A few days ago, during DebCamp9, someone NMU'ed belpic to close #525593, a 'failed to build from source' bug that was filed against it on april 25th, 2009.

Since such bugs (for good reason) are deemed release critical, my package was facing the prospect of being thrown out of testing, and this person (who shall rename nameless in this blog post, since it is not about fingerpointing; but if you must, check the bugreport to find out who) did an upload to prevent that from happening.

In and of itself, this is a good thing. I don't like it when my packages have bugs, and generally try to keep the number as low as possible. There used to be a time when my maintainer bug listing had zero open bugs for most of the time, and though I long ago gave up trying to keep it that way, it is still a goal I would like to reach at some undefined point in the future. Yet, with this particular upload, I was quite unhappy, even going so far as to cancel it, preventing it from going into the archive; and when, over lunch, I discussed the situation with Adeodato Simó, he seemed to feel that I improperly blocked this upload; that I instead should have allowed it to proceed. I felt as if he was almost hostile to my notion that the uploader should have coordinated more with me than had happened. I tried to explain why I felt the uploader had done something wrong, but I do not think I convinced him.

After having thought about it for a few days now, I still don't feel I was wrong in my actions; and I don't like the idea of possibly being a bad maintainer. So here's my position on the whole thing:

First of all, the bug was indeed open for a long time. The reason is that I didn't have much spare time in May to look at it. I also had no clue as to what the problem was, which makes it kinda hard to fix it. I did have some spare time in June, but since Belgian citizens have to file their tax reports in that month, and since you may need the software in these packages to be able to do so, I did not think it was proper to indeed do an upload before the deadline of June 30th; I did not want to have to scramble to fix a botched upload at exactly the wrong time.

On the 11th of this month, a patch was sent to the bugreport that would fix it. This was the weekend before I would leave for DebCamp/DebConf, so I postponed working on it until I would arrive here in Cáceres.

Secondly, what I'm most upset about is the fact that the upload wasn't tested. It couldn't have been; the only way you can test this package is by using a smartcard reader and a Belgian ID card; since the uploader does not have the Belgian nationality, I doubt he has such a card. I don't personally do an NMU that often; but when I do, I consider it my duty to perform extensive testing, even more so than with my own packages. In this particular case, doing such tests is quite important, as I've had issues with the software in the past, where new builds wouldn't work properly for reasons that I haven't fully been able to pin down.

Of course the uploader couldn't know all that, but this is exactly why he should have talked to me before doing the upload. Of course, in theory, I could have documented all my knowledge about the package; but in practice, it's pretty hard to do that well (i.e., many of the things I know about my packages involve 'feeling', 'instinct', and 'experience', which does not easily translate to 'words').

For clarity: I'm not upset about the fact that I've been NMU'ed. That's happened in the past, even for this particular package, and that's been perfectly fine. What I am unhappy about, is that the NMU happened to DELAYED/1 (which gives me very little time to intervene) and that it happened without prior coordination with me.

So, was I really wrong in preventing the upload?

note: since the new upstream release that was available was eventually uploaded to experimental rather than unstable, I just uploaded 2.6.0-7 which also fixes the bug in question.