FUDCon Milan

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.

Ohio Linux Fest 2011, days 0 and 1

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.

SELF, Day 1

The first day of SELF was busy and productive.  I started the day by attending David Nalley’s presentation as part of “Build your own Open Source cloud day” here at SELF.  I had to leave after the first hour, however, as we had a FAD (FADs are Fedora Activity Days — small group meetings where we try to focus on one or two particular problems and come up with better solutions) focused on improving FUDCons.  In particular, we wanted to focus on:

  • Clarifying the process for FUDCon finances and the purchase of tickets for travel subsidies
  • Clarifying the bid selection process, and brainstorming ideas to make it better
  • Improve the FUDCon planning process, and ensure that there is an overabundance of transparency and detail-oriented organization

We had some fairly good discussions on each of the three topics, and I’ll be writing follow-up blog posts to address these items over the next couple of weeks.  It is imperative that we make the FUDCon process as transparent and smooth as possible, as we’ll essentially have three FUDCons in four months (FUDCon EMEA in September/October, FUDCon APAC in November/December, and FUDCon North America in January).

As the Fedora crew was winding down the discussion in the FAD, I had to run give my presentation (the first stand-alone presentation of the day) entitled “Swimming Against the Current”, which was a fairly high-level overview of the software development model, the river of functionality that starts with upstream software developers and flows downstream to end users, the unique role that software distributions such as Fedora play, and why it’s vital both to build strong relationships of trust with upstream software communities, as well as improve the communications within the distribution itself.  The talk seemed to be very well received, and we had a great Q and A session afterword where we discussed strategies for improving the mentoring process within communities.

After wolfing down a sandwich for lunch, I spent some time talking with former Docs Project lead Eric Christensen (Sparks on IRC) discussing some of the ins and outs of the documentation team in Fedora.  We worked on fleshing out a quick outline for new guide that Eric is writing, and then dove into brainstorming ideas for improving the docs process workflow.  In the middle of that discussion, Eric and I went to Paul Frields’ talk, which was an introduction to PyGObject programming (Python + GUI + the new GObject hotness). After wrapping up the Docs discussion, it was time to head to the speaker’s dinner, and then retire to my room, make a few phone calls, and crash.

Best FUDCon Experience Ever!

I’m hoping to find time over the next few days to do a more complete blog post relating all my recent travels, but for now I wanted to give a quick shout out to everyone who was able to attend FUDCon Tempe and make it the best North American FUDCon I’ve seen. I was impressed by so many things but here are a few that stick out in my mind today:

  • I was impressed with the number of people who were at FUDCon for the first time.  I tried to talk to as many people as I could, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.  If I didn’t stop and introduce myself and say hi, I’m sorry 🙁
  • I was impressed with the conference venue.  Everything was within walking distance, and the facilities at Arizona State University were top-notch.  And, believe it or not, we had no major problems with internet access!  Thanks to Robyn Bergeron and all the folks at ASU that put time and effort into the logistics behind the conference.
  • I was impressed with the number of people who pitched talks in the BarCamp session.  There is a tremendous amount of knowledge and talent in our community, and the BarCamp sessions really highlighted that.  I also felt that going to fewer tracks (only four simultaneous sessions) made the scheduling easier.
  • I continue to be impressed by how much easier it is to communicate when you’re face to face with a person, especially when the people communicating don’t speak the same native language.  Several of us had a great conversation about that over dinner last night (as we had native English, Spanish, Dutch, German, and French-Canadian speakers in the group).  Sometimes it’s even just cultural differences — one participant mentioned that in his cultural, having walking into a store and having someone ask “How are you today?” would be considered a little bit confrontational, while I wouldn’t think anything of it.  For me, that highlighted the need to get people face to face from time to time.
  • I was impressed by the number of people with nice Canon cameras.  A number of cool people let me borrow their cameras and let me go with them to the camera store, and I have to admit the budding photo geek in me was seriously craving a camera upgrade.  Hopefully we can get community members to share their photos online.

I’m exhausted beyond belief, but I’m very happy about the entire FUDCon experience, and am extremely grateful to play a part in such an awesome community.

Where is Jared headed next?

An important (and rewarding, even if it is tiring) part of my job as the Fedora Project Leader is to help spread the word about Fedora in various parts of the world.  The most visible part of this is speaking at conferences and meeting with our ambassadors and contributors. Over the next three weeks I’ll be on a jet-lag-inducing marathon of travel, and I thought it would be helpful to let people know where I’ll be over the next few weeks.

