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[Ambassadors] mentorship, sponsorship, etc.

Hi all,

I warn you in advance that this is a very long email.

There's been a discussion on famsco-list for the last week and a half now, and I volunteered to try to summarize some of that conversation, so that we could move it to fedora-ambassadors-list.

The main topics of the discussion center around these three points:

* Purging of inactive Ambassadors
* Mentoring
* Raising the standard for membership


The thread was started by David Nalley, and his initial email brought up the following:

The "probation" idea for Fedora Ambassadors is flawed, and can be improved. Improving it will help raise the overall quality and effectiveness of Fedora Ambassadors. In particular, David advocated for the following:

1) Fixed term for probation should go away, and be replaced with a specific set of tasks that need to be achieved.

2) If someone makes no progress in X amount of time, we purge them from the system. If they are making progress, then give as much time as is needed.

3) New Ambassadors should immediately be given a mentor -- a specific name of an Ambassador in their region.

4) Current restrictions on getting resources as an Ambassador while on probation should go away, and be replaced with "at your mentor's discretion".

Max's note #1: This begins to lay out what looks like a more formal sponsorship process for Ambassadors, which is similar to the sort of thing that happens in the Fedora Package Maintainers community.

Max's note #2: As Fedora Ambassadors continues to grow, a sponsorship process becomes more and more critical, and Package Maintainers has set a good example and precedent.


Francesco Ugolini commented that we want to continue to ensure that resources are managed regionally (which is consistent with David's proposal), and that one important task will be to ensure that *whatever* the requirements are on new people who want to join Ambassadors, it be as clear, and as internationalized, as possible.

Max's note #3: In Ambassadors in particular, it's important for us to try to simplify and clarify policy as much as possible. The number of languages on our list and in our sub-project is very large, even compared to other parts of Fedora (perhaps with the exception of Localization).


Thomas Canniot expressed concerns with the mentorship idea. He was not "against" it, but wanted more discussion and some "convincing".

Now I'm going to list the three points that Thomas made, as well as some of the conversation that came after each of these points in the email thread.

(1) There are two types of Ambassadors -- the already-active Ambassadors around the world who don't need any mentorship, and the Ambassadors who do need mentorship and guidance.

David Nalley responded to this point by saying that some of the older Ambassadors didn't have anything like a mentor and had to figure out and build the current structure by trial and error. Now that we have a chance to be more efficient with training and mentorship, shouldn't we take that opportunity?

David said that he'd categorize Ambassadors instead as "those who take ownership of something" and "those who don't know that they *can* take ownership of something", and that we want to move people from the second group into the first group.

He also went on to say (and I'm adding in a bit of my own thoughts here also) that one of the goals of the Ambassadors project needs to be ensuring that new Ambassadors realize quickly that they play a crucial role in Fedora, and that they have tremendous power to represent Fedora, and that it is also very important that Ambassadors understand and believe in the main principles of Fedora -- the four foundations, for example, and what they mean.

(2) We don't need mentorship until the growth of Ambassadors slows down.

Max's note #4: I think the rate at which we are getting new Ambassadors clearly demonstrates that mentorship is needed now, because QUALITY is far more important than QUANTITY. I don't want to be signing up new Ambassadors if only 1 in 10 is developing into true stars and leaders in the Ambassadors community.

(3) Adding in mentorship and sponsorship suggests that we don't believe people can reach the same level of success as some of the older Ambassadors without help, and that is disappointing.

Max's note #5: Personally, I disagree with this. The ability to have a mentor or a sponsor (who serves as a mentor) is a luxury, not a sign of lack-of-confidence.

As David Nalley said: "The Ambassadors are representatives of the Fedora Project; They are the spokespeople and the public face for Fedora. What concerns me is that we essentially have these representatives that may know precious little about Fedora and free software, and the penchant for misrepresenting is high. I personally like our low barrier to entry. At the same time I think that it is incumbent upon us (FAmSCo) to provide the background education to the uninitiated if we are serious about our responsibilities the Ambassadors project and plant to continue having a low barrier to entry.

