Issue #5 March 2005

Fedora: Powered by the community

Even as recently as fifteen years ago, I don't think anyone could have envisioned that the driving force behind innovation in computer software would be ragtag groups of people from all over the world. No one could have imagined that any meaningful development might take place outside of the walls of corporations and a select few universities. Then came Linux, and everything changed. So to what can we ascribe the success of the open source development model? One word: community.

For those of us lucky enough to have been at FUDCon, which was held the day after LinuxWorld at Boston University, we experienced an awesome thing. For the first time, the Fedora community was finally assembled; in one of the oldest cities in America, we paved a way for the future of the project. The new roadmap for Fedora, with its new guidelines and policies, will help Fedora grow in ways not possible before.

I believe in the power of community. Especially in the power of the open source community. We have done great things and have the potential to do many more great things; to reap the benefits of the community, though, people need to get involved. The great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen once said, "a community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm." That was the most fulfilling part of FUDCon to me: that members of the community outside of Red Hat steered the ship. Community members created the idea, got everything together, organized, and put on the show. Doubtless, Red Hat contributed support in numerous ways, but the core of FUDCon was grassroots. And it came off without a hitch.

FUDCon 2005

At FUDCon we had sessions discussing a wide range of topics given by a list of top-notch speakers. Havoc Pennington spoke about the progress being made on creating a stateless Linux desktop using Fedora. Christopher Blizzard gave a great session on new directory and authentication services being integrated into the distribution. Paul Nasrat and Seth Vidal led a discussion about the current issues and future of package management within Fedora and even announced development of PUP, a new graphical package manager that will soon be available within the distribution. Owen Taylor and the Red Hat desktop team held the most attended session of the day: an overview of new graphical technologies being developed to make the Linux desktop a more friendly user experience with eye candy to boot! There were also sessions on the new virtualization technology based on Xen, which will be introduced in the upcoming Fedora Core 4.

Given all the great presentations, one topped them all in my mind. Tom "Spot" Callaway, Colin Charles, and Prarit Bhargava teamed up to give a great presentation on the work that is being done by community members to extended Fedora onto various architectures including Sparc, PPC, and IA64. In my opinion, nothing embodied the spirit of FUDCon more than this presentation. The work being done by community members and their ever-growing list of contributions is simply amazing. Some may remember that the effort to port Fedora to the x86-64 architecture was originally spearheaded by one man, Justin Forbes. Soon we should see a full port of Fedora to PPC, available immediately with the release of each new version of Fedora Core. The fact that there are community members out there willing and devoted to doing such things is incredible.

Community participation

There are still countless things that need to be done, though, and people should be prepared to move to the helm. Even those among us who aren't as technical have a role to play. If you can't contribute packages or submit patches to the newly established Fedora Extras project, you might still be able to help in other ways. Write documentation, help with marketing, or just use the software and fill out bug reports.

When Red Hat created the Fedora Project, there was some confusion initially. Some people were afraid; some were dismayed; some even thought that Red Hat had abandoned the community. It's now clear that the purpose of the project is to further promote the notion of user driven innovation. That is, after all, what makes the world of open source software unique: the ability for users and not "the man" to dictate how the game is played.

When I think of the essence of the community's efforts in the Fedora Project, I think of the famous quote from our second president, John Adams. In describing the success of the American Revolution to a friend, Adams wrote, "the revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people." Today, the open source revolution is very much in the hearts and minds of the people in the community. Red Hat realized this and created the Fedora Project so that the community could steer the ship as they saw fit. Now the anchor is lifted, and it's time for the community to step into the wheelhouse and set sail.

About the author

Jack Aboutboul has been a Linux user and enthusiast for about a decade now and has been involved in many different open source projects. Currently, Jack is a community participant in the Fedora Project, focusing primarily on QA/testing and helping to spearhead the Fedora marketing efforts. Jack is frequent speaker and presenter at LUG meetings across the northeast and has also written tutorials on various Linux-related topics. He loves to travel and needless to say, he loves open source.