This is a part of the Elections Interviews series for Fedora Linux 38. Voting is open to all Fedora contributors. The voting period starts on Monday, 29 May and closes promptly at 23:59:59 UTC on Sunday, 11 June.

Interview with Benjamin Beasley

  • Fedora Account: music
  • Matrix: Fedora Devel, Fedora Python, NeuroFedora, Fedora EPEL, Fedora Cloud, Fedora Build System, Fedora Rust, Fedora
  • Fedora User Wiki Page


Why do you want to be a member of FESCo and how do you expect to help steer the direction of Fedora?

As a Fedora Linux, CentOS, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux user for well over a decade, and as a contributor to the Fedora community for the last several years, I find that wise and steady technical leadership has been one of the Fedora project’s great strengths. In my one term on FESCo, I think I have made a useful contribution to this tradition.

It’s my practice to listen more than I speak; respect different people’s perspectives and styles of communication; and remember that idealism and pragmatism can exist in complementary rather than adversarial opposition.

How do you currently contribute to Fedora? How does that contribution benefit the community?

I directly maintain around 170 rather diverse packages. A few of my particular interests are scientific/technical and mathematical packages, font-related software, and the Python ecosystem. I also co-maintain or contribute to a variety of packages via the neuro-sig and python-packagers-sig packaging groups, and I regularly contribute fixes to other packages and to upstream projects.

I also mentor other packagers, not only as a packager sponsor, but also by doing package reviews and by offering detailed PRs in dist-git and suggestions in Bugzilla and on chat and the devel mailing list. Teaching and mentoring is powerful. It is good to improve a hundred packages, but even better to improve a thousand packages by learning something useful and sharing it with ten or twenty packagers.

Finally, I have been a member of FESCo for the past year. A large part of that role is the evaluation of Change proposals. I take this responsibility seriously. I read the complete text of each proposal, and I read almost everything on the devel mailing list—not only to follow discussion of proposed changes, but to be as aware as possible of the broader context: what people are working on, planning to change, or simply frustrated with, across the distribution.

How do you handle disagreements when working as part of a team?

Above all, I listen carefully to everyone. This is a matter of respect: all people’s feelings, experiences, and thoughts matter. Besides, there is often a lot to be learned in a disagreement, and not every situation has one clear correct answer. Often, when people can speak and be listened to carefully and honestly, the experience helps the speaker or the listener understand and clarify their own thoughts, which can lead to an unexpected compromise or consensus.

At the same time, I expect people to speak respectfully. One one hand, people sometimes need time and rhetorical space to gracefully step back from an accidentally incendiary phrasing, or to vent occasionally, without facing an escalatory response. On the other hand, a healthy community needs to push back against toxic discourse, including consistently aggressive rhetoric, excessive repetition, and personal attacks. The damage done to a conversation when not everyone feels it is safe to contribute is invisible and serious.

In the end, some disagreements can’t be resolved by consensus. A decision must be made: some people get what they wanted, and some people don’t. Keeping one’s opinions separate from one’s ego is a practiced skill, and an important one when it’s time to let go.

After a disputed decision, it’s necessary to strike a balance. A team needs to move on with confidence and start solving new problems. Constantly rehashing an old disagreement or waffling on a recent decision does little good, and risks creating paralyzing uncertainty. At the same time, as time passes, it’s important to remain willing to revisit old choices and to adapt to new information and experiences.

What else should community members know about you or your positions?

I’m an electrical engineer by training and experience, and a stay-at-home parent of two small children. I care deeply about music, food, ecology, and quite a few other things.

I am happy to discover that I am wrong, and to admit it. This is much better than continuing to make the same mistake!

I believe that the best way to improve a process is to make it easier for people to do the right thing than the wrong one.