Issue #18 April 2006

Red Hat Speaks

Max Spevack, Fedora Project Leader

Recently, there's been a lot of noise around Fedora. The most recent release--Fedora™ Core 5--came out on March 20. The first week of April, this announcement hit the wires, signalling the next transition point for the Fedora Foundation and Fedora Project. With all this excitement, we knew we needed to talk to the inside man--Red Hat's internal Fedora Project Leader, Max Spevack.

Max has been with Red Hat since 2004, when he joined Red Hat Network as a QA Engineer/Team Lead. He made the jump to the Fedora Project in February 2006. Prior to Red Hat, Max did time at Stanford (BS Computer Science, 2002) and VeriSign. In his copious spare time, Max enjoys playing goalie for the Red Hat indoor soccer team, reading novels, and catching up on back episodes of The Sopranos.

What's he up to these days? Read on, and find out:

Who are you? And what is your involvement with Fedora?
Well, to expand on what's in my bio, let me actually talk about what some of my main job responsibilities are. I'm responsible for the daily operation of the Fedora Project -- coordinating the way Red Hat's internal work on Fedora meshes with the various community efforts, handling budget issues and tracking down answers to legal questions, and chairing the Fedora Project Board. I spend a lot of time on email, IRC, and in person just speaking with different people who work on Fedora -- listening to the things that are important to people, and trying to find ways in which I can help to be part of the solution to some pre-existing problem.
Additionally, I see myself as an advocate for Fedora -- working to make sure that the Fedora message, and the Fedora value, is understood by as many folks as possible, both inside and outside of Red Hat.
What is that message in one sentence? I'll borrow from Warren Togami's talk at FUDCon Boston: the primary goal of Fedora is the rapid progress of free and open source software.
Why Fedora?
I'll answer a few versions of that question. Why do I like working on Fedora? Because it's a fantastic way to really make an impact on the software that a huge number of folks are using to run their computers. Since Fedora Core 5 was released on March 20th, we've had over 110,000 downloads from Bittorrent and FTP. That's not counting HTTP, or any of our worldwide mirrors. It's a great feeling to know that the hard work of the folks who work on Fedora is seen and used by so many people.
Why should people care about Fedora? Because it's an exciting area to be involved in, for the reasons mentioned above, and others. Every day we're exploring the dynamics around taking a for-profit company and working with a volunteer community to produce an offering which has greater value than that which either entity could produce on its own.
Seeing the successes that come out of that partnership, especially when something really cool happens as a result of work by members of the community, is always a great moment.
Who uses Fedora and what do they use it for?
Wow, all sorts of different people use it. Sysadmins are using Fedora all over the world to run their web servers, email servers, infrastructure, etc. High school and college students are installing it every day and using it to explore programming and Computer Science. Lots of Linux enthusiasts use it as their primary desktop computer.
Can you comment briefly about the release of Fedora Core 5?
I surely can, but I'd rather point you to a Fedora Core 5 release summary that was collaborated on by several members of the Fedora community.
I heard about the Fedora Foundation. That's a bummer. What happened?
That's a great question. And we have a really great (and comprehensive) answer. In short, an independent Fedora Foundation didn't offer us anything that Red Hat itself, with the proper structure around the Fedora Project, couldn't do anyway. So the Foundation became an additional overhead and complication with no clear gain.
The long answer, in its pure form, is in our Fedora announcement list archives, and it's a very worthwhile read.
Instead of a Fedora Foundation, Red Hat has assembled a Fedora Project Board, which is a collection of Fedora's leaders, both from the community and from Red Hat. The mandate of this Board is to run the Fedora Project in the way that best suits Fedora's main goals -- rapid progress, and free software.
Not to go too crazy with the links, but there's value in pointing to places that already do a good job of discussing some of these things.
Where is Fedora going? What is the roadmap for the next year?
To the moon and back!
I'd encourage folks who are really interested in this to listen to the podcast that accompanies this Q&A, because it's discussed in a fair bit of depth, but here are some of the highlights:
  • I want to see the Fedora Project Board, and the Fedora Advisory Board (which is a larger group of, not surprisingly, advisors to the Fedora Board) thrive as a leadership model.
  • I'd like to see strong leadership in the community continue to grow as well, and see more and more pieces of the Fedora Project being led by non-Red Hatters. I'd like to see Fedora branch out and explore opportunities to work with other groups and projects that we've never even dreamed of. We don't need to be afraid of failure. What we must do is make sure that we've got our eyes open and are searching for new things to try.
  • On a technical level, I want to reassess the differences between Fedora Core and Fedora Extras, and explore how we can move to a more unified Fedora distribution in which we have the ability for any developer to contribute to as much of the Fedora codebase as possible. This is an ambitious goal that is going to be approached in stages, but it is a very important goal as well.
  • And then of course there's all of the geeky goodness that we want to add to the distro itself. Elaborating on that would throw me way over my word limit.
Do you plan to travel the world, seeking out Fedora users like Kwai Chang Caine? When you find them, what is your greeting?
Kwai Chang Caine is a Fedora user? I had no idea! We should be interviewing him!
Seriously though...
I think Fedora users (who are really just a subset of open-source enthusiasts and advocates) the world over all share a common set of ideas about The Way Things Should Be Done. A premium is placed on transparency, honesty, collaboration, and the best idea winning, regardless of from where it came. If Red Hat would like to send me wandering the globe, as a sort of nomadic Linux monk, I'd find it incredibly interesting to learn firsthand how people in other cultures and geographies feel about some of these things.
Oh, and vi or emacs? Gotta ask about that too.
I'm a Fedora user and I want to bend your ear. How do I get in touch with you? What cons or tradeshows are you going to be at?
I'd love to hear from folks. The absolute best way to contact me is by email: -- I'll give the usual caveat that I will respond *eventually* to any mail that I get, but that it probably won't be an immediate turnaround. I'm particularly interested to hear from anyone who thinks they'd like to get involved in the Fedora community. We're always excited to bring new people into the fold. The first shot of kool-aid is free!
Fedora has a presence at a huge number of shows and cons all over the world. For a list of what's upcoming, check the Fedora Wiki events calendar.
Unless I become the aforementioned nomadic Linux monk, I won't physically be at most of these events, but we have a fantastic group of people called Fedora Ambassadors who will be there. These are the Fedora contributors who volunteer their time to plan, organize, and staff Fedora events worldwide.
I can't in good faith close any interview about Fedora without pointing people to the Fedora Project's home, which has probably got more information about the Fedora Project on it than most people would ever want to know, and also has links for downloading Fedora Core 5.
Thanks for reading!