aron (agriffis), Karl (karltk, who also provided the comedy relief), and Martin (azarah). This was a foursome who just didn’t do hissy fits. They did not get emotional. They were rational, cool, level-headed people. People to be admired and emulated.)

Anyway, Daniel was alpha male. Hey, it was his project to begin with, it made sense. But then every so often, someone would come along and vie for that position. There were episodes of threats, hissy fits, accusations, and even bribes by people who wanted the sweet sweet taste of Gentoo power.

There was the zydiot who tried to bribe his way to the top. His m/o was the following: he gave of his time and brain power to gentoo (I believe his pet term for this was “sweat equity” whatever the hell that actually means. Someone find me a powerpoint presentation about it, stat!). In return, he wanted to be able to make money for his business. How Gentoo owed him that is unclear to me. I guess the privelege of having him work on the tree (presumably on embedded things, though I don’t recall any projects actually having gotten completed) put Gentoo in the position of somehow generating business for his, er, business. Annoyingly, he would send tirades of god-knows-what emails to -core almost nightly. You’d wake up to an email with page after page after page of him going on and on and on about i-dunno-what. After a while of the incessant emails wasting time and space, and his sneaky vying for alpha-dog, I made an executive decision. I did discuss it with Daniel (in the sense that I /msg’d him and told him what I was about to do). I fired him. Yes, people, the credit for firing zach belongs to me. I’ve been hearing Daniel getting that credit (not claiming, just getting) for years now and I’m frankly sick of it. I was proud of that firing, and I think I rightly earned the recognition for it.

For reasons unknown (for which I’m willing to give Daniel the benefit of the doubt), Daniel and Zach started talking again a few months after that and Zach returned. I did issue a protest to Daniel, but like I said earlier: he was the buck-stop. Anyway, Zach was up to the same old bull when he did return. The long and the short of it is that he decided he couldn’t stay without being in control, and surely he (of all people) deserved to be in control of Gentoo. I think he offered to buy a certain percentage of Gentoo Technologies from Daniel at one point, too. He also involved lawyers in the thing, it got pretty tense and ugly. Mercifully, he forked off into that zydiot distro (I forget the name, but it sounded like zydiot), and took a good percentage of Gentoo with him. The poison purged itself, so to speak.

However, there was another poison waiting in the wings! Another one who fancied that his business credentials were more important to running a distro. He went about his power grab in a different and more subtle way (and a not so subtle way, as you’re about to learn). He decided he would “help” out with the infrastructure. And that was his way in. He took control of Gentoo’s infrastructure and formed a team of loyalists around him. Daniel no longer had access to his own stuff without Kurt’s say so (if you guessed klieber in the third paragraph, kudos to you). Kurt created a sub-culture of inherent distrust in Gentoo. The developer base was growing (fast) so in some ways, that was bound to happen anyway. And as far as system administration goes, it’s a sound principle, which is why there was very little protest when that happened.

What followed was a progressive pressuring on Daniel to “open up” the leadership of Gentoo to a managerial committee. Kurt advocated having decisions made by committee rather than just Gentoo. It would be “good for the community” or something. Rac was involved in this pressuring as well (the four of us had a meeting at LWE san francisco about it, which left me livid). Rac is an idealist, so I can forgive him for it — he probably came from a good place, even though his statement that “prominent Japanese businessmen that he knew refused to use Gentoo because it was led by one person instead of a group of people” was basically laughable. What did disturb me was his disappearance, shortly after the foundation’s birth. What he championed for so strongly he achieved. Then left the mess for everyone else to deal with — see below.

Anyway, the management structure led to even more pressure, because Daniel retained his buck-stophood. Can’t have that, can we? Kurt increased pressure: Gentoo was still owned by gentoo technologies, inc, which was owned by Daniel. It had to go to shared ownership. The pressure continued and continued and continued on. Eventually, Daniel caved (and it’s something I’ve had a hard time forgiving him for) and paved the way for the foundation to come into existence. He did what is undeniably the single worst thing he could do for Gentoo. He left it headless. There was no buck-stop. The buck-stop is a stop by committee. Congress, anyone? Need I say more?

