Flock, the Fedora Contributors conference held annually in August has happened again. This year the conference was in Krakow, Poland. I was one of the organizers and my employer, Red Hat, paid for my trip. I continue to be thankful to Red Hat for their support of the Fedora community and, in this case, me. Completely without bias (hah!) I must also point out that this is the single best organized conference I have ever attended in my life. So strap in, this is a long roundup!
My organizing duties kept me busy, as did the evening activities so I didn’t get to to as many talks as I wanted too. As you might expect, the hallway track was fantastic and made up for some of the talks I missed. In particular, I got to have some key discussions around usability, Fedora’s structure, and translations amongst other things.
Knowing the talks would be recorded and that several of my colleagues were in attendance, I tried to attend sessions they may not have chosen to attend. My goal was both to see something different and to hopefully generate some serendipity to help me in both Fedora and at work. Look for the recordings of most talks to appear on the Fedora YouTube Channel soon.
Tuesday started with the State of Fedora Keynote. Matt Miller, the Fedora Project Lead, delivered a talk updating information he had presented in February at DevConf.cz. His talk focused on not just sharing the state of the project, but ensuring we all knew the general direction it was heading in. One interesting statistic from the talk is that almost two-thirds of contributors to the Fedora project are not Red Hat employees. It merits constant repeating: Fedora is a community directed and produced effort.
The core of Fedora contributors is roughly 2 non-Red Hatters for every Red Hatter.
I followed this up with two talks, A year managing the Italian Fedora Community and I contributed! but, what now?. Both Fabio Locati and Bee Padalkar talked about communities and patterns of interaction. In my $dayjob part of our goal is to grow the community of users and contributors for Project Atomic and more specifically the Atomic Developer Bundle.
Fabio focused on the challenges the Italian Fedora community has faced with low participation and a lot of aging infrastructure and outdated information. He outlined how they have taken steps to fix both of these, including reducing the amount of information maintained in Italian because the corresponding English resource is reasonably able to be considered usable. In the case of Atomic, I believe this means we have to keep driving our on-boarding to the bite sized chunks that entice new users and contributors while making sure the backup and detail docs are only a click away.
Bee presented a lot of data on the activity of users, including some data on how there is a magical 3-month activity cliff after which many users have “scratched their itch” and go inactive. Thinking about my work on the ADB, I believe this means we should consider making sure there is a significant release every 60-90 days to keep users “itchy” and desiring to stick around and contribute.
How to use personal kanban for better organization by Haikel Guemar tried to help us all bring order to our own personal chaos. The talk was focused mostly on keeping your tasks on an “information radiator” which allows you to quickly see what is going on. He touched on tools ranging from low-tech solutions like Paper to self-hosted solutions like Kanboard and cloud-based solutions like Trello. I suggest you watch his talk if the mechanics of Kanban are still new to you. The idea to use it to manage your own life is a good one, as long as you can deal with any other task systems you have to interface with like Bugzilla or project kanban boards.
My involvement with the Fedora Docs Project led me to attend Alex Eng’s session, Zanata - translation platform. Alex presented a round up of the new features available in the next release of this translation tool and how it can help community and corporate users make the language of their output more accessible. I had hoped to learn more about how Zanata connects to sources in the session, but instead wound up having a brief conversation with him afterward. Translation is challenging on many levels, but there is no excuse for not building your workflow to accommodate it from the beginning.
The Fedora Council Update & Town Hall was short and sweet and long and interesting at the same time. Original envisioned as a Q&A, it didn’t have a lot of ‘Q’ so there wasn’t a need for a lot of ‘A.’ However, the council, all being in one room, took advantage of the time to have some informal planning discussions around, amongst other things, future Flocks. Having been involved in planning this one and being enough of a masochist to want to keep helping doing it, this was a great discussion to attend.
How to start a Fedora movement in a new country by Redon Skikuli continued my theme of looking at community building. Redon has worked to start a technology space in Albania to introduce open source. The group is affiliated with several different technology communities. Fedora’s exposure seems to be being increased by these associations, a strategy that is also going to be key for the ADB.
