Jared Smith is very enthusiastic about free and open source software. To learn more about Jared, visit http://www.jaredsmith.net/about/
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Posts by jsmith
I recently returned home from Prague, where I attended the Flock conference. In it’s second year, the Flock conference is a gathering of free software developers, most of whom work in the Fedora community. Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of every talk I attended and every conversation I had (which would be exhausting), I’ll instead focus on the highlights of the conference.
Location, Venue, and Accommodations
I was very impressed with the location of the conference. The university was within a five minute walk of the hotel, and close to several convenient tram and metro stops. The classrooms were well furnished with power connections and comfortable seats, and the larger auditoriums were big enough to handle a big crowd. The hotel was very nice as well — the lobby was spacious, which made for lots of impromptu meetings and hanging out. Getting from the airport to the hotel was super-easy as well, as was the return trip. Also, the cafeteria where we had lunch was was exceptional — the food was delicious, and the location couldn’t have been more perfect.
There were several themes that resonated with me as I attended the conference. The first was around the changes to the Fedora release products (collectively referred to as Fedora.Next) in Fedora 21 and future releases. Whereas at last year’s Flock conference there was a lot of apprehension and negativity some of the proposed changes, this year I noticed a remarkably more upbeat attitude toward the changes. There was a lot of great discussion round how to get the technical work done that’s needed in order to make Fedora 21 (and 22, and so on) a success.
The next theme that resonated with me was documentation. Maybe it’s because I was giving a talk on documentation, but I felt there was a lot more interest and cohesion around doing a better job of documenting Fedora than I saw at last year’s conference. Both my talk (on Docbook and Publican) and Jaromir’s talk on Mallard were packed, and the two documentation workshops were very well attended as well. At one point during Friday’s workshops, I counted 22 people (besides myself) in the room working on Docs. We also had several new people dive right in and start working on writing documentation, so that was great to see as well.
The third theme that I focused on was ARM processors. The support in Fedora for ARM has grown tremendously over the past couple of years. Peter Robinson’s “ARM State of the Union” talk showed just how far support for ARM has come — both in 32-bit ARM as a primary architecture and with 64-bit ARM as a secondary arch. The ARM workshop on Saturday was great too — I was able to confirm that as of the 3.16 kernel, we now support the Plat’home OpenBlocks AX3 and Mirabox as two more Marvell Armada-based devices that will work great in Fedora 21. (They both require appending the .dtb to the kernel, but other than that, they seem to be working great.)
Last but not least, it was great to have a lot of hallway discussions with friends and colleagues. I had too many discussions to be able to remember them all, let alone discuss them here on my blog, but I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with many old friends and making some new ones as well. I always look forward to opportunities to rub shoulders with so many of the fantastic people that make the Fedora community great.
Thanks to Ruth and Spot and Josh and Miro and all the other folks who worked hard to organize the conference. Thanks to Red Hat for sponsoring my flight, and thanks to my employer, Bluehost, for sponsoring the conference and allowing me the opportunity to be in Prague for the conference. Also, thanks to each one of the presenters for making Flock 2014 a great conference.
If you’ve followed my blog for long, you probably know that I tend to blog a lot about my favorite distribution (and community), Fedora. And, as you probably well know, in Fedora we have elections for many things such as seats on the leadership committees and release names. In the most recent round of Fedora elections, we had a tie vote in the elections for a seat on the Fedora Board, so we’re now in the middle of a run-off election. If you have a Fedora account and haven’t yet voted, please do your civic duty and vote in the run-off election. The voting ends Tuesday at the end of the day UTC time, so you have roughly twenty-four hours to get your votes in. As always, I encourage you to vote for the candidate that you think will best represent Fedora and its values.
More details on the run-off election can be found at https://lists.fedoraproject.org/pipermail/announce/2012-June/003085.html. To vote, login to the Fedora Accounts System and place your votes at https://admin.fedoraproject.org/voting.
Let me also add a quick thank you to everyone who has already voted or who has stood up and run for public office. Leadership in Fedora takes time and effort, and I’m always grateful to those who are willing to put their time and energy and passion into doing a fantastic job.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of years of the role that critics play in the course of free/open source development. Obviously one of the advantages that FOSS software has over its proprietary counterparts is that it almost always has a richer feedback mechanism, so that it can incorporate the feedback (and patches!) from a wide variety of interested parties. (The mantra of “No matter how many smart people you hire, there are always smarter people outside your organization.” rings loudly in my ears!) This feedback loop is important — perhaps even vital — to long term development. At the same time, the open nature of FOSS development gives critics a large forum in which to voice their opinions. How best to be make sure that there’s a fair balance between constructive feedback and criticism? I was reminded of this balance by a couple of quotes from former US President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1894, he said:
Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger.
