Fedora gots mad skeelz, yo

One of the next big projects for Fedora, in my opinion, is skills management.

The following is a repost of a long-ish email I sent to fedora-ambassadors-list earlier today. Apologies if it makes you go blind.

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POINT #1: ALL THE ENTHUSIASM IN THE WORLD FAILS IF IT CAN NOT BE HARNESSED.

This was the first thing I really, really learned in my tenure as Red Hat Community Guy. Pretty much everything I’ve done since has been to harness energy by providing focus.

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POINT #2: WE STILL DO NOT HAVE A COMPREHENSIVE SET OF FEDORA WORK ITEMS SUITABLE FOR NEWBIES — BUT WE WILL FIX THAT.

This is an absolutely key problem to solve. The following scenario is one that we must avoid at all costs:

Newbie: I just found out that I can help this cool project called Fedora! I’m going to go to the Fedora site to learn more!

(An hour of searching an inherently confusing wiki follows.)

Newbie: This is really hard. I think I’ll go play Freeciv instead!

Note: MORE WIKI PAGES DO NOT SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. We’ve tried. There are abandoned “suggest your projects here” pages all over the Fedora wiki. We need a strong mechanism for collecting project information, and making it easy for potential contributors to find *exactly* those projects that suit them.

Fortunately, I think that we are now tackling this challenge from a couple of different directions:

a. Seneca College. Chris Tyler of Seneca College, who is copied on this email, is giving us a very tangible reason to solve this problem. Chris will be teaching about open source participation to his students in the upcoming year, and one of the first things that Chris needs from the Fedora community is precisely this kind of list of work items. Which means that Chris will be relentless in helping us figure this problem out.🙂 If you want to learn more about the Seneca project, please email him to learn more.

b. Task Management Tools. Luke Macken, who is also copied on this email, is working on an interface for Fedora community members to contribute their ideas to the project. The best ideas can be voted up. It’s a good start.

These kinds of tools may also be able to correlate a newbie’s skills with the skills required for various projects. One can imagine the following flow:

* The proposal UI. Alex has a great idea — “an interface to track cell phone numbers for all Fedora volunteers” — and he goes to the “Fedora Proposals” UI. He enters an abstract of the project. He clicks the “Turbogears” box and the “Python” box under the “skills needed” part of the UI.

* The voting UI. Every member can go to the list of proposals and vote them up or down, Digg-style. Bill sees on Fedora Planet that a new idea has been proposed for “tracking cell phone numbers”. He likes the idea a lot — not just because it’s a good idea, but also because Alex took the time to explain it well. So he clicks on the link and votes the idea up. Note: this implies that the bad proposals, like “I think Fedora should move to apt” with a description that reads “cuz it’s awesum”, will languish at the bottom of the list.

* The project-finder UI. Clarice signs up with Fedora as a contributor. As part of the join form, she is asked for her skill set, and she checks “Python” and “Turbogears”. Upon completion, she immediately sees a UI that says “hey, the following projects need exactly your expertise!” And at the top of the list is the “cell phone numbers” project, with contact information of potential mentors who can help her get started.

This is not a complicated vision. It is a highly achievable vision. Luke Macken is already working on pieces of it, and if you have any web programming skills, you could probably help him on it, right now.

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POINT #3: ONCE WE HAVE STRONG TASK MANAGEMENT TOOLS, WE CAN FUNNEL ALL KINDS OF NEW ENERGY INTO OUR PROCESS.

Once the infrastructure of participation exists, the critical job changes, from *enabling* participation to *driving* participation.

First, you SIMPLIFY. It should be *dead simple* for *any* newbie — college student, college professor, bored professional, retiree — to find useful work to do that helps his fellow man.

Then, you AMPLIFY. When you trust your ability to manage community work, you shout from the rooftops, “HEY, WE NEED YOUR HELP!” If the projects that you drive people to are interesting, useful, and achievable, you will find that people will crawl out of the bushes to work on them. If college professors want to build their own curriculum around such a program, so much the better.

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So. That’s my take. Sorry for the long email. If you agree with this vision, please get in touch with Luke Macken to help make this vision into a reality. He’s already got a great headstart.🙂

Fedora gots mad skeelz, yo

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