And he left Gentoo. At the time, Gentoo was my life. It was like my child. I’d put in many hours of work and effort and emotion and sanity into building up a group of developers into kick-ass teams and keeping up morale amongst them. So, while I knew that the whole rule-by-committee was the beginning of Gentoo’s descent into Debian-hell, I stayed on because I loved Gentoo, and I would be damned if Kurt could do any more damage.

There I’ll say it again more clearly. I stayed on in 2003 to be an opposing force to Kurt on the boards and councils etc.

Back to paragraph 3, then. The truth is that it is INFRA which is the true power base of Gentoo. The council, the trustees, devrel — they’re all at infra’s mercy. Ciaran’s access revocation a year ago was just Kurt exercising his raw power (and playing on the emotional tension surrounding that situation). Since then, however, we actually have an infra team and leadership that inspires trust. Between solar, Mike (king of tacos), Robin (robbat2), Chris (wolf31o2, who’s equally amazing as the releng lead (who’s equally amazing as the GWN editor (who’s equally amazing as the head of PR))), and others, I think infra is in great hands. Once devrel and infra actually do follow policy of retiring kurt for inactivity (3 weeks shy of a year now), the poisonous personality will be gone finally.

I’m really really happy that Kurt’s professional career has been as stellar as it has been, because it has left him little to no time for Gentoo. In truth, he did fuck-all once the foundation came into being. Last I read, he said something to the effect of this (ie the board of trustees thing) being a failed experiment.

No shit, sherlock, where were you when I was saying the same thing in 2003? For what Kurt has done for Gentoo, I have nothing but negative feelings about. He was a poisonous character, but thankfully he went away.

And I’m not blameless either. There were many situations when I would think, “jeez, Daniel, just give me the reins for a month so I can fix this situation” (where “this situation” was whatever crisis we were in, of which there were many). See? Everyone wants to be alpha-dog.

The truth is that a lot of this stuff is in mailing list archives, irc logs (if there are any), and other public statements. I’ve not said anything baseless here, but if something is factually incorrect, please do leave me a comment about it.

And for any bridges that this post has burned: my sincerest apologies — it was going to happen some time, the real wonder is that I’ve managed to hold it in all this time (not counting the small number of people in whom I’ve confided over the years).

There may be a part 3 to this, I’m honestly not sure yet.

Edit: My anger got the best of me, so I removed an inaccurate statement.

Edit2: For the real scoop behind the early removal of access mentioned up there, see Lance’s comment on the matter. I tried not to imply that Kurt was the decision-maker, but the overall tone of this article probably makes that challenging for the reader to properly discern. So, formally, Kurt was not the one who pulled Ciaran’s access, he simply put himself in front of infra as its spokesman and shield (a rather admirable thing to do for your team).

24 thoughts on “A Parade of Poisons”

  1. frankly your post is a bit sicking
    i expect to see/hear about this on
    like history channel or the nightly news
    not a simple linux distro on the web…

  2. Interesting history.

    Tangential question: what do you think about reinstating some sort of single leader? Bringing back the “alpha dog”, who has the buck-stopping power?

    To my knowledge, there’s been zero discussion about this among the developers, but the users are all over the idea on the forums; they believe a dictator-for-life (a la Shuttleworth or vintage Daniel) is the cure to all our ailments — despite the fact that they’re all clueless as to what those ailments are, really.

    Dunno. It seems like we’re past the point where another organizational restructuring would do any good, to say nothing of who the heck most of us could agree on for the position.

    Has Gentoo outgrown the single leader concept? I don’t really know. I only see how it used to be, and this history from you puts that into some better perspective.

  3. Wow.. Umm, Seemant, I hope enough of your readers read the comments as well, because your opinion of Kurt is way off. Waaaay off.. Its late and I need sleep but I will start off by standing up against the point you make where “Ciaran’s access revocation a year ago was just Kurt exercising his raw power”. That is absolutely false. Kurt wasn’t even actively leading infra at the time.. As I recall it, Kurt had very little to do with it. In the whole 2-year Ciaran debacle, Kurt was the one who stood up for him many times, especially when it came to discussions about what role infra played in it (just read the ciaranm bugs). Besides, kicking ciaranm off the team did no good.

