Removing stale packages

Maciej (Matchek) Bliziński maciej at
Mon Oct 13 14:26:12 CEST 2014

We have a stale package report:

It is updated once every 24h. You can see that there is a number of
packages which have not been updated for 4 years or more. Sometimes
the upstream development stops, so there's nothing new to release, but
this only applies to a small fraction of software projects. Many
upstream projects are active, but corresponding packages are not
updated. Dropping old packages has been debated in the past, and the
main points were:

- Keeping old/stale packages can be good, because they can be useful to someone.
- Keeping old/stale packages can be bad, because they are often
unused, untested, somebody tries to use them, they don't work, and
people think that if one package is broken, most of packages are.

- Deleting old/stale packages can be bad, because we take away
packages that could be potentially useful to someone.
- Deleting old/stale packages can be good, because when a package is
not there, potential new maintainers are motivated to rebuild/update
them. As a backup, allpkgs still contains all of the old packages in
case somebody has their back against the wall.

In previous years we've put more weight on the upsides of keeping old
packages, but I'd like to emphasize the negatives, and suggest that
hoarding really hurts us. We would be better off deleting as many old,
unmaintained packages as possible. It would help us if we had an
equivalent of Debian popcon, but this has been attempted and wasn't
deployed. I don't think we have resources to do that. Maybe instead,
we can do something simple, like getting the list of packages that can
be deleted (already exists in the stale packages report), and creating
an internet poll, where people could mark packages they use / care
about. (Note: only packages with no reverse dependencies would be
listed.) We would circulate the poll around users@ and announce@, and
after two weeks or so of collecting the data, we would drop packages
that nobody cares about. All of this is easy to do.



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