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Re: [fab] Building communities.... what *are* we doing?



Late reply. Doesn't matter much, probably, since this topic has not seen
more than a single reply so far anyway.

I've read this mail a first time some days ago. Now I've read it once
more, following a link from somewhere else.

It is the type of message which creates a fascinating emptiness in my
brain. It makes me ask myself: "So what? He [Bill] doesn't have the
answers, but does he raise any clear questions?" I've thought about this
on my bicycle, at 34 degrees Celsius. I don't give answers, because I
still have only a fuzzy picture in my head. Hence I only throw in some
comments.

Since the Fedora Project had been announced and merged officially with the
fedora.us people, I've seen repeated attempts at trying to make Fedora
Extras grow faster, removing "artificial hurdles", being less selective
about _who_ may contribute and _what_ may be contributed. I've seen
blanket approvals of new contributors, usually lazy attempts at trying to
fill the boat more quickly, making the existing "sponsors" wonder about
their responsibilities and whether maybe they are taking their role too
serious. Usually, this created more problems than it helped. Suddenly,
contributors, who didn't have any sponsors assigned to themselves, showed
up in need of hand-holding (some more, some less). At that point it gave
the impression that we had reached a critical mass for a first time, since
existing contributors needed to jump in and help out. And of course, the
more help is needed inside FE, the more contributors are occupied with
trying to help each-other (and keep the FE repositories in good shape)
instead of being at the front door, where new contributors are waiting to
enter.

On Sat, 17 Jun 2006 01:39:03 -0400, Bill Nottingham wrote:

> Let's look at some of our example projects. Don't take this the wrong way,
> but I'm going to use Extras as an example. After all, we're touting it
> as one of our most successful projects.
> 
> First, on the Help Wanted page. It lists as required skills (emphasis mine):
> 
> - RPM packaging
> - General Linux OS knowledge
> - Familiarity with Fedora Core as a user, sysadmin, and *developer*
> ...
> - Programming skills are helpful but *not required*
> 
> Contradictions are fun. :)

Even more funny (to me) is that I've found myself unable to quickly locate
the page you refer to. Browsing the pages multiple times I arrive here:

  http://fedora.redhat.com/Contribute/
  -> http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Extras/Contributors

With quite some more time spent browsing the (IMO too many pages), I
finally found a reference in the FAQ:

  http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FAQ
  -> http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/HelpWanted

One thing that bugs me when discovering this, is that a project instance
like FESCO has not been involved in this section, which covers
_requirements for Fedora Extras contributors_. Hello?

IMO, this asks for even more restrictive access to public documentation
pages like this as it could be _this_ page where potential contributors
stop reading, because they believe they are not competent enough.

We do have the possibility to create _links_ between pages. Hence it is
beyond my comprehension why existing pages from Fedora Extras have not
been linked. Surely documentation writers should not take over the
recruiting for Fedora Extras. This is a case of over-ambitious filling
of web pages with superfluous content. Excuse me. Less is more in this
case.

> If you go to see 'How to become an Extras contributor', you find an 18-step
> process. Apparently it's 50% more complicated than controlling addictions.

Would you mind going back in time to learn (or to imagine) what the
process had looked like before this new step-by-step process has been
created? Input and experience has lead to this process. I'm all for a
tree-like Wiki structure, where _interested_ people can start at the top
and climb down the tree the more they show interest in details about
packaging guidelines and so on. Unfortunately, a good percentage of the
existing contributors (and potential contributors) ask for such details.
You see? We have those, who complain about the brevity of a Quick-Start
guide, and those, who find that 18 small (!) steps are too much.

> Included in this process are:
> - 7 *other* documents that are described as should-read,
> - 2 other things that are listed as useful to review
> - 2 accounts that are required to be created
>   - One account that's required that isn't listed at all (wiki account)
> - 3 mailing lists that are required
> - 1 mailing list that's listed as optional

Do you see any movement that the number of mailing-lists gets reduced?
I don't. 

Instead, lists like fedora-devel-list and fedora-maintainers compete with
each-other. To get announcements for test updates for _stable_ releases,
Joe User must subscribe to a list about Test Releases. Further, I fail to
see how it would ever be possible to contribute without staying in contact
with the others at Fedora Extras through at least one mailing-list. So,
what's wrong about highlighting a small selection of relevant mailing-lists?
Nothing. You could point them to the full list of mailing-lists, and I
assure, many readers would be turned off immediately.

As a Fedora User _or_ Contributor, not only am I asked to create an
account at bugzilla.redhat.com, there is an increasing trend among
packagers that accounts at many upstream project web sites are needed to
submit bug reports there instead. Requirements increase everywhere inside
the Fedora Project. On top of that, a new ticketing system has been
created, but not communicated to the various sub-projects. We should
improve efficiency of communication inside the project, because that is
where you lose contributors.

> Now, if you're coming in, and want to contribute to Extras, is this an inviting
> environment? Is it welcoming to those who may feel unsure of themselves, or
> come from cultures where asking lots of questions is not the norm?
> 
> Compare it to something like the Ambassadors project, which reads:
> 
> The Fedora Project is always looking for representatives and participants for
> upcoming Events. Fedora Ambassadors are are people like you and me, who go to
> places where other Linux users and potential converts gather and tell them
> about Fedora — the project and the distribution. You can be one too.
> 
> Which one of these is more likely to garner contributors?

Apples and oranges. A month ago on fedora-list-de we have had somebody
who disagreed strongly with the requirements for Fedora Ambassadors.

With a bit of fantasy, somebody can come up with a similarly small
paragraph on the top FE Wiki page. Make it read like marketing. It won't
get rid of the actual requirements for anybody, who wants to contribute
and maintain packages.  We cannot lie and hide the fact that a packager
must know how to use cvs and various other tools. You can make it much
more easy to sign up, "One-Click-Access". And then? Have you heard some
contributors asking about a more detailed Welcome Mail? How short would
you want to keep such a mail without linking to the increasingly complex
Wiki?

> Moreover, every time someone has a bad experience trying the first steps
> to contribute, that consists of a lost opportunity. How many potential
> contributors have gone away because they were intimidated by our process?

How many existing contributors have dropped off because they found out
that maintaining packages painstakingly requires more efforts than
expected?

> Because they were flamed, or told to go RTFM? How many potential contributors
> are out there that we don't even know how to reach?

How many existing contributors don't ask because they would find it
embarrassing? How many, on the contrary, are happy about learning something
new every day and use the opportunity to ask their sponsors?
Communication is vital. Showing interest is vital. Mind you, this is
about volunteers. Either there is interest or not. If you want more
half-hearted contributions, reconsider opening up the "Infamous Dumping
Ground for Poorly Maintained Packages"(TM).

And no, I'm not in a bad mood. ;)


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