How Debian revitalized the "mentors" list



Debian is a project famous for being harsh to newcomers. Learn how Debian changed the culture on the debian-mentors list, and how this doubled traffic and dropped unanswered threads by 90%


Mentorship in free software projects is tricky. In Debian, how can we avoid burnout while generating new, active contributors? How can we get packages reviewed in a reasonable time-frame in an all-volunteer project?

We set a goal of four days maximum latency: the new goal was that any email to the debian-mentors list would be replied-to within four days. Perhaps the reply would be a package review; perhaps it would be an apology for no such review being done.

The result was a more vibrant debian-mentors mailing list: new contributors began to mentor each other. The traffic on the mailing list doubled, and the number of unanswered threads decreased by 90%. This experiment began as a follow-up to a “Debian for Shy People” birds-of-a-feather session at Debconf in 2010.

The discussion will conclude with Q&A to discover how to apply the core principles to your own free software projects.

Speaking experience