Following a truncated workday on Thursday, I quickly packed, threw my stuff in the car, and raced up the road as quickly as torrential rain would safely allow to Reagan National Airport. I took a short flight to Columbus, Ohio, where this weekend the Ohio Linux Fest 2011 was set to go. I got into the hotel around diner time and fortunately I was able to hook up with a variety of folks including Ruth Suehle from opensource.com, Jared Smith, Red Hat mega-architect and superstar Thomas Cameron, and Fedora Docs hackers John McDonough and Zach Oglesby for dinner at Bucca di Beppo. Yum!
Friday was sort of an “early penguin” day, with fewer sessions organized into a couple tracks such as medical/open source crossover and a catchall track for other FOSS related talks. I got up at about 7:00am and took care of a few emails, which turned out to be a good idea since the rest of the day would be devoid of connectivity; any plans I had for productivity were killed by the complete lack of 3G and wifi at the convention center. There was a good amount of docs hacking that was rumored to take place back in the hotel, though.
Meanwhile, I spent most of my time meeting up with various acquaintances from around the FOSS world and attending early talks. I saw a good presentation on representing open source in economic models, for instance, and also caught Ruth’s talk in the medical track about tech advancements in open source and how they reflect the collaborative nature of health science. I didn’t catch much of the cloud talk but I understand there were some last minute changes. Hopefully people who attended that track still found plenty of worthwhile material.
A bunch of Fedora folks started appearing in a flood by afternoon, including my roomie Clint Savage. After dinner with Ruth and some new friends at BD’s Mongolian Grill, I met up with him, Christer Edwards, and Aaron Toponce and we headed to Barley’s for brews with Robyn Bergeron, Jeremy Sands, and a couple other folks. I helped Aaron get some printouts done for the GPG key-signing event at the Drury Inn’s complimentary business center, so he wouldn’t get robbed by the Hyatt’s ludicrous money-grubbers, while Robyn, Clint, John Mark, Zach and I played a game of poker in the lobby. We couldn’t actually finish before people were too tired to continue (but too competitive to throw in the towel). So we called it, and of course Robyn was in the lead, so she gets the pride and kudos this time. Clint and I finally hit lights-out around 2:00am.
Saturday was the full-on conference experience, and talks started with a 9:00am keynote. I attended talks in just about every track, including Klaatu‘s talk on the new Novacut project which was very interesting, a session on building job experience through work in the open source community (complete with testimonials from actual hiring managers), and one on password theory and encrypted file systems.
I also gave my own talk on PyGObject for beginners, which had a very robust and responsive audience. It was great to have so many people interested in a subject I enjoy talking about, and to get such great feedback and questions. Hopefully Ohio Linux Fest will have audio from this talk available in the future, since I understand it was recorded. I was happy with my performance although it was quite a lot of material to fit into a 50 minute period. If you attended and have feedback, feel free to comment here of course. The presentation is licensed CC BY 3.0, and it’s available on my fedorapeople.org space.
After Maddog’s final keynote, I went with a large group of friends (many of the above plus Eric ‘sparks’ Christensen, David Nalley and wife Pam, and several others) to the Spaghetti Warehouse. It was a fair walk from the hotel but it helped us all feel better about a pasta dinner, I think. We came back to the conference after-party but it wasn’t quite our taste, so we went back to Barley’s.
On Sunday, since my plane wasn’t scheduled to depart until almost 7:00pm, I got up in the morning and joined the Docs guys in a meeting room downstairs that was graciously donated by the Ohio Linux Fest organizers. What we did is already being reported and discussed on the Docs mailing list, so I won’t reiterate it all here. I definitely noticed there — and this is indeed not new, but rather a constant challenge — the importance of keeping a group session on track by focusing on specifics.