On Wednesday I partnered with Dusty Mabe to present Bringing Developers into the Flock. The talk had two parts. In part 1 we introduced and demo’ed the ADB. In part 2 we discussed how the ADB fits the Fedora Foundations and provides opportunity for growth.
The audience was small as we were in competition with Langdon White’s Modularity talk, but they seemed to really understand the topic. As a measure of success, we received a documentation PR 1 day after the talk from someone who was in the room. The audience seemed to understand how this project could help developers, especially those not on Linux platforms.
There are two big challenges with talking about the ADB. The first, and the biggest, is the name. The abbreviation ADB is overloaded and most commonly collides with the Android Debug Bridge. While the target markets are very different, the Android debugger is widely known. This causes many audience members to “short-circuit” over the name. When this happens the conversation stops being about the ADB and becomes one about how “naming is hard.” To this end, I worked with Daniel Veillard to propose a new name, Project Atomic Developer Bundle (PADB). (See what I did there?) There has been nothing but quiet approvals so I expect to submit a PR to change the name sometime next week.1
The other big challenge when presenting the ADB is that it is designed to get out of the way. Once you have it running and integrated into your environment you can develop with it using your traditional tools and not have to use it directly too often. This means demos often feel like they have been abbreviated or are missing something as they stop at the end of the integration. One way to fix this may be to have a more end-to-end demo that includes developing with the ADB while not focusing too much on any particular deployment target.
The four Fedora foundations are strongly supported by building the ADB.
Freedom is easy as the upstream project is free open source software.
Friends has the biggest story related to the ADB. A big push for Fedora is to attract more developer users. However, our conversation today starts with “install our desktop” which is a non-starter for lots of developers for various reasons. With the ADB we can start the conversation with “use this fantastic developer environment” and get people on Fedora with less friction.
Features are a key part of Fedora and the ADB is an opportunity for Fedora to not only leverage its existing commitment new features and software but also adds the opportunity to share best practices.
First is achieved by allowing the Fedora platform to help move the ADB forward. For example, the current ADB virtual machine image is bigger than we want it to be and may be able to easily be slimmed down by leveraging the work Fedora has already done to reduce the size of Fedora Atomic Host and the Fedora docker image.
Dusty and I also set up talks later in the day. Specifically, Dusty’s talk, Don’t Destroy Your Machine with Development, which provided a lot of information about Vagrant and the Fedora Vagrant virtual machines and Ratnadeep Debnath’s talk about Nulecule in a session called Nulecule - Packaging multi container applications.
Bright and early at the crack of 9am on Thursday I had the pleasure of doing emcee work at the Lightning talks. These talks featured no slides, no demos, just 5 minutes for people to deliver their idea. We had 10 great talks on topics ranging from Marketing to Haskell to OpenShift on AWS. It is a shame these weren’t recorded as they were really really good. Therefore I encourage you to plan to attend Flock next year and participate in the Lightning Talks!
Later in the day I moderated a session called Hackfest: Fedora Docs Learn and Hack. A blog post about the session will soon appear on the Fedora Community Blog. This was originally going to be a 20 min presentation on the outcomes from a Fedora Activity Day for Docs which was held in May and a hackfest. However it turned into a fantastic discussion and brainstorming session. The blog post has more details.
The final session I got to attend was the Fedora Budget Workshop led by Joe Brockmeier. A lot of the session was spent hashing and rehashing the challenges which sometimes accompany reimbursement requests. However parts of the session helped us move forward with thinking about how money is allocated and how we can think about making sure we using our resources to accomplish our goals. If you haven’t already looked at the Logic Model prepared by Matt, do so now.
The evening activities of a conference can really allow people to relax and make friends. This is super critical at a conference like Flock where we want people to meet and remember each other through a year’s worth of IRC meetings. We also need a strong hallway track to make sure that the various parts of the project stay connected and on roughly the same path. We had fantastic evenings going on a tour of Krakow, playing games (board and computer), a dinner cruise on the Vistula, and an evening in Browar (Brewery) Lubicz.
There is a people reason to wait. A core contributor is away unexpectedly. ↩