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Re: Tying threads together.



2012/2/15 Máirín Duffy <duffy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>:
> On Wed, 2012-02-15 at 12:21 -0600, inode0 wrote:
>> "I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read"
>> http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html
>
>> Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex
>> http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex.html
>
> John, I'm not sure in which way you meant for these to be interpreted,
> but there is a lot of good brain food here; thank you for suggesting it.
> I saw two possible ways to interpret these:

I am so happy someone made the effort to think about these, thanks
Máirín. Rather than viewing these as disjoint alternate ways of
interpreting the message I think both of them need to be considered.

> Interpretation #1)
>
> "In order to accomplish something, you can't start from scratch every
> time. Whether it's a functional communication system or the presence of
> vendors who can sell you er, graphite, you can't provide everything you
> need to make the thing you're aiming for from scratch. There's
> infrastructure and materials and community needed that you can't all do
> yourself."

I agree with this but also take away that those who do contribute the
building blocks that we use to create Fedora are part of our community
whether they recognize that or not and whether they agree with our
foundations or not.

> To this reading, I say, yes! I believe we put far too much burden on
> folks trying to get things done, where they must start from ground zero
> and build a ton of things on their own rather than focus on the thing it
> is they really want to work on, because those support structures /
> infrastructure are just not working at the level we need them to if they
> exist at all. Sadly I think that because no one person can do everything
> on their own, and there's this expectation that they should somehow
> figure out how to make it happen, to have the vision, leadership,
> organization, coding & design & writing skills when they can't possibly
> have all of that.
>
> Note how the open source community as a whole has this emphasis on 'rock
> stars.' Well, yes, the people who get things done are 'rock stars'
> because you have to be to get anything done! This is not a *good*
> thing!!
>
> We have to do a better job at enabling the collective mind that Ridley
> refers to, or we'll be limited by the ability / skills of our own
> personal islands.

Yay, we agree on this.

> Interpretation #2)
>
> "We should let people work on whatever they want to work on, and somehow
> magically something wonderful like a pencil will come out of it."

That is one of the lessons of the pencil too. It did come out of an
environment of where people with different dreams and ambitions worked
together without knowing they were working together to make a pencil
possible. The magic that made it possible in that context was a
certain level of dispersed economic liberty sufficient for bits and
pieces (ideas) to come into existence for various unrelated reasons
and form themselves into something new (after they had sex).

Closer to home I think we can see many fundamental components of
Fedora that are key to our success but that did not arise from their
creators participating in our project or even necessarily believing in
the mission of our project. But our mission includes their work and
the support of and nurturing of the environment from which it arose.
And that magic is a little different than the one for the pencil,
although it also has a foundation in personal liberty. But I think it
too is critical to our success and is something we need to keep in
mind and work toward making possible. And in this area we largely do
need to stand out of the way to let things grow independently of our
preconceived ideas until such time as they become a question of
integration into our "product."

My personal feeling here is that this is where the majority of
innovation comes from and we need to be as flexible and supportive of
new ideas developing at the ground floor as we can. But innovation of
new technology is only part of what makes us Fedora. The answer to
everything isn't "stand back and stay out of the way."

> (I *really* don't like this one so I'll hold the commentary on it.)
>
>> One large thing though is the idea in both that stuff happens, and
>> really great stuff, without central planning of some sort. A base of
>> freedom suitable to the context is enough. Points for a Board that
>> doesn't try to direct all the traffic. But there is a related point I
>> take away that I think will resonate here with Máirín and others. That
>> is that we can help make great stuff happen, not by figuring it all
>> out and telling people what to do but by creating the culture or a
>> framework that fosters and promotes the sorts of freedom and ease of
>> doing that enables others to achieve what *they* want to achieve.
>
> But what do you do when person A wants to achieve something that is
> diametrically opposed to what person B wants to achieve?

The pencil maker gets to decide whether to use the GNOME eraser or the
KDE eraser in the product it produces and so does the Fedora Project.
However, the pencil maker is better off having such problems to decide
and should help both eraser makers make better erasers. Integration
and inclusion in the "product" is clearly something Fedora needs to
decide and is an area where we can't stand back and tell our suppliers
to fight it out amongst themselves.

> I mean, the project does need an identity with which to attract
> like-minded folks so we can be productive. An extreme example to
> illustrate this: Canucks fans showing up to the Boston Bruins victory
> parade. That's not great stuff happening; that's likely a riot. (Sorry
> Vancouver fans.)

