Improving our processes for new contributors.

Jonathan Underwood jonathan.underwood at
Sat Jul 11 21:38:38 UTC 2015

Dear All,

Recently I started a thread drawing attention to the large number of
folks who have submitted packages for review and require sponsorship,
and the length of time some of those sponsorship requests have been
outstanding. A number of people (notably Ben Rosser and Michael
Schwendt) eloquently shared perspectives on this from the perspective
of a new contributor who recently sought sponsorship, and long time
contributors and sponsors feeling somewhat burnt out by the
review/sponsorship processes. It was very pleasing to see the thought
and time people put into those responses, so thank you.

I'd like to attempt to distil some of that discussion, and offer some
thoughts on how we might improve things.

1) Fedora as a project has evolved massively from the early days, when
contributors were part of the Fedora Extras project, in terms of
culture, goals, tooling, nature of its contributors, processes and
documentation. In that time, one thing that has changed very little in
the midst of all that is the sponsorship process.

2) Improving the sponsorship process in terms of attracting new
contributors rather than leaving them discouraged with long waits for
sponsorship would surely be a big win for the project.

3) There's a very strong feeling (that I too share) that we don't wish
to achieve (2) at the expense quality and commitment of contributors
(by eg. allowing drive by packaging, and packages of low quality).

So, how might we change the sponsorship process to reduce burn out of
sponsors and reviewers, and avoid discouraging would-be contributors?
Here are some suggestions I'd like to make, and I'd welcome thoughts
on these, and other suggestions too. I am hopeful we can then come up
with a solid proposal for an improved process.

1) One piece of tooling we now have that is ideal for new contributors
is COPR. We should make more of this as it is an ideal proving ground
for new packagers with the benefit that it allows these contributors
to put their contributions into the hands of users and reviewers
quickly and easily, and so feel the warm glow of contributing - this
should not be underestimated - to attract and keep new contributors we
need them to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement as soon as
possible in the process so they stay motivated.

2) We now have the possibility of obtaining sponsorship through
co-maintaining packages, but that's somewhat low profile and less used
as a route to sponsorship (just an impression-I have no data on this).

So, rather than the initial entry point for new contributors being to
submit a new package review request, it looked more like this:

Hi, it's great that you want to contribute to the Fedora project, and
drive it forward. Here's how to become a contributor:

1) Develop some new packages for software you want to see in Fedora in
a COPR repository to demonstrate your package creation and maintenance
skills. Keeping the packages up to date and of a high quality and in
compliance with current guidelines and practices is what you're aiming
for here. Also apply to co-maintain a package or two that are
currently in Fedora so you can learn from our experienced packagers.

3) When you think your COPR repository is looking like it has packages
of a high standard in it and they're ready to transition to Fedora
proper, and you feel you have gained sufficient experience to become a
fully fledged packager, contact the sponsors mailing list detailing
your portfolio of packaging experience and asking someone work with
you to transition a package or two from your COPR into the project.
Once your sponsor is happy with your level of expertise and
commitment, you'll become a fully fledged contributor.

In other words, rather than a package review ticket being the entry
point for new contributors, make COPR and co-maintainership combined
the entry point.

So, that's something we could do with current tooling.

But, I was also thinking of how things could be improved if COPR was
tied into Bodhi somehow. The badges system that we have hooked into
Bodhi is mostly a bit of fun at the moment. But, actually, if somehow
that badges system were available to COPR, then we'd have quite a nice
way to track new contributors activity, and could even require certain
badges to be achieved before the sponsorship could be approved. What I
have in mind here is that each COPR could (optionally) itself have an
updates and an updates-testing repo like the real Fedora repos, and
activity tracked through badges. Thoughts from the COPR folks?


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