This is a characteristic of good sessions that I’ve many times seen Greg DeKoenigsberg or Max Spevack manage extremely well, and from which I’ve tried to learn. Sessions tend to produce lots of results by focusing on specifics, such as “We need to fix the following two things about our licensing statements, and here’s why.” It’s a lot harder when the problem you try to solve isn’t well articulated already, such as “We need to make contributors’ lives better.” When one doesn’t focus on those specifics, and driving to action as efficiently as possible, it’s easy for discussions to veer off into many different kinds of weeds, to the extent that you forget what problem you originally were trying to solve.
In any case, the Docs session went fairly well by focusing on specifics, and it was good to see friends from the team that I hadn’t met, or hadn’t seen in a while. Clint gave me, Zach, and Robyn a ride to the airport, where we proceeded to cool our heels for several hours (myself longer than most, I think, since my plane was delayed by local thunderstorms). I arrived home a little before 11:00pm, and basically dumped my suitcase out and went to bed so I could get up at 6:00 the next morning and start my workweek!
All in all Ohio Linux Fest was better for me this year as a speaker than as an attendee. In terms of the value I got from them personally, the quality of talks was not quite as good as what I’ve seen in recent years, but there were a few I definitely enjoyed and learned from. And of course it was fantastic was to see many Fedora contributors there, and collaborate and catch up with colleagues and friends. In closing, the organizers did a tremendous job with conference logistics and they definitely deserve a nice rest after all their efforts. Good work, folks!
You probably already know that the Southeast Linux Fest 2010 is coming up in just a few weeks (June 11-13). The Fedora Project will, of course, be there as well. Last year I was honored to be one of the inaugural event's keynote speakers. Apparently those crazy guys at SELF never learn, because this year I'm doing a couple sessions, one on Fedora and one on PyGTK for beginners! Kidding of course. They are an amazing team of people who put on one of the best inaugural community conferences I have ever seen in 2009. This year promises to be a barn buster as well, from what I hear.
But did you know we're also holding a Fedora Activity Day on Sunday? Both Yr. Humble Narrator and Max Spevack will be there talking about Fedora myths and truths. Our wiki czar, Ian Weller, will be giving a talk on gardening the wiki as well. It's an easy way to help keep Fedora information fresh and plentiful for everyone. Many other fine Fedora friends will be there too, and we plan to cover some keen technical topics like remixing Fedora into Live USB form.
Remember that our activity is free and open to everyone — just like the Fedora community. Hope to see you at SELF 2010!
On day 2, Chris Grams of New Kind and John Adams and Jonathan Opp of Red Hat joined us to talk about growing and strengthening Fedora brand. They talked to us about the 10-plus year work that has gone into building Red Hat’s brand, and helped us find the right questions to ask about Fedora’s brand. The full log is probably more illuminating than quick notes on a complex topic. I also got a chance to take a look at the excellent book Designing Brand Identity, and did some reading in it overnight — enough to know I want to go get a copy of my own.
It seems like Fedora has been doing a good job of maintaining consistency in the way we present Fedora, and that our reliance on the same essential four foundations of freedom, friends, features and first can continue to serve us well into the future. We spent much of the rest of the day trying to flesh out our answers to the questions Chris, John, and Jonathan passed on as a good exercise.
Russell Harrison also took some wonderful head shots of some of the participants at the very tail end of the day. They turned out great and I can really see how much there is to learn as a novice photographer! Then we headed off to the Carolina Ale House for a fun dinner, followed by several hours of packaging introduction by the inimitable David Nalley (ke4qqq).
On day 3, we focused on PR and press-related content. Our guest speaker had a last-minute emergency and we rearranged some of our schedule. Henrik Heigl (wonderer), who’s an experienced press person himself, gave a fantastic presentation on press relations from the perspective of having a foot in both worlds. He’s helping to drive our work on a more modular, expressive, and useful press kit. Everyone worked on content for the kit, drafting up pages that we can shift in and out of such a kit over time and depending on where and to whom we’re giving it out.
Last night I had to hole up in my room to get some non-Marketing work done. Today we are pumped up for a day of video work with the awesome Red Hat Creative team. I’ll be leaving late this afternoon, bringing Neville Cross back to the airport to catch his plane back to Nicaragua, and then heading home.
