Great post, Paul. Comments inline.
On Fri, 12 Aug 2005, Paul W. Frields wrote:
Warning to the faint of heart: The following contains some criticisms
a die-hard Red Hat fan and Fedora user (and doc writer/editor). No
ulterior motives here other than getting people to realize how GREAT
Fedora is, and could be.
I was expecting a flaming punch in the mouth. What follows is nothing of
the sort. :)
Pointing to Alex's earlier comments, f.r.c needs to be more than
"page of links" pointing to fp.org
. If the page is to move through
redirection, as makes sense with the eventual coalescence of the Fedora
Foundation, it still needs to be canonical and full of marketing
goodness, as opposed to providing dry statements about project
positioning. (Frankly, it should also not be wiki-editable, given those
first two requirements.)
/me nods. This makes sense to me. The real key, IMHO, is to minimize the
static messaging here, and maximizing the dynamic messaging at fp.org
Both have their place, I think.
Alex made reference to the Firefox page as being a great example of
to drive perception of a product, and she is right on the money. The
Firefox page answers a number of questions in the top 50% or so of the
main screen, such as:
- "What is this?" Not written for Linux people or open-source people,
written for general-purpose computing users.
- "Why would I want this, as opposed to (what I've already got |
- "What does it take for me to get it?"
Out of these questions, which do you think is most important? My
personal feeling is "Why?". Why would I want Fedora? Why would I want
to contribute to this community? Why this over some other
By way of comparison, the f.r.c main page makes references to projects
and proving grounds, and does not appeal to any sort of audience that is
not part of the Fedora community already. In fact, the first paragraph
of the page spends more time talking about the relationship with Red Hat
than why anyone might want to use the distribution. Take a look: the
word "community" appears once. The name "Red Hat" appears thrice.
point is not to de-emphasize Red Hat's (more than) substantial
contributions to the project. It is that people looking at the distro
as either their first foray into Linux or to scratch a Linux itch don't
see any compelling reasons to pick Fedora when they look at our web
The Firefox page has compelling reasons why. Because it's more
Because it's faster. Because it gives you more choices. Because it's
Where are our compelling reasons for Fedora?
We have to agree on this question before we can answer this question.
We *link* to some more information about the project, but in
the first impression is often the only impression. What jumps out at
you when the page loads?
"Fedora Project at LinuxWorld San Francisco 2005."
Which is awesome, don't get me wrong, but not nearly the magnetic draw
that we want for Fedora to nab new community members. News like this
needs to be shunted off to a different page. The front page should be
all about why, why, why. Why get involved? And frankly, "why use?",
because without *regular* people *using* the product, Fedora really does
seem eventually destined to be dismissed as a cheap labor source.
If someone does drill down into the pages to which we link -- About and
Objectives in particular, assuming they take the time -- almost make the
project sound like a "by us, *for* us" group, an attitude which bears
little resemblance to those of community members with whom I've had the
pleasure of dealing. While certainly the project must encourage
contribution and discourage free-loading in order to survive, the way
the concept is promulgated by the f.r.c pages comes across as a little
/me nods. I can see that, yes.
This may be a necessity to keep people from thinking of Fedora as a
product that carries some entitlement such as support, but the front
page should be a more welcoming and encouraging experience for a
newcomer. (The "more flies with honey than vinegar" theory at work.)
We encourage contribution by giving people a satisfactory experience
using Fedora first. Bugzilla reports are a big step, but we can get
newcomers there through patience, accessible documentation and
I taught at a national (U.S.) conference earlier this week and my
audience, technical professionals who are not developers or service
providers, included a lot of frequent Linux users. About 15% of the
distro users were on Fedora. What was surprising was the number of
people who had jumped ship from Red Hat Linux to some free distro other
than Fedora because of misinformation (instability was the most-cited
factor). I'm not sure what this has to do with my argument above, but I
wanted to toss this out there before I forgot to mention it.
And this is the elephant in the room. Fedora has its current reputation
among many folks -- "dumping ground for unstable crap" -- because it is
the message that Red Hat initially *gave* about Fedora in order to
distinguish between "supported" and "not supported". In those first
days after the split, we might as well have put biohazard labels in the
ransom notes: "NOT FOR SERIOUS USE! ABORT, ENTERPRISE USER, ABORT!"
The new message, it seems to me, should be something like: "best
combination of cutting-edge and stable that can be made available.
Snapshot of the latest and greatest. Heart of a world of user-driven
But again, "why Fedora"? For those who are not already converted, it's
the most important question we can answer, and as Paul points out, we're
not currently doing a very good job of it.
Maybe this one question merits its own marketing meeting. :)
Greg DeKoenigsberg ] [ the future masters of technology will have
Community Relations ] [ to be lighthearted and intelligent. the
Red Hat ] [ machine easily masters the grim and the
] [ dumb. --mcluhan