This is a part of the FESCo Elections Interviews series. Voting is open to all Fedora contributors. The voting period starts on Friday, 21 May and closes promptly at 23:59:59 UTC on Thursday, 3 June 2021.

Interview with Robbie Harwood

  • Fedora Account: rharwood
  • IRC: rharwood (found in #fedora-devel, #fedora-aaa, others as needed)
  • Fedora User Wiki Page


Why do you want to be a member of FESCo and how do you expect to help steer the direction of Fedora?

I believe that my perspective as a security/systems developer will be useful on FESCo. I want Fedora to appropriately weigh technical considerations against social pressures, which we have had trouble with in the past. In particular, we have overly bowed to social pressure for invasive, non-ready changes, and stuck with them long after their state became clear. Our actions have consequences, and changes should not be rushed through.

Beyond that, my agenda is to make being a package maintainer as simple, low-effort, and friendly as we can without compromising our security story. After all, the less time we have to spend packaging, the more time we can spend on Features (and of course bugfixes for the features).

How do you currently contribute to Fedora? How does that contribution benefit the community?

I develop our Kerberos stack. Kerberos is of course a central part of Fedora infrastructure, but is also a core part of Fedora’s security capabilities. (libkrb5 is part of the minimal install.)

As part of working on Kerberos, I also work on FreeIPA. FreeIPA is the backend for Fedora’s identity system, as well as for several other distros. It is also a gated release requirement for Fedora itself.

How should we handle cases where Fedora’s and Red Hat Enterprise Linux’s needs conflict in an incompatible way?

Any divergence from the rest of the ecosystem (RHEL as well as other distros) comes with an extra maintenance burden for being different. Sometimes that’s worth doing, but we need to pick our battles intentionally.

Most of the time, our goals are in accord with RHEL, but alignment should not be taken as inevitable. After all, if the goals were the same, there wouldn’t be a point in having separate distros.

So if we need to do things differently, that’s perfectly fine and we should be prepared to do so. But most of the time our goals are going to overlap and we need to not lose sight of that. In the past we have been generally successful at aligning: RHEL developers usually prioritize “Fedora first”, and as a result we frequently benefit from that innovation. Similarly, our goals with most other Linux distros overlap in many respects: I don’t want to lose sight of our connection to the broader ecosystem either. For the same reasons we practice “Fedora first”, we need to practice “upstream first” as well – with all the same caveats.

Fedora is also more than just a single Linux distro, and nothing stops different parts from aligning with consumers differently: for instance, ELN is expected to align even more closely with RHEL than Fedora Linux.

What else should community members know about you or your positions?

I’m interested in what we can do to prevent maintainer burnout. We have more (thankless) labor that needs to happen in order to maintain “business as usual” than we have maintainers to do it. Other than reducing the amount of work to be done, that leaves attracting more people to do it and increasing collaboration. For instance, some SIGs are cross-distro maintenance efforts: I think we should encourage and expand this kind of collaboration where possible.