Clearly, some shortcomings in how Debian handles patches to the programs it ships have been revealed; now the project would like to face those problems and make things work better in the future. The resulting discussion shows Debian at its introspective best, and may well have results that other distributors will want to pay attention to.
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Raphaël Hertzog started a discussion on how to improve this situation. A key part of his approach (and an idea which others have been pursuing as well) is to make changes to the Debian source package format which would make the nature of each patch explicit. At a minimum, packagers would include a debian/patches directory with the source; that directory would contain each patch, broken out into a separate file. Some Debian packages are built this way already, though the practice is far from universal.