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Gmane
From: Robyn Bergeron <rbergero <at> redhat.com>
Subject: Tying threads together.
Newsgroups: gmane.linux.redhat.fedora.advisory-board
Date: Wednesday 15th February 2012 17:00:18 UTC (over 5 years ago)
In the past, Fedora, as a community, has had a large volume of debate 
regarding the usability of Fedora.  Including debating who our primary 
audience is, how easy (or difficult) Fedora is to use, how much focus we 
should invest in usability, if increased usability results in more 
contributors, and if said increased usability diminishes our ability to 
deliver forward-thinking, cutting-edge releases - Features, First.

I'm sorry to report that I will not be opening Pandora's Box today to 
discuss the usability of Fedora the Distribution.

Instead, I'd like to focus on the usability of Fedora, the project, the 
community.

We have two threads right now that I'd like to tie together. One focuses 
on the delicate balance of the Board's role as an enabler of progress in 
the community, vs. the direction-pointer of progress in the community, 
and whether or not the Board should be consulted for advice in various 
matters, and if that leads to a precedent where the Board is essentially 
giving permission to accomplish anything.  The other focuses on several 
problem areas that we have; starting with sponsorship of event 
attendees, to FAD occurrence (or lack thereof), to Budget Crisis, and 
other areas pointed out.

One of the Board's goals for the F16/F17 timeframe is: "It is 
extraordinarily easy to join the Fedora Project."

I would argue that, right now, that it is Extraordinarily Difficult to 
get anything DONE in the Fedora Project.

Max mentioned a phrase in a previous mail this week that I think is 
incredibly applicable here: Institutional memory.  Many of us have been 
around a while; most of the previous respondents to these emails, far 
longer than I have.  Those folks participating and contributing to the 
aforementioned threads, by and large, know that they can Go Forth and Do 
without seeking board blessings; inherently know what resources are 
available; more or less have a gut feeling on when they should or 
shouldn't apply for funding for an international FUDCon; know who to ask 
for resources; etc.

None of this is readily apparent to anyone who shows up on the 
proverbial doorstep of the Fedora Community, wanting to actually do 
something. Most people who do show up, of course, just want to 
contribute in some way, but eventually, many of those folks move beyond 
smaller contributions, and move into Bigger Things Territory.

* We do not boldly state that Contributors are Empowered to Do New 
Things. We do not boldly state that the Board is not, or is, the 
be-all-end-all point of asking permission.
* We do not list resources available in an obvious fashion. Unless you 
know that FADs exist, almost nobody will ever think to ask for one.
* In the cases where people do know that resources are available, 
particularly financial resources, a whole boatload of problems becomes 
uncovered:
** Conflicting and confusing documentation as to how to obtain resources.
** Little to no documentation on who is allowed to ask.
** I won't even get into the Budget Situation. Too early.
* While some of the above may be insinuated in various places, it is not 
spelled out, definitively, and obviously, to anyone who might want to do 
something.
* And in the cases where some processes are definitively spelled out - 
they are often broken, or not working entirely. Spins, anyone?

While I largely agree with David's previously stated point of view that 
the majority of power to direct or effect change in Fedora lies with the 
people doing the work, I think that it is certainly in the Board's 
interest to ensure that community members are enabled to actually get 
the work done.

Institutional memory is not going to carry the Fedora project forever. 
We are far larger of a community than we used to be, and far more 
diverse, and in far more corners of the world, than we have ever been, 
and we continue to grow.  I would hope that most Board members hope to 
never be on the Board again after they have served the time that they 
wish to serve -- not because being on the Board is a horrible, torturous 
experience, but because they want to see new contributors come into the 
project, accomplish things, and become leaders in their own right.  
Enabling accomplishment is what leads to people blossoming into leaders 
-- and unless we make it incredibly obvious, and more permanently 
stated, how one can accomplish things in Fedora, and work towards making 
it EASY to get those things accomplished, we will be right where we are, 
for a very long time, same people, same problems, same debates.

The Board shouldn't be a place of permission. I think it can be and 
often is a place of advice, and idea-sharing, and problem-solving. 
Advice shouldn't constitute blessing, and I think we are generally clear 
on such things.  However: if people don't know where to go, or who to 
ask, or what they are allowed do in terms of accomplishing things, at 
*best* they are going to be coming to the Board; the worst case is that 
they move on and accomplish things elsewhere.  I believe it is in the 
Board's interest, and really, the community's interest, to ensure that 
the Usability of Fedora the Project - is, and continues to be, 
functional, or better yet, user-friendly.   Which means taking a bit 
more direction.  In many cases, it means delegation to smaller groups to 
fix specific problems, or stepping up in the absence of problem-solvers 
and solving it.  I don't think this is something that is heavy-handed of 
the board, nor does it set the tone of direction for the project, or 
give the impression that the Board is the group that you must come to 
for anything; I simply see it as the Board, and anyone else who wants to 
participate, really, taking a step in the right direction and enabling 
people to more easily accomplish things.

The best way to NOT be a place of permission is to clearly state that 
contributors are enabled, how they are enabled, and what resources they 
have at their disposal, and make this place of information incredibly 
easy to understand, well-known, and obvious to newcomers.  And ensure 
that the processes that back up the enablement are just as clear, or at 
least, not broken, and have clear owners. And ultimately, make sure that 
we are not a place simply of Institutional Memory and the Those Who Know 
How, Can.

I think we, the Board, and the wider community, need to tune in the dial 
a little bit and focus on usability of our community.  It's not just 
"joining the project" -- it's about thriving once you are in.

Anyone know if we're allowed to have a Project Usability FAD? :) (That 
was a joke. Just to be clear.)

Thoughts welcomed. (Note: THIS EMAIL IS NOT A DIRECTIVE, just long-winded.)

-robyn
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