Issue #20 June 2006

Collaborate with 108


1. Introducing 108

Sometimes the greatest project is about bringing attention to the work of others. Standing on the shoulders of giants. When Matthew Szulik gave up 2/3rds of his stage time during his opening keynote at the Red Hat Summit, he did it to highlight the hard work of our four groups.

But our groups are born of open source and open content, so when we stood on that stage, we represented the hard work of hundreds and thousands of contributors, customers, and partners, all manner of collaborators. Standing on shoulders scales exponentially.

108 is one of the projects presented during that opening keynote, a beta that was launched during the Red Hat Summit. 108.redhat.com is a developer- and technical-centric open content and collaboration portal. By teaching the open source methodology and providing tools and resources, we hope to make software suck a little less.

Two of the problems solved by 108 are a focus of this beta phase. The first is to provide a place for Red Hat to deliver developer-oriented content. One group who benefits from this are customer developers. This group is anyone who is developing, testing, and deploying solutions that include Red Hat and other vendor platforms. The community of customer and corporate developers are encouraged to collaborate on 108 to help define what technical content they need, and in some cases, to become editorial voices themselves.

The second problem solved is reducing or removing the barriers to open collaboration between Red Hat, customers, partners, and the open source communities. 108 is at the intersection of these groups, and is a collaboration space that can draw project members from these groups to work together on solving real problems.

Making it easier to work with open platforms in your environment. Facilitating collaboration that improves software and standards. This is how 108 delivers improvements for software.

1.1. Real Content for Real Developers

For many years, the best place for developers to find technical answers about Red Hat platforms has been to look in the various open source communities. This makes sense in many cases; the best knowledge of the GCC community is within the GCC project itself.

This solution does not work for everyone. But who and how many are not served by this method? It is difficult to estimate, yet there are certainly many, many stories and complaints about this "Seek answers yourself in the community" option. Why does it not always work, if the upstream community has the better knowledge?

In many cases, the open source community does not have the resources and available platforms to reproduce development environments, test environments, or bugs that many corporate developers discover. The documentation a community can produce is limited by these same factors. Some community members are not responsive and cannot or will not help, such as for help-seekers who have a blended platform that is not common in the community.

108 solves this by using the same methodology that turns open source software into Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Red Hat has the internal experts, partnering connections to the popular platforms that run with Red Hat products, and the visibility into the open source community. We use these assets to focus on the content that you want.

Still in the early stages, 108 is gathering feedback from developers and the world of technical people. We are doing this before we go down a path of providing content no one is interested in.

This method follows the same open source methodology that produces better software. We turn to the community for interest and guidance, and draw from the community what we consider to be the best.

Ongoing content additions on the Website take many forms. Platform relevant content from ISV partners, voices on development from the thousands of open source projects, and specific voices and focus from Red Hat developers. These Red Hat developers are already producing the needed content as blogs, email posts, articles, and so forth. 108 finds, sorts, and delivers these voices.

The responsibility of the users of 108 is to help define what content they want, which technologies to cover with white papers, SDKs, best practices, recipes, tutorials, and so forth. Then use the tools we are developing to tag this content with metadata and become part of the collaboration stream. From this stream, new voices are going to arise, and yours may be one of them.

1.2. Open Collaboration, Better Software

One of the lessons that Red Hat brings from the open source community is that transparency brings increased accountability and credibility.

It is useful to know who wrote each line of code, who designed each test, and who authored each paragraph of a document. The contributor gains recognition and can grow value and reputation. Content readers are assured of the quality of an article or bit of code because it is backed-up by a real person who has a community-vetted reputation. You rely upon the community vetting instead of having to do it all yourself.

For some people, it is counter-intuitive. There is a common idea that, "If you want something done right, you had better do it yourself." Unfortunately, the numbers work against that theory, when it comes to software and content development.

Openly collaborated software (open source) and content is less buggy than software produced by other development methodologies.

By providing an easy to use collaboration platform combined with the leverage that Red Hat has in bringing partners, developers, and customers together, 108 is in a position to give hands-on experience with the open source methodology in a way that corporate developers can be involved.

In this space, developers are encouraged to fill out a profile, which helps in connecting developers with common interests and platforms. Registered users may also request their own people project, which is a space on 108 (yournamehere.108.redhat.com) that you can customize for your own needs and interests. Think there needs to be an aggregated feed of the blogs of your favorite Ruby on Rails hackers? Create it and post it on your 108 page. Anyone else can pick up your Ruby on Rails feed and use it on their personal page, on their software project page, or in another gathering place on 108.

1.3. Everyone Has a Role in Development

The great lesson of open source software is that software development should not be locked up in a castle with a group of elite programmers and testers, to be sent out like a holy tome in annual versions.

Open source makes developers out of everyone. We are all bug testers, early adopters, interface designers, idea creators, information architects, technical writers, and so forth. Some of us even write a little code, from shell scripts to Web applications.

When you send out an email telling another person how to install, configure, or use a piece of software, you are writing technical content. When you send that to a mailing list, you are following the open source methodology. You are now an open source content developer. It is that simple.

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This great lesson is one that 108 is here to teach about. It is taught through emulation. Rather than working to produce all content from scratch, 108 seeks to bring visibility to the ideas and voices that already populate the Web. One focus and filter comes from Red Hat's experience about what is worth attention and what is not. The other filters are from partners, community members, and you.

For example, system administrators are an important part of the development ecosystem who often are ignored in traditional developer programs. New projects on 108 are focused on addressing adminstrator needs. These projects arose since the site launch, and came purely from partner and community request.

More information

About the author

Karsten Wade is a developer relations guy now, but has been a technical writer and systems consultant at Red Hat for the last five years. He always seems to find himself at these intersections, helping to teach the value and tactics of the open source methodology. In his copious spare time, he helps make the Fedora Documentation Project get stuff done.