For what’s packaged, there’s one release difference indeed. But it also helps to have different sized groups of people look at things. So including having a release despite not packaging it. I do fear the initial alpha quality will go down a bit because I do see additional work, it’s not just savings in time.
Regarding testing and found bugs, it usually increases with the amount of people using it. So for unstable stuff I usually have the following thought: 1-3 users/testers (developers and no tarball), 10-30 testers (release team bit for e.g. 3.37.1 and 3.37.2), 100-200 testers (first distro to package it, hopefully 3.37.2), 1000+ testers (multiple distros with 3.37.3), etc (stable distro, etc).
I don’t want to takeover the stuff that could’ve been caught with a much smaller amount of testers. Also, if the release is too unstable it’ll not go over well with the distribution users.
There’s sometimes a few cases where instead of a 3.x.y.1 as a packager you have to figure out that there was a patch. IMO that’s unneeded.
If the goal is to get every release tested at every point I think the amount of work might actually go up for a release team, not down. I see time saved, but also time which needs to be spend.
Anyway, I’m not intending to want to repeat the versioning discussion, nor that anything is changed at this time. Just that it’s kept in mind.