The nice folks at FUDCon.in 2015 selected my talk. Here’s the long-form post.
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.
- IndLinux Hindi v0.37 (Milan) released on October 2003. It was a LiveCD that allowed you to check out a localized GNU/Linux desktop environment, input and display
- The AnkurBangla LiveCD was also released somewhat later that same year
- From May 2004 onwards, the Utkarsh Project released and maintained Gujarati Localizations
- In November 2004, Fedora Core 3 shipped and you could choose to boot into an Indic locale and get your work done. You can also check this page for the RHEL release that happened.
- In 2006, the IndLinux project released Rangoli
- In June 2007, Debian Etch was released with an installer localized in Indic languages (Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Nepali, Punjabi, Tamil). As a consequence, Debian (and Ubuntu) users may experience a full Indic-localized system from scratch.
So, before you go and listen to folks talk about the “first Indian language GNU/Linux Operating System” on the media channels, keep these dates in mind.
Update: This does not in any way claim to be the only dates that are relevant. So, if you do recall the dates of releases from other groups working on Indic L10n on Linux, please feel free to leave them in comments with URLs if possible.
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I installed Fedora 13 (Goddard) on two of my boxes. The profiles are here and here. On the X200 things worked out of the box, the only reason it took time was because I needed to back up the entire data on it before installation and then transfer it back. And, post install I’d to figure out which of the software I had in F12 before unleashing a massive yum install on the system. I wish there was a simple way to create a profile of applications and, thereon apply the profile to a freshly installed system to get the software just the way one desires.
On the HPMini210-1095TU, the wireless and the touchpad do not work yet. They aren’t much of an issue, though it would be nice to have them working and, suggestions are welcome.
The new release feels much snappier, the GNOME desktop looks good. A big thank you to all those who make it happen each time, on time.
Update: A new kernel, as indicated at https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=590835 fixes the touchpad issue
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For as long as I can remember I have found the LWN.net Community Calendar very useful. It would perhaps be nice to have a similar web-based calendar for Fedora events across the world. Currently, the events are tracked by this page. That is nice but doesn’t give the visual representation of a month full of events world-wide.
It would be nice to have a calendar that integrates with FAS and, allows someone to post the details of the event. Another group of folks, can take a look-see at the posting and approve it to be listed. The original poster could choose to be the event owner or, add someone who is the actual owner. Since Events etc fall under the ambit of FAmSCo, perhaps they might consider this stuff.
Following up from what I had written sometime back on this, I would say that the time is good enough to do a rethink.
When it comes to India, traditionally, we have been producing media specifically aimed at distributing at events. We do get large amounts of face-time with our participants at any event and, invariably it leads to sharing of media or, requests for media. This is besides the production that is carried out by magazines across the country. During the F12 cycle we conducted a small experiment.
We did not produce any media.
Not even for events.
Since this was a shocking thing to do, we spent the entire cycle with bated breath trying to assess the impact. As on date, it seems to be minimal. In fact, it has allowed us to do interesting things. Things like ensuring that at events we have an updated tree around for anyone who wants to update their system or, even update their trees. We have had a moderate measure of success with spinning LiveUSBs. But more importantly, we have had “Local Points of Contacts” and, some enterprising folks come up to fill up the void. Or, in other words, the deliberate creation of vacuum allowed some “retailers” to come in to the picture and, become the source points to obtain the media.
Producing media, even when done in the bulk that we do, is an expensive affair and, add the shipping costs towards sending them across to events and, you can figure out that it was becoming more of a “mass media production house” kind of business without actually having a full-fledged team doing it.
The next logical step would be to figure out how to provide the information about alternative sources of media (even if they are not zero-cost) to those who cannot obtain it via the Freemedia system. Providing them with an option to choose a retailer from which to purchase the media from is a better option than letting their Freemedia requests go unattended. A system that allows such vendors to be listed and, based on regions, information provided to the requesting parties would go a long way in addressing this. Clearly mentioning that this is a pure information provider service with no assurances of guarantees would perhaps be the caveat that would allow us to begin ensuring that anyone who requests a media has the information about where to obtain one from.
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I often hear good things about the strength of the Fedora Ambassadors in India. With a 110+ group of people, it does allow one to look at upsides and, areas of improvement. But more importantly, what it stands as testimony to is the tough work that is put in behind the scenes by various individuals and, groups within Fedora to make that happen. (Hint : some of the said individuals are also mentors for the Ambassadors in India, so, if you chance onto them on IRC, be sure that you thank them for doing a job well and, doing it with a passion that is unique to folks within Fedora.)
This year we have been able to reach out to a number of events and groups which helped us take the message of the Four Foundations to them. That has been good. We have also noticed that a larger number of those signing up to become Ambassadors are students or, are dipping their feet into the FOSS way of doing things. So, here’s the area in which we need to work our hardest.
Earlier I wrote:
Additionally, if during the initial days, the new Ambassadors are encouraged to actively participate in any other part of the project, it should lead to greater involvement and appreciation of the Foundations. This of course has the advantage of helping them build the social connects and network across projects/amongst individuals which is an invaluable part of being an Ambassador. It also builds up the required confidence in the Ambassador to go out and evangelize about contributing back to various projects and upstream. Because, if one has already drunk the Kool-Aid, talking about it is dead simple.
