[Ambassadors] My vision on Fedora and student partnerships
gdk at redhat.com
Mon Jun 23 15:09:01 UTC 2008
There's a lot of energy here on the list, so I thought I'd share my
thoughts. Pardon the long email.
POINT #1: ALL THE ENTHUSIASM IN THE WORLD FAILS IF IT CAN NOT BE
This was the first thing I really, really learned in my tenure as Red Hat
Community Guy. Pretty much everything I've done since has been to harness
energy by providing focus.
POINT #2: WE STILL DO NOT HAVE A COMPREHENSIVE SET OF FEDORA WORK ITEMS
SUITABLE FOR NEWBIES -- BUT WE WILL FIX THAT.
This is an absolutely key problem to solve. The following scenario is one
that we must avoid at all costs:
Newbie: I just found out that I can work on a cool project for
Fedora! I'm going to go to the Fedora site to learn
(An hour of searching a poorly-maintained wiki follows)
Newbie: This is really hard. I think I'll go play Freeciv
Note: MORE WIKI PAGES DO NOT SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. We've tried. There are
abandoned "suggest your projects here" pages all over the Fedora wiki. We
need a strong mechanism for collecting project information, and making it
easy for potential contributors to find *exactly* those projects that suit
Fortunately, I think that we are now tackling this challenge from a couple
of different directions:
a. Seneca College. Chris Tyler of Seneca College, who is copied on this
email, is giving us a very tangible reason to solve this problem. Chris
will be teaching about open source participation to his students in the
upcoming year, and one of the first things that Chris needs from the
Fedora community is precisely this kind of list of work items. Which
means that Chris will be relentless in helping us figure this problem out.
:) If you want to learn more about the Seneca project, please email him
to learn more.
b. Task Management Tools. Luke Macken, who is also copied on this email,
is working on an interface for Fedora community members to contribute
their ideas to the project. The best ideas can be voted up. It's a
These kinds of tools may also be able to correlate a newbie's skills with
the skills required for various projects. One can imagine the following
* A proposal UI. Alex has a great idea -- "an interface to track cell
phone numbers for all Fedora volunteers" -- and he goes to the "Fedora
Proposals" UI. He enters an abstract of the project. He clicks the
"Turbogears" box and the "Python" box under the "skills needed" part of
* The voting UI. Every member can go to the list of proposals and vote
them up or down, Digg-style. Bill sees on Fedora Planet that a new idea
has been proposed for "tracking cell phone numbers". He likes the idea a
lot -- not just because it's a good idea, but also because Alex took the
time to explain it well. So he clicks on the link and votes the idea up.
Note: this implies that the bad proposals, like "I think Fedora should use
apt" with no good arguments why, will languish at the bottom of the list.
* The project-finder UI. Clarice signs up with Fedora as a contributor.
As part of the join form, she is asked for her skill set, and she checks
"Python" and "Turbogears". Upon completion, she immediately sees a UI
that says "hey, the following projects need exactly your expertise!" And
at the top of the list is the "cell phone numbers" project, with contact
information of potential mentors who can help her get started.
This is not a complicated vision. It is a highly achievable vision. Luke
Macken is already working on pieces of it, and if you have any web
programming skills, you could probably help him on it, right now.
POINT #3: ONCE WE HAVE STRONG TASK MANAGEMENT TOOLS, WE CAN FUNNEL ALL
KINDS OF NEW ENERGY INTO OUR PROCESS.
Once the infrastructure of participation exists, the critical job changes,
from *enabling* participation to *driving* participation.
First, you SIMPLIFY. It should be *dead simple* for *any* newbie --
college student, college professor, bored professional, retiree -- to find
useful work to do that helps his fellow man.
Then, you AMPLIFY. When you trust your ability to manage community work,
you shout from the rooftops, "HEY, WE NEED YOUR HELP!" If the projects
that you drive people to are interesting, useful, and achievable, you will
find that people will crawl out of the bushes to work on them. If college
professors want to build their own curriculum around such a program, so
much the better.
So. That's my take. Sorry for the long email. If you agree with this
vision, please get in touch with Luke Macken to help make this vision into
a reality. He's already got a great headstart. :)
More information about the Fedora-ambassadors-list