    It is true that Daniel has never trusted Kurt.. he has been very open about that. Hell, he didn’t even trust you (or anybody).. However, to say that Kurt was responsible for pressuring Daniel into giving up the rights of Gentoo to the Foundation is ridiculous as well. There was a lot leading up to that, and a certain straw-breaking-the-camels-back managers meeting about an issue between solar and someone else (method maybe?) where Daniel jumped in on a tangent idea of his where everything would be fine if Gentoo had enough resources, and resources could be purchased with money, so open up this foundation-to-be as a paid for membership organization. All hell broke loose at this point and I don’t believe one bit that Kurt was the catalyst behind the demands for a Foundation. Review your manager meeting notes from around march/april of 04.

    Besides, why would Kurt push for a Foundation to provide for his own agenda when a Foundation was designed to protect Gentoo from any given person, interest, or corporation (including Daniel and/or Kurt). Anyway, the NFP list archives from its inception are a good place to start to dispel the FUD found in your post.

    Dude, seriously, I know you have beef with the guy, but publishing this to the world is just a crude injustice to him and the time that he has put into Gentoo. If it were not for his proposals and work with me while I was at IU (and with kveton at the OSL, etc..), Gentoo would not have near the amount of resources that it freely enjoys today. Show a little respect please, I thought you were above this.


  4. Corey,

    I’m willing to be shown the error of my judgements. But kurt’s acquiring of resources for Gentoo don’t negate his obvious hunger for power within the Gentoo structure. As for FUD, there’s no fear that I’m putting in here. There could very well be UD, though.

    I think I’ve shown amply that I do show respect where respect is to be shown. For the positive things Kurt has done, I’ll give him his props. What I’ve said in my post, though, is based on my observations of that time period.

    You don’t have to agree with my observations, of course. As I said, I’m happy for you to show me where I’m wrong, though.

  5. Ok, then let me rephrase that.. s/Show a little respect/cut out all of this disrespect please/g. Seriously.. made me physically sick to read this.

    Let’s take the ciaranm access issue. When ciaranm went apeshit and started pulling things offline there was an infra decision made to temporarily pull his cvs access until devrel could act, on the basis of SECURITY. I think what you are spinning here is that on the mailing lists after the fallout, Kurt was the one who stood up for the decision in public. That does not mean it was because of him or that it was guided by him. I was a part of that discussion and decision, so you can take my word for correction of that error. As for the final closing down of his access, that was done at the request of Devrel, infra was only acting on the request. Had nothing to do with anyone on the infra team.

    Anyway, I’m not participating to say he is perfect, I’m just disgusted at the public display of disrespect. I thought you were one of the guys trying to help get rid of that behavior in this community. Even if 100% of your accusations are true, I don’t see how airing it benefits Gentoo at all.

  6. Hi Corey,

    Sorry to hear you got phyiscally ill from it. I’m not talking about the final closing down of ciaran’s access. In fact, there was no final closing down. The pre-emptive closing down became the final. There was a lot of emotion from you at the time as well about keeping his access closed. However, a case was made from the DevRel side to not close it before it was time.

    And, I’m sorry to disgust you about disrespecting him — I had a feeling you and I would be “facing off” due to my post.

    How Gentoo benefits? A number of ways: it puts Ciaran into a bit of perspective. He’s not the harbinger of doom — that title goes to the culture of disrespect (which you believe I’m perpetuating here — I guess we’ll just disagree on that), and the culture that enables that behaviour. It’s possible you’re inferring from my post that I lay the fate of Gentoo squarely at Kurt’s feet. But that is not so (and I’m happy to publish a correction to that effect, if that really is the common perception of my words). Rather, I was illustrating that poisonous personalities should be handled early.

    The commonality between the three people I’ve mentioned is that they are all “strong” characters — strong in the sense that people feel somewhat railroaded/bulldozed by them. I’ll go so far as to suggest that Daniel fits that description as well.

    My aim with this post was partly cathartic — I’ve had a lot of anger about it. I’m angry at rac for deserting. I’m angry at Kurt for not putting in as much effort into the board as he did in pressuring/championing for its existence. I was angry at someone else in this, but he and I sorted things out a year or more ago.

    The initial push for this post was to illustrate history: that this project will attract its poisonous personalities. Banning Ciaran isn’t the end-game solution, because another will rise to replace him in that role. The question we face is: what do we do when we identify a poisonous personality?