And, it is true. An Ambassador is the face of the project to the external world. It requires people skills but more importantly, it requires an intrinsic knowledge about the project that takes time and effort to build up. Unless an Ambassador takes a keen interest in the various projects within Fedora and, contributes to at least one of them, it is an uphill climb for most. More so for a student who is just learning the ways of FOSS and, gathering experiences via Fedora.
In the coming months, the plan is to put in place a stronger coaching plan for these student contributors so as to tap into their huge talent and, the capacity to produce stunning results. We have always been surprised by the sheer amount ideas that come up when students are gradually pointed to a direction.
Stay tuned. Exciting stuff is going to happen.
It looks like watching the Ninja Assassin hasn’t done Shreyank any good. Else, he would have figured out that it is easy-peasy for a Founder and Chief Ninja like Dimitris Glezos (who is also known as DeltaGamma) to be at Bangalore and, elsewhere. Dimitris paid a surprise visit to Pune yesterday and it was fun. It isn’t always that you get a CEO of a startup provide you with an in-person repeat of his keynote with added wisecracks and side-talks that are too scandalous for a “keynote” And, that too, at a fairly crowded Barista. It was awesome.
In fact I wanted to talk with him about how massive the momentum built up by Transifex has been. Just two years ago, in 2007, Tx was a GSoC project within The Fedora Project aimed at looking at managing translations from a developer’s perspective. Today, it is a start-up which is hiring employees, relocating to newer offices, has a foot-print across a significant portion of upstream community projects and, most importantly, has clients willing to pay for customization services and, developer services. Tx isn’t only helping translation communities by allowing them to craft their work in peace – it is keeping developer sanity with the fire-n-forget model of the architecture. I hear that PulseAudio, PackageKit developers are strong supporters of Tx. That is tremendous news. The provocative nature of Tx is also based on the charm that it has been bootstrapped. That should provide hope to developers thinking along the “product” route.
I would say that these two years have done Dimitris good. His focus on the road Tx should take has become more vivid and, he has a deeper insight into the changes he wants to bring about via Indifex. There’s nothing more exciting than keeping a close watch on his team and his company for news that would come up soon. Tx is coming up with a killer set of features in the upcoming releases. That should get the attention of a couple of clients too.
Throughout the afternoon we ended up talking about getting youngsters up to speed to think beyond patches as contributions and, starting tuning their thoughts to products. Dimitris opines that patches are excellent jump-off points but in order to become a valuable contributor, one must start thinking about “architecture”, “design”, “roadmap”, “milestones” and all such issues that form part of the theory classes but never see implementation in real-life scenarios. In addition, there is also the need to inculcate the “CC thinking” in everyday work of creativity – be it code or, content or even be it hardware and standards (the “CC thinking” is a fancy short-hand towards thinking about Open Standards, Open Protocols and so forth. In a somewhat twitter-ish way, we compressed it to a meta-statement we both could relate to and agree with).
Dinner and post-dinner with a couple of us was another story. Having a bunch of hard-core “Fedora” folks in the room creates a passion. Sitting back to savor the flames of discussions and, interjecting with a leading viewpoint to keep the debate flowing is the best way to get action items resolved. Nothing wasn’t touched upon – from the way to get best out of *SCos to mundane stuff like getting feature requests into Tx, OLPC and Sugar, or, talking about the general issues within the IT development community in Greece. And of course, the frequent checks on Wikipedia to validate various points in the argument. We could have done with an offline Wiki Reader yesterday
I think I finally went to sleep at something around 0200 today – which is impossibly past my standard time. There are photos aplenty, though I don’t know who will be uploading them. There was food, there was coffee, cakes, and, there were friends – in short, a nice day.
Karsten has a nice blog post and, an even nicer report on GSoC 2009 from the perspective of The Fedora Project-JBoss umbrella organization. If you haven’t already gone through it, it would be good to read it up and, provide feedback.
An immediate benefit of any project participating in the Summer of Code is the ability to get exciting extensions or, innovations via a group of highly talented individuals – both mentors and, contributors. Having had the opportunity to look at the projects from fairly close quarters over a period of years, there are a couple of things that stood out. Some of them are listed on my wiki page. I’d say that the most important thing is to “have a plan“. A stage of proper planning which sets the expectations and deliverables for a GSoC proposal goes a long way in becoming a successful proposal. That, coupled with a scheduled update-review cycle makes it a proposal that has a constant communication channel. I was reminded of the this fantastic mentoring how-to today while reading the latest issue of The GNOME Journal (as an aside, you should read this issue).
If you look at the wiki page I pointed out earlier, you’ll note that I mention an “annual round-up”. This by itself is very trivial to do and yet very important.. It provides an yardstick by which to measure the success or, failure of a GSoC experience of being able to generate sustained and relevant participation. For example, if projects did more of this kind of “where are they now ?” series, it provides upcoming and potential contributors with role-models they can look up to or, be like.
That single act of being able to have role models makes for a tremendous motivation to become a sustained contributor to Free and Open Source Software.
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.