[aur-general] TU application.

Peter Lewis pete at muddygoat.org
Thu Sep 9 14:44:38 EDT 2010

Hi folks,

After the recent discussions about the number of TUs, the size of [community] 
etc., I have decided to apply to be a Trusted User myself. Chris Brannon has 
kindly agreed to sponsor me. So, here's my application.


Who am I?

I'm 30 and I live in Birmingham in the UK. I'm a postdoctoral Research Fellow 
at the University of Birmingham, in the School of Computer Science. I also 
teach programming there (Java mainly). When I'm not on the computer, I'm into 
hiking, photography, growing my own veg, making home-brew beer and that sort 
of thing. I have a largely non-technical blog here, in case you're interested: 


What's my experience?

I've been a day-to-day GNU/Linux user since around 1998, when I got hold of a 
SuSE magazine cover CD and installed it on (IIRC) my AMD K6 machine. I used 
SuSE, Debian, *buntu and Gentoo for day to day stuff, before finding Arch 
about two years ago. I also spent a while learning about how Linux systems are 
put together going through the Linux From Scratch book and all that.

I have to say that (and I know this is preaching to the choir but) Arch 
impressed me immediately and still does. When I found it, I had just spent a 
few weeks trying to understand the Debian packaging manual and had given up 
being able to learn how to do what I wanted (which was basically Linux From 
Scratch but with a way to manage updates). I can only describe the transition 
to Arch as feeling like my computer was working for me again, rather than 
against me (or worse, me for it)!

I now use Arch on my laptop for everyday work - mainly scientific simulations 
and writing research papers. I also run another couple of boxes (one mainly 
for gaming, the other runs mythtv) as well as an Arch VPS at Linode, which 
handles my mail, web and other hosting needs.

I was the first person (I think) to use Arch in our department at the 
university, and since then I've helped another half a dozen or so people make 
the switch. We run a "Linux Install Day" each year for the new students, and 
while most of them seem to want Ubuntu (because they've heard of it), I try to 
get hold of the ones that are more interested in understanding what's going on 
and spend a bit of time with them setting up Arch. They are always really 
appreciative and it's cool then watching them demonstrating their uber1337ness 
to the other students. It's actually becoming quite well appreciated as a 
distro in the department as a whole.

Anyway... I do a lot of coding and have mainly used Java, C, C++ and PHP. I've 
also done a bit of Python and Ruby. Unfortunately not much of my code gets 
into open source projects, but I can usually find my way around unfamilar code 
bases pretty well and so have no trouble adding the odd patch here and there 
to fix things and make them work. I think this would be a useful skill when 
packaging things for Arch.

I should point out that I'm in no way a black-belt at Bash, but I can 
certainly put together shell scripts for the things I need, and just tend to 
learn stuff as and when I need it. I aim to learn more of the ninja shell 
scripting stuff through being a TU, to be honest.


Why do I want to be a TU?

Well, you see there are all these really helpful people making Arch so great. 
And I've benefited from all that. So, I figure it's time I contribute 
something back. (Ask not what your distro can do for you, but what you can do 
for your distro... or something.)

It also seems to me that there should be more TUs (without compromising 
quality, of course). I know that statistics aren't everything, but these made 
me stop and think:

Packages in unsupported: 24406
Trusted Users: 22

(There have actually been over 66 new packages in the AUR in the last week.)

Even with the best and most dedicated TUs in the world, and lots of help from 
ordinary users, I don't think that that kind of number of people can keep the 
AUR wheels greased, let alone maintain [community] too. I think it's a credit 
to the current and previous TUs that the AUR is the great thing that it is 
(and let's be honest, it's a big attraction of Arch).

More TUs putting more effort into fewer packages each (preferably that they 
use) must be better than fewer TUs trying to have oversight of lots that they 
don't use much. As Chris rightly pointed out to me, people tend to care more 
about things that they use.

Actually, by being a TU I also hope to learn more about what goes into making 
something like Arch so great, as well as improving my own skills.


So what would I do as a TU?

Well, mainly three things:

1) Maintain popular packages well and reliably.

I currently maintain 7 packages in the AUR, and am interested particularly in 
things relating to science and research (e.g. latex, octave, sage, 
bibliographic management stuff like mendeley and kbib), as well as KDE things 
(I've been building and using KDE since version 1.0). And while I think it's 
ideal when people maintain things that they use themselves, this wouldn't 
restrict me from taking on other packages that I don't use.

See my current packages here:

2) Promote Arch and the TU scheme.

As I said, I think we need more TUs, while maintaining our high standard. I'd 
like to promote the TU scheme and get more skilled Arch users to take on 
maintaining the packages that they use. I think a world where more people 
maintain a small number of packages each in [community] will lead to a bigger 
and higher quality [community] repo. We should advertise, with the aim of 
having many more TUs. This also means that we shouldn't be afraid of voting 
people down if they're not yet ready, and give feedback to help them improve 
and invite them to apply again later. We all benefit from this.

3) Maintain / improve processes and package standards.

I think that standard processes and packages are very important, and can make 
life using Arch a lot easier. It's also important that the processes are 
right, and this means attention to detail. Things like package naming and 
categories fall into this. I think a large part of the job of a TU is to keep 
the AUR clean and clear, and I would spend time helping to achieve this. I 
have in mind that bits of additional functionality, such as to enabling 
deletion requests to be handled through the web interface, perhaps duplicate 
flagging and package renaming would be useful and make the job of a TU easier. 
Over time, I would investigate implementing things like this.

Also on processes, I'm a bit of a geek for democratic stuff, constitutions and 
bye-laws and things. I've worked with a couple of quite large democratic 
organisations on their election and decision-making rules and would be 
interested in helping to keep these working well for the good of Arch and us 
all too. Again, it's important to get the rules right, but in addition to hard 
rules, often establishing good etiquette is just as important (but IMO 
preferably without going down the Ubuntu route of canned responses). I think 
Arch people are good at this kind of thing, but I think it always helps to 
have people who are interested in keeping things fresh.

If there are any questions, I'm very happy to try to answer them.

Cheers, and thanks for reading.


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