This is a part of the FAmSCo Elections Interviews series. Voting is open to all Fedora contributors. The voting period starts on Tuesday, December 08 and closes promptly at 23:59:59 UTC on Monday, December 14th. 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 Christoph Wickert
- Fedora Account: cwickert
- IRC: cwickert (usually in #fedora-ambassadors, #fedora-council, #fedora-de, #fedora-devel, #fedora-kde, #fedora-meeting, #fedora-spins, #fedora-workstation, #kolab, #xfce, #xfce-de, #xfce-devel)
- Fedora User Wiki Page
What is your background in Fedora? What have you worked on and what are you doing now?
I’m a Fedora contributor for more than 10 years. I started as packager in 2005 and joined the ambassadors in 2007. As part of the group I attended and organized numerous events. For several years, I hosted the weekly EMEA IRC meetings and handled media and swag production and distribution.
In 2009, I got elected for FESCo but changed to FAmSCo in 2011, where I’m still active today. I was a member of the Fedora Board and am now in the Fedora Council. As outreach representative I try to bridge the gap between the ambassadors and the council.
Until recently, my dayjob cost me a lot of time, therefor I had to reduce my Fedora activities. I take care of my packages (hint: If you want to become co-maintainer of one of my 100+ packages, just let me know), the council matters and my ambassadors duties. Now I’m free again and eager to work on FAmSCo. Due to the transformation to FOSCo (see below), this might well be the last FAmSCo ever elected and I want to make sure that the institutional knowledge we’ve build up over the years is preserved and transferred.
What are the most pressing issues facing Fedora today? What should we do about them?
I’ve been around in Fedora for a decade and looking back, we have seen big disruptions all the time:
- With Fedora 7, we had the merger of Fedora Core and Extras, which was a cumbersome but important step for our community.
- Fedora 15 introduced Gnome 3 and systemd. We’ve lost a significant number of users due to this disruption, but now we are on the rise again.
- Fedora 18 came with a new version of the Anaconda installer. This rewrite massively delayed the release and we had to catch up with shorter development cycles, but now we are back to the regular schedule.
- With Fedora 20, we had Fedora.Next. The changes around this initiative, both on a distribution and governance level, have caused some confusion, but most of the issues have been ironed out.
Even if all these issues were pressing, we not only solved them but improved. I have developed great confidence in Fedora’s ability to adopt and think nothing is really pressing from a ‘historical’ point of view.
Still, we are facing challenges every day. For example, the budget is currently a big issue. Traditionally it was managed by the FAmSCo as the ambassadors used most of it. While this worked for us, it doesn’t necessarily for other groups. If we want to enable them to innovate or have a FAD, they need easy access to the budget, too.
Therefor the council took care of the budget, but this transition was never completed, let alone documented. While FAmSCo has a lot of experience with budget planning, the council still needs to learn. We are not even sure if the council should be in charge of the budget or if a dedicated working group is better. And to make things more confusing, there have been changes in Red Hat’s OSAS team that impact the budget, too.
Cleaning up this situation will not be easy, but I’m sure we can do it. The ultimate goal is to enable all Fedora contributors to easily request money for their project, to make the process more transparent and the budget planning more reliable.
What are the most pressing issues facing the Fedora Ambassadors today? What should we do about them?
The biggest issue I see that the ambassadors are currently a body without head. Nobody steering the ambassadors as FAmSCo is mostly inactive at the moment. We stopped having regular meetings after we decided to replace it with a new body called FOSCo. The Fedora Outreach Steering Committee is supposed to coordinate the efforts of the ambassadors, marketing, design team, and other outreach groups (websites, documentation, …).
Unfortunately FOSCo is not yet real. FAmSCo has committed to the idea and made a proposal, but we haven’t been able to reach consensus with the Council and develop a clear concept. In fact, there were two very different proposals: One is to keep FAmSCo, the other is to completely replace it.
I’ve been involved in this discussion both with my FAmSCo and Council head on and know what is going on. That’s why I want to not stop in the middle of a process but bring it to a good end. Once we have an operational FAmSCo again, I want to reboot the discussion and bring it to a good end.
Interest in traditional Linux events seems to be stagnating or even declining. How should the Ambassadors respond to this change?
