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.
One of those factors is that I have a limited budget for travel. In short, I can’t get to everything I’d like. (Heck, even if I could go to everything I liked, my family commitments would still enforce some limits!) So OK, I can’t go everywhere I want. Fortunately, the Fedora Project’s methodology is to install scalability wherever we can. Carrying out that process makes scalable event leadership and responsibilities not only possible, but attractive to contributors. Those attributes are in fact an underpinning of our spectacular Ambassador community, and just some of the reasons why Ambassadors are not just a fan club.
Which leads directly to another of the factors I mentioned. One of the fundamental beliefs that Max and I have always shared: It’s decidedly not an objective of the Fedora project leader to build a personal* brand. Fedora event presence should be scalable — it’s not about the FPL being a rock star, it’s about enabling our many Fedora community members to be rock stars. If every Fedora event worldwide requires the FPL’s presence to be successful, we’re not scaling well. On the other hand, if we have a growing number of exceptional community members who are representing Fedora well at events, we’re providing something that’s incredibly important for a community — giving contributors the chance to build their skills, and the public C.V. that the open source process so clearly provides. On that measure our events are progressing just as they should, and our Ambassadors handle dozens of events worldwide every month, from release parties to speeches to conferences to huge trade shows. And there are a growing number of Fedora Activity Day events run by contributors from across the Fedora community.
So where can the FPL add value to an event? There are lots of excellent shows across the country (and the world) so my constraints are usually to be somewhere I can give a keynote or a presentation to a very large number of FOSS community members at once, meet up with people with whom I can exchange information or boost the Fedora Project’s visibility and appeal, or lend an experienced hand directly in a Fedora Activity Day (a targeted event where a few contributors get together to sprint toward an end goal). Being able to pile more than one of those benefits into a single event makes that trip even more attractive.
Of course, not every event readies their schedule at the same time, and new possibilities always emerge year-round. So another factor in drawing up this schedule is flexibility. It’s important to be able to adjust to news on cool events as they happen throughout the year. Fortunately, this planning process makes that possible — usually it’s easy to tell three to six months in advance where the best opportunities are going to be for me personally to make an impact for Fedora. In 2008 I got used to doing that very quickly, and by this year it seems fairly comfortable to me. Thankfully, again our Ambassadors make this easy by tracking everything they’re doing publicly on their mailing list and on our wiki’s Events page. So I can see to which events I can bring some extra value, and plan and excecute accordingly.
* By the way, that guy (rileyroxx on flickr, thanks for the CC BY licensed photo), may in fact be very cool. I have no idea, although I certainly dig his CC commitment. But completely out of any other context, this picture pretty much sums up everything I’m not trying to be.