Building community and being ready when they show up

If you follow the saga of the clamav anti-virus package in Ubuntu at all, you know it is painful. Anti-virus is one of those areas where you really do want the latest and greatest since the area is such a moving target. There are also quite a number of packages that integrate with clamav that have to be tested before we can bring a new version into the archive.
For coming up on two years now I’ve been working with a small group of people trying to get clamav updates tested and into not only the development release, but also into *-backports too. It’s mostly grunt level testing with occasional forays into “Why the heck did that happen”. It’s not exciting, but it needs doing and for some reason I volunteered to lead the charge. I have struggled with how to find people who will help with this work.
One time, I even ventured into the forums to try and find volunteers. No luck. Or so I thought. A few weeks ago I got a ping on IRC from Gergely Imre (cemc on Freenode). He was interested in getting clamav updated on Hardy. He’d seen that post (a year and a half later) and tracked me down. So it turns out my trip to the forums was helpful, just not on the timescale I’d envisioned.
The intersection of the Hardy release for Ubuntu and Clamav 0.93 was particularly unfortunate. Clamav released 0.93 just very before Hardy’s release and with all the changes there was no way we could test and patch the related packages before release. After release we started working on getting it tested for hardy-backports, but everyone involved is a volunteer, we all have other stuff to do, and it just never quite got done.
Then one day about this time last month, I get a PM from someone I’d never spoken to before. It turns out cemc had seen my forum post and had come to ask me about it. He wanted to get the current clamav into Hardy backports. This is where the being ready part comes in.
If you look at the Ubuntu Clamav wiki page you’ll see that we had a lot of structure in place (thanks everyone, I did some of this, but only the smaller part). In addition to a matrix of what packages need testing, we had test procedures for most of them too. So we had a structure of clearly useful work that was ready and waiting for a new volunteer. This wasn’t accidental. We had done this once before (updated Dapper/Feisty/Gutsy to the same version Hardy was released with) and the people doing the testing had made some good choices about documenting there work.
With one dedicated tester and (as a result) me committing time to keep him up to date in packages to test we had it done in pretty short order. So today you can find the current clamav releast in hardy-backports. You can also find updates to many packages that integrate with clamav. You can also be assured that we looked into the ones that weren’t updated to make sure that the work with the new clamav.
Now he’s also done the testing for Dapper and once the Jaunty Feature Freeze buildd crush passes I’ll get the latest in dapper-backports too.
I’ve learned two lessons from this
1. Don’t be too quick to conclude community outreach efforts have failed
2. When someone does show up and wants to help, it is really benificial to be ready.

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