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Thu, 12 Aug 2010

Why new Design isn't deployed yet

This blog post is actually a response to a talk that was given at the debconf last week. It was marga's talk about Making Debian Rule, again. Now that the beta versions of the talks are available for download I'm able to proper quote what I want to respond to: Is there a reason why we haven't yet updated the website?, perhaps someone can answer.

I feel the need to respond to this as I am the main person driving that effort. Unfortunately the question was asked in a talk with no-one involved in that work around instead of addressing those people directly, and the question wasn't brought to my attention before the talk so that I could have provided an answer to offer in the presentation already. Also, as disclaimer, this is my personal story for it and doesn't need to get shared by the other people involved. I hope it can be seen as an answer anyway.

As a little of background, Kalle's proposal went a long path before even I found out about it. I was simply in awe in several ways about it because it wasn't just a great mockup of the page (which it actually is, IMHO) but was accompanied by thoughts about not only the main site but also about several sub sites. Also, it was accompanied by patches, so it was seemingly ready to get deployed right ahead.

I started working on it, got accused of being discouraging while doing that, got told that it would require a proper vote for a decision and can't happen just as, but those are just the Debian way of communication. I nevertheless did set up several test sites for some over the time to play with it. Some did work out better (like the git one, though this one came last and Kalle improved the CSS over time a fair bit), some weren't ready yet (like wiki, missing e.g. the coloring for the version diff, or the packages one where the separation between the different sections isn't that visible yet). Time passed, other things demanded their attention too.

Like the thing where our system administrators did send me a request along about a new www-master server that needs to get set up from scratch. Given that the documentation about the required packages for the website was lacking a fair bit (to say the least) it did require a lot of attention, especially when doing things from scratch the wish to document the dependencies properly is just natural. There are still some issues with that as can e.g. be seen on this page in the empty table at the bottom. The same issue also appears on my testsite for the new design.

The last part though is currently the biggest blocking issue for both efforts. There is no way to move forward with either without having that addressed. Simon Paillard did a great job on helping the move along so far, keeping the thread about the server move requirements that I started on the debian-www mailinglist updated with information about what's still pending. Unfortunately Kalle, Simon and me are also facing some private time constraints (amongst other duties that require attention) which weren't helping to move forward at a bigger pace. Unfortunately not very many people actually has shown interest in helping out neither, after all it's easier to go and ask questions about why it's not done yet to the completely wrong audience.

My plan is to switch many sites at the same time instead of one after the other simply for the effect but also for less distraction for our users, including less people repeatedly pestering about when this or that site gets done, too. At least we need a final discussion on what should go into the header links and what should be at the bottom before a switch can be made anyway. And for some there is still the opinion that such a switch is nothing that we are rightfully allowed to decide without a vote, so that's also part of the reason to not just deploy it.

I hope this answers the question to some extend—and like said, if only I would had been addressed about this before the talk was given an answer to it would had been ready for presentation right ahead instead of having a pretty terse statement getting relayed through IRC (thanks, Yoe!) because I was fortunate enough to be around and watching the talk at that time. Feel free to discuss it further or offer your help on debian-www, especially if you are familiar with working on CSS files.

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