LinuxConf Australia

On Friday, I’ll be flying to Brisbane for the LCA conference.  This is my first time to attend LCA, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting many of our contributors in the Asia-Pacific region while I’m there.  I’m also glad that the flood waters are receding in Brisbane, and that the conference attendees can do their small part to help in the recovery by showing up for the conference, eating in restaurants, staying in hotels, and otherwise helping the local economy.  I’ll be giving a presentation on Thursday the 27th explaining what Fedora is and the unique relationship between Fedora and Red Hat, and how to work effectively with upstream projects.

FUDCon Tempe

After LCA, I’ll be flying from Brisbane to Tempe, Arizona for the North American iteration of our annual Fedora Users and Developers conference, affectionately known as FUDCon.  I always look forward to the FUDCon conferences around the world, as they’re the best opportunity to meet with and work with other Fedora enthusiasts in a fun atmosphere.  I’ll be giving the traditional “State of Fedora” address on Saturday, leading the Board meeting on Monday, and generally doing my best to ensure that the conference runs smoothly.  I’ll also pitch a BarCamp session or two.  As always, FUDCon is a free event and we encourage all Linux enthusiasts to attend regardless of their experience level.


After FUDCon I’ll be traveling to Belgium for FOSDEM, which is one of the premier free/open source software conferences in Europe.  In particular, I’ll be doing a couple of presentations in the Distributions room, talking about cross-distro collaboration, as well as the roles that distributions play in the free/open source ecosystem.  In addition, I will also be helping out at the Fedora booth.  I’m also hoping to pop over to the Open Telephony room to say hi to some of my telephone-loving friends there as well, if time permits.

If you’re at any of these three conferences, I encourage you to stop by and introduce yourself.  I look forward to meeting with you!

Please step away from the computer!

It’s getting closer to the end of the year, and that little voice in the back of my brain is telling me that I need to step away from the computer and try to fit in a little rest and relaxation.  I’m not sure about the rest and relaxation part, but I’m am going to take a break from the computer by going on a vacation to Ireland and England with my family over the holidays.  I’ll most likely be away from email and the internet most of the time from tomorrow until January 1st.  If and when I do find internet access, I’m most likely to check a dedicated email address (vacation (at) jaredsmith (d0t) net) first.

I’ll also point out that the end of the year adds an interesting dynamic to open source communities.  For some, the holiday season gives them extra time to work on their favorite projects and try new things, while for others the holidays mean taking a break from working on their projects.  Please keep that in mind over the next couple of weeks.  (As an example, almost all of Red Hat is off work the week of December 27th.)

If you need to contact me while I’m away, I’ve left a UK cell phone number with each member of the Fedora Board, which should be able to reach me while I’m on my adventure.

I wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season, however you choose to celebrate the season.

Where is Jared this week?

I’ve had a bit more travel than is usual this month, which means I’m writing this blog post from a hotel room outside of Boston.  Boston, you ask?  What am I doing in Boston?  I’m here for the rest of the week having some meetings at the Red Hat offices here in Westford, MA this week.  I came up here in June when I was interviewing for the FPL job, but hadn’t been back since, and I thought it was about time to hop back up and spend some time in some meetings with some of my friends and co-workers here.

Today, I caught up with Paul Frields and Kara (from Red Hat’s press team) to talk about press blog entries and video highlights for the Fedora 14 release. I also talked with John Poelstra and Paul and Spot (via phone — poor guy is recovering from a nasty case of the flu) about the hiring process for the Fedora Program Manager job. (If you’re interested in the job, send either John or me your résumé now, before it’s too late!)  I also had the chance to have some very informal meetings in the hallway with folks like Dan Walsh, Luke Macken, and Dave Malcolm.  Since I’m a remote employee, I don’t get the chance to rub shoulders with these folks often enough, so I enjoyed chatting with them.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a higher-level meeting with several Red Hat managers to get some feedback from them on how they think Fedora is working as an upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, as well as how I’m doing as the new FPL.  My primary role in the meetings is to listen, and to gather feedback as we near the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, while the experience is fresh in everyone’s minds.

This meeting is a mechanism to gather ideas and comments from folks in Red Hat who aren’t necessarily engaged in Fedora on a day-to-day basis. In a way, Red Hat is not just an active participant and heavy contributor in Fedora, but is also somewhat of a customer, in that Fedora is an upstream from which Red Hat Enterprise Linux draws. It’s a helpful learning experience to hear firsthand accounts from a customer, and I hope this meeting will be no exception.

