Thu 14 June 2012

Fedora Join SIG: what do you think?

Posted by ankur in Tech (878 words, approximately a 4 minute read)

Hello folks!

    We've been recently looking to reduce the learning gradient that new folks need to hike up when they look to contribute to Fedora. Users looking to give back to the community is amazing. I feel we need to go out and give them as much help as we can. The importance here is that most of them will be new to the workflows, SIGS, teams and processes that Fedora community uses. Quite a few of them will be new to Linux even. For these novices, learning all that is required to become contributors is a daunting task. However, what is important is that all of them have the *potential* to make awesome contributors!

    At the moment, this is how folks go about it:

    1. Look at the join-fedora page[1]

    2. Select what they want to do, or randomly pick one that looks familiar

    3. Join the various mailing lists

    4. Ask how they can help

    5. Start working, and learn while they work

Even though this works, there are a few issues here IMO:

    1. Quite a few folks aren't sure what they want to do. The join fedora page is confusing for them at times. They don't know first hand what each role is about, so they aren't sure if they should join up SIG A or SIG B.

    2. The various mailing lists: devel, mktg, infra are work oriented. While we do guide newcomers that ask for help on the lists, these newcomers are usually scared to ask questions. They feel they'll make fools of themselves if they ask simple questions in front of established contributors.

    Basically, the working mailing lists aren't exactly the best environment for new comers. They are task oriented. They aren't dedicated to aiding new comers. We also don't want lots of introductions etc. on the work mailing lists either. We want them to be dedicated to *work*.

    I therefore suggest setting up communication channels dedicated to aid newcomers. I've already run into a "Welcome SIG"[2] initiative. The "welcome SIG" was intended to be more broad. It was intended for users too. If we set up "welcome SIG", I'm afraid it'll turn into another troubleshooting channel. We already have #fedora, the users mailing list[3], askfedora[3] for troubleshooting. I'd like to set up a channel dedicated to prospective contributors: something like a "Join Fedora SIG"(proposal on the wiki here[4]). Gnome already has something on these lines: the Gnome Love[5] project. It works. I'm on the mailing list. People ask for help, they get their guidance. Slowly, they turn into contributors. I'd like to again stress that the current mailing lists, while already present and open to the public are not *dedicated* to this purpose of guiding newbies. I suggest:

    1. #fedora-join on Freenode

    2. fedora-join mailing list

    The goals of these are:

    1. Set up a communication channel between the existing contributors and prospective contributors. Speaking to current team members is always encouraging. We could even set up a system to send "easyfix" tasks to this mailing list giving folks a chance to work on them and learn in the process.

    2. Guide/aid prospective contributors to turn into solid contributors. Rather than just pointing them to join.fp.o, talk to them, see what issues they face, help them decide where they want to get started.

    3. Via these channels, form better mentor-mentee relationships. Here, I mean "mentor" in the real sense of the word. Rahul, for instance, brought me into Fedora almost 6 years back via a font packaging IRC work shop. He's still my mentor and I still email him when I get stuck in a situation. Such relationships improve the community, both work wise and fun wise.

    4. Give prospective contributors a communication channel to converse amongst themselves. This is very important. Take the gsoc mailing list for instance. It is set up specifically so that the candidates can talk to each other. Since they're all in the same boat, they feel more comfortable discussing certain issues amongst themselves. They'll also be aware of what different people are upto which will give them a better idea of what they can do.

    I'm looking to set up this channel. Whatever I've written above is mostly what *my* neurons could think up. I initially thought that extending the classroom SIG to also function as the Join Fedora SIG would work, but Kevin suggested we keep them separate. (The function of the classroom SIG is for the community to teach each other). Basically, I'd like to look for potential, not polish. We can help them gain the polish that established contributors have.

    What are your views on this folks? Here, I'd request folks to follow "plussing": please criticize this as much as you want, find issues, but only if you have a "plus" to give as a solution. (I ran into it in a book I recently read. I think it's a great way to go. No harm giving it a try :-) )


    1. File ticket at infra to set up fedora-join mailing list

    2. Set up IRC channel #fedora-join

    3. File ticket with websites SIG to make tiny changes to join.fp.o to list Fedora-Join IRC and mailing list channels.

    4. Get started!