Tag Archives: FAmSCo

On FAmSCo again

It seems that I keep writing about the FAmSCo ­čÖé 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.

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.

FAmSCo elections and so forth

This is the season of elections and, the one that I’d like to talk about is the FAmSCo one. This time around all the 7 seats are up for elections and, an ensemble cast of Fedora folks have put their hats into the ring.

The FAmSCo, along with the other *SCo in Fedora land offer the finest opportunity to demonstrate leadership, show commitment and, work in one of the front-line roles of the project. I took sometime in reading up the statements of the candidates and, one of things that struck me (besides those mentioned here) was the recurring theme of making the FAmSCo process more “open” and “transparent”. Among the important duties which are owned by FAmSCo, encouraging communication is a noteworthy one. I hope that the candidates, once part of FAmSCo, will take time to bring about a change in the way communication is handled. I am sure that there are ways it could be made better and relevant.

The other aspect is the need to have goals or plans that are measurable. I hope that this comes up in the town-hall, and, the candidates think over how they would like to measure their impact on FAmSCo in specific and The Fedora Project in general terms based on their plans. From a personal perspective, I have been incredibly pleased to see FAmSCo initiate plans and processes that would lead to the most awesome bunch of Fedora Ambassadors – be it a structured mentoring program or, through a follow-up on learning from events. I’d like to see that continue with more vigor. Working with folks to facilitate bringing out the best in them has its own reward.

This time around there are a lot of friends in the fray and, that makes me very happy. It is always good to see folks stepping up and desiring to do what they are really good at. So, mark the calendar and, remember to vote.