When a newcomer, let’s call her “Jen”, comes to Fedora and looks for where to begin, the general workflow she is introduced to is quite task-oriented. “Find something to do, get started, learn along the way, ask if you have a question” we say. We have easyfix and What Can I do for Fedora (wcidff) designed to quickly help Jen find something to do, for example. The idea, of course, is that Jen will familiarise herself with the tools, the processes, and the people while she works on this task. This works sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on what Jen has picked to do. Sometimes the learning curve is too steep—there are too many tools and processes to learn. Sometimes Jen works on her task in isolation and is too scared to ask questions they think are “silly”. Sometimes Jen just gets too busy to keep working on it.

Fedora is about hanging out with friends

Over the years, we’ve noticed that the people who contribute and stick around are those that form links with the people in Fedora. Not the tasks, not the processes, the people. Fedora, after all, is first a community of people. Our goal as a community is to promote free and open source software both the philosophy and the software. The deliverables, the OS, the goodies, all the material we produce release after release are tools to achieve this.

So, we had a thought. Why not help Jen become part of the community—get to know the people—first? While she gets to know the people and explore Fedora, she can learn how the community does things and see what they would like to do. If she doesn’t have the time/resources to contribute, she can just hang out with all of us.

Jen does not have to be an active contributor to be part of the Fedora community. Jen can be a community member and pitch in when she has the time/resources/skills/inclination.

The new workflow

We proposed this workflow to Mindshare sometime back and got some feedback. In general, people agree that this is worth trying out. So, the new workflow goes something like this:

  • Jen comes to Fedora and wants to contribute. She’s new to Fedora and not sure where to start.
  • Jen speaks to people in the community and is encouraged to speak to the Join SIG. Jen can be redirected to our landing page. (https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Join is a description of contributor roles—we do not want newcomers to start with this page)
  • Jen gets in touch with the Join SIG using whatever channels she prefers.
  • The Join SIG helps Jen set up her Fedora Account, and opens a “hello world” ticket on the Pagure project for her.
  • We help Jen explore Fedora—the teams, the people, the tools and processes. We can add Jen to an FAS group temporarily to give her rights to edit the wiki (and create their user pages), for example. (Currently, the infra team does this via the wikiedit FAS group).
  • While Jen integrates into Fedora and finds a part that she’d like to contribute in, we check with her at regular intervals using the ticket, helping her if needed. The ticket will be closed when Jen has joined her area of interest in Fedora and has changed from a newcomer to a community member who can pass on what she’s learned to others.

Where are we now

We’re getting things up and running. A few implementation details need to be worked out. Please jump right in and get involved. Here are the tickets we’ve filed so far:

Please join the Join SIG

The new model is an active model. At each step, whether it is the initial contact, or the follow up process, it needs community members from different parts of Fedora in the channels to remain in touch with newcomers. Only then will Jen learn about all that goes on in Fedora. Only then will Jen feel part of the community. So, to start with, we need a critical mass of contributors. As more newcomers join, learn, become contributors, the system will hopefully become self-sustaining. But at the moment, we need the initial investment. So, please make yourself available on the different Fedora Join communication channels and spend a few minutes a day monitoring them to see if there are any queries that have gone unanswered:

The ticketing based workflow is rather simple but even then it needs a few people to help with day to day housekeeping. If you have some time to spare, please consider joining the Fedora Join SIG. An e-mail to the mailing list will suffice.

Last, but not least, if you come across people who would like to contribute but do not know where to start, please send them to the Join SIG.

Improving and evolving the system

Like any other new initiative in Fedora, this is an experiment. As we go along, we’ll analyse our progress, and improve the overall process. This workflow is not mandatory for anyone to follow either. If newcomers are aware of what they want to do, they can jump right in as they do now. This workflow is primarily aimed people that are not already so sure of where they can contribute. The goal is to give the community a single place to redirect them.