  7. Corey,

    I just wanted to add: I *was* going to call you out on your comments being overly emotional, but I would be a total hypocrite for doing that :/ While yesterday was not especially emotional for me, today’s blog was, because I felt my anger grow. The truth is, one could write a book about Gentoo circa 2003, because there are a lot of facets to that story. I’m certainly questioning the wisdom of my posting an incomplete story. Perhaps you are correct in saying that I should not have posted.

    What’s done is done, though.

  8. Josh,

    I think if we were to have a single leader, we should use the single most leaderlike person we already have: spanky/vapier.

    My suspicion is that it wouldn’t fly. A major restructuring of Gentoo is simply not possible until the number of developers gets drastically reduced (via forks or mass exodus, etc).

    We have a system in place. We’re limping and tripping along with it, and hopefully learning as we do. It’s better to spend the energy to apply what is learned to this system to improve it. That’s my thinking this late at night.

  9. Guys

    I am a fairly new user to Gentoo and although I do not know enough about the past to comment I must say this.

    It does not matter what happened in the past, it is gone its history. What matters to most of the Gentoo user base is the future of Gentoo. Please please please stop this bickering and lets all look to how we can learn from this and move on.

    As I said I am new to all of this and I want Gentoo to be the best distro out there. Not that it isnt already :). But come on guys whats done is done and all over the web people are saying Gentoo is going its falling apart. I will not believe that and you should be putting a stop to all those rumours by continuing the hard work that was started all those years ago and making this work.

    Sorry if I am getting involved in something that is not my beef but you really are not setting a good example by doing this publicly.

    Come on show the world that Gentoo is above all of this and take Larry onwards and upwards.


  10. Rob

    Great to know there are many conscious users (or are you a dev?) who care for Gentoo staff, not for just being great distro.

    Regarding what you’re saying: there’s no way to hide this from the public as we all use public resources even in Gentoo – and you have to use public resources for that; but even more than that, I don’t think it should be hidden as I think open discussions are much better way to resolve issues.

    Seemant, all

    I’m starting to believe that behavioral issues cannot be solved by the very people having those problems. Its like you’re all subjective to the issue, and you only see your side of things. And if not you, then you peers.

    There are many issues that have to be addressed in Gentoo, technical and social, but they are just seem inferior compared to flamewars many think they should have their part in.

    I would second Rob on a call to start rethinking maybe not the technical structure, but a social one; the ethics code and the development process itself, so such non pleasant social scene can be eliminated or at least lowered to a bare minimum (as we all humans).
    I’d rather have project going forward to a greater places than see maillists overloaded with pointless junk.

    If it is not taken seriously, then Gentoo will never recover and only will be mentioned on “based-on” notes on a popular distros to be.

    Call for an action, “or else” so to speak.


  11. Seemant,

    I started using Gentoo in march of 2002. Back then I had an extremely positive experience with Gentoo-the forums, which I joined in June 2002, were an absolute godsend and using Gentoo provided me an excellent opportunity to learn and expand my skills.

    Although I have never contributed code to Gentoo I feel as if i have been a part of the community of Gentoo. My contributions to the forums were for the most part my way of giving back to others what others had given to me.

    I vividly remember the tragedy which took place surrounding the power struggles which led to the formation of the Foundation.

    I remember how people railed against Daniel and at the same time i remember how Daniel had backed himself into an impossible situation-his overzealous commitment to Gentoo led him into his alpha-male position and into the precarious financial situation in which he found himself which was the real precursor for his departure IMHO.

    Daniel failed to distance himself enough from Gentoo to focus on the “really important things” and in so doing pissed off a lot of people(Gentoo always had the magical effect making people feel empowered) and in so doing ended up being totally burned out, which left Gentoo, as you said, headless.

    Whatever enthusiasm I once had regarding Gentoo whithered away over the past 2 years. Although i still like and use Gentoo it has become progressively more alien to me-I have not felt that Gentoo was “mine” for a long time now. The refactoring of ebuilds which have taken place over the last 2 years killed off one major part of my enthusiasm for Gentoo- that i could look at an ebuild, grasp it, change it to suit my needs or craft my own. It has basically become impossible for me to do a simple version bump of an ebuild because the ebuilds have become to a large extent simply an abstraction of horrifficaly complex internested eclasses.