People have already posted about much of the goings-on from Day 1 of the Marketing FAD, such as the draft of our new, low-drag marketing plan, and our approach to spins, but I wanted to call out a specific area for people to notice. Back in the fall the board talked a lot about expanding the user base of Fedora, and ultimately set out four points to describe a user base that represents a wide audience of people, yet includes our current contributor base. One way to think about this user base is as a minimum bar. If, at a minimum, you fit all of these four descriptions, you are someone Fedora can make very happy — or if we’re not, then we should:
A lot of details about these descriptions are set out on the wiki and come directly out of the discussions from last fall. We spent a good deal of time at FAD day 1 describing the intersection of these very broad groups of people. I illustrated this on the board with a simple Venn diagram, with these criteria as four large circles that shared a very broad common area in the middle (the intersection).
That intersection is still a very large population of people, and we contributors are a small subgroup somewhere in the middle of that intersection. We all have particular interests in Fedora that can make it easy, if we’re not careful, to exclude a lot of people from that large population. And sometimes we may have to re-tune our own expectations or priorities to effectively serve them. (Providing a more stable update user experience is just one example.)
Does this mean that we don’t want people outside these areas to use Fedora? Let’s take some guy named Edward as an example. What if he’s not a likely collaborator, but still wants to switch to Fedora and be productive? We want him to be comfortable too. But when we make decisions about how to set up certain systems in Fedora, we want to make it easy for people to collaborate. We’ll make decisions to encourage them. Often that will have no bearing on Edward, and his experience will be no worse for it. On the other hand, there might be some tool installed that offers collaborators an opportunity in which he’s not interested. Who knows, one day Edward might change his mind and take advantage of the opportunity presented. If not, he’s welcome to ignore or uninstall that thing.
After talking about these concepts, John Poelstra popped out a nice pyramid-style graphic illustrating the concept without painful Venn diagrams. I’m hoping he’ll post it in his blog at some point. (Hint!) Mel Chua also brought up the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition and the four stages of competence. These are worth understanding as they affect our approach to users, and ability to look beyond our personal skill levels and understand how to properly on-ramp users into new contributors. It’s interesting to see how many of the conversations around change play directly into the pitfalls predicted by these models.
The beginnings of our new marketing plan are less scholastic than our previous attempt (seen for now on the wiki) but make a lot more sense in terms of broadening the user base, and more importantly, determining how future Fedora plays a part in helping more people get things done that are important to them. Getting out of our comfort zone may be difficult, but I believe it will be rewarding in the long run, and do nothing but increase Fedora’s relevance. Moreover, it will increase our ability to advance free software, pursuant to our philosophy of open collaboration.
We also collected post-mortem information about our F12 marketing efforts, where we were successful and where we were not, and everyone took back homework to complete, such as collating all the existing ideas for marketing tasks into a list we can prioritize and then assign or defer at the next couple of Marketing meetings. (That will help us ensure we’re not taking on too much and under-delivering, but rather picking the things that are really important to do, and exceeding expectations.) I drafted my homework, a general page on post-mortem information collection, after returning to the hotel.
Before that we watched the ‘Canes be outplayed by the Coyotes from the comfort of Red Hat’s swank private box at the RBC Center. We were joined by Russell Harrison’s lovely wife Doracy, and Greg DeKoenigsberg and his wife Mel stopped by as well. It would have been nice to see the home team make good, but we had fun anyway — especially Robyn and Ryan who are from Phoenix!
By the way, there’s a reason I called out open collaboration earlier. We have a great treat coming up for Day 2 — we’re being visited by Chris Grams (of New Kind), Jonathan Opp, and John Adams to talk about evaluation, growth, and spread of brand, and how to expand our opportunities to do those things in a community. Our agenda continues on the wiki today, and we’ll again be on IRC Freenode at #fedora-fad.
