gentoo's growth

DistroWatch has yet another “the sky is falling” post about Gentoo, and, going against habit, I’m going to comment on the situation in general.

I see a panicked argument on the threads every now and then that Gentoo is dying because of a lack of manpower.

Well, I’ll concede that as a distribution, we can use more volunteers. On the flip side, try to name one open source project that couldn’t benefit from more contributors. So in that case, we are no different.

One simple thing that I’ve realized lately is that the whole “foo is dying” argument rests on one arbitrary assumption: that a project has some standard of manpower that it needs to meet, and if it isn’t, it’s falling short. With that principle in mind, I don’t think Gentoo has ever been “dying”. It’s always been either growing or shrinking in strength, but dying implies that it’s not meeting up to its designated standard. The thing is, there is no standard.

Once upon a time Gentoo would have been just a brainchild idea by one person (Hi, Daniel), and grown from there. Was Gentoo equally dying when it lost maybe one developer among the five that were working on it? My question is basically this — where is the peak that we should constantly be comparing ourselves to? Is every record for growth our new standard? If you manage to get a 42 inch waist and gradually lose 10 inches, does that mean you’re dying? Sure, you can’t meet your same capacity as in the past, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to up and disappear.

The nature of any project — software, community, corporate, whatever — is that people come and go. People get burned out, want to move on, do something else. I would never be happy working on the first job I ever got, and by the same token, I don’t see myself working on Gentoo forever for the rest of my life.

Experience on my part has shown that while a group of users may unitedly cry the mantra whine that Gentoo is dying, individually, the reason is never universal. It all comes down to the the perception that it’s falling apart because one or a few small parts of what they want supported no longer is. Just because one popular desktop manager isn’t in the tree, does that mean that the collective work of every other developer is worthless? That’s an awfully short stick to measure by.

I’ve always been positive and optimistic about the future of Gentoo. One thing, more than any, I’m certain of, is that even should the distribution collapse in on itself and completely go away, the idea will never die. Gentoo has too many original ideas swirling all around it that will live on even if the primary project doesn’t.

21 thoughts on “gentoo's growth

  1. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to use a Linux distro that isn’t gentoo. I’m not a picky Linux user at all, so as long as it keeps working for what I need it to, I’m stickin’ with gentoo.

    It does exactly what I need, and nothing more. I love gentoo.

  2. Both distrowatch and Cnet picked up the “Decline of Gentoo” article, and both have ignored my comments to the author that he was grossly miscounting developers. I have an ongoing thread with him about the correct retirement/addition counts, but he has only updated the recruitment counts, not the retirement counts (which are about ~150 too high).

  3. Steve, thanks so much for this article. It’s just what Gentoo needs.

    Heck, it’s just what I need; I was seriously considering taking a break for a few months while I figured out how to grow some thicker skin. Your post is a nice pick-me-up. So I’ll stick it out a little longer.

  4. As a Gentoo user I agree entirely. Taking it further, there is a tendency to do the same thing to individual pieces of software. If a package isn’t being regularly updated it’s “not actively maintained” and many view that as a bad sign in and of itself. It could be that package is just more mature.

  5. Things aren’t so pretty when developers are leaving because of infectious people or weak wills though. I can understand lack of interest or other priorities, but things aren’t good for Gentoo or any project when talented devs leave for preventable reasons.

  6. I read the “I recently began charting the freefall of the Gentoo Linux distribution” post (what a joke) and it’s a typical example of how statistics can say anything. Kudos to robbat2 for trying to correct him, but I think the author wants to believe what he’s writing, more than the truth.

    I noticed even though you (rabbat2) corrected his wrong tree-size assumptions, he’s left them in there.

    I also notice the usual assumption that Gentoo release CD’s are indicative of the project health, and essential to the project. They’re not. I haven’t used one in quite a while, and I still install 2-3 Gentoo boxes a year.

    And who uses KDE anyway ;)

  7. Let’s forget about the developers for a while (sorry).

    I measure the vitality of Gentoo by the speed of updating the applications to the latest versions, added them to portage like ebuilds, etc.

    As a Gentoo user since 2004 I can see this speed going down. Gentoo is not on the crusty edge anymore.

    So yeah, it is not dying, it is just looking like doing so :(

    P.S. You can now say something like Debian, we are releasing software only when we are super sure that all bugs have been ironed out, it is worth waiting for…

  8. I’ve never been able to actually gauge Gentoo’s development like other open-source projects. Others, I can receive a brief idea through any new features which have been added, layout changes, and the like. However, either through my lack of technical understanding, or simply shameless ignorance, I am simply unable to mention one change I’ve noticed in Gentoo since my first install (yes, I do update my packages regularly).

    Also, I don’t immediately see a “How to get involved with Gentoo” page where I can see how I can help – I’m only starting to learn C++, though I’m sure that there are some ways an individual can help. I would very much like to learn more on this issue.

    (Will check back for replies).

  9. I use Gentoo since 2003 or 2004. I remember having to wait for one or two Gnome releases and KDE 4 release, that’s all. But I also remember a lot of improvements in Portage.

    Gentoo still has the BEST documentation in several languages, a great number of packages (12649 packages available for x86) and it is still one of the most easily customizable.

    I don’t understand the reasons of this FUD.

