New documentation file - SuccessfulProjects.txt

From: Nivedita Singhvi
Date: Sun Mar 14 2004 - 18:20:42 EST

This draft is a start on a Documentation file for new Linux
projects in the family of SubmittingPatches and CodingStyle.

It attempts to capture advice kernel maintainers repeatedly give
to large Linux project developers, especially those new to Linux.
With an increasing amount of software development taking place
in the Linux environment, it is hoped this contributes in some
small way to help people avoid the mistakes of those who have gone
before them in getting their code accepted into the Linux kernel.
Inspired by Andrew Morton's post on lkml just a while back on this

If including this file in the Documentation directory is agreed to,
I'll be glad to incorporate feedback and resubmit.

Any thoughts?


File: SuccessfulProjects.txt
Date: 3/14/04
Title: How To Run A Successful Linux Project

" How to improve your chances of launching and sustaining a successful Linux
project, get your code or technology accepted into the Linux kernel and
adopted by the community, earn fame (or employment, or at least continued
employment, or well, at least not completely waste your spare time), all
without losing your hair and your sanity. "

- Increase the success rate of Linux development projects
- Reduce the burden on the kernel maintainers and the community
- Decrease the angst and conflict experienced by project developers
- Make software development faster and more efficient
- Make users, consumers of those software projects happier

Most of the information here is very basic, obvious and covered frequently in a
multitude of places, at length. However, it is also difficult to locate in one
convenient place, and ignored frequently enough to provoke the presence of this
file in the kernel Documentation subdirectory.


1]. Become familiar with Linux kernel development!
1.1 Who are the maintainers affected?
Learn who the maintainers are for the subsystems affected by your project,
and for the various releases, especially for the releases you intend to
provide code to.
2.4 -> Marcelo Tosatti
2.6 -> Andrew Morton
development -> Linus
Maintainers file -> current list of maintainers

1.2 Which are the mailing lists you need?
Learn which mailing lists cover development in the areas affected by your
project. It is always a good idea to involve the kernel community or
sub-community as the case may be - which involves posting to the right
mailing lists. Solicit advice on which lists are appropriate.
You can start by checking the MARC archives to find the right lists.

1.3 Learn Linux Kernel Mailing List (lkml) etiquette
Read the Linux Kernel Mailing List FAQ.

1.4 Which Linux source tree?
Learn what a stable release and what a development release is.
Read the Linux FAQ.
This is, admittedly, already slightly out of date.

Also discover the various other source trees (-mm, -osdl, ...)
Read the Linux Kernel Newbies FAQ.

Get advice from the community and your users on which kernel tree would be
best to target for inclusion. Understand that kernel development occurs in
parallel in various source trees, and you might need to provide support in
multiple versions.

2]. Join or Create a Community
2.1 Join an existing community
If there already exists a project developing functionality foo that you
are interested in, work with it. Join the people who have already spent
time and effort solving the problem. Sometimes, this is easier said
than done because projects might be open source in name, but far from it in
reality. A good open source project, however, will have a public web site,
a public mailing list that invites discussion and source code available to
play with.

If you cannot convince this community of the value of your ideas, the going
will only get tougher when taken to the linux kernel community. Not always
true, but true often enough.

This is particularly true when APIs have to be designed and there are no
mandated standards controlling what you should be implementing. Having
multiple conflicting implementations brought to the linux kernel mailing
list puts the burden of sorting out basic issues related to your project
on kernel maintainers, hardly a group with spare time on their hands.

2.2 Create an open source community if there is none
If there is no existing project that meets your needs, create one.

Maintain the public infrastructure that should ideally accompany a large
project - a public website, mailing list, source code development
infrastructure (SourceForge is a good place to start). Described well
in the links below.

Read the Software Release Practices Howto.

Read the following documents in the Documentation subdirectory:

Do not take any of the above as gospel, confirm with the maintainers in
question. There are exceptions to every rule.

3. Interact early, interact often
3.1 Don't work in isolation
It is not a good idea to spend several person-years working behind closed
doors, or even within your own project environment. Keep not only the
project community involved, but also the maintainers concerned and the
linux kernel community, if appropriate, in the loop.

In Andrew Morton's words:

"But beware of being *too* disconnected from the lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
We don't want to get in the situation where you pop up with a couple
of person-years' worth of work and other kernel developers have major
issues with it. Please find a balance - some way of regularly

Even if you are in design on planning stages, it is worth a note to
the community to say, "Hey, this is how we're going to go about it..."

i.e. remain visible, and ensure that people know your project is alive
and in good hands.

3.2 Avoid large code dumps
Don't throw a massive, complex tarball of your final masterpiece at the
kernel community and maintainers once you are done. Break down your project
into smaller pieces. Submit easily digestible chunks at regular intervals.
If you're making some ghastly, widespread mistake, catch it early. Get
agreement from the community and the maintainers on your approach. Again,
to quote Andrew from the link above:

"That way everyone else can see the code evolving, and can help, and
can understand. And other people will fix your bugs for you, and
update your code as kernel-wide changes are implemented. And we all
avoid nasty surprises and extensive rework."

3.3 Be responsive to input from the community
Good open source project maintainers earn the trust of the larger
community and kernel maintainers by demonstrating they are willing to work
in tandem with the community.

See Greg Kroah-Hartman's slides on dealing with the community.

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