Over the past year-and-some-change, I’ve spent quite a bit of time working with Red Hat Legal on the treatment of Fedora trademarks in our community. In particular, Pam Chestek, one of the very small handful people I work with who’s been at Red Hat for a shorter time than I, has courageously surged forward into the community to engage in mutual dialogue about trademarks. Specifically, she actively solicited comments on making a better trademark license agreement, listening intently to concerns and then addressing them with changes or explanations.
At FUDCon, Pam gave a session on trademarks in one of the 35-seat classrooms that overflowed the available seating. It was obvious our community takes the subject matter seriously, and I heard from several people over the course of the weekend how pleased they were that Red Hat Legal wanted to participate directly with them. If you’re interested, journalist Sean Michael Kerner has posted a short summary of the talk that’s well worth reading.
He notes that I made a point about brand — that in large part, the value thereof is defined by your customers. This is something about which I’ve learned more from reading, among other things, Chris Grams’ excellent Dark Matter Matters blog. Credit where credit’s due!
For some FOSS entities, trademark policies are addressed only in hushed tones, or even concealed from contributors. I’m really proud to work for a company where I can visibly see community principles being put to work daily, even when it comes to touchy issues like trademark protection.
There have already been plenty of posts about all the good stuff that happened at FUDCon Toronto 2009, so just repeating the same details would seem like gilding the lily. Easily over 200 attendees as of Day 1, and we had other people showing up over the weekend, and students stopping in on Day 3, asking questions and sharing stories. A great facility at Seneca, thanks to Chris Tyler and crew. Lackluster broadband at the hotel, but a great hack suite experience nonetheless. Questionable pub surroundings, very little sleep, loads of fun, and a marvelous event overall.
Day 0: Not much other than checking in with the hotel to make sure they were ready for the bus. Dinner with Greg DeKoenigsberg, Howard Johnson, David Huff, Yaakov Nemoy, and many other Fedorans at the infamous “Irish Pub.” Arrived a bit late for the actual FUDBus landing, but got to greet almost everyone arriving at the hotel. Then realized everyone was going to the pub again and cursed the fact that I hadn’t had a healthy snack to get me through for a late night dinner.
Day 1: Realized we just broke BarCamp — at least as a “do everything the day of” event. In the future, we’ll need to have a night event for our scheduling. The consolation prize, of course, is our “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to talks: more than we can fit in the schedule, to be sure. Thanks to Yaakov and an intrepid crew of volunteers, we also had almost every talk logged on IRC so that remote contributors could “listen in,” ask questions, and participate from afar.
In between event troubleshooting and hallway conversations, I caught part or all of:
There’s kind of a trend there, since I’m keenly interested in the experience of Fedora and how we might all bring our individual skills to making it better. I also gave my own wacky commentary on Fedora and some ideas on thinking beyond our subjectivity to broaden Fedora’s reach, widen its appeal, and attract more contributors to what I think is ultimately a more sustainable approach to working in the free software community.
On a semi-related note, there’s a saying you’ll find on my blog site. You won’t see it in RSS readers of course. It reads, “Esse quam videri,” which means “To be and not to seem to be.”* The free software distribution that we enjoy comes to us thanks to the efforts of thousands of people upstream from Fedora that write some of the code we use, and one of the things we need to do over the next year is redouble our efforts to support them. In addition, we need to recognize all the Fedora contributors who are vital parts of upstream communities, and support them as well. And in doing that, we need to be true to our FOSS philosophy and practices — walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
I drew a brief metaphor in my FUDCon closing comments on Day 1 to $FAST_FOOD.** Leaving aside all my veggiesaurus friends for the sake of argument, the success of $FAST_FOOD implies that a great number of people find $FAST_FOOD’s goods to be tasty and affordable. And the advertising and marketing of $FAST_FOOD sure tends to reinforce that — even going so far as to imply their food good is for you, and high-quality.
But unfortunately, the widepsread, negative side effects worldwide, from obesity (yes, I’m looking at you, mirror) to agricultural nightmares to economic problems, tend to say otherwise. There are better ways to produce nourishing food, and promote healthier and more sustainable lives. And in the same way, there are better ways to produce free and open source software that don’t sacrifice freedom or choices for users, and promote “healthy” upstream collaboration and cultivation.
