Over recent months, I have been pondering the relevance of my Free Software involvement a lot:
More than anything, it constantly feels more and more like several important distributions and projects are moving in directions that break with the old ways far too radically, by breaking software usability rules such as "least surprise", "works out of the box", and "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" either to try new approaches to addressing existing needs or simply for change's sake.
Another aspect lies in my usual motivation for packaging or adopting software: because I need it and nobody else bothered doing it. Further reflection made me ponder what, correspondingly, are my usual reasons for dropping software: because what exists already works and because everybody and their grand-mother already invented a million of ways to handle the same issue.
Which brings us to today's news.
What prompted me to hand the dictionary packages I maintained over to someone else was a combination of "no longer need it" and "it already works fine as it is."
For instance, the Estonian dictionaries haven't seen any upstream release since the initial one in 2003. While I still use Estonian daily in my online communications, the last 9 years have mostly been spent making minor changes to the dependencies and maintainer scripts, just to keep the package compliant with current Debian packaging policies and with ongoing improvements to the
dictionary-common maintainer tools. This is not the sort of work that requires any knowledge of the Estonian language, so I felt that having dictionary-common developers handle those technical transitions in a clean and across-the-board way for as many dictionary packages as possible would be more productive than me trying to keep track of those changes by myself.
A similar case applies to the Latvian dictionaries. While there have been occasional upstream releases, some of which required patching the source code, maintaining the package has mostly been about tracking Debian policy changes and dictionary-common functional changes. Additionally, my interest for learning Latvian has dramatically dropped over the years, so I no longer saw any point in remaining involved in maintaining the package.
Ditto for the Russian dictionaries: occasional upstream releases, occasional patches, regular packaging upgrades to keep up with the Debian policy and with dictionary-common functionality, but no longer much of anything than a passive interest in practicing my Russian.
One of the developers behind dictionary-common, Agustin Martin Domingo, frequently helped me make sense of the changes I needed to track in the past, so he gladly accepted taking over the technical maintenance of all 3 packages. The Estonian dictionaries, while extremely skim in the breadth of vocabulary they cover, remain useful, but are essentially deprecated, as the upstream author is working on a spell checking engine similar to what Voikko does for Finnish, which is why maintaining them will be a rather easy task for Agustin. Meanwhile, Aigars Mahinovs passively remains on board for the Latvian dictionaries, while the Russian dictionaries have been adopted by Mikhail Gusarov, in both cases with Agustin assisting on technical matters.
Basically, I feel that passing the maintenance over to people whose motivation remains high is a better way to guarantee those packages' future than leaving them in my unmotivated hands and I'm glad that I found someone to keep on packaging them.
PS: happy Valentine's day to everyone!