On April 23rd 1910, he put it a little more eloquently:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
To each of you who are in the arena — who are daring greatly, who are fighting the good fight, I tip my hat to you. It’s not always easy work, or sexy work, or work that gets a lot of praise and glory. Thank you for your tireless efforts to make the world a better place one piece, one parameter, one package, or one project at a time. And to those critics who aren’t in the fight, we still hear you — but at the end of the day, I’m more willing to pay attention to those who are engaged in the battle.
Today I am starting a new job and embarking on a new adventure. As most of you probably already know, I’ve spent the last couple of years working for Red Hat as the Fedora Project Leader. I passed the FPL baton on to Robyn Bergeron a few weeks ago, and have spent the time since doing a bit of technical writing for Red Hat and trying to figure out my next role. I looked for positions both inside and outside of Red Hat where I could exercise my talents and abilities. As much as I loved working for Red Hat, I found another opportunity that is best role for me at this point in my career.
Starting today, I’ll be working for Bluehost — one of the largest web hosting companies in North America. (Or, more specifically, I’ll be working for Bluehost’s parent company, Endurance International Group.) My job will be focused on open source outreach and community building, and helping Bluehost build better relationships with open source developers. I’ll be taking the lessons I’ve learned from the Asterisk community and the Fedora community and applying them to other open source communities. Don’t worry — I’ll still be actively involved in most of the same open source communities that I’ve been participating in over the past several years, and I’ll be participating in a few new ones as well. I’ll still be working remotely from Virginia, so that I don’t have to uproot my family and move across the country.
I’ll share more details of my job over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, you know where to find me — trying to make the world a better place, one conversation at a time.
Wow… My heart is really full this week, and I’ve been overwhelmed with all the “thank you”s and and other kind wishes from people in the Fedora community as I’ve passed the torch on to Robyn Bergeron as the next Fedora Project Leader. I always knew that I was only going to be the FPL for a couple of years, but now that the time has come to move on, it’s a bit surreal. As I’ve said numerous times, the job is a difficult and stressful one, yet it’s very rewarding at the same time. I couldn’t have done it without the support and hard work of the thousands of Fedora community members who continue to make Fedora an awesome place to participate in free and open source software.
In particular, I’d like to take this opportunity to share several things that I’ve been very thankful for during my tenure as the FPL.
First of all, I’m thankful for my friends… not only friends that made me laugh when I was stressed out, or friends that helped get things done, but also for friends that weren’t afraid to tell me when I made a mistake, or needed to view things from a different perspective. I’m humbled by friends who have inspired me, and taught me, and set a good example for me, and listened to me when I needed to vent. I’ve made a lot of new friends over the past couple of years, and I value those friendships as the number one thing I’ve taken aware from the experience. I look forward to continuing to rub shoulders with my FLOSS friends in the future. Thank you for your kindness and your support.
Next, I’m thankful for the perspective I’ve gained. It’s so easy to get “tunnel vision” when working on a program or a project. Many of us enjoy free and open source software because we learn about so many different things and become experts in many different areas. Unfortunately, this also means we can assume that our world view is the correct world view, or perhaps even the only world view that matters. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from being the Fedora Project Leader, it is that there are many different perspectives on each issue, and that most of them have something valuable to add to the equation. I’m thankful for the new perspectives I have gained, and for the experiences that have helped me to gain a wider view.
I’m also thankful for the many thousands of hours that hard-working Fedora contributors have put forth to make Fedora better. In looking back over the past three releases (Fedora 14, 15, and 16), we’ve made a lot of forward progress. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been some controversy along the way. Looking to the future, I hope that we can continue to chart new territory in Fedora, while not forgetting the lessons of the past. As one of my favorite songs puts it, “Fly your mind… fly it like a kite. But keep your feet on the ground.” I have no doubt that the Fedora community can continue to add new features and still do the necessary communication and integration work to make the disparate pieces come together to make a more unified whole. Not only have we made the distribution better, but even more importantly we’ve made the community better and stronger.