As has been noted previously in this email, the Package Maintainers team provides an excellent example of this, as does the Art team.


Joerg Simon responded with an email promoting the virtues of mentoring, with specific examples from his own time in Fedora, both the people who helped to mentor him (Chitlesh & Gerold) as well as the people who he has helped to mentor (Mirlan & Thibault). "Trust and Mentoring is the Key!", says Joerg, and I agree with him.

David Nalley notes that we don't want to devalue what it means to be a Fedora Ambassador by not having enough structure. Max adds that it is not simply enough to say "I think Fedora is great!" but rather that Ambassadors serve a specific, and crucial role in our community. We give our Ambassadors tremendous amounts of freedom and trust to be the public face of Fedora, and therefore there is a requirement to provide some level of "quality control" and oversight.

In short, Fedora Ambassadors is not a social club.


A specific proposed action by Joerg is to clean up the FAS group for Fedora Ambassadors.

David Nalley agreed, saying:

"This is an ideal time to do so - with the recent password reset I'd guess that 30% or more of the people in the Ambassador fas group have their fas account inactive due to failing to change their password. I'd argue that we should give them 30 days (~April 6th iirc) and if their account is still inactive in FAS we should jettison them. They clearly aren't active if they haven't had to use their fedora account (or missing the fedora email addy) over a period of 30 days. That's a better indication IMO than any 'I'm here' message."

Susmit and Francesco both gave a +1 to this, as did Rodrigo, who went a step further and said that in LATAM, he plans to have a personal conversation with all people who want to be Ambassadors.


A specific proposal for a FAmSCo vote was suggested by David:

""That FAmSCo direct the Ambassador Membership Service to request from Infrastructure a list of all users who are Ambassadors and whose account has remained inactive for a period of greater than 30 days after a password reset, and further that FAmSCo direct the Membership Service to purge said users from the Ambassadors list"

Fedora Infrastructure ran a query for us, which showed that of the 772 Ambassadors in FAS, 300 were inactive based on the statement above.

Max's note #6: For me, this sets off major alarm bells, and goes back to the idea of quantity versus quality. The Ambassadors numbers grow, but they are inflated because most of the people are joining the group because they want to basically join the Fedora Fan Club, and this is the closest thing that we have to that, but the purpose of Ambassadors is not to be a Fan Club.

Thomas Canniot agreed that this set off alarm bells for him to, and conceded that some cleanup of the FAS group is clearly necessary. Susmit notes that a mixture of automated and manual cleanup processes would be the best, to prevent false positives or other mistakes that could lead to hurting the feelings of an important community member.

Joerg states that he is in favor of cleaning up inactive accounts, and coupling that with a higher barrier to entry for the Ambassadors project. David agrees, and wonders why we are taking so long to make what seems like an obviously right decision.

Francesco notes that a decision is made, but that another opportunity for full discussion among Ambassadors is required, which is what this email that I have been writing attempts to lay out and summarize.


David Nalley notes that Fedora Infrastructure might already be planning some sort of action for people whose accounts remain inactive past a password reset, because there is a potential security issue for having dormant accounts, with various permissions, just sitting around. Perhaps our problem of inactivity will be solved by a larger problem of inactivity across Fedora that needs to be addressed.

Max's note #7: Solving the inactivity problem and the mentorship problem are two different things!!!


Max's note #8: It seems to me that the actions on the table for FAmSCo to ultimately deal with are:

(1) Dealing with inactive accounts, either within our sub-project itself or within the whole of Fedora Infrastructure.

(2) Reforming our barriers-to-entry and sponsorship process to remove time limits, but to require specific actions and a show of progress.

(3) Putting together a mentorship/sponsorship system similar to that of Package Maintainers.

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