Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Not why but why not.

Not why but why not.

When you’re working on any project that’s Fedora related, and you need to ask questions of a team, the default should be to communicate the question on a public forum. If the conversation isn’t open and transparent, there needs to be a good reason why not. “Default to open” is a pretty well-known mantra in FOSS so this shouldn’t be too surprising or controversial.

There are certainly times where private discussion is warranted. Dispute settling (not to mention disclosure) is often best done privately. If you have to relate personal or security sensitive details of some sort, putting them on a list for eternal archiving may not be appropriate. There are other good examples out there. But in all these cases, it’s important to minimize their impact on public communication. In other words, strive to filter those bits that are best kept private, and keep the rest in an open and transparent discussion.

Every communication of an idea, discussion of implementation details, and canvassing for opinions is a chance to involve others in what you’re doing. If you keep it private, you’re missing out on one of the chief benefits of the open source way — involving others and enabling them to help you as well as themselves. The question is never “Why does this discussion need to be open?” — it’s “Is there any good reason this discussion shouldn’t be open?” And if necessary, as a follow on, “How can I separate the private part of this discussion so it doesn’t keep the rest from being open?”

As the Fedora community continues to grow and spread, we need to continue to teach this aspect to new members — and those who are experienced must lead by example.


  1. Peter Robinson (@nullr0ute)

    By defaulting to open the only real question should ever be if you’re even considering a closed discussion “Why does this need to be closed?” and the answer to that for most individual project “it shouldn’t”

    1. @Peter: Right, that’s my point. In cases where you really do have something that needs to be non-open, (1) there should be a good reason (like privacy or sensitivity concerns), and (2) you should try to segment it off, if possible, so it doesn’t force the whole discussion to be closed. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I see more private emails than I used to around Fedora about issues that should be on a list. Lists are not impersonal as long as we’re friendly and welcoming to each other. You can always cc someone and set reply-to if you’re worried they won’t see it. (BTW, not looking to have a list netiquette discussion here, that’s not the point. If you don’t like reply-to, I’m not advocating wide use. Netiquette flames > /dev/null.)

  2. Peter Robinson (@nullr0ute)

    @Paul I see it at times as well but I think a lot of it is an education thing. You and I are use to open as default and hence we think like that, a lot of people aren’t though, especially if they’re more from commercial product development and maybe you’re seeing more of it due to your change of role and then it becomes a education role too of “maybe this should be on public lists”. I see it quite a bit in a number of my roles and I think it’s very much a mentality and way of thinking sort of like Agile development and other similar methods.

    1. @Peter: I could be more attuned to it now in my different role here at Red Hat, where I’m more focused on RHEL. But I would say that I see it just as often, if not more so, with new volunteers than with, say, people I work with at Red Hat. For the most part, my coworkers have more experience than I do in FOSS and default to open as a matter of practice. That’s not to say Red Hat people never goof in that way. I agree it’s a way of thinking to which you have to get accustomed, and then practice, practice, practice. 🙂

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