Debian Lessons

I've stumbled over Lars Wirzenius' article Debian Lessons (Subtitle: Project management lessons from the Debian project) today. The article is from 2000 (updated 2004), but is still very, very relevant nowadays. Here's the table of contents (reading this alone would already help many projects out there, I think):

  • Make sure things scale up.
  • Make sure the foundation is good.
  • Document important things.
  • Automate repetitive tasks when possible.
  • Avoid single points of failure, especially for volunteers.
  • Do not worry about time tables; keep goals realistic.
  • Make it easy to work independently.
  • Do not overload developers.
  • Be open and keep things public.
  • Make it easy to contribute.
  • Some barrier to entry may be necessary for quality and security.
  • Have leadership.
  • Conflicts are natural, but mustn't get out of hand.
  • Use a bug tracking system.
  • Real world politics matter.
  • Controversial issues will result in a flame war and often will never really end.
  • Compensation helps keep people motivated.
  • Never, ever, write a program to mail Debian developers automatically. Always make automatic mails opt-in.
  • Don't make assumptions about people's background.

Make sure to read the whole article. This compilation of tips should prove useful for many community-driven Free Software project out there.

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