Some bytes about Fedora bits

During my trip to Kolkata last month, I’ve had a number of discussions around ‘making Fedora available to whosoever requests for it’. Ambitious as it may sound, we would have to end up doing it. Otherwise, there is simply no other way that we can lead the development of free and open source technology and content through a community of collaboration. Susmit’s blog entry has a pointer to the current problems, this is my take.

The current paths to obtaining Fedora media for folks in India are:

  1. Fedora FreeMedia Program
  2. Local Points of Contact
  3. Media produced for events

all of the above have a couple of shortcomings. So, let’s just itemize them to enable a much sweeter discussion. The underlying assumption is that we want to avoid falling into the massive media production trap – it does not return benefits. And, we would like to increase the participation at the *UG level.

  • The current issue with the FreeMedia Program is scalability. It is a fashionable term, but that’s what specifically what it is. The request queue gets so overloaded that the requests need to be clamped down within 3-5 days of being opened up. And, it would be fairly obvious as to why – last mile postal charges in India are exhorbitant and, asking folks to spend their own money to take this deluge of requests is going to take some inspiring feats of oratory and, a couple of miracles. However, that is not all. The other problems are – because the FreeMedia Program gates slam down fast, at every run there would be folks who – [i] did not make their requests in time [ii] are in the queue but we have no idea of knowing whether they did get the media. So, the second part is more important – accountability. How do we make the system a bit more accountable to ensure that the requests that did make it are getting met ? And, how do we track whether, because it is “free” (as in beer), duplicate requests are not originating ?
  • Local Points of Contact are a good way to off-set the huge and, somewhat human-absent nature of FreeMedia. This however is, “high touch”. And, currently has the same issues of accountability. That is, the system of tracking who-gives-whom-and-when/where is still not in place. And yet, at one level this is somewhat better. Because, the LPoC are not bound to give it away for gratis. They can charge (within bounds of reasonable practical reality) a certain sum to process the requests. In an awkward way, this could end up being very interesting for those who are diligent, disciplined and, want to make a little bit of money in the process. Money that can come in handy for things like broadband connections etc.
  • Media for events are done in bulk and, sent around to the event organizers so as to enable them to distribute it. We started this off from F10 and, would be doing this for F11. This is the life-blood of events and, is not going to go away, however, this does have a danger of becoming ‘yet another goodie’ and, so we need to figure what can be done to ensure that the massive doses of media being produced and sent to events does really end up going to people who need it and, the remaining media is passed around to Ambassadors or LPoCs who know how to make best use of the system.

A couple of things come to mind so as to ensure that while we do end up meeting every request, even after discounting the ‘freeloaders’ (those who request it just because it is free), we do end up making a significant impact.

  • Work out with various magazines if they want to ship Fedora media on a more regular basis. During the F10 lifecycle, we did have a significant number of media being shipped via magazines as part of their issues including spins and remixes
  • Insisting that the Ambassadors put a closer ear to the ground when it comes to local LUGs. A large number of requests initiate from the *UGs and, having Ambassadors actively looking at the lists it would be easier for us to meet the requests as well as get a first level of hand-holding in place
  • Making *UGs part of the LPoC cycle. In addition to individuals, providing the *UGs with the media so that they can distribute/sell/whatever does manage to take some pressure off the FreeMedia
  • Work on the long road to getting more mirrors. We are not breaking much new ground this year and, that is a cause for concern. The big name institutes do need to have mirrors in place. Private mirrors, if not public. A mirror that is updated regularly does provide the focus point for the *UG within the institute and, the immediate Fedora folks outside of it to ensure that the bits are at hand to re-distribute.
  • Keep on doing the “media for events” but work towards increasing the LPoC base.

So, the short summary is that we need to arrive at some protocol fast enough for us to work on:

  1. how to get media to those who request it
  2. how best to coach/guide/help those who need help to get started with Fedora
  3. how to bring down the number of ‘freeloaders’ in this cycle

and, in a small way, the second is ‘gated’ on the first.

7 thoughts on “Some bytes about Fedora bits”

  1. I can talk about your concern about duplicates.
    While implementing the system, I could think about two types of duplicate:
    Case 1: Multiple request, Email addresses are same, but addresses are not.
    Case 2: Multiple request, email addresses are different and addresses is same.

    The current system automatically finds out these two types of duplicates, and make them available for closing as duplicates via (trac) report 23 and 24.

    We close them before processing a month’s request.

    Also, I designed the system such a way that once someone request for a DVD, all the subsequent requests for a particular release (say F10) will be marked duplicate, as per our “One DVD/Person/Release” policy.

    Reply

  2. Also, “The other problems are – because the FreeMedia Program gates slam down fast, at every run there would be folks who – [i] did not make their requests in time [ii] are in the queue but we have no idea of knowing whether they did get the media.”
    The second one is of no concern at all.

    Every requester gets an email on every update of his/her ticket. If someone takes up the request, it will be notified to the requester. If someone ships the media and closes the ticket, the requester will be notified. I tried to take care of every possibility. :) Although I have a few areas mentally marked for improvement.

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  3. @susmit – Thanks for pointing out answers to both the questions. In that event, there remains a single part that needs to be addressed – what does it take to ensure that more folks land up on the ‘reseller’ page ie. have volunteered to get listed to be able to sell media ? On your blog I note that Rangeen has mentioned about having proper media – does this mean that we need to get some media stickers done ?

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  4. About the first question I shall think and come up with an answer.
    The problem with the second one is: How do we distribute it? Also it costs ~3INR for each label.

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    sankarshan Reply:

    @susmit – if there are volunteers who are lining up to resell, I guess pointing them to the right source for getting them printed would work

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  5. The only reason I don’t like the idea of scrapping the freemedia is that a project of Fedora’s stature can not afford to be fully dependent on others (lugs/individuals).

    Collaborating with lugs are a way to scale up availabilities. But should this be the only way?

    Can we really afford to say these?

    Go to xyz lug(or vendor) and find out if they are willing to provide/sell you a Fedora media. If they say no, we are sorry to say there is nothing we can really do about making fedora available to you!!!

    Reply

    sankarshan Reply:

    @susmit – we’ve had long discussions about this. And, my current pet peeve with FreeMedia is what I’ve blogged about. I see [i] a lack of accountability and [ii] a bad end-user experience. Let’s talk about the latter. For someone who does not manage to make the cut with the request – how can we ensure that we provide alternative paths to the media ? Because the primary reason for raising the ticket was to obtain the media. The corollary here is that the ease of raising a ticket increases the chance of freeloading. So, I see an important question here – do we work towards decreasing freeloading or, do we work towards strengthening the routes to media. And, I do not have a definite answer at this point. In fact, I do not want to have.

    Having said all that, [i] is another part that bothers me. Just how do we expect people to contribute to the project by volunteering for Freemedia ? Recent trends in requests for various swag does indicate that we are approaching that margin of freeloading wherefrom there are only two paths – either raise the bar on swag entitlements or, just write off the costs. I am wary of doing the latter. What you mention as being dependent on *UGs, I see as a means to enforce that Ambassadors have their ear to the ground. I see an somewhat unhealthy trend of Ambassadors working in isolation in an elitist silo. That is going to be counter productive. As regards, what can be done – we should actively start looking at and, incubating commercial sponsors/vendors for the media including possibly exploring the possibility of allowing co-branding. Perhaps that would make it worthwhile for people to approach us and charge a sum to sell the media.

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