Linux events such as LinuxTag in Berlin and many others in Europe and North America seem no longer appealing to visitor, the event ‘market’ is probably saturated. Attendees have already chosen their favorite distribution, so there is not much for us to gain.
On the other hand we see events focusing on a certain topic (perl, python, drupal, …) or target audience (developers, makers, …) are more crowded than ever. We should strive to benefit from this trend. We should attend these events, too. If we can showcase Fedora as the best platform for a certain technology, we can get a lot of attention – and potential new contributors.
Let’s not forget this scenario is more or less limited to Europe and North America. Other regions don’t have a big Linux community yet and people there are eager to learn. If we support their efforts, there is a lot of potential for Fedora to grow in these regions. And even in Europe and North America, we still want to attend the standards. So traditional ‘bread and butter’ events are not going away any time soon.
What are your future plans? Is there anything what you can consider as “Mission Statement” in this role?
In a nutshell, but not necessarily in that order:
- Revive FAmSCo. Without FAmSCo, we will not be able to make progress with FOSCo or the budget.
- Get all stakeholders (not only ambassadors and the council) to agree on what FOSCo should look like.
- Make FoSCo become reality. This probably involves some elected seats, so we need a concept by the end of this term.
- New, better budget management.
What is your take on the recent governance reorganization (Council, working groups, budget, etc.)?
Overall I’m very happy with the changes.
The different Fedora editions (Workstation, Server, Cloud) allow us to focus our efforts and have given Fedora a new drive. The Workstation is slicker than ever before. The Server has spawned development of a great new project named Cockpit. The Cloud edition has more images and regular updates for the Atomic host.
The working groups have bring more flexibility and allow more freedom as they can make their own policies, release criteria etc. Meritocracy at it’s best.
The Council improves the overall coordination and allows better strategic planning. As I was the one who came up with the idea the council back in 2012 I’m very happy about how it turned out.
But with all these positive changes, we must take care that other parts of Fedora do not fall behind. The newly gained freedom of the working groups must not limit the freedom of other groups. The changes around the Council also impacted FAmSco and the budget. So the reorganization is not yet over. We achieved a lot, let’s make sure we finish it off.
It seems the Ambassador activities are disconnected from the rest of the project. What is your way of fixing the issue?
I think that FOSCo, if done right, can solve many of these problems. Having the ambassadors, our marketing and design team work together will already improve collaboration. If we then have the FOSCo representatives work with the council, we should be able to significantly improve collaboration and ‘broadcast’ news throughout the project.
In long term, we could even go one step further: If FOSCo turns out successful, we could think of one big outreach initiative with ambassadors and marketing as sub-teams. But this is only a wild idea and something that needs more thought and time. We’ve see a lot of change recently and should move on a little more careful now. We don’t want change for the sake of changing. The ambassadors are one of Fedora’s most successful teams and have developed a great mentoring system or a unique membership administration. Let’s not put these achievements at risk.
What kind of information should be exchanged between Ambassadors and the other Project groups?
Ambassadors should to be on top of the changes that happen in development and the community. I think every ambassador should be subscribed to the Fedora Announce and Fedora (Development) Announce mailing lists, follow the Fedora Magazine or at least read ‘Five Things in Fedora this week’ regularly. The CommOps team is doing great work here and we should make pay back by giving it proper attention.
One important and often forgotten role of the ambassadors is that we act as a feedback channel. We go out and meet real-world Linux and Fedora users face to face. They tell us what they like about the latest release or what drives them mad. This is first-hand feedback we don’t get anywhere else, not in the forums, the mailing list or on IRC. We should use this opportunity more often, e.g. with ‘What I love/hate about Fedora’ posters on every event. And of course, this feedback needs to be collected, evaluated and forwarded to the right people. I’m sure CommOps will be happy to help.
Are Ambassadors really up to date about new features of the releases? If not, what are you planning to do to keep them up to date?
I don’t think that ambassadors are always up to date, but to be fair, I don’t think each ambassador needs to know every feature of any given release. They should certainly know the most important ones and what is highlighted in the release notes, but what we ultimately want is a ‘message’ and not a list of features.
That’s why we make ‘talking points’. When you have to explain what makes Fedora special and why someone should use it, you need only two or three compelling reasons and a clear message. Improving the talking points and shaping the message should do the trick. Again, I think that FOSCo and CommOps will be a great help here.