Debian Policy


Interacting with the team

Debian Policy uses a formal procedure and a set of user tags to manage the lifecycle of change proposals. For definitions of those tags and proposal states and information about what the next step is for each phase, see PolicyChangesProcess. If you are taking responsibility for proposing wording and shepherding a proposal, please set yourself as the owner of that bug in the BTS.

Once the wording for a change has been finalized, please send a patch against the current Git master branch to the bug report, if you're not familiar with Git, the following commands are the basic process:

    git clone git://
    git checkout -b <local-branch-name>
    # edit files, but don't make changes to upgrading-checklist or debian/changelog
    git add <files>
    git commit
    # repeat as necessary
    # update your branch against the current master
    git checkout master
    git pull
    git checkout <local-branch-name>
    git merge master
    # generate a diff to send to the list
    git checkout master
    git diff master..<local-branch-name>

<local-branch-name> is some convenient name designating your local changes. You may want to use some common prefix like local-. You can use git format-patch and git send-email if you want, but usually it's overkill.

Usual roles

The Debian Policy Editors are official project delegates (see the DPL delegation). All of the Policy team members do basically the same work: shepherd proposals, propose wording, and merge changes when consensus has been reached. The current delegates are:

Task description

The Debian Policy team is responsible for maintaining and coordinating updates to the Debian Policy Manual and all the other policy documents released as part of the debian-policy package.

The Debian Policy Editors:

Everything else can be done by anyone, or any DD (depending on the outcome of the discussion about seconding). We explicitly want any Debian DD to review and second or object to proposals. The more participation, the better. Many other people are active on the Policy mailing list without being project delegates.

In addition to the main technical manual, the team currently also maintains:

These documents are maintained using the PolicyChangesProcess, and the current state of all change proposals is tracked using the debian-policy BTS.

Get involved

The best way to help is to review the current open bugs, pick a bug that no one is currently shepherding (ask on <debian-policy AT lists DOT debian DOT org> if you're not sure if a particular bug is being shepherded), and help it through the change process. This will involve guiding the discussion, seeking additional input (particularly from experts in the area being discussed), possibly raising the issue on other mailing lists, proposing or getting other people to propose specific wording changes, and writing diffs against the current Policy document. All of the steps of PolicyChangesProcess can be done by people other than Policy team members except the final acceptance steps and almost every change can be worked on independently, so there's a lot of opportunity for people to help.

There are also some other, larger projects:

If you want to work on any of these projects, please mail <debian-policy AT lists DOT debian DOT org> for more information. We'll be happy to help you get started.

Maintenance procedures

Repository layout

The Git repository used for Debian Policy has the following branches:

Managing a bug

The process used by Policy team members to manage a bug, once there is proposed wording, is:

The Git commands used for this workflow are:

    git checkout -b bug12345-rra master
    # edit files
    # git add files
    git commit
    git push origin bug12345-rra
    # iterate until good
    # If there are changes in master that make the branch not apply cleanly:
    : git checkout -b temp master; git merge bug12345-rra
    # If error;
     : git reset --hard HEAD;
    : git checkout bug12345-rra; git branch -D temp
    : git merge master
    # edit debian/changelog and upgrading-checklist.html
    git add debian/changelog upgrading-checklist.html
    git commit
    git checkout master
    git merge bug12345-rra
    git push origin master
    git branch -d bug12345-rra
    git push origin :bug12345-rra

For the debian/changelog entry, use the following format:

  * <document>: <brief change description>
    Wording: <author of wording>
    Seconded: <seconder>
    Seconded: <seconder>
    Closes: <bug numbers>

For example:

  * Policy: better document version ranking and empty Debian revisions
    Wording: Russ Allbery <>
    Seconded: Raphaƫl Hertzog <>
    Seconded: Manoj Srivastava <>
    Seconded: Guillem Jover <>
    Closes: #186700, #458910

Updating branches

After commits to master have been pushed, either by you or by another Policy team member, you will generally want to update your working bug branches. The equivalent of the following commands should do that:

    for i in `git show-ref --heads | awk '{print $2}'`; do
        j=$(basename $i)
        if [ "$j" != "master" ]; then
            git checkout $j && git merge master
    git push --all origin

assuming that you haven't packed the refs in your repository.

Making a release

For a final Policy release, change UNRELEASED to unstable in debian/changelog and update the timestamp to match the final release time (dch -r may be helpful for this), update the release date in upgrading-checklist.html, update Standards-Version in debian/control, and commit that change. Then do the final release build and make sure that it builds and installs.

Then, tag the repository and push the final changes to Alioth:

    git tag -s v3.8.0.0
    git push origin
    git push --tags origin

replacing the version number with the version of the release, of course.

Finally, announce the new Policy release on debian-devel-announce, including in the announcement the upgrading-checklist section for the new release.

Setting release goals

Policy has a large bug backlog, and each bug against Policy tends to take considerable time and discussion to resolve. I've found it useful, when trying to find a place to start, to pick a manageable set of bugs and set as a target resolving them completely before the next Policy release. Resolving a bug means one of the following:

Anyone can pick bugs and work resolve them. The final determination to accept a wording change or reject a bug will be made by a Policy delegate, but if a patch is already written and seconded, or if a summary of why a bug is not ready to be acted on is already written, the work is much easier for the Policy delegate.

One of the best ways to help out is to pick one or two bugs (checking on the Policy list first), say that you'll make resolving them a goal for the next release, and guide the discussion until the bugs can reach one of the resolution states above.