Last but not least, I’m also thankful for Red Hat, and their continued support on behalf of Fedora, and for the great trust they place in the Fedora community. I could go on and on about the relationship between Red Hat and Fedora, but let me just say that I’m thankful for Red Hat’s continued efforts to do the right thing and to practice what it preaches about open source communities. During my tenure at FPL, I never once felt pressured by Red Hat to do anything that wasn’t in the community’s best interest, and I think that says volumes about a corporate sponsor.
I tend to measure the success of an tech event (such as FUDCon) not by how many people show up or what talks were given, but by the work that happens in the days and weeks after the event. By that measure (along with the traditional measurements), our recent FUDCon event was a huge success. I have also been inspired by the friends in our community who have publicly posted their post-FUDCon to-do lists, so that we can all have insight into the work that FUDCon helped bring to light.
Rather that give a day-by-day account of my own FUDCon activities, I want to just highlight some of the the things that resonated with me at FUDCon.
First, I was impressed with the Virginia Tech campus. It was a beautiful location for the event, and the amount of space we had was absolutely fantastic. Thanks again to Ben Williams and the Math Department at VT for their awesome support.
Second, I was impressed with the number of people who had planned ahead for the conference, and came prepared to both learn and share. I didn’t see too many people this year just hanging out in the hallway checking email, so that’s probably a very good sign.
I was happy to see how many of the various Fedora groups really had their act together for FUDCon. Just to highlight a few that caught my eye: The Docs team had several introductory sessions and a hackfest, which helped get some new people up to speed in the docs tooling. The Cloud SIG had a wide variety of talks on different aspects of cloud computing. I didn’t get to participate with much of the Infrastructure team’s sessions, but they all seemed interesting and were usually completely full. The ARM SIG also had a huge presence at the conference — with a marathon run of non-stop ARM work happening throughout the conference, and some nice give-aways to help entice more people to join the SIG and contribute.
As a Fedora Board, we met a couple of different times (once on Friday and once on Sunday) to discuss Board goals and work on other Board business. The board decided that in order to lead by example we would each choose a project to champion over the next year, and that we would make regular reports on how those projects are going. I’ve asked each of the Board members to pick their project over the next week or two, and be prepared to present it at our Board meeting on February 1st. If you have ideas or causes that you would like the Board to take up, please don’t hesitate to let the Board know, either personally or via the advisory-board list. I know a couple of the Board members already have their projects picked out, but I’m sure other members would love feedback and ideas. I really enjoyed the opportunity of meeting with the Board in a more personal setting, and having the chance for higher-bandwidth communications, and I hope that we can make that happen more often in the future.
Besides all of the technical discussion that happened at FUDCon, I was happy to participate in a number of different talks aimed at making the human side of Fedora more enjoyable. Whether it was talk about how to better attract new participants or improving exiting processes for Ambassadors, really enjoyed the ideas and brainstorming that came out of those discussions. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can improve things in this regard over the coming year. I also enjoyed the chance to interact with many of the community members in some light-hearted activities as well, including getting bowling tips from Russell Harrison, getting lots of photography tips (and good stories) from Eric Christensen, having a good snowball fight with Jeroen van Meeuwen, and having a good impromptu swordfight with Mark Terranova. All of these things helped keep me from going too crazy with all the logistics around FUDCon.
So to everyone who participated or supported those who did, let me say thank you. Now let’s get back to work and finish up all those things we talked about doing, and keep making forward progress…
I have a pretty good idea what you’re thinking… you’re saying to yourself “Here goes Jared, reminding me of all the things I need to remember about FUDCon”. Well, this is a FUDCon reminder, but I’ll leave the logistics details aside for a moment, and invite you to prepare for FUDCon in other ways. I’m sure others will remind you of the logistical items you’ve forgotten about. (You did remember to sign up ahead of time for the wireless internet access at Virginia Tech, right?)
Prepare to Learn
One of the things I most enjoy about the Fedora Users and Developers Conference is the chance to learn in a fast-paced environment from people who do amazing things every day. That learning doesn’t come by accident, however. I learned at my first FUDCon that you really need to prepare ahead of time to be able to take advantage of all there is to learn at FUDCon. So, write down a short list of topics you’d like to learn about. Write down a list of questions you’d like to ask your fellow Fedora contributors. Look at the list of workshops, and start planning which ones you would like to attend. And when we organize the barcamp portion of the conference on Saturday morning, pay attention to the sessions that are pitched and be prepared to vote for the sessions you are most likely to attend.
