Distrowatch dot com judgment of Fedora's relation with the "community"

Rahul Sundaram sundaram at fedoraproject.org
Thu May 10 03:05:28 UTC 2007

Herman Meester wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> I translated the recently refreshed section of "Major distributions" on
> distrowatch.com into Dutch.
> That text is in fact the opinion of the site's owner, Ladislav Bodnar.
> It's not "the gospel", but I do suspect many people new to Linux will
> check that page out and take its content for relatively authoritative.
> There was one remark on Fedora that I couldn't agree with.
> http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major&language=EN
> "Cons: Less community-oriented than other major distributions; its
> priorities tend to lean towards enterprise features, rather than desktop
> usability"
> I don't really agree with the 2nd line either, which is not really
> important to argue about (leads to a lot of nonsense on non-free stuff
> anyway), but especially since Fedora 7's merger of Core and Extras, the
> live spin thing, etc., I think that the first line, "Less
> community-oriented than other major distributions" is simply no longer
> true - if it ever was.
> Could "y'all" or some of you come up with good arguments to present to
> Mr. Bodnar (on this list, I mean), so I can object to this in a
> convincing manner? Or is there (still) some truth in his statement?

I think this deserves a detailed response.

(CC'ing Ladislav Bodnar)

With the understanding that any attempts to summarize the nature of a
distribution is bound to be subjective I would like to comment on the
two items you have suggested as cons

Community Orientation

There are a number of things show how much oriented we are towards the 

  * Licenses - Our credentials here is well established. We have a 
strong focus on Free and open source software.

  * Platform - We provide the usual list of suspects for everyone to 
contribute to - Open mailing lists, forums, irc channels, bug tracking 
systems etc.

  * Governance - All the important bodies in governing Fedora has 
volunteers playing a major role or leading efforts. Fedora Project 
board, Fedora Engineering Steering committee, Release Engineering and so 
on. One of the important things to understand is that it makes obvious 
sense for Red Hat to hire the active contributors who are part of Fedora 
and the community and it has increasingly done so.

Mike McGrath and Toshio Kuratomi for Fedora Infrastructure, Chuck Ebbert 
as kernel co-maintainer. Seth Vidal as yum developer and atleast one 
another person who has shall go unnamed till he becomes less shy letting 
the world know ;-). Moving ahead is more important for us than the 
politically correct balance. We need to break down the artificial 
barriers and segmentation anyway.

Though democracy isn't a model I would promote on every place (nor does 
the Debian founder for that matter) it should be of interest that 
engineering, documentation, ambassadors committees are elected bodies 
and Fedora Board is atleast partially becoming so post Fedora 7 release.

  * Contributors - We are fond of saying that everyone who works on 
Fedora (or even just uses it) is part of the community regardless of 
whether we work for Red Hat or not. If you count the participation of 
non Red Hat volunteers as a measure of strength you need to look at our 
current statistics[1]

We have participation from not only volunteers but many vendors like 
Dell and IBM. Today I think we are doing it better than any community 
distribution with a vendor backing the efforts and we are only getting 
better. I would encourage you to compare this with other vendor backed 
efforts like OpenSUSE or Ubuntu and look at how many volunteers are part 
of their governing bodies and see whether you can still consider us as 
less community oriented. I bet you are in for a surprise if you do that.

Starting out with the formation and success of Fedora Extras and 
culminating with the Fedora 7 release we have steadily grown better at 
delivering what we originally promised.  We have had our share of 
missteps, scrambled to do better and we still have lots left to do but I 
am not feeling this as a weakness anymore.

It took us a longer time than we had hoped but what we set out to do 
when we launched Fedora as a Red Hat sponsored partnership between 
community and a commercial vendor was breaking new grounds. The success 
of that methodology is undeniable.  One just needs to look at OpenSUSE, 
Freespire, OpenSolaris, MySQL community edition or even what Red Hat 
again is doing currently with JBoss to understand the impact of the 
model that Fedora Project pioneered.

Max Spevack described what we are doing with our next release[2] and you 
would notice that there is hardly any mention of our feature list[3]. 
This is not because we don't have new features worth mentioning. We 
certainly do but the primary target of the Fedora 7 release is laying 
out the groundwork for the volunteer community to drive more of what we 
are doing now and in the future. It is as Christopher Blizzard described 
[4] all about the community.

Desktop Focus

I am part of the OLPC team which is based on a derivative of Fedora. I 
have just convinced a couple of days back a roommate of mine who knows 
nothing about Linux that we need to install Fedora 7 on a new Sony 
Playstation 3 he is about to buy. Did I mention that Sony official 
supports Yellow Dog which is again a derivative of Fedora and Fedora 7 
will support it out of the box too? I think of these as the new desktop 
platforms that we play a pivotal role.

I think you would agree that Freedesktop.org, HAL, Dbus, Cairo, Network 
Manager or AIGLX are important pieces of any modern desktop environment. 
   Red Hat folks[5] have started these efforts and continue to play a 
important role in these and many of these efforts showed up in a big way 
in Fedora.

With the introduction of GNOME and KDE based installable live images in 
Fedora we have reached another major milestone. . You might want to play 
with Big board[6] or mugshot[7] a bit like I did to get a look at some 
of the interesting things we are working on. We are already planning to 
innovate in new ways for the next release[8].

Some closing thoughts[9] for you to think about. We do have a strong 
desktop focus and clear desktop strategy but it might not be in the way 
your expect. Thanks for any constructive criticism and feedback. Keep 
them coming.

[1] http://rahulsundaram.livejournal.com/11669.html
[3] http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/7/FeatureList
[4] http://www.0xdeadbeef.com/weblog/?p=284

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