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Old 03-02-2009, 09:04 AM
Ben Finney
Default Requirement for a “proper manpage” for every command

Howdy all,

I'm having a conversation with a Debian packager regarding a manpage
that, currently, is a mere placeholder saying “please see foocommand
--help”, giving none of the useful information normally found in a

I would like the specific package to remain anonymous at the moment
(though, of course, a quick search will reveal it), because in this
thread I'm only wanting to understand current practice and
expectations, not accuse anyone in particular.

Debian policy §12.1 states, in part:

12.1. Manual pages


Each program, utility, and function should have an associated manual
page included in the same package. […]

If no manual page is available, this is considered as a bug and should
be reported to the Debian Bug Tracking System (the maintainer of the
package is allowed to write this bug report themselves, if they so
desire). Do not close the bug report until a proper man page is
available. […]

The response from the maintainer (who is also the upstream author) so
far is, essentially, “Patches welcome, but I'm not interested in
maintaining manpages”.

I have submitted a manpage as a patch. However, that response pretty
much guarantees that the maintainer won't be taking the initiative to
keep the manpage up to date. Am I right in thinking that it is
nevertheless the maintainer's responsibility to do so?

I don't like Debian policy being used as a blunt instrument, but I
must admit my mental reaction to the maintainer's response was along
the lines of “Too bad; in accepting the role of package maintainer,
you accepted the ongoing task of maintaining manpages for every
command, utility, and function in the package”.

Wording and tone aside, is that expectation reasonable? What course of
action is open to a user of the package, with a maintainer who has
made it plain they're not interested in following (this part of)

“If you're a horse, and someone gets on you, and falls off, and |
` then gets right back on you, I think you should buck him off |
_o__) right away.” —Jack Handey |
Ben Finney

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