I had a pretty uneventful drive from Fredericksburg to Raleigh, and arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to unwind. I met up with Henrik, Ben, and Neville at the lobby, and after a couple quick phone calls I rejoined them and we did a little catching up. It’s great to have the opportunity to host some non-US folks for this FAD and I’m so grateful that Neville and Henrik were able to spare the time and make a long journey here to be with us.
We felt bad about being the only people hanging around the lobby being boisterous and having fun, so we repaired to one of the rooms to hang out. Henrik is an expert photographer and was willing to impart some of his experience and recommendations to me, an eager novice. He gave me a couple tips for cheap but effective equipment that was suitable for beginners and beyond. I got to see some of the goodies he had with him, like a simple flash diffuser, which I tried and was amazed at the effectiveness. I quickly placed an online order for some extra stuff for my Canon DSLR, which I will hopefully receive before I leave for Westford next weekend. I know my wife reads my blog so I will take a moment to reassure her it was not expensive stuff.
We headed out for dinner at the Carolina Ale House, which some of my readers who attended the previous and very wintry FAD down here in Raleigh will recall. Any place with Dogfish Head ales on tap is tops in my book. Ben and I conspired to pick up a gift for Mel and Robyn as well, which will be awaiting them in their room when they arrive.
We’ll be picking up Robyn, Ryan, and Mel at the airport late tonight, and tomorrow morning we’ll head to Red Hat HQ for Day 1 of the event. You can see the entire agenda laid out on the wiki, and we’ll be on IRC Freenode at #fedora-fad where interested people can join in as remote participants. The Marketing team will definitely rock it astarting tomorrow. (These are the jokes.)
In just a little while, I’ll be heading offline to pack and then hit the road for the Marketing FAD in Raleigh, NC. Our plan is very well fleshed out on the wiki and I’m looking forward to seeing all the participants from around our community — some for the first time in person. It’s going to be a very exciting and energizing weekend, between wonderful guests, an ambitious agenda, and remote participation.
I’ll be returning home late on Tuesday night. I’ll likely take some sort of time off next week so I can finish a set of documents for a bunch of guys called the IRS. I have more I wanted to post this morning but time has caught up with me, so I’ll likely do it tonight from Raleigh.
Starting with this release, a few of us have tossed around and then quickly ramped up a process for link tracking. This started with a question from Mike McGrath on the logistics list, and the purpose is to know where people are finding our download site and other properties. Eventually we can build some of this into our community maintenance practices. We’re not doing anything fancy yet, but certainly we would love people to help improve the idea and the process, and help make it easy to find ways we can better promote Fedora.
It would be helpful if everyone pitched in with links they make to the Fedora 13 Alpha release (and beyond, to the Beta and then the final). You can read about how to do it on the wiki. We’ve also set up some additional links for your use in status tools like Identi.ca, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.* You can copy these links to use in your own status updates and blog entries:
If you think of other major areas where we might want to track links, so that we know where people are finding their download links, feel free to contribute to the link tracking wiki page.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention — this is all being coordinated by the community Fedora Marketing team, and since we have an event coming up this coming weekend, hopefully we’ll have a chance to see how the idea and execution are working out.
UPDATE 2: Two new link trackers added above for your blogs and status updates, totally free software services!
* Of course we prefer fully open source platforms for these services, but we also know there are a lot of reachable people out there, and want to leverage all the channels we have available.
I attended the Events FAD 2010 that happened this past weekend, along with Mel Chua, David Nalley, Clint Savage, Jon Stanley, Dennis Gilmore, Steven Parrish, Chris Tyler, and Max Spevack.
I arrived on Thursday evening, in time to catch Max and Greg at the office and say hi. Most of the remaining short time was spent sending a few emails, trying (in vain) to find a replacement battery for my camera since I managed to leave mine at home, and checking in at the hotel.