I’ve seen from sad experience that if you don’t plan ahead for learning, you’ll end up spending too much time checking your email or chatting with your friend in the hallway (more on the hallway track below!), and miss out on a great opportunity to learn and grow.
Prepare to Share
I’ve talked briefly about learning at FUDCon, but that must mean there’s another side to the coin: If there are people to learn, then there must be people willing to teach as well. This is one reason why the barcamp session at FUDCon is truly amazing, because anybody can stand up and propose a session. It always helps if you have something prepared to share, or know the material well enough that you can do a presentation without any formal preparation, but that’s not an absolute requirement. I do encourage you, however, to spend some time thinking about the things you have that you could teach to other participants, and then come prepared to share your knowledge with others.
I’d also like you to think about ways you can share the FUDCon experience with those who aren’t able to make it to the conference. All the usual suspects (blog posts, microblogging such as identi.ca or Twitter, social networking, IRC channels) are there and available to help us share with those who are participating vicariously.
Prepare to Socialize
Another important aspect of FUDCon is the chance to get to know your fellow Fedorans better. So even though I told you earlier to plan ahead so that you don’t get stuck in the “hallway track” at FUDCon, I must confess that the hallway track is an important part of the conference. Perhaps as important as the technical bits. Getting to know your fellow contributors helps build trust in our community, and helps to smooth over the rough patches that we encounter from time to time. Sometimes being able to put a face and a name with an IRC handle makes all the difference. There are a number of activities on the schedule specifically designed to help you get to know your (virtual) neighbors a bit better, and I’m sure some people will come up with unscheduled activities as well.
So bring your HAM radio, or your DSLR, or your latest robotics kit, or your hot dog costume. Bring your favorite keyboard or input device… and then don’t be afraid to say hello to those around you. And if you see me, say hi! (I’ll be the guy playing amateur photographer and generally trying to make sure things go smoothly.)
Prepare to Work
Last but not least, I ask each of you to come to FUDCon prepared to work. Yes, we have a good time at FUDCon. Yes, we learn and share and grow. But at the end of the day, FUDCon is about making forward progress, and moving us one step closer to our goals. Yes, talk is important, and conversation is crucial. It’s only if we put those ideas into action that FUDCon is truly successful. If you’re a part of a steering committee or a special interest group in Fedora, prepare to set a plan for the upcoming year. If you’re not yet a member of a special interest group, you might want to join one at FUDCon, and take the first step to becoming more involved.
I can’t wait to spend time with many of you at FUDCon this coming weekend, and hope to meet the rest of you someday at a future event.
(Thanks to María “tatica” Leandro and Kushal Das for sharing their FUDCon photos with me.)
Yes, it’s that time again. Another Fedora Users and Developers Conference (or FUDCon, as they are affectionately known) is just around the corner. Part of my job is to make sure everyone in Fedora knows the essential details for FUDCon Blacksburg. I know that the middle of January sounds like a long way away, but we’re now less than a month away from FUDCon Blacksburg. If you’re interested in attending, here’s what you need to know:
FUDCon Blacksburg will take place January 13th through 15th, 2012 in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA — a beautiful community in southwestern Virginia, nestled in the Appalachians and near the Jefferson National Forest.
How much does it cost?
Like all FUDCon events, there is no charge to attend FUDCon Blacksburg. Simply show up and enjoy the conference!
Where do I pre-register?
Please register online by adding your name to the wiki at https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FUDCon:Blacksburg_2012#Pre-registration so that we can plan appropriately for the number of people attending FUDCon.
What about hotel rooms?
We’ve arranged a special rate with the Inn at Virginia Tech. Click this link for reservations or call the Hotel directly at +1-540-231-8000 or toll free at +1-877-200-3360 and ask for the Fedora room block. Our block expires on December 28, 2011, so don’t delay!
I’m flying to FUDCon. What airport do I fly into?
The closest commercial airport is Roanoke Regional Airport, approximately 40 miles from Blacksburg. A shuttle bus is available Monday through Saturday (but not on Sunday) from http://www.smartwaybus.com/schedule.htm. Please consult that website for a detailed schedule and map. There will be a few people with cars to help shuttle people to the airport if you happen to fly out on Sunday.