And that’s what Fedora represents to me: being this sustainable force, not simply appearing to be so.
So, back to my FUDCon tale: Following the technical sessions in BarCamp, of course there was the world-famous FUDPub event, dominated by snicky-snacks and pool sharks. I also got to meet, live and in person, previously virtual-only friends like Adam Miller and Karlie Robinson. I also tried to troll Max Spevack, but was too earnest to carry that off properly, and failed miserably (sorry Matt, I tried). Max is a master at this so maybe I need to take some lessons! Or alternately, in the future I’ll just stick to wearing my heart on my sleeve, which apparently suits me better.
Day 2-3: We moved to a different building where the hackfests would be more effective, putting people together in small rooms or around workgroup-sized tables for better face-to-face exchanges.
To start off the day, I gave an introductory talk on PyGTK development, aimed at people who were in the position I was last year — understanding the basics of Python, and knowing how to write basic programs, but not understanding how to build a GUI around it. I explained things in rudimentary terms, such as how events work with GTK, the inheritance model for objects, and how to look up properties and functions using system resources like DevHelp when writing code. These were the things that were so difficult for me to wrap my head around as a liberal artsy non-programmer, every time I sat down and tried to bridge this gap, and I think I hit the sweet spot for a bunch of the attendees. And fortunately, there were a couple experts in the room too, who I could rely on to tell me if I was Getting It Wrong, or offer additional advice to the attendees.
A bunch of people took this information and started thinking about cool ways we could extend and, to some extent, universalize PulseCaster to meet more of our media origination needs. We did some brainstorming about use cases and also interface design to support them; that’s hard work but very worthwhile, and also incredibly important to me because I want a tool that meets the GNOME HIG and remains simple, slick, and usable by non-technical people. I’m really keen on working on this more over the next few weeks, especially during my vacation time when I can set my own agenda.
During the rest of these days I had a number of meetings with different people to understand issues, listen to ideas, give feedback where it was wanted, and facilitate everyone else’s FUDCon experience:
Day 2 ended with a nice dinner with Max, Matt Domsch, Dennis Gilmore, and some other Fedora folks at the Ice Cream Patio. Christopher Aillon and I split a nice bottle of valpolicella, although I think that I probably got the better part of a 60/40 split, and the food was very good, especially the dessert (my amaretto trufata was excellent, and if Dennis wasn’t so imposing a figure, his raspberry crepe would have been in danger too if I could have distracted him somehow!). We talked a lot about disasters for some reason, and hearing what Matt and Christopher had both experienced in the way of real estate catastrophes, I felt completely humbled about my stupid and trivial basement leaks.
Day 3 ended quite differently, with dozens of Fedorans crammed into our hospitality/hack suite at the hotel for hors d’oeuvres and fun conversation. For the most part, people set their laptops aside and wound down from an action-packed weekend. My manager, Tim Burke, VP of Linux Development at Red Hat, was there too. I do have to say that it is incredibly empowering and supportive for one’s manager to show up at the most important regional event as a participant — and at the risk of sounding like a suck-up I think that’s one of the things I really like about working with Tim. Maybe I’d better say something negative to balance it out — we wish he’d brought beer!
In general, this FUDCon was one of the most exciting events I think we’ve ever had. It was certainly one of the, and maybe the single, largest ever. I’m really grateful to all our contributors who made it such a success, bringing their talent, their knowledge, their passion, and their willingness to help others contribute to free software through Fedora.
Coming up to this event, I’d been struggling a bit with some mental and spiritual exhaustion. This event helped me get Fedora back into perspective and reminded me what a beautiful thing it is to be surrounded by wonderful, smart people — and how much we can accomplish when we bring our ideas together and compare them constructively to find the best way forward. Thank you to every single one of you who participated either on-site or remotely, for the gift of renewal.
See you at the next FUDCon!
* The original Cicero quote is also worth knowing: “Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem to be so.”
** I’m not naming one here to avoid the obvious legal entanglements.
UPDATE: Apologies to Colin for absent-mindedly fubar-ing his last name.
While at FUDCon, please make sure to let the community know what you’re doing! Blog posts are really helpful for spreading word out to Planet Fedora and other aggregators. Make sure to tag your posts as “Fedora” and “FUDCon” also.