  10. I’m a user of Sabayon Linux — essentially Gentoo with an overlay — which I’ve read is regarded unfavourably by some Gentoo users, who deem it to be a “leech”. Anyway, I hope you’ll allow me to say that I like Gentoo and find Portage an excellent concept. Dependencies can sometimes be a headache but, once I had sorted out my make.conf and package.* files, I found my laptop installation to be very usable and a great way to learn in depth about Linux. The renowned Gentoo documentation, forums and Bugzilla are extensive and excellent resources. A big thanks to the Gentoo developers and other contributors, and long may Gentoo continue.

  11. well same period last year and the previous one i remember plenty of flames, resigns and a really really bad atmosphere so that time such articles where more or less true imo.
    buuut the last few months i feel like things are getting better in gentoo and i have a good feeling so i think that this article is for the current time just wrong.

  12. Thank you so much for this post. I am so glad to hear a response from the Gentoo team to the DW news item. I would have given up on trying Gentoo at all if it weren’t for this post. Which is one of the problems with items such as on DW; they discourage new users from trying the distro, thus holding back potential community members from the distros that need them most.

    This post provides much needed assurance that Gentoo is not dying, just fighting (unfortunately, in more ways than one!).

  13. Gentoo is not dying, it is mostly dead. Honestly, I really cant understand what the hell are you talking about? There is a huge amount of important software, that does not have ebuild. There is a huge amount that has incredibly outdated ebuilds. Not even speaking about stable, thats even more outdated than most enterprise distributions.

    Bugs are completely ignored (the only bug that i managed to get fixed was a serious dependency bug, that had 2 line fix, was lying in the bugzilla for more than one year, and which i got a ban for at the forum – it took me approximately 48 hours of my time to get that bug fixed – great efficiency for a 30sec bug).

    Users are handled as annoying pests.

    There is an incredible amount of bugs open in the bugzilla. Everytime when i request something, I’m told to use an overlay, or just write it myself (wakeup, users can’t do developers work, most overlays are just completely unusable). If I try to request something, I’m just told that everyone is doing it in his free time and obviously noone cares for the quality of Gentoo.

    Gentoo was great, because the user community and the background concepts were great. Gentoo wiki is still the best source of informations. But, thats not enough. Everyone i know, is moving from Gentoo. I’m currently switching to OpenSuSe, completely inferior, but due to the decaying quality of Gentoo, it still ends up better.

    I don’t think that the project Gentoo is dead, it’s just not Gentoo. It’s not a distribution with bleeding edge software and fresh concepts anymore. It has completely changed. It’s not that neat distribution for advanced users anymore.

  14. “Users are handled as annoying pests.

    There is an incredible amount of bugs open in the bugzilla. Everytime when i request something, I’m told to use an overlay, or just write it myself (wakeup, users can’t do developers work, most overlays are just completely unusable). If I try to request something, I’m just told that everyone is doing it in his free time and obviously noone cares for the quality of Gentoo.”

    quoted for truth. Gentoo might not be dying, but it has this malignant sense of hatred hanging over some of the user-facing developers.
    I think more so, the reason why these bad apples can’t be shown the door is because of this “gentoo is dying” mantra; that we all have to put up developers who consistently hurt the community because nobody else will replace them.

  15. I don’t know what Simon Toth is talking about.

    I have been an active member of Gentoo for 3 years, started using it 3 years before that, and have seen many apps approved after asking via bugs.gentoo. This is all without being able to write a line of code, the closest I can get to code is bash scripts, and they aren’t pretty.

    The forums have been an absolute boon for answers along with the excellent documentation. I have also been able to help others just by saying what I have learnt along the way.

    I have also noticed the devs are more willing to help those who are prepared to try and help themselves more, i.e. check other sources of information, check older posts or the bugs lists for answers and tell them what you have tried o there is no going over that which has already been tried.

    I guess I just couldn’t use another distro other than Gentoo as the way Gentoo works gets under your skin, then won’t go away. It’s as close as you get to Linux from Scratch as you can without actually building system/apps one by one.

    The distro may die (Though I don’t think it will) but the Gentoo way will live forever, that epitomizes the ideals of FOSS perfectly IMHO.

  16. I am a happy gentoo user – both at home and at work; there, I have several xeon servers running testing software.
    On the home PC, I can play all my classic games, Portal, DX..

    No fancy CFLAGS. I just love the flexibility *and* stability you can get.. and I cannot think of using anything else.
    I don’t need anything else ;)


  17. I agree with JustMe. I find Gentoo basically wonderful. I’ve learnt a lot about computers in general and Linux in particular, from using it. Sure, it drives me mad occasionally, but I’ve always been able to fix it. I’ve put a few bugs into Bugzilla, all of which have been resolved, some with a little bit of my help, and most completely by others. Portage does need to be fixed a bit, but it’s still better than almost anything else out there, and there is a complete replacement available – Paludis, and sometime I’ll search it out, and make it work

  18. I have just changed from Xubuntu to Gentoo on my Toshiba Tecra A9 laptop.
    So far I am very impressed with the improvement in performance that Gentoo has provided, and I have installed every package that I will need without a problem, with the exception of Sage Maths and TiEmu only for a lack of time.
    I can confidently predict I will remain with Gentoo for some time yet.

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