That feedback becomes part of the larger fabric of possibilities that can inform our future strategies. If there are opportunities for improvement that might interest the community, the entire Fedora team will collaborate to address those items, just as we would on any feedback. For example, FUDCon Tempe in January will be a great opportunity to discuss ideas for improvement in Fedora in a high-bandwidth fashion, and I’m looking forward to the ideas that come out of the time there.  Another key goal for my meeting tomorrow is to give some of my thoughts and ideas back to Red Hat about the things I’ve seen during my first few months on the job.  I’m a big fan of continual improvement, and I think these feedback sessions are one healthy and important way to make sure we’re making progress.

On Thursday, I’m doing a quick (15 minutes or less, I promise!) presentation to the Desktop team inside Red Hat, to let them ask some questions and get to know me a bit better.  Should be pretty informal, but it’s a chance for me to get to know them better and vice versa.  I’m also hoping to track down a few minutes to chat w/ Mo Duffy to tell her what an awesome job the design and website teams are doing on the new design of the Fedora website.  (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you really should.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the way it’s shaping up.)

On Friday, I’m doing a podcast with Paul Frields for “This Week in Fedora” from Frostbite Media.  I did an interview with them a few weeks ago, but they invited me back, and I’m sure Paul and I will have an enjoyable time talking about our favorite subject.  I’m also hoping to squeeze in time to shoot a bit of video for one of the Fedora 14 release videos.  (Not that I really want to appear on video, but I do enjoy talking about the upcoming Fedora 14 release…)

Between all the meetings, I’ll be catching up on email, participating in IRC meetings, and helping coordinate all the moving parts of the release so that we can hopefully ship Fedora 14 according to our schedule.  All in all, it’s shaping up to be a busy week here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

UTOSC 2010, Day 0

On Wednesday I woke up entirely too early and headed to the airport for a nice five-hour flight from Dulles airport to Salt Lake City.  (I use the word nice, as it was a direct flight and I didn’t run into any major annoyances.)  It was good to see the Wasatch mountains again — I keep forgetting how much I miss mountains.  It was raining when I landed, but traffic was very light and it didn’t take long to get to the hotel. After checking into the hotel, I headed over to the Larry H. Miller campus of Salt Lake Community College campus to meet up with Clint Savage and help haul some equipment and survey the meeting rooms.  The location is great.  (If would have been nice to have all the rooms in the same building, but it’s not that big of a deal.)

Things are really looking good for the Utah Open Source Conference!  Clint, Jason, and the rest of the crew have really done a good job of getting things set up.

Tales of a Road Warrior

I’ve spent a lot of time travelling in my career.  In fact, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I’ve spent at least one week out of every month on the road for the past five or six years. To put it mildly, I’ve seen a few airports and slept in a few hotels.

This month is no exception to my travel routine.  Next week I’ll be travelling to FUDCon in beautiful Santiago, Chile.  I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to return to Santiago and take part in the FUDCon conference there. After that, I’m headed to the FISL conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  This will be my second trip to Brazil this year, and another chance to gain weight by drinking too much guaraná soda.

If you’re going to either FUDCon Santiago or FISL, be sure to stop by and say hello.  I can’t wait to see you there!


Sorry for the broken RSS feed — I think I may have triggered a bug in WordPress.  It should be fixed now.

Documentation (or the lack thereof)

Check out the yellow labels -- what do the rest of the buttons do?I’m in Seoul, Korea this week teaching one of the ever-popular Asterisk Bootcamp classes.  As luck would have it, my hotel room has the most amazing remote control in the world!  Not only does it control the big ol’ LCD TV and the DVD player, but it also controls the air conditioner and all the lights in the room (including both lights in the bathroom!)

In trying to actually use the remote control, however, I was given a stark reminder of how important documentation can be.  As you probably already know, I try to take an active role in the documentation teams for both Asterisk and the Fedora Project, but never seem to make the time to write as much as I’d like.  As such, I can only hope our documentation efforts are more effective than the yellow labels on my remote control — just documenting the bare minimum and forcing the user to experiment to do anything useful (and very likely getting lost in the process).

(It’s my own personal opinion that this is one of the ways that free/open source software often fails to keep up with it’s commercial rivals; Many open source projects can’t afford to hire technical writers, and if they’re lucky enough to have volunteers do the work, there often isn’t much praise for the hard work and effort that goes into it.)

If this reminder has you feeling the same way I am, why not step up to the plate and help out on the documentation front?  After all, the fearless leader and the rest of the docs crew needs your help!  As the old adage goes… many hands makes light work!  We’d be glad to have you join our ranks.