Packaging is a core project task

I’ve seen in the past a lot of small FLOSS projects which were not doing their job up to the end. Work is not done when your code is compiling and begin to work the way you design it. As a project lead, and because you know the project best, it’s your task to take in account the installation procedure. Using Autoconf, is clearly the optimal approach, but for just a couple of script, a simple Makefile, or even an script could be perfectly sufficient. That way your potential user, has a helper to guide him in the installation of your software on his system, and it’s more easy for him to test it as a consequence, so hopefully to contribute in any way.

But that’s not the end again. Most of the users and system administrators are not using projects out of Version Control Systems (VCS) or Configuration Management Systems (CMS). Neither are they using tar files that you upload, even including a decent installation procedure. What they prefer, and at least that’s how I react, is a package for their distribution. It’s so handy ! All dependencies are taken in account and with tools such s yum, apt or urpmi it’s so easy to install a set of packages and their dependencies that it’s a real pleasure (compare to the boring configure; make; make install). But more over, as it’s easy to install, it’ easy to remove, to test momentarily, to avoid impact on your running system by a well controllled installation process. It’s even easy for newcomers, that have at their disposal graphical interfaces to search and install packages even more easily (at least for them ;-))

So even if of course, this is a technical task (who said burden ;-)) of packaging your project, at the end of the day, you should also perceive it as a marketing activity which helps you promote your project by making it so easy for hundreds of people to just download install and test, even with little system knowledge. More users, more testers, more reports, better software. Here is the virtuous circle in place.

Last point, if you think it’s difficult to package, then have a look at my packages for 😉 It’s here to help you !

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