I’m glad to see a lot of thoughtful discussion around the topic of Fedora’s larger goals, and I’m particularly glad to see some new blood driving the discussion. Fedora’s ability to attract outstanding new talent to the party is one of the things that makes it such a remarkable project.
Here’s my take on Robyn’s excellent post.
To say that we have NO TARGET AUDIENCE and NO GOALS is not quite accurate, I don’t think. We have both of those things, but they are implicit in the work we do, and in such an incredibly large community, everyone’s work is not always complementary.
First of all, I believe that every single individual who does work in the Fedora community has short-term goals. If they didn’t, nothing would ever happen. I also believe that every single individual has an extremely clear idea of their target audience: someone just like them, for whom they want a particular activity to be easier/better the next time.
Sometimes these individuals share common goals, and we have structures that allow individuals to band together and work in concert to achieve these goals. The Fedora Fonts SIG has its goals, and the Fedora Education SIG has its goals, and the Fedora Medical SIG has its goals, and so on.
How does marketing fit into all of this? It’s a fair question. I’ve been taught by some very talented marketing minds that marketing, at its heart, is about SIMPLIFYING and AMPLIFYING. Making a message simple enough for people to understand, and then amplifying that message so that everyone in the world hears it. Ultimately, I would like to see Fedora Marketing provide this kind of service to each of these SIGs, but I recognize that with limited resources, it’s far easier to promote a handful of simple, powerful messages.
Ubuntu has had a lot of success by building an entire movement around one simple message, as articulated in Ubuntu’s Famous Bug #1: “Microsoft has a majority market share in the new desktop PC marketplace.
This is a bug, which Ubuntu is designed to fix.” That’s a great big inspirational message, and their tenacity in pursuing the vision implicit in that message has won them many fans. But it’s also led them into compromises that are, I believe, ultimately bad for free software.
I believe it will be tempting for marketing folks to frame this question in terms of the Linux Desktop, because that’s the sexiest thing to market. “Look at the new wobbly screen stuff! Look at how the workspaces fit together!” And that’s fine, I suppose — if you want to pick one story to sell, I suppose you could do worse. But please remember that Fedora is *way* more than a Desktop, and be wary of the urge to subordinate all of Fedora’s processes to the singular goal of Building the Perfect Desktop. Beware, in particular, of compromising our Four Foundations in the pursuit of these goals.
I believe that The Starfish and The Spider should be required reading for everyone in the Fedora Marketing organization. It’s subtitled “The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”. Now, Paul Frields is an excellent Fedora Project Leader — but leadership means different things in different organizations, and I believe that Fedora is designed to function largely as a “leaderless” organization. Autonomy is absolutely, critically, vitally, supremely important.
So how does a leaderless organization know what to do? By recognizing this critical characteristic of starfish organizations: the values are the organization. Everyone shares the same values, and in the absence of clear goals, everyone works passionately to move those values forward by doing what they do best.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t rally around particular goals — we should. And that’s not to say that we can’t put some processes in place to guide us towards our goals — we can. But the autonomy of the individual Fedora contributor has been, and should continue to be, the core driver of all that Fedora does. If we want to choose a particularly lofty moonshot goal around which to rally the troops, that’s a great thing, and I applaud it. Let’s do our best to find a middle ground that continues to guarantee sufficient autonomy to our contributors to innovate as they see fit.
Freedom, folks, features, first. Those are our values for a reason. We thought long and hard about them. Let’s be sure to respect them.