Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Der letzte Teil der Geschichte ist ausgezeichnet.

Der letzte Teil der Geschichte ist ausgezeichnet.

LinuxTag, the rest of the story.

By Thursday the conference is heading into full swing. We’re starting to notice that a lot of people are coming by our booth not just because they want to pick up free distros, but because they are interested in getting involved. A group of folks who have been maintaining software in other distributions show up and say they are interested in becoming packagers for Fedora. I talked at length to a young man from Spain who is a web developer interested in helping with our websites.

Something that occurs to me is that we don’t have a good way of capturing and routing these signups to individuals for mentoring, which would be a big help in making sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Simply dumping them to a mailing list or IRC is not going to be as influential or effective as giving them a little one-on-one coaching to get started. Nevertheless, if you’re in Fedora and see someone looking for help, it never hurts to just jump in and be that bridge. Remember that all of us started somewhere, and didn’t jump fully formed from the forehead of a Fedora Zeus.

I got a chance to visit the CentOS booth and finally met Dag Wieers in person, among others. I talked to some of the CentOS folks about how I think their distro fills a very vital and meaningful spot in Fedora’s family tree (or whatever you want to call the loose grouping of distros that have an upstream in Fedora). I like to think of CentOS as the essential platform for the Internet homesteader, where they can get maximum stability and performance with the same zero-cost support model as other free community distributions. If someone outgrows this support model, there is always Red Hat Enterprise Linux available.

Someone from “the media” stops by our booth at one point on Thursday, and, although I missed him by a few minutes, someone points him out to me at the KDE booth across the aisle. He spends quite a bit of time with Aaron Seigo there while I hang at our booth with visitors, but finally I catch him when he’s finished. It turns out to be John Littler, who writes for O’Reilly and his own Mstation zine. We have a nice lengthy chat outside, John hand-rolling cigarettes while I hold forth about open source philosophies, and how Fedora’s upstream policy and community building are connected.

I also spent a little time with OpenSuSE community manager Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier. As others have noted, OpenSuSE is taking a real interest in Smolt, has submitted a few patches, and will hopefully be tracking real statistics with it shortly. Zonker asked a lot of questions about our release timing and some other processes we use in putting out the distro. We also talked about the possibility of developing a MediaWiki i18n/l10n toolchain that would let translation teams create localized content in a way that was automated, collaboration-friendly, and sustainable. In a best case scenario, we could tie it into Transifex as well. By the time we talk, many of the other Fedora folks have also run into him, so I think he gets the point that we want to do some work together!

Max, Gerold Kassube, Jeroen van Meeuwen and I have a joint live interview with Radio Tux on Friday as well, which hopefully will make it to a podcast shortly. We talked about Fedora’s recent release, some of the cool feature complement, our Ambassador community, and how the new Fedora EMEA group will impact our work in Europe. I refrain from busting out any serious German because it would only end in tears. But the interview goes well and everyone gets a chance to talk about their pet subjects. Hopefully our German contingent will alert us if the talk goes into a download somewhere!

Friday is a full day of Fedora fun at the mini-FUDCon, and the talks are uniformly good — filled with excellent technical detail and delivered with skill and enthusiasm by the whole Fedora crew. Super-intern Yaakov Nemoy delivers an excellent talk on Smolt to fill in for our FreeIPA talk, unforunately canceled because the speaker is home in bed with a high fever. Max takes an in-depth look at how community architecture works, and why it’s more than just crowing about how fun it is to work together — it’s about careful attention to metrics and growth patterns, financial strategy, and investing in the right places to let community contributors make a difference. I also get to catch Francesco Crippa’s session on cobbler, func, and puppet, and how they can be used as the basis for a very robust systems management approach.

All in all, it’s very well received and Jens Kuehnel tells me there are more attendees than last year. We hope to do even better next year with a full-fledged publicity campaign for this FUDCon both before and during the show. Our European community members do an absolutely splendid job of showing off Fedora during the sessions, and deserve enormous credit for their excellent presentations.

While trying to keep up with the seemingly never-ending flow of email and issues needing attention inside Red Hat, though — some of it necessary to keep our resources flowing for events like LinuxTag and the mini-FUDCon Berlin 2008, some of it about upcoming events such as the FUDCon in Boston in a few weeks — Max and I are having a hard time being around the booth as much as we’d like. So after sporadic appearances Wednesday and Thursday, we ditch the constant hum of the intarwebz to spend Friday at the FUDCon event and most of the day on Saturday at the booth.

The booth is a great place to be, too, since Chitlesh Goorah is here at LinuxTag too, and he makes some excellent points about how to follow up on contributor sign-ups so that our new volunteers can be effectively brought into the project. I get to help some contributors sign up, to answer questions about the project and how our community works, and to watch our other Ambassadors at work. As this was my first “real” show as FPL, I realize this was a learning experience for me too, and will take that lesson to my next expo appearance.

I enter a drawing for an enormous stuffed Tux penguin at Linux Magazine (or Linux Pro here in the USA), and although I don’t win it, I do get to chat with one of their editors about a future Fedora feature. I’m already looking forward to our media blitz for Fedora 10 since this last release has been so successful on that front.

Max and I also managed to run into Jono Bacon and Ian Murdock, and Zonker happened by at the same time, which means that if some folks hadn’t been on their way to speeches and sessions, we would have had a great leadership summit in the making. Unfortunately schedules are clashing so we have to make do with sitting in on Jono’s community talk on Saturday afternoon. He even gives us a shout at one point and we good naturedly whoop from the back row. I would have liked to see more information in the presentation about strategic topics, but most of the audience seems to enjoy the talk.

Finally Saturday evening comes and it’s time to tear down. In the space of about an hour, the booth is stripped down, the remaining schwag is reboxed, and a few goodbyes are said for those leaving this evening or staying out of town. The rest of us adjourn to the hotel via the S-Bahn. The staff at En Passant, a cafe on Savignyplatz near our hotel, now know us by our blue shirts and have started greeting us on our way back to the hotel, saying “See you later!” En Passant has become something of our nightly landing pad, with excellent food and cocktails. (Their Long Island iced teas are of epic proportions, a fact of which I’m only aware second-hand, thankfully.)

Unfortunately, I’ve planned my travel badly on Sunday — after getting in late from the goodbye dinner, I only have a couple hours to sleep before I need to be up to catch my plane. (Note to self: departure flights in the 7:00 hour are the devil’s work.) I wake a little before 4:00 a.m. and walk the few blocks to the zoo, catch the express bus to the airport, and then proceed to have another hellish day of travel that includes an unimaginable number of passes through security in Frankfurt, interminable customs delays in Dulles, and then to cap it all off, a dead battery when I get to my car in the parking garage. And of course, nothing could be finer than Washington area traffic on a summer Sunday evening, so by the time I get to finally hit the pillows in my own bed, I’ve been up about 24 hours or so all told.

But nevertheless, this goes down as one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and hopefully I can do it again next year. I’m thinking about doing a better job brushing up on my German so I can put it to good use! To all my friends I met in Berlin — auf Wiedersehen!