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[Savannah-hackers-public] Savannah and the present

From: Fabio Pesari
Subject: [Savannah-hackers-public] Savannah and the present
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 2016 13:14:41 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:38.0) Gecko/20100101 Icedove/38.4.0

<Personal opinion>
Savane is old. The interface looks straight from the early 2000s at
best, it is cluttered, the default color scheme scares users away.
</Personal opinion>

Not to mention the fact that on the homepage, there are just few "news"
and some are as old as 2011, which make the site look poorly maintained,
and most of the "Help wanted" and "Most popular items" were posted in
the 2000s, and rarely changed since then.

The source code isn't badly written but it generates HTML by printing it
instead of using templates (example [1]), so it's hard to modify.

And while I applaud it for offering many features which other project
hosting sites don't offer (like mailing lists and web hosting), it also
lacks some features which are considered basic nowadays, like Pull
Requests (not the same as patches), a file viewer with syntax
highlighting or showing the contents of READMEs immediately.

And yes, I am referring to features offered by Github and Bitbucket,
which are (sadly) the most popular project hosting platforms. Of course,
Savannah shouldn't really be directly compared to them, because it
offers many more functionalities and focuses on freedom, but at the same
time, if the purpose is to get people to switch to more ethical
repositories ([2]), an effort should be made to be at least half as
appealing as those sites.

Sadly, Savannah can't migrate to the two most popular free project
hosting solutions around, Gitlab ([3], used by GNU Social, a GNU
package, which is telling about the reluctance even GNU developers have
to use Savannah) and Gogs ([4]), because they lack many features that
are essential to it (CVS and SVN support above all).

I doubt Savannah could ever migrate to a new system but in that case,
the only choice would be Redmine (used by GNURadio, what I said about
Gitlab also applies in this case [5]), but mailing list and website
integration should be implemented from scratch anyway and I'd still
consider it ugly, but at least it would be a huge step up in usability.

If I could rewrite Savannah's interface from scratch (and had web design
skills), I would adopt OpenProject's ([6]), minus the JavaScript

But I think we all know that nobody is going to improve Savane - mostly
due to a lack of good designers in the free software community, not a
lack of intent - so it'd be better if the GNU Project offered an
official Gitlab or Gogs instance, so that people won't have to host
their software somewhere else, far from the scrutiny and control of the
FSF (like it's already happening, and there are even GNU packages on
Github [7]). Savannah could still be used for mailing lists and websites
and by existing projects (such as the GNU website), and perhaps be
integrated with those services, but I simply don't think it's good to
recommend it to free software developers as a project hosting solution

My biggest problem with Savannah is that its being so unwelcoming to new
contributors prevents projects like GuixSD from being more popular, and
that affects users.

I think that it'd be better to admit a factual truth (that a very small
percentage of free software developers uses or even knows about
Savannah) and adapt rather than ignore it and drive many programmers
toward services Github by pretending Savannah can ever be relevant again.


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