Mark Shuttleworth posted (Thanks to Steve O’Grady for the link) about how Ubuntu focuses in a few specific areas, but Debian is a more general plateau. One can trivially draw the parallel between Gentoo and Debian, so his points are equally applicable to us. Most Gentoo developers draw the most pleasure from working near the bleeding edge, not from trying to backport fixes and fix old stable software.
Perhaps this is because it requires more creativity and less monotony. I certainly feel more challenged and fulfilled by packaging new software (such as the system-config-* utilities I did last weekend) than by fixing some simple bugs for random stable packages.
But this raises some new questions: Can Gentoo develop specific “peaks” in conflicting areas, without forcing new subdistributions to form that focus on them? If so, how? Stuart Herbert and I threw around some ideas shortly after I started a discussion about whether democracy works for Gentoo, and our lack of goals.
Stuart’s idea, which I like, is preparing specific “releases” for certain vertical markets. Yeah, I said “vertical markets.” WTH is that? Just a given group of people using Gentoo for a certain purpose, such as a LAMP stack, an HPC cluster or a development workstation. One could create a LiveCD with an installer image tailored to, and preconfigured for, a LAMP server. The key here, as Stuart pointed out in our discussion, is making things “just work,” not just installing the packages and leaving the user to set everything up. But we’d need more than just the LiveCD, because clearly people want to maintain the installation. Perhaps adding a series of profiles for these vertical markets could do the trick. Some developers have already tested this concept with GNAP, the Gentoo Network APpliance, but not in a formalized way that pushes into a number of different areas.