Maintainer Responsibilities and Arrogance

When I was recently combing through new packages in aptitude, I came across a package named svn-workbench. Since I am a fan of Subversion the name got me interested. The package’s short description (“A Workbench for Subversion “) didn’t help much. So I went to the long description, which I will quote here in full:

pysvn-workbench is a workbench for subversion, written in the Python language.

Not very helpful either. So I decided to write a bug report to ask the maintainer to improve the full description to be actually useful. When I looked at the existing bug reports for svn-workbench, I saw that somebody else had already posted this problem as bug 299175.

Please take a moment to read the bug report. The original reporter pointed out clearly what the problem with the current description is. This was backed by another user who also pointed out that the Developer’s Reference recommends to include the upstream home page in the long description.

The maintainer’s response to the long description problem was simply: “send a patch”. Sorry, as a maintainer you can’t require users of your package to do your work, especially not if it’s a fundamental task as this. If you can’t even be bothered to write a short and concise description of your package, how can we assume that the rest of the package is not in the same miserable state? What does a lapidary comment such as this tell our users? In this case the seconds reporter was also Debian developer, but what if a normal user comes across this bug report? Also, why is the submitter expected to write a description of a software he doesn’t even know? If he knew he surely wouldn’t ask what the software does, would he?

Another point is the maintainer’s answer to the request to put the homepage in the description: “no, there’s one file where it belongs: debian/copyright. Adding it to several places is just a maintainance burden.” While I agree that the Developer’s Reference is not the Policy, it should not be lightly ignored. We want to have a consistent system, where users know what to expect. Also, normally there is a reason for the recommendations in the Developer’s Reference. In this case the long description should include the home page address so that users can view more information about the package before installing it. To refuse to include it in the long description for the increased “maintainance[sic!] burden” is just a weak excuse.

Our users have earned a better treatment, doko!

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