Where do I find more information?
The main website for FUDCon Blacksburg is at https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FUDCon:Blacksburg_2012. I hope to see you at the conference.
I’m a little late in writing up my thoughts on FUDCon Milan, but I’ve been fighting a combination of jet lag and sinus infection since I got home late Tuesday night.
FUDCon Milan was a successful event. We started things out with a social event on Friday night at the Yguana Cafe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around for long as I had to make a run to the airport and help people find their way to the hotel. On Saturday morning, we all met at venue and kicked off the barcamp session of the conference. I was pleased to see many people stand up and pitch ideas for presentations — I think we ended up with around 30 different presentations on Saturday. I took an informal poll during the introductions, and roughly half of the people there had never been to a FUDCon event before.
I gave an informal presentation called “You Could Be The Next Fedora Project Leader”, where I talked about the importance of mentoring new community members and how changes in Fedora leadership are a healthy and vital thing. I also talked about what I do as the Fedora Project Leader to encourage community building. I thought my presentation was well received, despite the fact that I somehow tripped the electrical breaker for the projectors as I was starting my talk, and ended up giving most of the presentation without any slides. (Thank goodness I was prepared!) Before and after my presentation, I tried to bounce between the other presentations, and actively participated in the “hallway track” of discussions with new friends and old friends alike. The provided lunch was fantastic, and we even got in a few group photos.
On Saturday evening, we had the traditional FUDPub dinner, which was all-you-can-eat pizza. I think everyone had a great time at FUDPub, even if some of the pizza was a bit strange. I wasn’t going to say anything, but the Italian Ambassadors kept joking that the chefs were in the kitchen yelling “We’re running out of food — what can we feed the foreigners?”. I have to admit — I kind of enjoyed the french fry pizza, even if it wasn’t very traditional. During the FUDPub dinner, Christoph Wickert slipped away for a few minutes and came back wearing a Beefy Miracle costume — who knew you could find such a thing on eBay. We all got a kick out of the costume, and had fun taking pictures. (Francesco Crippa let me borrow his fancy Nikon DSLR, and I went crazy with it — I think I ended up taking a couple of gigabytes worth of pictures. Hopefully he’ll share some of the pictures with us, if he dares wade through all the awful pictures to find a few gems.) After FUDPub, people went in different directions — some to drink, some to sleep, and some to eat gelato.
Sunday was the hackfest portion of the conference, and again the community came through with a great set of hackfest suggestions. I think we ended up with twelve or thirteen different hackfest sessions, and everyone I talked to was pleased with the results.
I had a wonderful time interacting with members of our Fedora community, including a lot of people who I got to meet for the first time. My heartfelt thanks go out to Francesco Crippa and the rest of the FUDCon Milan organizing team — your hard work made for a truly spectacular event.
Yesterday I had the privilege of catching a ride with a couple of the Fedora Docs rockstars (Eric Christensen and Zach Oglesby) to Ohio Linux Fest. Zach took the train down from Baltimore, and Eric drove up from Newport News to pick Eric and I up. We then wound our way through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia (again), and Ohio. Eric was following directions from Google Maps, and while I had no complaints about the scenic views, there were a few times we all wondered if we were really going to end up in Ohio. (At one point when we came to a narrow one-lane bridge across a swollen river, we even hopped out of the car and took pictures. Unfortunately, my SD card stopped working so I didn’t get a good picture.)
Last night we hacked on some of the Fedora documentation until around 1:00am. I fixed up some bad formatting in the User Guide so that it would build again, and fixed a few other minor issues.
This morning, I got up early to help some Fedora contributors with their travel arrangements for FUDCon Milan, and ran the FUDCon planning meetings for FUDCon Milan and FUDCon India. After a quick lunch (thanks to my friends at cloud.com), I headed back upstairs to the docs hackfest room and dove back into fixing up some more docs. This afternoon, I worked on the Cloud Guide, a bit on the Security Guide, and showed some of the other guys some tricks I use for finding invalid DocBook tagging and fixing it. I also helped Clint Savage with a couple of minor RPM packaging problems. Now I’m helping John McDonough proofread a draft version of the Release Notes for Fedora 16.
I’m very much looking forward to the conference tomorrow and the Docs FAD on Sunday.