Category Archives: The Fedora Project

On FAmSCo again

It seems that I keep writing about the FAmSCo :) I was reading Joerg Simon’s post on the Membership statistics and wondered if the FAmSCo has considered the following aspects:

  • the load on each Ambassador Mentor ie. how many candidates are they mentoring in a specific period of time
  • whether there is a need to sponsor and approve new Mentors
  • whether there is a need to focus on regions from where there is a single or, no Ambassador
  • the pattern, if any, in the reasons for the candidates whose applications to be a Fedora Ambassador is rejected
  • whether there is a need and, a way the FAmSCo can get back in touch with such candidates and see if they can be coached to become Ambassadors (once rejected isn’t rejected forever)

I had earlier written about a few different things FAmSCo could look into. These are interesting times. The Wikipedia Ambassador/Campus Ambassador program seems to be partly based on the benefits derived from the structured workflow within the Fedora Ambassadors process. FAmSCo has an opportunity to reach out and collaborate to share knowledge about the process and at the same time incorporate suggestions which prepare the Ambassadors for higher achievements. More importantly, it would provide FAmSCo with a clearer way to measure its own success.

D-Link Wireless N 150 USB Adapter woes

I got myself one these. The D-Link DWA 125 Wireless N 150 USB Adapter. Turns out it doesn’t get detected/work on Fedora 14. Has anyone been able to get working on a similar distribution ? Or, is there a document that says what I should be trying to do ? I couldn’t seem to find one myself.

I wish the FAmSCo looked into these

I write the Ambassadors Beat for FWN. And, it requires me to read the mailing list traffic on the ambassadors and famsco list with attention to detail. I had mentioned some concerns earlier but this is more of a wish-list. Especially so because I read the Board Goals and I notice that none of the goals have a measure-able data point attached with it (well, except perhaps the FUDCon in India one !).

Without further delay, here’s my wish-list for FAmSCo

  • Specifically put forth a set of goals that the elected FAmSCo would work on and attach data points to it. The candidates may be had individual goals during the election phase but once elected there requires to be a cadence, a coherence. Currently, a trend I notice is an enhanced level of planning activity but not a corresponding set of performance tasks.
  • Regular availability of the FAmSCo report – a cursory reading of the list archives say that this is an issue on which the ball gets dropped fairly often. The report is an invaluable way of presenting a narrative to the Fedora community at large about the functioning and changes being brought about by the FAmSCo
  • Focus on regions where there aren’t enough Ambassador strength. The last time I checked there were wide swathes of the world where there aren’t enough Ambassadors yet. Reaching out to those there are and working out a step-wise plan to see how participation in and contribution to the project can be improved is a reasonably high priority item. And, solving this issue does not necessarily mean throwing money at the problem. While funds do help, at many levels it is a cop-out approach that releases one from the need to understand situations and begin conversations.
  • Use the ‘slow’ time between releases a bit more judiciously. There has always been a small period of around one and a half to two months between two sets of Fedora releases when the activities within the Ambassadors communities taper down. This is partly seasonal and cyclic and partly a natural outcome of events – the initial days of a GA and, the last days that ramp up to a GA (with Regional IRC meetings etc) are the ones of hectic activity. Planning to use this window during each release to work on a set of activities that can help the Ambassadors introspect eg. Event Participation Retrospective would go a long way in making better use of time.
  • Work towards converting the various FAQs into online courses/quizzes. By making them more engaging to participate in, it would probably work out better for Ambassadors who are freshly minted as well as for existing folks who need to refresh their readings. This is going to be a huge task even if it is properly scoped out. However, this will also ensure a closer collaboration within the various *SCo teams. And, potentially open up the project to a different set of contributors too.
  • Organize and participate in *SCo meetings together with the Board.
  • Figure out a way to get an Event Calendar similar to what LWN maintains. There has been much hand wringing and hand waving with the “wait for Fedora Insight/wait for Zarafa” coming along. The need for a calendar is driven by a very specific agenda – visibility of Fedora presence and, being able to see the proposed-vs-attended set of events. As the community grows across the globe and smaller and more often niche events require Fedora presence, the need to visually narrate the presence would create much enthusiasm.

Of mentors and mentoring

While reading through the mailing list archives I chanced across a new Mentoring Proposal for Fedora Ambassadors. The list has seen some discussion going on around the topic of “How to be a mentor” and, the current proposal is part of a thread about New Ambassador Mentors.

