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Re: Distrowatch dot com judgment of Fedora's relation with the "community"

Herman Meester wrote:
Hi everyone,

I translated the recently refreshed section of "Major distributions" on
distrowatch.com into Dutch.
That text is in fact the opinion of the site's owner, Ladislav Bodnar.
It's not "the gospel", but I do suspect many people new to Linux will
check that page out and take its content for relatively authoritative.

There was one remark on Fedora that I couldn't agree with.


"Cons: Less community-oriented than other major distributions; its
priorities tend to lean towards enterprise features, rather than desktop

I don't really agree with the 2nd line either, which is not really
important to argue about (leads to a lot of nonsense on non-free stuff
anyway), but especially since Fedora 7's merger of Core and Extras, the
live spin thing, etc., I think that the first line, "Less
community-oriented than other major distributions" is simply no longer
true - if it ever was.

Could "y'all" or some of you come up with good arguments to present to
Mr. Bodnar (on this list, I mean), so I can object to this in a
convincing manner? Or is there (still) some truth in his statement?

I think this deserves a detailed response.

(CC'ing Ladislav Bodnar)

With the understanding that any attempts to summarize the nature of a
distribution is bound to be subjective I would like to comment on the
two items you have suggested as cons

Community Orientation

There are a number of things show how much oriented we are towards the community.

* Licenses - Our credentials here is well established. We have a strong focus on Free and open source software.

* Platform - We provide the usual list of suspects for everyone to contribute to - Open mailing lists, forums, irc channels, bug tracking systems etc.

* Governance - All the important bodies in governing Fedora has volunteers playing a major role or leading efforts. Fedora Project board, Fedora Engineering Steering committee, Release Engineering and so on. One of the important things to understand is that it makes obvious sense for Red Hat to hire the active contributors who are part of Fedora and the community and it has increasingly done so.

Mike McGrath and Toshio Kuratomi for Fedora Infrastructure, Chuck Ebbert as kernel co-maintainer. Seth Vidal as yum developer and atleast one another person who has shall go unnamed till he becomes less shy letting the world know ;-). Moving ahead is more important for us than the politically correct balance. We need to break down the artificial barriers and segmentation anyway.

Though democracy isn't a model I would promote on every place (nor does the Debian founder for that matter) it should be of interest that engineering, documentation, ambassadors committees are elected bodies and Fedora Board is atleast partially becoming so post Fedora 7 release.

* Contributors - We are fond of saying that everyone who works on Fedora (or even just uses it) is part of the community regardless of whether we work for Red Hat or not. If you count the participation of non Red Hat volunteers as a measure of strength you need to look at our current statistics[1]

We have participation from not only volunteers but many vendors like Dell and IBM. Today I think we are doing it better than any community distribution with a vendor backing the efforts and we are only getting better. I would encourage you to compare this with other vendor backed efforts like OpenSUSE or Ubuntu and look at how many volunteers are part of their governing bodies and see whether you can still consider us as less community oriented. I bet you are in for a surprise if you do that.

Starting out with the formation and success of Fedora Extras and culminating with the Fedora 7 release we have steadily grown better at delivering what we originally promised. We have had our share of missteps, scrambled to do better and we still have lots left to do but I am not feeling this as a weakness anymore.

It took us a longer time than we had hoped but what we set out to do when we launched Fedora as a Red Hat sponsored partnership between community and a commercial vendor was breaking new grounds. The success of that methodology is undeniable. One just needs to look at OpenSUSE, Freespire, OpenSolaris, MySQL community edition or even what Red Hat again is doing currently with JBoss to understand the impact of the model that Fedora Project pioneered.

Max Spevack described what we are doing with our next release[2] and you would notice that there is hardly any mention of our feature list[3]. This is not because we don't have new features worth mentioning. We certainly do but the primary target of the Fedora 7 release is laying out the groundwork for the volunteer community to drive more of what we are doing now and in the future. It is as Christopher Blizzard described [4] all about the community.

Desktop Focus

I am part of the OLPC team which is based on a derivative of Fedora. I have just convinced a couple of days back a roommate of mine who knows nothing about Linux that we need to install Fedora 7 on a new Sony Playstation 3 he is about to buy. Did I mention that Sony official supports Yellow Dog which is again a derivative of Fedora and Fedora 7 will support it out of the box too? I think of these as the new desktop platforms that we play a pivotal role.

I think you would agree that Freedesktop.org, HAL, Dbus, Cairo, Network Manager or AIGLX are important pieces of any modern desktop environment. Red Hat folks[5] have started these efforts and continue to play a important role in these and many of these efforts showed up in a big way in Fedora.

With the introduction of GNOME and KDE based installable live images in Fedora we have reached another major milestone. . You might want to play with Big board[6] or mugshot[7] a bit like I did to get a look at some of the interesting things we are working on. We are already planning to innovate in new ways for the next release[8].

Some closing thoughts[9] for you to think about. We do have a strong desktop focus and clear desktop strategy but it might not be in the way your expect. Thanks for any constructive criticism and feedback. Keep them coming.

[1] http://rahulsundaram.livejournal.com/11669.html
[2] https://www.redhat.com/archives/fedora-announce-list/2007-May/msg00002.html
[3] http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/7/FeatureList
[4] http://www.0xdeadbeef.com/weblog/?p=284

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