Title: Reserved namespace for DD-approved non-maintainer changes
DEP: 15
State: DRAFT
Date: 2017-06-07
Drivers: Sean Whitton <spwhitton@spwhitton.name>
 Ian Jackson <ijackson@chiark.greenend.org.uk>
URL: http://dep.debian.net/deps/dep15
Source: http://anonscm.debian.org/viewvc/dep/web/deps/dep15.mdwn
 Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification,
 are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright
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 Reserved namespace in version control tools for changes to the
 package that have been approved by someone with the technical
 ability to upload the package, but not necessarily the package's


This DEP reserves a namespace in version control tools for changes that are

  1. considered technically appropriate for an NMU by someone with the technical ability to NMU the package; but are

  2. not considered socially appropriate for an NMU right now, or such that it is not clear in which maintainer upload the changes should be included.


We can think of the Debian Archive as a version control system, where an upload of a new package version to ftp-master corresponds to making a commit. However, in contrast with tools like git commit, uploading a package is a relatively expensive and potentially disruptive operation. The changelog must be finalised, an appropriate version number must be chosen, and the package will be distributed to users, so it must be established that the package maintainer does not wish to include additional changes along with those currently listed.

Debian contributors frequently want to submit fixes and improvements to packages which they do not maintain. Sometimes, it is appropriate to make an NMU, but very often the maintainer should be the one to decide the upload in which the change is included. In other words, the contributor considers the fix technically correct and would include it in, for example, a QA upload. However, since the package is under active maintainance, the contributor wants to avoid interrupting the package maintainer's work by making an upload.

Currently, the only canonical way to submit such a fix is to post patches to the Debian BTS. However,

  1. many non-maintainer contributors of fixes and improvements, and maintainers who review those changes, much prefer working with branches in a version control system instead of wrangling patches; and

  2. it is very useful for a maintainer to know that a change has been approved by someone who has been trusted by the project with the technical ability to NMU the package, but it is cumbersome (and easy to neglect) to both make and verify PGP signatures on patch series submitted to the BTS.

Since many Debian source packages are maintained in version control repositories on alioth, an alternative to submitting patches to the BTS is to push a topic branch to the package's alioth repository, and ask the maintainer to review and merge. However,

  1. those who have the ability to NMU the package often lack the ability to push to the repository on alioth;

  2. since those who do not have the ability to NMU the package may push topic branches to alioth, again it is cumbersome for the maintainer to determine whether proposed changes have been approved by someone trusted by the project with the technical ability to upload the package; and

  3. there is no standard namespace to indicate topic branches that fall into the category of changes technically appropriate for an NMU, but not socially appropriate for an NMU.


Branches named next/foo, where foo is a label for the change. For example, next/std-ver-3.9.8 for patches to bring the package in compliance with Policy version 3.9.8.

Publishing proposed changes

There must be a single canonical location for next/foo branches. These branches must be writeable by exactly those capable of uploading the package -- uploading DDs, and DMs with upload rights for the package.

These branches should not be published under this name anywhere else. A contributor who does not have the ability to upload the package should publish their branch under a name outside of the next/ namespace, ask someone with the relevant upload rights to review it, and push it to the canonical location.

Folding proposed changes into packages

Package maintainers can fetch and merge next/ branches, or cherry-pick from them. When all the changes on a next/ branch that the maintainer intends to include in the package have been merged or copied onto the master branch, the next/ branch should be deleted.

Suggested implementation

The dgit repos already have most of the required access control. All that remains is adding support for signed git pushes. See #848678.

Note that this does not involve any use of dgit on the client side. Branches would be updated with git push --signed, not dgit push.

Criteria for success of this DEP

In addition to consensus on the text,

  1. implementation on dgit repos complete;

  2. at least some contributors pushing next/foo branches; and

  3. at least some maintainers merging next/foo branches into their uploads.