If your attendance is sponsored by the Fedora Project, you’re expected to do approximately one blog entry per day to let the community know what you’ve been working on here.
Remember that, as much as we would have loved to, we couldn’t sponsor every single person who wanted to be here. Show that you appreciate the opportunity by spreading the word about all the cool stuff going on at FUDCon, especially what you’re involved in yourself. Sure, code is awesome, but no matter what you’re involved in, take the time to let others know. You never know what tidbit is going to get someone excited and motivated to contribute.
On Identi.ca, Twitter, and other services, use hashtags #fedora and #fudcon for micro-blogging.
If you want to follow the fun in IRC, go to Freenode at irc.freenode.net and check out the #fudcon channel. We have additional channels that will follow what’s going on each session room as well — see the FUDCon Toronto 2009 wiki page for details.
In just a few minutes, I’m leaving for the airport to catch a plane through Cincinnati to Toronto. I should touch down at YYZ at around 3:45pm, and hopefully I’ll be meeting some other Fedora friends at the airport and we’ll share a taxi to the hotel. Hopefully we should be there around 5:30pm. After checking in, I plan to get online at IRC Freenode, #fudcon channel, and remain there as often as possible (minus some dinner foraging). I’ll be in the hotel lobby to greet the FUDBus when it arrives.
Then I have to disappear with Mel Chua to round up on some details and strategery, and possibly sit down with Max and Greg for a bit if I’m needed.
When people check in, they should plan to pick up breakfast vouchers at the hotel desk. Those will be used in the morning. Breakfast will be served in the York Room of the hotel, where you’ll just write in your room number on the voucher to queue up.
FUDCon will begin promptly at 9:30am on Saturday morning at the Seneca @York site. All the details needed for arriving there are on the wiki — see you there!
I just got back from my slightly extended Thanksgiving vacation yesterday, and there’s so much to talk about!
Most importantly, this coming Saturday marks the start of FUDCon Toronto 2009. As everything is starting to settle into place, we’re having a planning wrap-up meeting this afternoon on IRC Freenode at #fudcon-planning at 2100 UTC (4:00pm US/Eastern). Thanks to the superb efforts of people like Steven Parrish, Andrew Overholt, Mel Chua, and the inimitable Chris Tyler, we have updated information on the wiki, and even ride sharing information for people coming into Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ — thanks Steven!).
Have you looked at the list of people and content lately? The pre-registration table now shows almost 180 people coming, and if this FUDCon is anything like others, there will be people showing up out of the blue as well. And that’s not at all a bad thing — FUDCon is, after all, free and open to anyone to attend! There’s a huge list of technical sessions already suggested. Some of these have been pre-selected for two user tracks, so some of the new contributors attending FUDCon for the first time can get the most out of their Fedora systems. (I call this putting the U back in FUDCon!) At the same time, there will be a boatload of sessions aimed at developers, maintainers, and contributors of all sorts — and those who are becoming one or more of the above.
There’s also about a dozen and a half hackfests listed, with something for virtually everyone who’s willing to roll up sleeves and work on something Fedora-related. Speaking only for myself, I want to spend a bit of time on the Fedora Insight (Zikula) work that will help us get a true content management system into production. Eventually we’ll be able to use that not just for marketing material, but for documentation, media, and other goodies.
Finally, there’s a very useful and concise list of things you should bring with you!
It’s going to be a great FUDCon, and I look forward to seeing everyone there. If you have lingering questions about FUDCon that you don’t find answered on the wiki page, please feel free to email the planners, fudcon-planning at lists fedoraproject org, or come by the IRC channel (irc.freenode.net, #fudcon-planning)!
OK, Fedora community in and around Boston, MA: We still have a need for some crash space for people who are flying to Boston to take the charter bus to FUDCon. Many of these valiant travelers are traveling on their own dime because FUDCon is just that great. Especially in these tough economic times, it behooves all of us to dig a little deeper and help fellow Fedora contributors out.
If you have crash space in your house, apartment, condo, etc. — whether it’s a bed, a sofa, a sleeping bag, spare floor space, or gravity boots (for the odd caped crusader who shows up) — please consider making room for a Fedora buddy or two. It’s also a great chance to get to know a fellow contributor and find new places to collaborate, learn, and share. In most cases, we’re just looking for one or two specific nights — Thursday night, December 3, and/or Tuesday night, December 8.
