[Ambassadors] musings on education outreach

inode0 inode0 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 27 00:03:23 UTC 2008

Ok, here comes a rather not well thought out collection of ideas
for ways that ambassadors can reach out to the academic world. It
is a bit rushed since I wanted to get it out before the meeting
this evening.

I want to thank Máirín Duffy for kindly spending a lot of time
sharing her thoughts on this subject, at least some of which are
included below. Thanks to others too who have discussed this with
me in the past, some of their ideas may be contained here as well.

I think it is fair to say up front that this discussion really isn't
a counteroffer of any sort to the plan outlined by Jack previously.
That plan is designed around a set of goals that have merit and should
be pursued in my opinion. Those goals are not entirely clear to me but
surely overlap with some of the goals I have in mind. Let's think of
this discussion as more one about what *other* stuff we might like to

Goal #1: Awareness

Before anyone can participate they need to be aware of the project.
So we start with marketing. While activities like talks to the CS
Club or to the school's LUG reach some students, they unfortunately
miss the vast majority of people we need to reach to raise awareness
of what Fedora has to offer.

One key group I want to focus on are students from non-technical
areas. We have ways to reach kids in Computer Science and Engineering
programs. We need to reach out to kids in Design schools, in Business
schools, in Marketing programs, and elsewhere. It is really easy for
us to see how someone studying graphic design could find a niche in
the Fedora project, it isn't easy for them to see that without our
help. Lots of young people want to be involved, but they need others
to help them get started.

I'm open to all suggestions about how to effectively do this, I don't
pretend to have the answer. One idea is to unleash a poster campaign
directed at various need areas within the Fedora project for ambassadors
to distribute to places where these students will see them. This sort of
campaign has its limitations and would need to be carefully crafted so
those whose eye we catch know where to go and what to do to have it be
more than "oh, that looks cool" and on to the next poster.

Perhaps we could give talks to the art club or to a marketing class?
I'm afraid most of us aren't very well equipped to do that today but
with some help from people currently working in those areas we could
be trained a bit in the language and tools enough to give an effective
pitch I think.

While we are promoting Fedora and what it stands for we can think about
doing that through some non-Fedora vehicles. Google's Summer of Code
projects are something we could advertise and promote. Getting faculty
member mentors, many already exist, also gives us a way to penetrate
the consciousness of the faculty. Doing what we can to promote both
mentoring by faculty/staff and facilitating the pairing of students
with mentors might be another thing we could consider.

Goal #2: Participation

After awareness participation is key. It seems to me that the single
biggest barrier here is being intimidated. Even within the college
geek crowd this is a problem. I can't hack KDE so I'll use Fedora
but not go any further. We need to get across to potential contributors
the vast number of ways they can contribute without being an expert at
writing code.

Mentoring, Fedora mentoring, is critical to engaging new contributors
in areas where they can feel useful quickly. Jon is working on this
with the bug tracking folks, I'm sure others are also in other areas.
For this community we should find some areas with fairly low technical
barriers to new contributors. Bug triaging, documentation, marketing,
art, and what else?

The university I work at provides several opportunities for booths as
well where technology is on display. Getting a small Fedora booth at
these events would really be great. Ambassadors can chat with students
and others who stop, find their areas of interest, show them sub-projects
where those interests might fit into the Fedora project, and sign them
up with accounts on the spot.

While all of the above has a university focus we should definitely also
spend time with high schools and even middle schools where there are
opportunities to do so. We have unbelievable contributors currently in
high school who mostly seem to find us by accident. While I can toss out
some suggestions for things we might try with these schools I'd really
like to hear from someone like Ian, if he wouldn't mind, about how he
thinks that Fedora could be presented in high schools to engage more

I realize that what I have written is far from a plan of action. It is
more a stew of ideas. At some point a plan of action is necessary. For
now I'm happy to throw more into the stew and see what we end up with
for supper.


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