Title: Centralized User Updates
Author: Chris White <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Type: Standards Track
Ideas presented here are a collection of those presented in the gentoo-dev
mailing list, and were headstarted by a planet blog entry by Stuart.
This GLEP covers the current state of providing users with a centralized source
of news acquisition. The centralized areas of information will propigate from a
single source and be distributed through multiple points of user outreach.
Motivation for the creation of this GLEP lies within the present state of afairs
in providing mission critical update notices to our (Gentoo) user base.
Currently, there are several de-centralized mediums of providing information.
1. The GWN
2. The Gentoo forums
3. The Gentoo Developer mailing list
4. Other assorted mailing lists
In the current state of affairs, the previously mentioned mediums have the
distinct issue of being seldomly inter-linked. This means that if a user does
not take part in a certain medium used for distributing important notices, they
will be unable to take action on the information. This could mean the swift
difference between a working and unusable system. Examples of this
1. Major kernel upgrades
2. Server updates
3. Major server extension updates
4. Base system layout updates (expecially in the area of networking)
Real world examples of this already exist in the Kernel 2.4 to 2.6 updates,
Apache layout changes, PHP restructuring, and networking support updates. While
these stated examples could have performed reasonably well, they could of done
better, leading into the implementation of this GLEP.
First off, it's best one start with the main centralized medium of information,
the gentoo.org front page.
When a new user first is introduced to Gentoo, they are frequently redirected to
the gentoo.org front page. Here is where users first get a glimpse of what
Gentoo is, how it works, and most importantly, where to recieve information on
updates. If a user notices a large number of upgrade and maintainance reports
on the gentoo.org front page, they are more likely to return to it as their
source of information. With the current system, users have no solid centralized
form of information. They are told that we (Gentoo) have support avaliable from
our forums, mailing lists, irc channel, and GWN. However, it does not tell them
where critical updates can be found. This is why the front page should have
news updates on critical information. However, while users may see the page and
know the news is there, they might not have the time to actively monitor it.
This leads to the next form of interaction: RSS feeds.
Currently, the main front page provides an RSS feed for users. This would
benifit users who want updates propigated to them in a non-interactive manner.
One would come back and find new updates automatically provided to them through
their rss aggregator of choice. Now users are more likely to obtain their news,
as it is a rather non-obtrusive method of information. While the RSS feed is
definately a non-obtrusive way to reach users, another more widely read medium
is also avaliable, the forums.
The forums happen to be one of the largest support forums on the web. That
said, they are widely read by Gentoo users for troubleshooting and other forms
of information. The front page news should most definately be accessed through
the forums as well. This ensures a large audience to updates. A News &
Announcements forum already exists for this purpose, and can be utilized
accordingly. However, some people may already be signed up on various mailing
lists, and want information provided there instead. One such list is
gentoo-announce mailing list
The gentoo-announce mailing list's main function is to provide important
announcements to users. These important announcements can be considered the
same as those that should be displayed on the main page. That said, the main
page news feeds should also be sent to gentoo-announce. This can either be done
through script automation or manual posting. However, there is also an inherit
problem of users that don't use the internet that frequently, or an rss
aggregator is not a suitable option for them. This leads to the next form of
emerge --news support
As already mentioned by Stuart, in this way users are bound to the one thing
guaranteed on their system: Portage. Through portage, the same location where
etc-update notifications are displayed (after emerge --sync and at the finish of
an emerge), will contain a notice about news updates. These news updates should
come in the form of a file contained within the portage tree for users that want
news updates on a networkless system. Should the user run these items in the
background or send the output to /dev/null for any reason, a --news option
should also be avaliable in emerge for them to review the news at a convient
Example of Implementation
This is a sample of the implmentation, but can be modified if needed:
1) A directory is someplace called "updates" or close to it
2) A capable person posts a bug report/sends out for peer review on a
3) If the news is accepted, it is posted to the front page
4) The front page code will do the following
a) Insert the information into the site database
b) Send an email out with the information with a specific
c) Cross-insert into the forums (possible?)
d) Append text to a plain text file for users to sync with
portage. This will be created on demand with the other actions,
or applied with a cron job of some sort.
The implementation of this is an benefit to both users and developers alike.
Users benefit in the ability to access information in a centralized location.
Developers benefit in a better assurance that critical updates get through to
users, and less bugs evolving from those updates. In addition, most of the
mediums of information already exist, so the ammount of new work to be done is
minimized (ie. the front page can already have postings made to it, the
gentoo-announce mailing list already exists, forums already exist). The only
thing that is still questionable is the implementation in Portage.
With the possible exception of Portage, nothing is required to be backported.
This document has been placed in the public domain.