    A lot of the empowerment feeling which Gentoo gave me simply vanished. I have not given up hope yet-but I no longer have any sense of feeling about where Gentoo is headed or whether i will even be able to recognize it whenever it gets there.

    The disjuncture between users and devs is preprogrammed and to be expected. I have no real problem with this. But the attitudes I have seen expressed by so many devs over the years have made it abundantly clear that the vision of user empowerment that Daniel Robbins(and the army of those who worked with him to bring about Gentoo) brought to the world with Gentoo has basically been replaced by a bad replica of old-school style Debianism-and it needs to be said-Gentoo embodied the anti-thesis of (bad) Debianism(that Debian has a whole lot of positives is not debatable).

    Now much of what I attribute to (bad) Debianism is embodied by Ciaran. I vividly remember when he first appeared in the users forums and started pouring bile and vitriol in all directions. My first thought was-how the heck did this jerk ever become a Gentoo developer? The realization that he spoke for Gentoo resulted in 2 things for me:

    a) I was utterly disillusioned regarding the Gentoo developer communtiy. My naieve image of FOSS hero’s selfless empowerment of others for the benefit of the whole was annihilated.

    b) I stopped contributing to the forums. Why should I waste my time and energy contributing when Gentoo is represented by such jerks. Contributing by reading and trying to be helpful in helping people solve problems in Gentoo-my contributions are totally insignificant compared to most of the devs but I invested hundreds of hours in crafting well thought-out and helpful posts.

    To bring this ungodly long post to an end:

    Either Gentoo, as a dev community, will find the fortitude to excise the poisonous persons and re-found itself or Gentoo will simply whither on the vine and die. Nothing is worse than false gratitude. The perfect *is* the enemy of the good-the sooner you (Gentoo devs) recognize this the better. Ignoring poisonous persons, in an attempt to stop feeding the trolls, does not suffice to deal with the problem. How many Gentoo devs have to become burned out and leave the project before you guys really grok this issue? Go ahead and burn bridges-allowing decisions to be made through indecision is the best way to kill the project. Mistakes will be made, accept the consequences and move forward…

    I wish you guys(and gals) the best of luck in dealing with these issues and once I am able again to overcome the feeling of estrangement I hope to contribute again.

    Karl Zollner
    (a.k.a iwbcman)

  12. Wow Seemant … I’m not sure what to say other than you’ve got Kurt completely wrong. I do know however how you can get those feelings about him. When I first joined in ’03 for several months I saw Kurt as trying to take over the distro just like you do. But after getting to know him more, and getting into his position of managing the machines, I started to realize why he had to act the way he did. He truly wanted the best for Gentoo and to keep it like that, he had to have the attitude to keep things progressing in the right way. I’m really surprised you never mentioned my name in this whole post. I guess I kept myself low-key for the most part.

    You know who technically pulled Ciaran’s access? It was me. Yes, it was not Kurt, it was me. I had been talking with someone from devrel and we both were worried that we needed to cover Gentoo’s ass considering the history of those few days with Ciaran. I asked infra internally what they thought, and we mutually agreed that it was for the benefit of Gentoo to safe guard it. Kurt mearly had a vote as a group. I made sure my contact with devrel (which I don’t remember who it was at the time, I believe he’s left since then) that he/they were ok with this. We went ahead and did it then all hell broke loose. Kurt was just the person who decided he’d back what we did.

    Its simply amazing how inaccurate information gets thrown around Gentoo like its some soap opera on ABC. You know what the biggest downfall of Gentoo is? Its mis-communication and ignorance of true facts. Half the stuff you said in your post was inaccurate because it was based on rumors, hear-say, and opinion, not actual facts from the source.

    I’m with Corey in that Kurt was never perfect, but in the end he wanted the best for Gentoo and wanted that power to be given to the devs, not for himself. He only protected the things anally because he wanted to make sure we were secure from people.

    Anyways, I’m really glad that I’ve ignored much of the noise in the last few months. I’ve been able to move on in my real life to pursue more positive things. I’ve been helping infra in the background mostly and giving advice/suggestions to Kingtaco.

    Guess now I get to see you flame me back….

  13. Lance,

    Your post has not sounded like a flame at all to me. In fact, I very much appreciate that you’ve taken the time to write your comment.

