09 December, 2012

Interview with Tobias at FOSS.in 2012

At FOSS.in 2012, Bengaluru, I interviewed Tobias (of GNOME) and Muthu. Hope you find some useful information.

Interview with Tobias 

Tobias gave talks on "Triaging Bug Reports in GNOME" and GNOME 3.6 talk.

GNOME Bug Triaging Talk by Tobias

First part of interview I tried to find out Tobias's role/relationship with GNOME. I was under impression that since he is core member of GNOME Bugsquad team, he would be a full time employee at GNOME. I was curious to know how many such full times employees work for GNOME and how GNOME financially supports them.
Second part of interview focuses on bug reports and contributing to GNOME development.

Part I: Business/Financial Model

Q. Vijay: Who uses GNOME? (Background: GNOME consists of many interesting projects that could be used for variety of purposes)
A. Tobias: Linux distributions use GNOME projects (as packages), but not all projects are used by the distributions. A particular distribution (like Ubuntu) may have their own replacement project for a GNOME project.
For gnomy distribution would be Fedora.

Q. Vijay:  How does GNOME earn money, specifically how does it pay salaries of full times employees like you?
A. Tobias: I am not a full time employee of GNOME, I am a student. GNOME has may be couple of few time staff and does not have a significant revenue stream. Most of people (bug squad team, project developers/maintainers etc.) are employed by companies like RedHat etc.

Q. Vijay: In India although people (students, software developers working at various IT companies) are enthusiastic about contributing to a free software project, they soon give up, as their day jobs sucks out all the time (thanks notorious traffic) and energy. So wouldn't it be nice if someone pays them to work on free software project and to attend conferences like FOSS.in?
A. Tobias: Yes, they would work at Linux friendly companies like Redhat. They have office in Pune.

Q. Vijay: What if someone sets a small company or forms a group of engineers fresh out of colleges who might not easily get a jobs this year (see news) and guide them to work on free software projects? Would that work?
A. Tobias: How much would it cost to hire such engineer, fresh out of college?
A. Vijay: At least Rs. 20,000 a month i.e. 300 Euros a month for work that involve simple bug triaging etc. (not software developers).

A. Tobias: Who will pay for this salary?
A. Vijay: Initially someone who has some spare money and is passionate about free software and has benefited from it could sponsor such initiative. Of course, later a revenue stream should be identified to continue support the work. Individual contributors (however small in number) in India would continue to contribute, but with this approach we remove some obstacles that prevent young engineers to contribute to free software projects. Since they work as a group (preferably in same office), knowledge sharing etc. would be quick and effective.

Part II: Contributing to GNOME

Second part of interview we discussed how anyone interested in GNOME technology and applications could become individual contributor and help this free software project go forward maintaining good quality.

Q. Vijay:  You mentioned that there are about 25 thousand bugs (with status = UNCONFIRMED) on the GNOME bugs database. You also mentioned that bug reports on only latest 2 GNOME releases are accepted (any release before it is not supported), so my question is should we try to see if those old bug reports are still re-producible on latest 2 GNOME releases. Many of them would not be and that way we could close them.

A. Tobias: Yes this is a good idea. Scenarios for old bug reports should be carried out on new GNOME releases and if they are OK, bug reports could be closed as OBSOLETE, reducing no. of counts of old bug reports. Otherwise they should be opened as NEW on the latest release.

Q. Vijay: You said no. of new bugs reported per week in GNOME bugzilla is going down (current no. is 500). That is because some users now report a bug in distribution's bugzilla (like https://launchpad.net/ubuntu). How does co-ordination work?
A. Tobias: This is bit challenging to manage. Someone looking at distribution's bugzilla has to do a search in GNOME bugzilla and check if the issue is already reported there, and if yes put a link to the bug report. Then check again if it is fixed and then change the status of in the distribution's bugzilla. As you can see, this involves lots of work and needs a better idea.

Q. Vijay: For bug reports we maintain a fun statistics about 'Top Opener' and 'Top closer' based on no. of bug reports opened or closed by a person. How come there are some common names in the list that you showed. Does developer closes a bug report after he applied a patch to fix it?
A. Tobias: Usually developers just fix the bug with some patch and but they do not close the bug report. Bug is usually closed by person who originally changed its status from UNCONFIRMED to NEW gets to close the bug report and chance to become 'Top Closer'.

Q. Vijay: When does a project become part of GNOME? Is Inkscape part of GNOME? How about LibreOffice?
A. Tobias: Inkscape uses GNOME projects like libxml and hence a GNOME application. What does it even mean for a project to be part of GNOME? It is bit a gray area. But usually it becomes gradually clear if a project should be part of GNOME.

Rest of the interview, we talked about how having a good IDE is important for attracting new applications in GNOME and Linux distributions.

Interview with Muthu
Muthu has been hacking on LibreOffice and told me lots of interesting stuff. Stay tuned to this blog ...