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.