    With respect to Kurt, I’m willing to accept that I’ve gotten a few things wrong about him.

    With respect to you: thanks for stepping up and saying so about the access. The only thing I can do is repeat that I think you were wrong to do so in the manner in which you did. A discussion was definitely necessary not with some devrel dude, but someone in devrel authority (kloeri at the time).



    For the most part I agree with you. But in order to carry forward into the future, we need to learn from the past: especially mistakes that we (collectively) have made. Otherwise, we’re doomed to repeat them.

  14. Ugh at the risk of boring you all to death with this (I almost feel like Zach my ownself with these multiple long diatribes. The moment I say something along the lines of gentoo development conforming to the business needs of my company, I fully expect you to pull my access).

    Anyway, the one thing that that ciaran-access-pulling episode led to was an undermining not just of devrel, but of authority within Gentoo. If it had been co-ordinated properly, then everyone would have been in the loop, and nobody would have been surprised. My own argument against it would have been carried out in a private area, rather than all over #gentoo-dev, for example.

    With infra acting as it did, Gentoo turned into the beast whose left hand was doing something that the right hand knew nothing about.

  15. Seemant-

    The decision boiled down to the fact that no one was willing to step up and *do* something. Every right/left hand in the mix was passing the baton around waiting for the other to act on the other. It goes all the way back to being headless after Daniel left. We decided that we’d had enough and was willing to take the heat and try and get something done. Could it have been done better? Yes… but I don’t think it would have changed the end outcome. We weren’t trying to take over Gentoo, merely try and establish that someone was willing to have the balls to do something.

    We all knew that the instant we did this, people would instantly cry “you’re trying to overtake Gentoo! You’re trying to be above everyone else because you have root!”. Sadly, a few infra people did make the root comment during that time and it upset me tremendously. But if you can trust me and believe me, that was not our intention at all. It was to protect Gentoo as I have stated countless times.

    We’ve turned into the beast we didn’t want to be in the first place … Debian. Our dev culture is almost worse than them in some respects. I really can’t see how we’ll ever fix the current state of gentoo. Its gone to the wayside for far too long. Anyways, I have better things to do during my day :-). I hope you can find some peace out of all of this Seemant. I would hate to lose you as a friend over this mess.


  16. Lance, I don’t think you were trying to take over Gentoo with that move. The thing is, devrel *was* doing something about him — they were trying to do things properly, but that took a bit of time. I think things were scheduled for sometime that week, in fact (the trial/hearing thingy).

    And I should add, that I appreciate and understand the reason for your decision (sI didn’t see Ciaran as capable of doing anything to harm gentoo that way — the devmanual removal that happened the previous time: whatever else we might think., that manual was his own work, not Gentoo’s. He never harmed a single bit of gentoo code — not even since he left: he’s actually been very active in trying to fix gentoo code).

    And Lance, that’s the thing: Gentoo turned exactly into Debian. (the no shit sherlock statement in my post alludes to that — part 3, if I do one, will talk exactly about that, actually).

    To be honest, I’m kind of glad I wrote this, as you and I are clearing some air (that I didn’t even know we needed to!). You’re definitely not losing me as a friend. I’ve always been a Rame-fan, and I intend to continue to be πŸ™‚

  17. “Anyway, the one thing that that ciaran-access-pulling episode led to was an undermining not just of devrel, but of authority within Gentoo.”

    There never was such authority, else the whole ciaranm issue 1) would not have dragged on for so long, 2) would not have had the question of authority afterwards that led to the “undermining” you see. You yourself pointed out that Daniel’s biggest mistake is that he did not make that organization and authority clear when he left.

  18. Seemant,
    I like your writing. While I am not a Gentoo’er, it is interesting to hear about the complex inner workings and emotions involved with a large collaborative effort.

    People are strange πŸ™‚


    p.s. finished the Master’s.. w00t!

  19. “I just wanted to add: I *was* going to call you out on your comments being overly emotional, but I would be a total hypocrite for doing that :/”

    heh.. looks like you did anyway πŸ™‚

  20. It’s kind of funny. I was a Gentoo dev throughout and I didn’t even notice half of these events. And when I did, it was normally from the inevitable 100-post gentoo-dev thread the next day. Normally I didn’t even try to decipher those.

