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Fedora Council Elections begin soon

This is a part of the Council Elections Interviews series. Voting is open to all Fedora contributors. The voting period starts on Tuesday, January 10th and closes promptly at 23:59:59 UTC on Monday, January 16th. Please read the responses from candidates and make your choices carefully. Feel free to ask questions to the candidates here (preferred) or elsewhere!

Interview with Justin W. Flory (jflory7)

What is your background in Fedora? What have you worked on and what are you doing now?

I began contributing to the Fedora Project in September 2015, beginning with the Fedora Magazine and the Community Operations team. Since then, I’ve spent time familiarizing myself with the Fedora community in as many ways as possible to better understand our community composure. I am the current team lead of the CommOps team, the editor-in-chief of the Fedora Magazine, and past lead of the Marketing team. I’m also an active Ambassador, a leading member of the Diversity Team, a contributing sysadmin to Fedora Badges, and a former Google Summer of Code participant for Fedora. I have a strong interest in some of the more non-technical areas of the project and working towards improving communication methods across sub-projects and between contributors.

What are the most pressing issues facing Fedora today? What should we do about them?

There’s two sides to this question: a technical and non-technical side.

From a technical standpoint, it seems that the Linux world is preparing to make another significant shift towards how we develop software. In Fedora, this is found in the Modularity initiative, which changes how we build and deliver Fedora as an entire product. I am confident that the Modularity initiative was a strong move in the right direction – which doesn’t make it much of an issue at all! But the takeaway is that it’s important for us to stay focused on this initiative and helping pioneer this direction within the Fedora community and hopefully also collaborate with other communities outside of our own.

From a non-technical standpoint, the key issue I see is how we engage with newcomers to Fedora. On-boarding new contributors is important, but retainment is an equally important question. At Flock 2016, Bee Padalkar revealed that the average “lifespan” of a Fedora contributor is about three months before they stop contributing. Better understanding what makes someone decide to stop contributing would be helpful. Is it boredom and not being able to find something to do? Is it burnout from doing too much in too little time? As a non-technical question that affects both technical and non-technical parts of the project, we need extra focus to consider how we keep new contributors once we reel them in. There are initiatives that help tackle these problems (see: CommOps and Join SIG), but supporting these initiatives across the project are an interest of the Council.

What should the Council do to help improve communication and openness across Fedora sub-projects, teams, and SIGs?

Once upon a time, I think this might have been a problem for the Council to solve. Now, I think this is something best delegated to other groups in Fedora with the full support of the Council. A common theme that I noted in the history of Fedora is that we have tried solving this problem many times before. However, we keep duplicating past efforts. There was a community working group, there is CommOps, there is FOSCo, there is the Join SIG. The Council could specifically help support our existing initiatives that improve communication in the project and help prevent us from falling into the duplication cycle where work ends up being repeated.

What is your strongest point as a candidate? What is your weakest point?

My strongest point is my familiarity with the Fedora Project community. I can’t admit that I know all parts of Fedora, but I do my best to keep tabs on all the different things happening across all parts of the community. People are doing amazing things every day, but it’s only a matter of whether you hear about them! By being present (and active) in multiple parts of the community, I understand some of the “bigger picture” of the Fedora community. Different groups have unique needs, and as a member of the Fedora Council, it’s important to act in the interest of the greater Fedora community, not only the projects we are most involved in. For these reasons, I believe this makes me a strong candidate.

My weakest point is the inverse of the above. Sometimes I become too involved with too many things, and my rate of productivity slows until I make adjustments. Even though this is my weakest point, it’s something I’m aware of and I’m always trying to make sure that I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew… as the saying goes.

What are your interests and experience outside of Fedora? Which of those things will help you in this role?

Outside of Fedora, I listen to a lot of music and play a few video games here and there. Since I’m also an open source aficionado, I found ways to tie those interests into FOSS. I sporadically contribute music metadata to the MusicBrainz project and hang out with the Libre.fm development team in their IRC channel. I’m also a former staff member of the SpigotMC project, where I was involved as a community moderator for two years. Additionally, I’m also an avid writer.

Some of these interests and experience have manifested themselves in Fedora. I take part in the Fedora Games SIG and post somewhat often to the mailing list. However, I believe my experience managing the SpigotMC community taught me many things about community. If you don’t know, SpigotMC is free and open source Minecraft server software with an extensive modding API. Young people of all ages fill the community, from high school to college and beyond. After exploring other open source communities, it quickly became clear that the high proportion of younger participants in the SpigotMC community was not the norm. As a result, my experience there introduced me to many young, bright contributors, and I try to take what worked well for us in Spigot and apply that to Fedora to attract more young people into the Project.

What can the Council do to attract more packagers and other contributors? How should Fedora change in this regard?

Admittedly, this is an area that I could use more studying up, with regards to the packaging guidelines and rules. However, based on past tickets that the Council has worked on and the ongoing Modularity initiative, I believe this is something we are already doing well at.

What can the Council do to attract more people to non-technical roles? Does Fedora need to adapt or improve in this regard?

Fedora is already adapting and improving to make the non-technical areas more accessible to newcomers. But… there is still working to be done. I think my answer to the third question of the questionnaire best explains my view about what the Council can do to help.

What area would you most like to see improved collaboration among the Linux distributions? What would you do to help increase collaboration?

Improved collaboration across distributions is something that was improved but also tested at times in 2016. The attitude that I always try to foster towards this is that we’re all in the same game together working towards the same goals. If I had to name a specific area that I’d like to see improved collaboration on, it would be combining forces for smaller initiatives. Writing software packages is something not unique to any distribution, and if there’s any part of a project that will have the most contributors, it’s the development work. However, there are other smaller initiatives within many projects. All of these teams, across all projects, have active participants, but they are fewer than others, say like development or packaging. Often these teams also share the same goals (or at least similar goals). Having these different, smaller teams work together would be in the interest of all. I would like to help foster a collaboration mindset that encourages smaller teams to look towards other communities for help and advice instead of exclusively Fedora contributors. Sometimes, a bit of outside perspective goes a long way.

Closing words

I’m thankful to have the opportunity to run against such a qualified pool of candidates for the Council. If there is one thing that excites me, it is that the interest in this election appears quite high! There are more candidates for Council, FESCo, and FAmSCo than I have seen for some time. I hope the community is engaged and interested in helping nominate the people they believe are most qualified to help lead in various parts of the project. I wish the best of luck to all candidates and I’m happy to partake in such an amazing and diverse community like Fedora.