Friday we had a massive brainstorming session on what we lovingly called “FUDCon 2.0,” where we went over past event survey results and the comments that we had gathered from blogs and other feedback mechanisms. By far the two most consistent threads running through the discussion were:
In the North American region, the most straightforward solution to allow our event to scale better is to increase the length of the technical sessions to two days. This could result in a four-day FUDCon event as opposed to a three-day event in the past. Looking far ahead, I wonder if we would benefit from a week-long event, where besides educational value we could also tap into the planning value of having so many contributors in one place. But obviously that is a much more expensive event. So first things first, and the expanded length of technical sessions allows us to hold fewer tracks at one time, but still accommodate a similar total number of talks. And that solves one of the most frequently heard complaints, which is that people can’t attend every talk they want (or in some cases need) to see.
The second problem is more subtle, and we spent much of the FAD both generating a planning calendar for future premier Fedora events, and mapping out a better process for actually producing them. In the past, a premier event like FUDCon has been arranged by a very small number of people (sometimes just one or two, like me or Max). With FUDCon Toronto 2009, we debuted a dedicated fudcon-planning list and other open processes that helped other people get involved — especially a ground team at the FUDCon location.
In the future, contributors will be able to look at a calendar far in advance of the event, propose a FUDCon location through a streamlined and simple “bid process” (it’s not the Olympics, after all!), and we can use that information to figure out where and when to assign funding. Very helpful for the Community Architecture team which takes care of the budget for these events, and because the planning would use community centered, open resources and processes such as the list and IRC, anyone in the community can get involved in the process, helping with collateral design and creation, content decisions, FUDCon Live, and so forth.
During Saturday and Sunday, snow and ice kept us at the hotel, but we assembled in the hotel’s boardroom to work on from morning to night (and into the wee hours in some cases!). During this time, I worked quite a bit on the process docs for much of this, in collaboration with the other attendees, both remote and in person — particularly the sponsorship process that we have been successfully using for several months now for premier Fedora events.
Although I didn’t get to spend much time on code-type bits, I was very happy that the FOSSLC guys joined us throughout the event to hack on freeseer, their remote A/V capture utility which we are planning to use for future events. It’s very important to us in Fedora that we achieve our free software goals with free software, and the FOSSLC folks have been very excited about getting a fully free toolchain working. Clint Savage took the lead on working with them, and that partnership has already yielded fruit, like Ogg Theora support and trading some development model information that will help freeseer grow even faster in the coming weeks. If you run an event, whether you’re interested in doing it with 100% free software or not, the FOSSLC guys do incredible work and we highly recommend them. You can see some of their work at the FOSSLC site.
As it turned out, the sun came out on Sunday, bright and clear, and with it the contractors plowing the hotel lots and other side streets. Along with the natural melting, we were all able to get out of town successfully, delayed in some cases but not discouraged. While I was sad that we didn’t get to see more of Max in person because he (along with everyone else) was snowed in, we got a lot done through online collaboration, and the FAD was time very well spent. A very sincere thank you to all those who showed up and participated, both in person and virtually — the effort you put into the event made it a great success!
In about an hour or so, I’ll be getting on the road for Red Hat HQ in Raleigh, to meet up with other Fedora contributors for the Events Fedora Activity Day. We have an agenda that includes planning Fedora events both at the macro and micro levels for this coming year, and hacking on some free tools that will allow us to better provide audio/video resources both for people who attend and those who can’t.
Connectivity will be good, but I might be a bit slower on email than usual because this is going to be a packed weekend. The success of a FAD comes from making the most of a number of contributors, gathered in one place to achieve specific goals. All of us who are coming for the event are looking forward to showing off that final set of deliverables at the end of the weekend.
If you want to be involved, but can’t be in Raleigh, you’re still welcome! Check out the notes on our wiki for information on how you can participate.
I’ll be returning home on Sunday night, but between now and then I plan to post some reports here on what’s happening at the FAD. Stay tuned.
Like other community leaders, I am getting together my travel schedule for this year. Red Hat’s fiscal year starts in March, so that’s the start of my travel calendar. And while planning, I’m keeping in mind a couple factors, which I write about below.