    Reading this has made me better appreciate how many non-technical efforts went into maintaining a developer community the size of Gentoo. (Or disrupting it, possibly.)

    My typical reaction to all the ‘management overhead’ used to be like: whose bright idea was it to let devs vote in a council?! I’m here to get lyx packaged for my favourite distribution, not vote for a dev who’ll nominate another dev who’ll vote in council to approve something yet other devs want to do in a part of Gentoo I never even heard about! Taking a vote is like saying I share responsibility for all the different parts of Gentoo, and should study them to determine which candidate would be best. I think that like me the average dev fears any such suggestion of responsibility for someone else’s decisions. (Any similarity to any real Gentoo bodies is purely coincidental. I never tried to learn all those pesky details. Except for getting involved in the herds proposal once.)

    Cheer up, elder statesmen of Gentoo-land! For every politicized and heated thread on the mailing list, ten quiet and unassuming changes to little-known ebuilds slip through the commit log. Enhancing, dare I say it, the GDP, the Gentoo Daily Portage snapshot.

    Maybe I can only say all this because noone interfered with me. This was probably because few other devs would have wanted my job. I’m sure a lot of people would have gone all Ciaran-crazy on me if they’d bothered reading, say, the original kde-meta.eclass πŸ™‚ Even when I tried to encourage other (Gnome) devs to cooperate on inter-desktop stuff the main reaction was disinterest. Well, that’s why I did all that stuff, because noone else was going to.

    I probably wouldn’t be any good at stuff like dispute resolution. And anyway, if I tried, I wouldn’t have time to work on the things I actually wanted to get done.

    So this is a belated thanks to all the people who worked with me on Gentoo, and who work on it now, doing the stuff that has to be done. Who do their work behind the scenes. Out of sight of the silent majority of devs who, like me, are happy to let them stay there until needed.

  21. Poisonous, that’s a nice way of putting it, it’s been months now since i left gentoo, i was hoping things changed for the better, but with the last two posts here, it just doesn’t seem like it did.
    Gentoo was a great distro i enjoyed to use, then helped out with, and finally worked on, things were fine, but then the headlessness started to take it’s toll.
    There was no leadership, noone who said where things are going.
    Gentoo is the CatDog(tm) of linux distributions, in constant struggle with itself, and hardly ever pulling in the same direction.
    Stone me if you wish, i know i’m right, there is a lot of agreement within the individual teams, there is just no Gentoo, no whole full on strong take all, take no prisoners, “let’s have Dell sell us preinstalled because we are the best” force.
    Gentoo hurts itself with not being unified (enough?).
    Gentoo could be like no other, but no, who would want to be taken serious in the coporate world, and i don’t mean “You are nuts, we use gentoo throughout and have 100 employees” type stuff.
    Gentoo allows itself to be looked at as “that big hobbyist” distro, “just not ready for prime time”.
    Which i think is mostly due to the internal struggles that no really big decissions are/can be made.
    Guess what, if the big alpha-dog says “No, we are not interested in being good enough for consideration by large corporations.”, cool, at least there is a decision, not the usual bickering and fighting that goes on on the non public email list.

    And here for a interesting point of view, Ciaranm might have too much arrogance or bad manners to really function well with many, but he has something that is lacking, pride, someone please distil his pride and sprinkle it on every dev, and there wouldn’t be a need for QA teams and tighter rules or what not.
    “But i am proud of what i do!”, hm, are you? Or is it more your pride for the work your team does? Does it bother you when that other team is causing you work “that isn’t necessary”?

    I think there is much room for more pride in anyone’s own work, but more so in making the best source based distro out there.

    To be able to be proud of your distro’s achievements, you require one more thing, the ability to be humble.
    Maybe some other distro did something before you did it, but be humble and say to be able to be the best, we got to have that.
    Ingenuity is great, sure, but be humble enough to look at any idea presented to make your distro the best it can be.

    So what did i say?

    Gentoo needs a strong leadership, not anarchy.
    Gentoo needs more pride, so the quality will be the best among all distros.
    Gentoo needs humility, so pride stays pride and never again turns into arrogance.


    Lookin back at the number of words, that’s about my $24.88)

  22. Morfic,

    Thanks for posting your comment. I can only agree with pretty much everything you said. And, you segued the conversation nicely to part 3 πŸ™‚

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