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Getting Involved Guide

Docs Project colleagues,

The following thoughts come out of the sessions we had at FUDCon about
doing a better job involving new contributors in Fedora.  I'm going to
start out with the summary, so if you don't want to read all of this you
can skip it and immediately make comments.  Those of you who want a
larger picture can read more after the summary.  Please keep in mind
that I am not yet paid by Red Hat, and this message comes from me as a
fellow contributor, and not the FPL.  As always, it will be up to each
of us to evaluate what effort we want to give to Fedora, and where we
put it.  I hope the following will give you some inspiration about
Fedora's future....

* * * * *

THE PUNCHLINE:  For its size, the Docs Project has done great things
thanks to the energy and generosity of its members.  But in the post-F9
era, we need to get off the treadmill of simple user/admin
documentation, which is duplicated many times over in both the free and
for-pay spheres, and move to goals that are more contributor-oriented.

* * * * *


Originally I suggested a "Developer Guide Reboot" session and hackfest,
a document that would support entry of developers into the project.  It
would give a tour of some important packages and online resources so
they wouldn't have to navigate a metric boatload of wiki pages to get

Over time, though, it became clear that this wasn't just an issue about
developers, but about contributors of all flavors.  Part of our
"lowering barriers" mission has to be about encouraging and educating
people who aren't doing just coding jobs, but website/infrastructure
folks, artists, documentation writers, coding and non-coding packagers,
ambassadors, and just plain friends.

Historically, the Docs Project has concerned itself mainly with helpful
user/administrator level guides, but by focusing on the trees, we may be
missing the mark on the forest, so to speak.  There are a huge number of
existing guides and tutorials on the web -- not all of them
authoritative -- and a full selection of dead-tree books to be had at
any bookstore.  Is it really worth our time to be competing on that

I say this not to call into question the excellent work that's being
done by contributors, but to get people thinking about the post-F9 Docs
Project, and where we should be focusing our sights.  If Fedora does not
grow and extend its contributor base, it will wither over time.  We
cannot demand that the same people do the same work in Fedora for
extended periods; people change and grow, and naturally move on to other
Fedora tasks, the same way they move on to other jobs, homes, or ways of
thinking.  Instead, we should focus on bringing new entities into the
project and giving them the resources they need to contribute to the

Note that I say "entities" and not "people," because Fedora also stands
to gain if we bring in additional commercial or other non-individual
contributors who themselves gain from a contributory partnership in
Fedora.  Fedora needs to grow also beyond just its partnership with and
sponsorship by Red Hat.  By doing that, we secure the health of the
project in a more sustainable way.

The idea of the Developer Guide for these reasons was transformed during
our working sessions at FUDCon into a "Get Involved Guide" (GIG).  This
sort of documentation allows us to escape the treadmill of trying to
update countless pages of advice on how to perform end-user tasks that
do not necessarily help people contribute to Fedora (and thus help it
grow and thrive).

Michael Tiemann stated in his speech at FUDCon that the future of IT
commerce is in "the communities that [companies] build."  If we want to
position Fedora at the forefront of open source in the 21st century, we
must think larger than simply showing people how to run Fedora -- we
need to show people how they can *get involved*, not just in Fedora
documentation, or packaging, or feature development, but in the many
fields of endeavor this project covers.

I would also make the point that what you read above is not the end of
the whole Fedora vision, but just a facet of a larger idea which I am
still fleshing out with other Fedora leaders.  As always, we will be
talking about this much more in the future with as much openness and
transparency as possible, to encourage community input, awareness, and

* * * * *

As you all know, I am not one for long, rambling emails when I can avoid
them.  They try my patience too!  But nevertheless, there are many
positive messages in the above ideas.  I have a huge amount of respect
for the work everyone is doing, and I hope you will not find the above
to be a criticism, but rather a "leap-ahead" vision for where we should
set our sights for goals after Fedora 9.


Paul W. Frields, RHCE                          http://paul.frields.org/
  gpg fingerprint: 3DA6 A0AC 6D58 FEC4 0233  5906 ACDB C937 BD11 3717
           Fedora Project: http://pfrields.fedorapeople.org/
  irc.freenode.net: stickster @ #fedora-docs, #fedora-devel, #fredlug

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