Tag Archives: irc

Manners matters.

I was checking out this fabulous new book called Open Advice after seeing a link on a mailing list. The book is a collection of reflections by experienced (and often well-known) free and open source software contributors on things they wish they’d known when they started in FOSS.

I found a particularly wonderful section among a wealth of other wonderful text. In fact, I probably could have opened the book at random and found something just as quotable and insightful. But this piece struck a sympathetic nerve, probably because one of my pet issues is treating each other with kindness. This excerpt is from the chapter called “Good Manners Matter” by the amazing Rich Bowen, and I’ll reproduce it here, thanks to the author’s and editors’ enlightened use of the CC BY-SA 3.0 license:

I had been doing technical support, particularly on mailing lists, for about two years, when I first started attending technical conferences. Those first few years were a lot of fun. Idiots would come onto a mailing list, and ask a stupid question that a thousand other losers had asked before them. If they had taken even two minutes to just look, they would have found all the places the question had been answered before. But they were too lazy and dumb to do that.

Then I attended a conference, and discovered a few things.

First, I discovered that the people asking these questions were people. They were not merely a block of monospaced black text on a white background. They were individuals. They had kids. They had hobbies. They knew so much more than I did about a whole range of things. I met brilliant people for whom the technology was a tool to accomplish something non-technical. They wanted to share their recipes with other chefs. They wanted to help children in west Africa learn how to read. They were passionate about wine, and wanted to learn more. They were, in short, smarter than I am, and my arrogance was the only thing between them and further success.

When I returned from that first conference, I saw the users mailing list in an entirely different light. These were no longer idiots asking stupid questions. These were people who needed just a little bit of my help so that they could get a task done, but, for the most part, their passions were not technology. Technology was just a tool. So if they did not spend hours reading last year’s mailing list archives, and chose instead to ask the question afresh, that was understandable.

And, surely, if on any given day it is irritating to have to help them, the polite thing to do is to step back and let someone else handle the question, rather than telling them what an imbecile they are. And, too, to remember all of the times I have had to ask the stupid questions.

Well said, Rich. Any of us helping users or newcomers to any endeavor, whether it’s Fedora, some other FOSS project, or a volunteer organization in your town, can learn from Rich’s experience above, assuming that we haven’t already lived it ourselves. Any user can be the contributor of tomorrow. It pays real dividends to extend them a helping hand.

I do highly recommend you check out Open Advice at the website. It’s chock full of insight, anecdotes, and lessons about the powerful, transformational, and exciting journey of free and open source software. The book is a free download, but you can also purchase a copy from Lulu (and, according to the site, from Amazon soon).

Emacs and ERC.

Dear Lazyweb: I’m trying out Emacs as an IRC client (via ERC) and realize that I could probably use some tuning to make it work well. I’m wondering whether anyone in the Fedora community has a set of scripts they use to do some of the following:

  • Auto-login to several networks and start up channels in some of them
  • Produce notifications via D-Bus or libnotify

OK, I haven’t done a ton of investigation yet, too much else on my plate so I have to get a Round Tuit when I can. If you have a set of goodies that work well for you, let me know.

Comments such as “use another client” will be cheerfully deleted. 😉 This is just an experiment, since I regularly use other clients like irssi and xchat-gnome.

Power punch.

Fedora Talk, Gobby, and IRC make for a great combination when it comes to inclusive conferencing. I joined a bit late, but there’s a fantastic online-enhanced teleconference going on today to tease out all the details around No Frozen Rawhide.

Developers and maintainers will undoubtedly have questions about how the NFR changes might affect the different things they do every day in Fedora. So we have an excellent opportunity to get all those details elucidated, and then written up for easy reference.

The write-ups are being built as different use cases that will help us be crystal-clear about how NFR might affect someone (if at all) depending on what they’re trying to get done. Whether it’s building a brand-new package, pushing an update into the new pending tree, helping to test one of the branches, administering a mirror — there will be clear information for everyone.

Fedora Talk is great for a high-bandwidth, “Oh, I see what you mean” type conversation. But we scribe everything down to Gobby where anyone can watch the work as it happens — which in this case, is the development of the use cases.  And we’re also on IRC Freenode at #fedora-nfr to invite questions and comments.  This multiplication of communication doesn’t have to be confusing as long as everyone present is focused on the tasks at hand. On the contrary, it gives us many ways to react to input and get the work done faster, and more collaboratively.

Thanks to Jesse Keating and John Poelstra for putting this little mini-conference together!

Incidentally, our Docs team has been talking to Shaun McCance about using this type of multi-channel solution at the Desktop Help Summit so the conference can get more assistance and participation from remote attendees. It’s worked well at our Fedora Activity Day events which are very much the same kind of “can-do” context.

Social networking at FUDCon.

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.

Nochat on.

If you’ve tried to reach me via IRC this week and failed, it’s because I haven’t been on Freenode for chat for several days. Sorry about the absence — even as I’ve been participating here at LinuxTag and prepare for FUDCon, there is still a massive amount of work that continues to require doing inside Red Hat and across the Fedora Project, that simply prevents me from paying equal attention to all modes of communication. If you tried to chat with me and got no response, now you know why, and hopefully will forgive my non-responsiveness. I will probably be much more present starting next week when I get back to work after a couple much needed days of R&R.

Classrooms ’round the world.

Fedora has been running IRC classes for some time in the #fedora-classroom channel on IRC Freenode. Classes are scheduled for this weekend, and they’re at a convenient time for people in the APAC (Asia/Pacific) region to hold informative sessions with Fedora contributors.

The classroom “days” for both Saturday and Sunday run from about 0400-0900 UTC, which for example in Beijing is 12:00noon to 5:00pm, and for Brisbane is 2:00pm to 7:00pm. That leaves plenty of time for other weekend activities. I’d like to encourage you to look at the Classroom page on the wiki and sign up to teach a topic near and dear to your heart.

The topics can be as simple or specific as you like. Want to teach people how to use PackageKit or yum to update their systems or find software? How about showing people ways to keep their life organized using free software tools found in Fedora? Or demonstrating how easy it is to translate software?

All these topics make it easier for people to use Fedora, and then hopefully get involved in the Project. When people learn new skills or accumulate knowledge, they feel more confident. It makes them better and more informed advocates for free software, and more self-assured in promoting it to the people in whose lives it can make such a big difference. In short, you can use the classroom as a way to contribute, and that in turn makes it possible for others to do the same.

The classroom does travel around the timezones from month to month, and I also see that in March it will be running from about 1800-2300 UTC, or at a good time for much of the USA and even Europe (depending on your personal schedule). I’m going to sign up for a class in March right now, as a matter of fact.

Also remember that the logs for classrooms are posted, so the audience you reach by teaching there isn’t limited to just the people that show up at that time. Other people regularly look at the logs later and can learn from the sessions after the fact. So you can keep spreading knowledge essentially for free (in the beer/resources sense) after you’ve finished and left the keyboard!

Wherever we are in the world, we have the opportunity to spread Fedora knowledge through the Fedora Classroom in the next month or so — let’s each grab it!