Response to "Getting Fedora Out of the If-Then Loop"

Máirín Duffy duffy at
Thu Feb 18 18:00:27 UTC 2010

On Thu, 2010-02-18 at 11:33 -0600, inode0 wrote:
> 2010/2/18 Máirín Duffy <duffy at>:
> > On Wed, 2010-02-17 at 12:24 -0600, inode0 wrote:
> >> What is the role of those at the top of the pyramid? Is it only to
> >> scratch personal itches? I see it as much more than that. A large
> >> group of people each with their own peculiar interests, having shared
> >> core beliefs and values, as a whole provide direction in a way that
> >> doesn't happen in other organizations. They might not write down a
> >> mission statement for the organization, but they do *have* a mission.
> >> I expressed the exact same concern I have now when the board was
> >> writing the mission statement. I asked the board if they were writing
> >> *their* mission statement for the project of if they were trying to
> >> capture the actual mission that existed already and was told it was
> >> the latter. So I think the board recognized then that the mission was
> >> defined by those above them in the pyramid and the board did the work
> >> of figuring out what that mission actually was and wrote it down.
> >
> > I think one issue here, is that at least from where I stand as an
> > interaction designer concerned about the user experience of Fedora
> > end-product of the community's efforts, I believed in my work on the
> > target-audience project that we are seeking to define the target
> > audience of 'Fedora, the end-product we put together as a community and
> > make available to the world outside of our community to draw folks in.'
> > I do not think the project was ever meant to (and someone please correct
> > me if I'm wrong) define the target audience for 'Fedora the community.'
> This is my understanding too and your use case for this effort is one
> of the ones that is very likely to see positive benefit from it.
> > The two are quite different, and I think the communication breakdowns
> > that have happened around the project is due to their being treated
> > synonymously.
> I don't think this is a point of confusion.
> > The Fedora community necessarily has a very different target audience
> > than Fedora the thing you boot up on your computer. For one, the latter
> > target audience is much more expansive than the former - as it should
> > be. Let me know if this sounds completely out-of-line, but I had thought
> > part of the Fedora mission statement was:
> >
> > "The Fedora Project consistently seeks to create, improve, and spread
> > free/libre code and content." [1]
> >
> > Do we mean only to spread free/libre code and content to folks who are
> > in the target audience for becoming contributors? That seems wrong to
> > me. We limit ourselves to folks who have the skills or time to learn the
> > skills and time to put into contributing back, which honestly is quite a
> > filter on top of the potential body of folks who could potentially use
> > Fedora. Do we want a very high ratio of Fedora users : Fedora
> > contributors -
> >
> > 1) Do we want it to be 80% of Fedora users are Fedora contributors but
> > the total number of people involved is 100,000?
> >
> > 2) Do we want it to be 8% of Fedora users are Fedora contributors but
> > the total number of people involved is 1,000,000?
> >
> > Here's the thing. In scenario #1 we would have 80,000 contributors. In
> > scenario #2, we would have 80,000 as well, yet we would have spread
> > free/libre content to 900,000 more people - 10x the number as in
> > scenario #1. And consider some of the
> >
> > It we want to pursue scenario #2 (which I desperately want to do since
> > my personal life mission is to spread free/libre code and content) we'd
> > have 920,000 folks using Fedora who would be much more likely due to
> > Fedora culture to perhaps not contribute back to Fedora itself, but
> > perhaps contribute back free/open content into a wider global community
> > of people.
> I agree completely we are interested in spreading free code and
> content to everyone we can, some efforts will focus on one group, some
> on another. End users are a valid target of our efforts even if they
> remain end users.
> >> In the same way there is already a target audience defined by the
> >> project. In the same way it isn't written down and in the same way
> >> that our mission may have been unclear to some our target audience is
> >> unclear. The difference this time is that the board is *defining* it
> >> as they want it to be rather than figuring out what it is and writing
> >> that down. This is my perception at least of what is happening.
> >
> > Target audience for the project != Target audience for the end-product
> > the project puts out.
> Try thinking about what I wrote ignoring a "target audience for the
> project" because that wasn't the target audience I was talking about.
> The default spin surely isn't just a pile of random bits. Those who
> create it have to have a target audience in mind even it isn't nicely
> stated on the wiki and well understood at a conscious level. 

This loose / organic manner of operation is a fine methodology for
building technology in an exploratory manner, which is what a lot of
folks in our community do. But myself and my entire discipline are quite
irrelevant if that is all that is needed to put out a desirable
'product' that we can use to grow our userbase.

> So the
> question comes down to who is going to decide what that audience is.
> Those who create the spin? The Fedora Project Board? 

It comes out of a process:

> As I stated in
> the following quoted hunk there are reasons for considering moving
> this decision to the board level and various parts of the project
> could benefit from doing so. And my concern is that doing this at the
> board level introduces a distortion into the upper parts of the
> pyramid. The consequences of introducing that distortion aren't known
> (life isn't that simple) and the board can conclude they are nothing
> to be concerned about given the benefits they expect in other areas if
> that is their judgment.

If the decision is made in isolation, sure. But that was never the
> >> The board has reasons for doing this and has identified a wide variety
> >> of positive benefits that can flow from doing it and I don't dispute
> >> those although I don't know if this is the only way to accomplish
> >> those ends. What I fear though is that this distorts the natural
> >> growth and direction that the project would take in the future. And I
> >> have more faith in the existing source of that direction than I do in
> >> a small board that changes composition every 6 months.
> >
> > If we only stare at our own navels though and put out an end-product
> > primarily focused towards catering to ourselves, how will we meet our
> > mission of spreading free/libre code & content?
> Isn't this an example of a false dichotomy? Our choice is not (a) have
> the board define a target audience for the default spin or (b) stare
> at our navels.

No ... and I don't think the board is doing the work either. Have you
seen the page that some of us put together during the interaction design
hackfest a couple months or so back? We were making sure to interview
folks from each of the different groups within the entire Fedora
community and make sure their POV was accounted for as part of the

There's a whole methodology to the process, and it isn't just folks
meeting in a room and making a decision in isolation which saying 'the
board decides' seems to paint a picture of.

> What if there were spin guidelines similar to the packaging
> guidelines? You want to be a spin here are the things we need ... and
> this included a clear statement of the target audience of the spin.
> Would having that clear statement of the target audience solve your
> problems? This could be handled through FESCo oversight which seems
> the more logical place for it to me and it would remove my main
> concern.

I think that's a good way to make sure the spins are better-defined, but
it avoids the choice of - 'what is Fedora'? When I go to a conference to
promote Fedora, must I bring copies of every single spin? If I don't
know what a spin is, and I'm struggling to grasp what exactly Fedora is,
what distro should I be handed at an event?

Its the target audience definition for THAT which I think is of utmost
importance, and I think we need to be in alignment on as a community. I
think the board needs to make tough calls when necessary to make sure a
target audience is defined for that. 


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