I was thrilled to be part of a successful Debian bug squashing party organized by MIT’s Student Information Processing Board on December 13th. Greg Price, who helped organize the event, did a wonderful write up which he sent to the debian-devel email list.
I though it was worth mentioning the BSP now because I think it’s a wonderful model that I’d love to see replicated in Debian and beyond. The event was initiated, organized, run, and executed by people with little or no direct experience with the project. While the organizers went out of their way to recruit several Debian developers and other experts to the party, these experts’ role was more in answering questions and helping others. The the majority of the participants — around 30 of them in total — had no previous experience doing Debian development.
While the 11 bugs closed or dealt with are the most visible outcome, I’m not sure that it is the most important. The event acted as an important learning experience for everyone involved and, perhaps most centrally, an important first step for most participants from using free software to giving back and participating in the community.
You don’t need experience, connections, or a @project.org email address to organize a party like this for Debian or your own free software project. All you really need is a few people, some technical knowledge, an Internet connection, and the desire to make it happen.
Other things can help, of course. In particular, the SIPB folks have packaged up some scripts they used to select bugs to work on and put them online.