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.
First, thanks to Greg for an excellent, thoughtful post on Fedora’s goals. I remember well — and I’m sure Greg does too — the FUDCon in Raleigh in January 2008 where members of the Fedora community sat down to try to distill “what Fedora stands for” into a powerful message. The result was the freedom, friends*, features, first mantra — guiding values that we’ve enshrined on our Foundations page.
The ability of any Fedora contributor to scratch his or her own itch is one of the strengths of our community. It has yielded many exceptional contributors, brought volunteer leadership to many of our project teams, and produced a steady enough stream of young contributors to merit an annual scholarship recognizing their achievements. One of the jobs of every Fedora project leader is to balance contributors’ ability to scratch their itches effectively, even when they’re not in concert with everyone else. That facet of the Fedora Project is a deliverable for our objective of building FOSS communities, and we need to continue to provide it continually and continuously.
At the same time, there’s a distinct difference between a project that has this capability of traveling forward in many directions at once, and a product with such a capability. And another one of our objectives is to provide a top-tier Linux-based general computing platform. We provide a myriad of free software packages that allow people to define a combination they want to personally use. Since we provide 100% remixability, anyone can produce a personally satisfying combination from that universe of installable stuff. That’s a more or less autonomic feature of Fedora these days, of which the many official spins produced each release are evidence.
The Fedora Project can easily encompass, for example, a dozen hosted code projects that each manage virtual infrastructure with a slight twist, or SIGs that want to provide completely different desktop environments. That flexibility isn’t as easy or desirable with a single product. Finite resources mean choices, because one product can’t do all things equally. (And in complete fairness, even a big-tent project like Fedora can’t do completely opposite things equally well — such as promote rapid advancement at the same time as long-term stability.)
That’s why, for instance, we don’t offer seven email clients directly in the default Fedora spin, nor three different mail servers to process their mail, nor three desktop environments in which to run them.** Community test, QA, and documentation efforts five times their current size couldn’t effectively test and note all those combinations of software! And the contributors doing those jobs in Fedora are just as important to our community as any others. So a shared set of priorities are important. That’s also reflected in aspects such as our packaging guidelines, which on the surface seem to restrict autonomy. But in reality they’re an expression of our community’s shared priority for scalability. These guidelines produce better software security and interoperability, as well as encourage forward momentum in all the upstreams whose software we distribute.
That point — scalability — brings me to another complete agreement I have with what Greg wrote about sacrificing bedrock principles of free software methodology in pursuit of a worthy goal; the ends do not justify the means. Fedora provides and champions an honest, sustainable, scalable system of upstream collaboration. And one of the best ways for us to demonstrate how well that system works is by putting an exceptional distillation of it into users’ hands. That experience is not just about what appears on screen when they boot a Live CD or USB image, but what happens afterward as they use it daily — and how we can use that experience to on-ramp curious, willing people into participating in sustainable, meaningful free software practices. There is still betterment we can apply to the way that users (which includes, not excludes, our contributors) experience Fedora, and I’m interested in continuing to explore them, as we’ve done for many releases.
So in short, I’m interested in focusing on a set of priorities in the Fedora distro, and empowering a wide set of alternative capabilities in the Fedora Project, following the core values of freedom, friends, features, and first. Which I think is just what the doctor (DeKoenigsberg) ordered.
* “Friends,” as opposed to “folks”… less folksy, but more accurate.
** Of course, the user, once at the helm, has complete freedom to do any of these things!
First, we have SystemTap 1.0 available, which has a variety of cool enhancements, including better C++ support, Eclipse integration, and expanded documentation to help developers put it to work right away making your code better. You can check out this article on Red Hat’s press blog and the in-depth feature profile on the Fedora wiki. The wiki page also features a podcast in which I interviewed Will Cohen, a SystemTap contributor and performance tools engineer at Red Hat. (We’re working on putting these interview podcasts into a feed as part of our upcoming Fedora Insight content system, and helping you find them everywhere you want to listen.)
Second, there’s an interesting article at Phoronix concerning the updated experimental drivers for ATI Radeon cards now in Fedora 12 Beta. I’m running this experimental support on my new workstation, which has a R770-based ATI Radeon HD 4850, and it allows me to use compiz and the gnome-shell preview. The performance is not yet as good in some 3D games as the proprietary drivers, but it’s quite satisfying for general desktop usage. The big benefits are that more work is being done on this free software driver constantly by the maintainers, without the freezes and other negative side effects of a closed driver.
I’m very pleased that Fedora is able to contribute to this effort through our stance on freedom. While we try not to get in the way of users making their own personal choices in software, we are also working hard at making proprietary bits more unnecessary. With every new release of Fedora, you can see the advances that are gained through those efforts.
Of course, we still need help from the community at large. Not every card is fully supported yet, so if you are having a problem please file a bug. (You might also want to consult the common F12 bugs wiki page, on which we’ve been actively listing the issues we know about.) The drivers are constantly being improved, which is one of the things I really appreciate about the open source development process — rapid progress and results, out in the open where they can be seen and experienced. And having a quick Fedora release cycle means twice a year you can see the forward momentum in a distribution anyone can download and use.
With this release, the Nvidia card in my laptop and the brand-new ATI card in my desktop both offer full kernel mode setting. Without any proprietary support I can suspend/resume and hibernate/thaw my laptop. I can experience the full pleasure of compiz and even try the early testing preview of gnome-shell, all on completely free software. I want to thank all the upstream contributors to the free desktop who have made this possible — you guys rule!
As Joe has pointed out, the Linux Foundation is sponsoring a “We’re Linux” video contest, soliciting budding filmmakers for their take on Linux for the masses. As someone pointed out in an earlier comment here, a winning commercial is really going to have to stand out compared to IBM’s super-cool 90-second spot and the array of supporting spots.
I think the argument rages on as to whether or not it’s useful to market Linux right now to the masses. I certainly believe Linux at least solves some of the most aggravating problems regular Joes and Sallies have with home computing. On the other hand, there’s a fair case that right now, Linux comes along with its own set of head-scratchers. All other things being equal, I’ll take freedom any day, though. I certainly believe that Fedora is on the right track both to creating a less problematic Linux, and to showing off the best of what Linux can do to solve the problems created by other operating systems, in a way that promotes the principles and practices that have made FOSS successful.
Having said all that, and with the competition hopefully being stiff, let me offer some pointers for things to avoid; were I a judge, these things would eliminate entries.
Anyway, this is all my humble opinion and I wish all the contestants, and the Linux Foundation contest judges also, well in their efforts! I hope any ambitious filmmakers out there in the Fedora community will give this contest a shot, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results in April.
Note: This is a bastardization (and cleanup) of a post I made yesterday to the fedora-marketing-list. I think it’s actually very applicable to EVERYONE in the Fedora project, especially if you deal with users.
It is *absolutely vital* that all of us be on the same page for how to deal with journalists and other media people. Presenting a consistent, positive, and thoughtful message about Fedora is our Number One priority on this team and on this list.