Presenting PatternFly in Minsk, Belarus, equipped with a Fedora t-shirt and a Red Hat

Presenting PatternFly in Minsk, Belarus, equipped with a Fedora t-shirt and a Red Hat

A casual slip in conversation that I would be attending a conference spiraled into a Fedora community booth and a PatternFly speech related mission. As a result, I went to Rolling Scopes to find out what these developer types thought about Fedora and also to present PatternFly. PatternFly is an open source project with a community of designers and developers collaborating to build a UI framework for enterprise web applications.

The most common question we received from attendees: what was I doing here? A good question too. Well, what was I doing there? I was on a fact-finding mission. What are front-end developers doing in order to carry out their work? What desktop are they using, what servers are they using? Would they be willing to use Fedora?

Getting to Rolling Scopes in Belarus

So how did it start? Wake up, pitch black. What am I doing? Going to Rolling Scopes, Minsk’s premier front-end developer conference. The receptionist at my hotel kind of points me in the right direction. One bus, three more bus stops by foot, a precarious transit under a motorway and I arrive full of trepidation. The reward, a technological park of epic magnitude.

The location was very luxurious, it had the kind of established start-up vibe, bright colors, and slogans. There was also an exhibition about Korea. I get my name badge. There are some of the eloquent characters running the conference present, Dima and Paul, sporting blazers and making sure that everything was running like clockwork.

“Here is your table.” Strategically positioned, between two walls. Get out the Fedora tablecloth. It’s on.

At the Fedora table

I started distributing the swag (Fedora things like pins, stickers and such). Ask the attendees questions, do they know about Fedora? Do they use Linux? What workstation do they use? This is new territory for Fedora. This is the bleeding edge. This audience is a different audience than many of the conferences that Fedora attends. Not many attendees are using a Linux-based system. Thus, it presented a great opportunity to find out why was this case.

There are only two community tables: me and my friends from Mozilla. Mozilla had a competition to give out a Mozilla cuddly toy thing. Nice touch.

As soon as one of the talks finished, they came in droves, conferences goers, swarmed towards the free swag in pure rapturous glee. Fedora pins could be seen attached to badges and clothing. They were loving it and the attendees were pleased to chat and were pleasantly surprised that Fedora was attending.

What did I learn?

Now, what about the overall impression? Did people see the mighty infinite ‘F’ of Fedora and they thought… they have come the Fedora folks, distributors of the finest most utilized Linux distro ever.

In action at the Fedora table at Rolling Scopes in Minsk, Belarus

In action at the Fedora table

It may come as no surprise that the developers were not using Fedora en masse. They were using MacOS en masse. Why? Why were they not coding away on beautiful Fedora and having fun? They claimed stability citing their preferred platform never crashing and so forth. It is my firm belief that a lot of people have an outdated view of Fedora and other Linux distributions. The folks at the conference have tried Linux in the past and have not been satisfied with the stability of it. However, Fedora is now synonymous with stability. This shows that a lot of marketing work needs to be done in order to correct the image of Fedora.

There was a close second after MacOS and that was was Ubuntu. Oh, Ubuntu our rivals but friends. Anyway, I would say from the sample I found a lot of attendees were using Ubuntu and especially Ubuntu servers for deployment. Why? That’s what they knew about or they cited being able to solve problems quickly with a strong user-base in Belarus.

I, for one, spot a big opportunity here, Belarus is starting to become a vibrant IT economy. We heard about a huge success story, Masquerade: a way of incorporating facial decorations with video, that was recently bought by Facebook. The atmosphere was electric. Why should Ubuntu have all the success in Belarus? There is a hungry audience in Belarus. It makes sense for developers to use some version of Linux at the very least for deployment. Belarus, and similar places give us a way to test the strategies required to approach and convert developers into users and contributors.

Overall, the swag was well-received and despite us being in somewhat alien territory, there was a lot of curiosity and questions. Good fun and a good job.

Special moment

However, something really nice happened after putting our booth away and I want to share the story: This is the story of Michael, he had come to the booth but he hadn’t stayed long. Michael is a user of Fedora! He was really surprised to see us, but he was also very pleased. He uses Fedora Workstation and Fedora Server for his front-end development needs. Michael said that he rarely has any issues with Fedora and if he does he is able to quickly solve them. It turns out you can use Fedora as a front-end Developer “in the wild”. Thanks Michael.

It was coming to the end of the conference, and there was very little swag left. Michael was hanging out with his friends near the entrance.

“Hey, Michael, here is some extra swag just for you. I had only 2 t-shirts left. Do you want a medium or a medium?”

“You know what? I have friend who also uses Fedora who is not here but would really love a shirt.”

“Go ahead, take one for your friend too.”

His friends broke into spontaneous applause. What a magical moment. It was just awesome connecting with a small part of the Belarusian Fedora community.

Thank you Rolling Scopes, for hosting us. Thank you to Belarus for a magical experience. Go out and spread the word about Fedora. We should visit different places and different audiences and spread our message.

Featured image courtesy of Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash. Modified by Justin W. Flory.