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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 Gabriele Trombini

  • Fedora Account: mailga
  • IRC: mailga (mainly in #fedora-ambassadors, #fedora-commops, #fedora-docs, #fedora-join, #fedora-mktg, #fedora-websites)
  • Fedora User Wiki Page

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

I started with Fedora locally as one of the main contributors of the Italian Community, it.fedoracommunity.com. I helped in the growth of its forum, website renewal,  and documentation; I also wrote a Fedora book for newbies with robyduck and produced the Italian pdf magazine “folio”.

Of course I’m part of the EMEA ambassadors, which was my first step into the Fedora Project. I attended many local events and the one I’m really proud of is the one we held in Milan with short talks by involved people. We showed the crew the main activities within the Project (Ambassadors, Design, L10n, Websites, Infra, Kernel and Virtualization).
Afterwards I spent more time with the international community. I attended a couple of EMEA FADs and Fosdem 2014, and I recently gave a talk at Flock 2015.

My interest range is across the entire Project (I’m avoiding development because even if I’m really interested in it, at the moment my spare time wouldn’t be enough). I’m part of the Marketing team (I performed some tasks for the F23 release), a member of the Fedora-Join SIG (renewed and able to give a help to the Ambassadors in the near future), a member of Websites (providing help with smaller works in support of the team), and lastly a new member of the Docs group (I’m putting in a home mail server and I want to share my experience even if, to be honest, this is going slowly, at the moment).

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

Well, it isn’t easy to define the issues Fedora is facing.

We don’t have a real feel of what is going on outside. Yes, we can read posts, we can see people at events, we can have some metrics, but what is happening out of our border has several sources.

There are different kind of users, just like students, business and public administration.
Schools are the area which are going very well because a lot of our contributors are students (or keep contacts with schools and/or colleges) and usually educational establishments are willing to accept events or get involved in Fedora activities (the most important is that they have suitable spaces for hosting events). Our Ambassadors are doing a great job in this area.

Instead, it is harder to find a way of entrance for both private and public administration (even if lately public administration seems more flexible). Most of them are tied to other operating systems and we have to go to the top of management to try to open a door.

There are two kind of problems here:

  1. People: We have lots of contributors having little (or none) management experience in their employment (mostly due to their age), so they can’t be part of the renewal IT programs inside their workplace.
  2. Establishment: The problem here is the marketing is not structured to make campaigns targeted to private and public; this engages the Marketing team, and I, as part of the team, am thinking to go in that direction, studying strategies, analyzing metrics and dedicating time to get in touch with public and private areas.

Resolving point #2 makes easier the resolution of point #1; the Document Foundation is doing successful campaigns in this direction with LibreOffice, so why shouldn’t we as well?

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

This is somehow related to the previous point. At the moment, mostly at events, Fedora is well known for its software: always updated with the latest versions, but versus other distros, Fedora often is not the first choice and we are not able to go ahead. My opinion is that we don’t have any feedback from the users, so we really don’t know why people are going to other distros or operating systems.

We need feedback; seeing people at booth or conferences is not enough. We don’t communicate with them. Usually we answer a user’s questions, but often we don’t ask them what they think.

It’s really difficult being an Ambassador, especially when dozens of people come to our booth in order to only have a mug, a shirt, or some stickers. We should stop them and ask what they think about Fedora, take note of replies, and report them in the event list. Of course there are a lot of events we don’t attend directly, so we need help from local communities.

We have to create a database, or something similar, where stored answers could lead us to improve our effort and get them more focused.

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

True, that’s my opinion as well.

The increase in the use of the Internet makes knowledge and opinions more available; by now everyone gets information from the web and the Ambassadors activities should be based on the operating system inside itself.

To do that, the Ambassadors’ activity is to collect information from each group (at least WS, Server, Cloud and also Spins groups) in order to go deeper in the features hidden under the skin of the releases.

And yes, the Ambassadors should be prepared for the events, but not only target their talks or explanations on what is well-known by the web.

The tools are ready: there are talking points and channels for doing that, and overall, there is the Marketing team that should be more efficient to give the information they need.

There’s is also the possibility (as we are planning in the Fedora-Join SIG) to provide a contact with the Join group when requested (a PC with the IRC channel #fedora-join open is enough) where people can ask our contributors any information they need. We’re also planning to hold Ambassador Join-Days that current Ambassadors will be aware of.

At the least, the Ambassadors should have a way to be aware of things that other non-contributors would not be aware of because they can’t find it on the Internet yet. This is the way to make them really feel a part of the Project, and help be a part of the inside of Fedora.

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

My plans as a FAmSCo member is to give to Ambassadors the tools for being persuasive in their activities. They’re are one of the most important parts of the Project (our business card) and my goal is having them always ready to get in touch with the public with information and tools.

Also FAmSCo have to uniform the ticketing system and budgeting rules for all the regions.

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

Having more focused committees is the best way to operate; each sector is able to go deeper in their tasks to make things move ahead in a more accurate way. We should only be careful that each pool is working together; this kind of splitting, if not correctly managed, could cause dispersions and get the opposite effect.

It’s not a mystery that any working group is very active inside their tasks but often there’s a lack of information passed to others.

Usually each group waits for questions but we should reverse this way of acting.
The goal is that each working team gives information to the outside using some kind of tool (Ticketing system? Questionnaire?) based on a deadline, likewise to the tasks for the releases we are using. A wrangler checking this job is required.

It seems the Ambassador activities are disconnected from the rest of the project; what is your way for fixing the issue?

This should be fixed in the near future; FOSCo will incorporate members from other groups (as explained here) in order to get in touch with the main groups of the project and work together on tasks.

In the meanwhile FAmSCo (which is responsible for the transition to FOSCo) must activate preferential channels to other groups for getting news on software and many aspects of the project.

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

The best is having Ambassadors briefing done by member of WG and marketing, but in the last releases it didn’t happen. This was left to the reading of the talking points or the release notes.

Ambassadors must be aware of:

  • Features
  • Future plans
  • Internal processes
  • Tools for handling info

The starting point, as said before, are the talking points and/or release notes, but we have to give the possibility to deepen things Ambassadors think users must be aware of. This can be done by now, but its real effect will happen with the FOSCo.

The second is on the shoulder of the Council. A brief communication (in the ML) where future directions are explained in few words should be enough.

The third is the more complicated IMHO; there are a lot of Ambassadors who still don’t know what the Project is asking them and how to get things done (swag, money requests, event listing, reporting and so on). This should be part of the mentors’ teaching. Mentors, with all the good things they’re doing, should also explain the correct form to get access to the internal process. Not an exam, but they have to explain how to do what/when/where.

The last bullet point is a CommOps task. One of the Ambassadors’ homework tasks is to take a peek at the tools available, aggregate data, draw reports and so on. CommOps (in its wiki page) provides several tools to get lots of information.

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?

Ambassadors are part of Marketing (also true the reverse) and they must have more points of contact with the Marketing team, who is aware of the new features and have channels to get in touch with developers and other groups. Ambassadors should have a preferential channel to communicate with Marketing and they must have a reply ASAP.
Of course Marketing is not able to satisfy this kind of request coming from lots of people, so FAmSCo should collect requests (on the Trac) and forward them to Marketing (IMHO once a week) on its ticketing system. Marketing will parse the tickets and answer directly.

Of course both Marketing and FAmSCo (waiting for FOSCo) will prepare a document where Ambassadors are informed about the features of the next releases.