If you have created a pull request against the ROS 1 ros_comm repository in the past you have likely experienced a long wait until you have received feedback - and in several cases your patch might not have received any attention yet. Unfortunately this has become a more frequent problem in the recent past (and I am really sorry for that negative experience). So why is that the case?
I am the assigned maintainer of almost all packages in the
ros_comm repository. Beside that I am also the designated maintainer of almost all ROS 1 packages which make up the ros_core metapackage as well as higher level packages like
ros_comm is standing out here due to its prominent content but other “high profile” repositories like
rviz are similar in this regard.
ros_comm receives by far the most tickets - issues as well as pull requests. In the early ROS days it was often sufficient to file a ticket describing a problem or feature idea and “someone” would just go ahead and fix / implement it for you. That has been much less the case in recent years. At least on the pull request side I was able to review contributions in regular intervals (something around every few weeks). Unfortunately not only has that interval continuously increased also the time I am able to spend on actually reproducing problems, testing patches etc. has decreased significantly. That resulted in both: patches got merged which weren’t sufficiently tested and introduced regressions as well as many patches which haven’t been “accepted” until now.
To understand why that is the case I have to mention a bit about my work time at Open Robotics. As you’ve surely noticed over the past few years, our development focus is on ROS 2. We’re still maintaining ROS 1 on a best-effort basis, but my day-to-day priority is shifting more and more towards ROS 2 development. That priority is the result of both our decision as a company on where to focus our energy and the reality of what type and scope of work can be supported by the industry partners and government agencies that supply the bulk of our funding. As a result any time that I do spend on ROS 1 maintenance necessarily takes away from our current projects. And even without targeted funding, the company decides to continuously invest quite some discretionary resources into ROS 1 maintenance (through each of our employees) - consider the effort it takes us every year to prepare a new ROS distribution - beside the continuous work on issues and pull requests, running the buildfarm, etc.
Open Robotics doesn’t have the resources available to allocate to these tasks so we can’t expect any additional time to “magically” become available. Luckily there is already one external ROS developer helping to maintain the
ros_comm repo (Thank you, Mike Purvis / Clearpath Robotics!). Without his efforts the current situation would be much worse. But the trend of me having less and less time as well as the load continuously increasing leads to the current unsatisfying situation as well as a not very positive outlook for the future.
So what can we do about it? Ultimately we need more people to volunteer to help with the effort of maintaining these packages. These contributions can come in many forms: review pending patches (which includes reproducing the problem, applying the proposed patch, reporting that the problem is fixed, additional testing to check for potential regressions), review incoming issues and provide users with help to fix them, help with other maintainer tasks like creating and testing patch releases, considering patches for backporting into “older” ROS distributions which are still being supported, investigating flaky tests, etc. A good way to start is to browse through the existing tickets and subscribe to the notifications on the repo so you will get emailed when new issues / pull requests are coming in, and some may pique your interest. While any kind of help is highly appreciated we are looking for people which want to help for a longer time period and on a regular base with these tasks. If you would like to “commit” to that kind of support please let us know and we are happy to get you more actively involved.