To me a mentor is a “trusted counselor who serves as a teacher” and, mentoring or, mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person (this is from the Wikipedia article which I’d recommend as a reading material).

Why would Ambassadors need a mentor anyway ? There are two answers. The simple and cop-out answer is that “everyone does”. The more complex and somewhat thought provoking answer drove the then FAmSCo folks to think through this issue. And that is because the Fedora Project puts the Ambassadors squarely in a public facing role. Over a period of time the profile of fine folks who stood up and signed-up for an Ambassador role varied. With the complexity and depth of issues that the project brings forth and, the need to always “be excellent” resonating through every activity within the project, it was a good idea to request some of the older/wiser/experienced heads to spend some time coaching the newer ranks. At no point in time was this responsibility thrust down to unwilling hands and, yet at the same time, these groups of mentors spent an inordinate amount of time ensuring that as the number of Ambassadors increased, time and effort was invested in maintaining to the high standards.

Additionally, FAmSCo has made it quite clear that it is agreeable to looking at newer mentors and, which is why there is a reasonably clear path available to any Ambassador who wishes to work with a current mentor and, thus be peer reviewed and accepted as a mentor. Having a group of one’s peers reviewing one’s performance and skills, especially soft skills is indeed a daunting experience. However, each of the newer mentors have been excellent Ambassadors and would eventually become wonderful coaches as well. In that context I somewhat like Christoph’s response. And, while the process might seem to be very “secretive” to few (it isn’t if you check the workflow), it does work because of the formal workflow that it has. Including the fact that discussions about new mentors have a section where the contributions of the Ambassador are discussed and the mentor peers provide their comments.

I don’t see a reason to keep a list of mentors-in-waiting. And, I certainly disagree with the disingenuous hint that being a ‘mentor’ is an honor or, a special title (do the mentors get a special button ? :)).

Mentoring, in my book, is a responsibility and it pleases me to see the Ambassadors who take time and make effort to coach new Ambassadors and also take time to select new mentors thus helping the project recognizing talent and appreciating contributions. Everyone can, and should, help the other person find their feet within the project and encourage contributions. Coupling this facet of a FOSS project with the idea that ‘mentor’ is a title is not only plain wrong now but wrong forever. And saying that someone who volunteers to spend time and effort to coach and help another person become a better contributor doesn’t possess any special skills (what skills are special anyway ?) is also being facile. I could draw analogies from various everyday situations at home where the “this role doesn’t require special skills” would lead to volatile situations, but you understand what I am talking about.

It is not in the special skills. It is in the special person.

Thoughts about the Fedora Community Working Group

A bit back I had posted a question to the advisory-board list – specifically asking whether there has been a process to understand how Steering Committees have made things better. While the thread petered out into nothingness, a recent announcement about the Community Working Group got me thinking again.

The initial question to the advisory-board was based on a scenario that the multiple domain-specific sub-committees work towards being excellent within the scope of their own deliverables but collectively don’t work together towards a greater purpose. More importantly, whether the work of the *SCo and the choices they make have proper communication both to their constituents and within The Fedora Project itself. Now with the announcement of the Fedora Community Working Group I have a set of queries that would perhaps require a bit of elaboration.

  • what is the mandate of the newly formed group ? Are they empowered to ‘act’ or, is the charter limited to generating and submitting a proposal for consideration ?
  • the “central point of contact” phrase is bit quirky. It doesn’t say as much as it is supposed to say – what does this actually entail ?

And then of course there is the mission

The long-term goal of the Community Working Group is to help to maintain a friendly and welcoming community, thereby ensuring the Fedora Project remains a great project enjoyed by all contributors and users

This is perfect as a long term goal. Across the year and across multiple specific Fedora lists there has been, I feel, instances of ‘stop energy‘ especially pointless and rambling ones (is there any other kind of stop energy ? I hear you ask, more on that later). If the CWG can sit down and straighten things out or even look into the frank admissions of burn-out it would perhaps be a good thing to have. Along with the stated charter of facilitating communications between the groups or even, doing post-release retrospectives (I’d rather love to see the various Steering Committees take the initiative in this – FAmSCo does a reasonably good job that needs to be appreciated) in order to plan for areas of improvement in processes. If the CWG can then obtain buy-in from the specific teams who can bring about the changes it would be wonderful to have.

The CWG is a good start. I’d perhaps like to see a bit more specific items that can be measured as success or failure of the CWG rather than goals well into the future.