To help out, simply go to the pre-registration list, and find someone who’s looking for space. Then contact that person and offer space. Or if you’re going to FUDCon also, you can put your crash space offer in the “Comments” field of the pre-registration table with your entry. It’s that easy.
By the way, if you have the crash space you were looking for, you can remove any “Need crash space” comment from the table. (Similarly for people offering space, who have found Fedorans to take them up on the offer.)
OK, this post obviously didn’t make it out of Australia before I did. It was a pretty grueling travel day, with a 13-hour flight from BNE to LAX, followed by Customs (a thankfully brief wait) and then a four-hour layover followed by another five-hour flight back to IAD, then home. It’s been a weekend partly spent in jet lag recovery, and partly in catching up to a few writing jobs I had left over from my week Down Under.
One of the things I wanted to mention was our FUDCon status. Here are the high points, bulletized for easy reading:
We continue to have weekly meetings for FUDCon at IRC Freenode, #fudcon-planning, and also use the mailing list for planning discussions. All are welcome!
As of this writing, we have 120 people signed up for the FUDCon Toronto 2009 event, and it’s still a month away! I’m so excited to be holding the first North American event outside the USA. I’m also looking forward to seeing many good friends there, such as the illustrious Chris Tyler, who has done so much for this event already to make it a success. We’ll have many new friends joining us as well, and plenty of content that will be of interest to general users, developers, system administrators, and other open source enthusiasts and professionals. (You’ll find all the lowdown on the wiki page, of course.) The weekend of December 5-7 might be cold in Toronto, but there will be lots of energy flowing from ideas, collaboration, and fun.
Now, as part of each FUDCon we have a pre-registration process, which is where I got the number 120 above. We never require anyone to pre-register — you can simply show up at a FUDCon and you will be warmly welcomed to attend and participate as much as you like! But pre-registration gives you a little bonus, in return for letting us know you’re coming. Of course you’ll find a name badge (and a smiling registrar) waiting for you, and also a shirt in your size. And you’ll get a paid pass to FUDPub, our social event on Saturday night, which entitles you to free eats and non-alcoholic beverages.
Here’s the catch: there’s a pre-registration cap, so that we know we’ll have enough of everything to go around. The cap is 130, which means we’re getting pretty close at this point! Now, don’t get too worried — if you don’t decide to come until later (even the day of the event!), you are still welcome at FUDCon. You’ll be able to participate in the technical sessions, the hackfests, the roundtables, and so forth. We just won’t be able to guarantee that there will be free goodies left at that point. (Pssst — at past FUDCons, though, people often show up on the last day and score goodies that are left over!)
Something tells me that there will be plenty of free Fedora 12 media to be had, though.
After we pass the magic number, we’ll still feature a signup at the pre-registration area, and that way we’ll still know which rooms we need for the beginning and ending sessions on Saturday, where everyone gathers together. We have what we think will work at this point, a 160-seat auditorium, but it’s always good to be prepared.
So if you’re on the fence, let me remind you that FUDCon is — as always! — completely and 100% FREE! Just like the wonderful distribution that comes from our fabulous community members, it’s no cost, all freedom. Freedom to look around, freedom to learn, freedom to teach, freedom to get involved, freedom to participate in our community of contribution. Please join us from December 5-7 in Toronto for a wonderful event. We look forward to seeing you there!
Update on the bus to FUDCon Toronto 2009:
We currently have 26 people signed up for the 36-seat bus, meaning that we’ll be closing the bus sign-up shortly! If you intend to go to FUDCon on the FUDBus and haven’t done so already, please visit the (FUD)wiki and do the (FUD)following:
Remember that people outside the Fedora community will be reading these lists and using them to decide whether to come to FUDCon. The more we can show in advance what a worthwhile and valuable event this is, the more people will take advantage of the opportunity to learn about Fedora and free software.
If you’re a Fedora Ambassador in the Toronto/Ontario area and you plan on being at the Ontario Linux Fest on October 24th — or if you know someone who is — please get in touch with me. You can email me at pfrields fedoraproject org. I know that Fedora Ambassador Jean-Francois Saucier owns the event, as shown on the Fedora events calendar. I’m also interested in hearing from other Fedora folks who will be at OnLinux 2009.