One of the lessons I take away from the life of the pencil is that not
everyone needs to be like-minded. Those mining the graphite and those
harvesting the wood don't even need to like each other at all. It is
nice if they do get along, but even if they don't they both are
contributing to the pencil community and their contributions are
critical to its success.

> People do have 'tribes.' That's human nature, I think. If we have no
> identity or position or defining vision driving the project, then how is
> a potential contributor to know this is a place that resonates with
> them? If anything goes, if you can do whatever you want as long as you
> can get the boots on the ground, then we really don't have functional
> vision at all, only a dream on paper.

Yeah, I agree here to a point. I do think we need a vision and broadly
shared goals to function well as an organization. But I also think we
should do a far better job of recognizing that not everyone who works
in and contributes to our community will share them. No matter what we
do or say people will come to us for their own reasons.

> If we keep the entire thing completely undefined and feed to anyone who
> expresses a desire to help the notion that they can do anything that
> they want if they make it happen - we will get lots of factions and
> disagreements, wasting a lot of time and effort on conflict rather than
> churning out awesome things that make a real positive difference in the
> world.
>
> If I could only, only get back those hours and days of my life wasted in
> GNOME vs KDE bickering, or VIM vs EMACS bickering, or GNU/Linux vs
> Linux, or Free Software vs Open Source, or <insert FLOSS holy war
> here>... but I will never get them back. What awesome things could I
> have worked on with that time instead? Multiply that across our
> contributor base, and it's downright depressing.

And this is something I hope we can work on now. You are completely
right and one of the places where the pencil/Fedora analogy breaks
down most is that in the life of the pencil the component producers
were largely isolated from one another. So the graphite miners didn't
fight with the wood cutters because they really had no way of
interacting. The various graphite producers didn't fight with each
other about pencils because they weren't even producing graphite with
pencils in mind. In our world that is very different and does breed a
lot of wasted cycles bickering.

So the solution that keeps coming up is to kick out the most egregious
troublemakers in the community which I think is doomed to failure for
multiple reasons. It doesn't actually ever happen is one reason. But
even if it did happen we would be diminished by both the loss of
contributions that come from agitated contributors and the loss of
unknown contributors offended by the heavy handed tactics.

I would really like to see more people have the view when confronted
with difficult to deal with people that they understand and appreciate
that they (or others with similar dispositions) do make valuable
contributions and that the burden of stopping the bickering rests on
them. It does take two sides to prolong bickering and one side just
needs to stop, let those we might think are clearly wrong have the
last word, and trust that in the end a decision will be made to
resolve things from others with clear heads.

>> Máirín has suggested work by the Board in this area a number of times
>> and I agree that the Board should be engaged in this way. What sort of
>> things allow people to achieve their goals within the Fedora Project?
>> How can we improve those things?
>
> Fixing communication. I have a million and three ideas on how this could
> be realized. They shouldn't be new to anybody reading this thread.

And I agree in principle with you that the Board would be right in
suggesting ideas, encouraging groups to participate in solving
"community infrastructure" problems, and so on. We might in spots
disagree about what problems need solving but we don't disagree that
it is the Board's business to look after the community and help to
create a community can thrive. In the end that community should be
producing the results we are looking for, although not all of that
community will care about or buy into those goals.

> The board providing an actual direction, and rather than carefully
> transcribing it into a wiki page and locking it away, never to be read
> or talked out or advocated for again, actually advocating for it and
> getting the word out about it. Making sure everyone on the project
> understands where we are headed. Making the case and providing a good
> story for the positive change in the world that direction can bring, and
> how that aligns with Fedora's DNA.

I don't think the Board or anyone else really understands where we are
headed beyond philosophical sound bites long term. But there are
shorter term things that the Board could certainly lead us toward as
you have described on numerous occasions. And I can heartily endorse
the Board having an advocacy role as you describe above.

As a side note I will mention that I've seen the energy level change
dramatically in groups when the FPL has taken an active role
participating in those groups. Of course the FPL can't give personal
attention at this level to every group but can wisely choose one or
two to make an impact with. And I think the Board's decision to
champion endeavors individually while serving on the Board may help
spread that sort of added inspiration and energy to more parts of the
project than the FPL can alone. So good work Board on this count and I
hope it has the desired result.

John
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