Fedora Ambassador Steering Committee badge

Fedora Ambassador Steering Committee badge

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 Alick Zhao

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

I started to use Fedora when I got my first laptop in 2009, and later became a Fedora contributor in 2010. I have been a member of the Simplified Chinese translation team for Fedora Localization (L10N), translating and reviewing Fedora software projects, websites, wiki pages, and documentation. I am also a (almost inactive) docs publisher, taking care of publishing of translated Fedora documentation.

Of course I am also a Fedora ambassador. When I was in Beijing, I revived the weekly IRC meeting of the Chinese community at #fedora-zh and gradually grew its attendance. I organized and hosted quite a few offline Fedora events including release parties, FAD, and FUDCon in Beijing, China, and participated Fedora events across APAC to improve the regional communication and cooperation. I also presented Fedora at various events such as SFD and COSCUP.

Recently I moved to Texas for study, and I am exploring the local community here. I’m also looking for new roles of myself in the Fedora community.

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

To my understanding, the most pressing issues facing Fedora, and almost any traditional Linux distro, are: 1) the usual way of distributing open source software (by Linux distros) is challenged by new over-the-top software distribution approaches (e.g. git repo on GitHub, Docker container images, programming language specific package managers like npm etc), and 2) the interests in the former and thus in distro contribution is declining. While there might be a hype for the latter approach, it has become a big trend that Fedora needs to cope with rather than to ignore. Otherwise we might be the ones being ignored.

Actually the issues are what Fedora.next comes to deal with. We embrace a ring-based model, and allow for more agile packaging in the outer ring to play well with the over-the-top approaches, while ensuring a stable core. In this way Fedora can be made both fresh new and solid stable. We also create three Fedora products tailored for different use cases, so that Fedora can suit different audience’s needs, and be just the right thing for each.

That’s not to say we have already completely solved the issues. The big plan involved detailed tasks to be carried out. In the process we will of course encounter practical issues and different opinions, which need to be resolved along the way we move forward.

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

In my opinion, the most pressing issues facing the Fedora Ambassadors are the imbalance and lack of cooperation across regions. While we have a large contributor base in NA, the community in most APAC countries are to be grown to be of significance. The imbalance is related to geographic and cultural differences. For example, it is relatively cheap to cross borders in Europe, but can be quite expensive in APAC. And in countries where English is not the native or official languages like China, localization is so important to reach out to the mass, and it involves nearly every aspect. Besides, EMEA and NA have more communication and cooperation partly due to Flock, while cooperation between EMEA and APAC seems to be relied on a few volunteering folks.

To deal with the issues, we need more awareness of the differences when evaluating the contribution of ambassadors in different areas, and possibly when allocating budgets. Besides, we need to encourage more cooperation across regions, maybe by a unified Flock/FUDCon, or sponsoring more experienced contributors to help with local activities in developing areas.

Interest in traditional Linux events seem to be stagnating or even declining. How should the Ambassadors respond to this change?

The interest is declining possibly because 1) people are attracted to new hot topic (e.g. Docker, node.js, etc.), and/or 2) there are simply too many traditional events. For 1), I think Ambassadors should go to these new events and present Fedora’s relevance there, e.g. introducing Fedora.next and Fedora Cloud. For 2), with people voting by their feet, hopefully good events stand out and keep growing. These are also where Ambassadors are supposed to be. To achieve that, we need metrics of the popularity and goodness of events, possibly by looking at the number of attendance and survey response.

Besides, I would also like to mention that in some areas (e.g. non top tier cities in China), even traditional Linux events are scarce and thus are appreciated. There is quite some room for traditional Linux events and community growth in such areas.

What are your future plans? Is there anything what you can consider as “Mission Statement” in this role?

  • Make the FAmSCo to FOSCo (or whatever you name it) transition happen. Facilitate the communication and cooperation of ambassadors with other groups such as marketing, design, docs, and L10N as well as new governance bodies. Ensure smooth transition.

What is your take on the recent governance reorganization (Council, working groups, budget, etc.)?

I think the reorganization is a laudable move. The council gains more input from the community from different aspects. The multiple working groups correspond to the technical changes of Fedora.next, and have more targeted audiences. Budget.next discussion hopefully will make the budget and reimbursement process more transparent and efficient.

Maybe the temporal downside is that it renders a lot of existing procedures (and thus wiki pages) outdated, and it requires quite some efforts to get the new message spread out. But that should be temporal.

It seems the Ambassador activities are disconnected to the rest of the project. What is your way of fixing the issue?

Honestly, I do not think so. According to my ambassador experiences, a successful activities need inputs from multiple sub-projects! For example, we need posters and DVD labels from the design team, and we need to invite contributor of different sub-projects to deliver good presentation about their respective progress. After all, we ambassadors are supposed to bring together contributors in the large project and connect them to more outside people.

I think the real issue behind the scene is  that cross sub-project communication is not so efficient. To keep track of progress closely, we typically have to subscribe a bunch of mailing lists of different sub-projects and participating in the discussions, while most messages there are not so relevant. That might scare some Ambassadors away from those lists. It would be better if FOSCo can be made active and serve as the gateway of multiple sub-projects, and the gateway between the Coucil, FESCo and the sub-projects. In this way more efficient communication between Council, FESCo, other groups and  Ambassadors might be achieved.

What kind of information should be exchanged between Ambassadors and the other Project groups?

Well, anything Ambassadors should carry to the public about Fedora. To name a few:

  • What’s awesome in our new releases? (approved Changes, relnotes by docs)
  • Swag design. Ambassadors provide the swag spec (size, shape, etc.) to our design team, and get cool design that is ready to produce.
  • Marketing ideas. Suggested answers to “Why Fedora?”, “Why Fedora.next?”, “Should I use Fedora Workstation/Server/Cloud?”. (And maybe “Why no LTS?”)
  • Translation updates and TODO. Important to areas where English is a foreign language.

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?

From my experiences, I’d say currently it is really up to each ambassador’s efforts of keeping up to date, and sometimes it is impacted by our technical expertise. One can read the relnotes to get an overview of new features of the releases. But not every ambassador has enough spare time, and sometimes part of the relnotes goes too deep and detailed that is beyond an ambassador’s knowledge.

To improve the situation, I have the following ideas in mind:

  • Maybe we can make it mandatory for new ambassadors to subscribe our common channels about updates (e.g. fedora-announce mailing list, Fedora Magazine, Fedora Community Blog), and optionally encourage them to follow our social media accounts and forward messages (by Fedora Badge?). This ensures they are on track from day 1.
  • Bear in mind to increase the diversity of ambassadors, which means to attract contributors in different groups to become Ambassadors. Facilitate their communication e.g. by small local meetups.