Fedora Engineering Steering Council badge, awarded after Fedora Elections - read the Interviews to learn more about candidates

Fedora Engineering Steering Council badge

This is a part of the FESCo 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 Jared Smith (jsmith)

  • Fedora Account: jsmith
  • IRC: jsmith (usually in #fedora-admin, #fedora-devel, #fedora-docs, #fedora-arm)
  • Fedora User Wiki Page

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

I have used Fedora since FC1, and was using Red Hat Linux before that.  I don’t really remember exactly when I started contributing back to the Fedora community — maybe the FC2 or FC3 time-frame.  I’ve worked on lots of different things in Fedora, including the docs team and the ARM team and the Security Team (just to name a few).  I’m a former Fedora Project Leader, and am a Fedora packager and Ambassador.

Do you think Fedora should be time based or more feature driven distribution? Or compromise?

I think we’ve got a healthy balance between the two — we aim for a time-based release schedule, but slip the date when we find things that aren’t ready for the release.  Of course, I want to help ensure that the features going into a release are both compelling and solid enough for a good user experience.  If we were to move to either of the extremes, I’m afraid we’d be doing our community (of both developers and end users) a great deal of harm.

What are the most pressing issues facing Fedora today (from engineering POV)? What should we do about them?

As always, there are tooling and platform issues as the project continues to mature and the underlying environments and languages mature over time.  For example, the transition to Python 3 is pressing issue, and one that will require a lot of developer and administrator time to get right.  I also think that it’s incumbent upon us to finish the “Fedora.NEXT” work and finish forming the guidelines around the “rings” concept that our project leader has articulated.

Another pressing issue is keeping up with the changing technology landscape without compromising our principles or getting spread too thin.

What are your interests and experience outside of Fedora? What of those things will help you in this role?

I’m involved in a lot of other open source communities, including the Asterisk voice-over-IP platform and various web applications like Drupal and WordPress.  I’m also interested in electronics and IoT (and hoping that we can learn from the mistakes of the past before IoT becomes a giant mess).  I also enjoy photography and flying drones.

I’m not sure if any of that would really help me in my role, other than perhaps giving me a broader perspective on the open source ecosystem at large.  I also know that if I get too stressed or unbalanced that I can spend some time behind the camera lens to calm myself down.

Anything else voters should know?

I currently work remotely from Virginia in the USA for a large web hosting company, but I’m looking to change jobs soon.  If you are interested in hiring me or know someone who might be, please feel free to reach out to me.

How can FESCo do a better job communicating with the rest of the Fedora community? Or do you feel that FESCo is already doing well here?

I think FESCo does a pretty good job of communicating, but of course there’s always room for improvement.  In my opinion, the most important part of communication is always the listening part — and if I’m elected to FESCo, I’ll do my best to listen to people from throughout the community and strive to understand their concerns.

Another important aspect of communications is making sure that when we make decisions, that we also communicate the reasoning behind those decisions.  I don’t think it’s enough to just say “We decided X” — it’s much more transparent and effective to say “We decided X for reasons Y and Z.  We considered W and V as well, but felt they weren’t the best alternatives for the project.”  Sometimes it’s hard to articulate those things (especially in the IRC meeting notes), but I feel it’s important to do.

What can you accomplish as part of FESCo that you couldn’t accomplish as a regular contributor to Fedora?

I can’t think of any one individual thing that I can accomplish as part of FESCo that I couldn’t as a regular contributor, but I think that by serving as part of FESCo that my contributions can go even farther in making the community (and by extension, the distribution) a better place.

With the advent of the Fedora Council, what do you see as the significance of FESCo in the Fedora Project?

FESCo is charged with steering the technical direction of the project — and while FESCO derives its rights and responsibilities from the Council, it has an obligation to inform the council about technical issues and be the governing body that takes primary responsibility for the technical decisions that arise within the project.

Do you think FESCo can help with the reduction of the backlog of >400 packages awaiting review?

FESCo doesn’t have any direct tools that I can use to help with the packaging backlog, but what it can do is encourage packagers to do reviews, encourage sponsors to sponsor new packagers, encourage packagers to become sponsors, and to continue to ensure that Fedora is a place where technical contributors enjoy giving back and help build something bigger than themselves.

What is your point of view about library bundling in packages?

This is one of those areas that tends to get people quite excited, and I could probably go on for a long time about this topic, so let me see if I can lay out my point of view with a few short bullet points.

  • I understand the historical reasons for avoiding the use of bundled libraries in Fedora, and think the decisions were right for the time.
  • That being said, I don’t think it’s a “good vs. bad” decision — it’s not as easy as that.  Instead of being a black and white issue, I think it’s an area with many shades of gray in between.  There are several nuances (such as true copylibs vs. bundled shared libraries) that need to be explored for any given package or situation.
  • I wish that our packaging system more easily allowed for explaining where on the scale a particular package falls with regards to bundling.  (I’m reminded of a talk that Tom Calloway gave at SouthEast Linux Fest several years ago, where he assigned points to packaging nightmares or other undesirable features.)  Maybe rather than having a blunt “yes/no” decision, we have a system where only packages with a low number of “points” can be packaged in Fedora.
  • Given the constraints that we’re under, I think the current policy is a balanced approach that recognizes the dangers inherent in allowing bundled libraries, while still allowing flexibility where needed to address the real world that we live in.
  • Last but not least, I think we as a community did ourselves a huge disservice in the way we communicated both within our community and to other open source communities during the last debate and set of decisions on this subject.  Whether we like it or not, the tone we choose to use when we communicate with others matters, and in this particular case, that tone was quite offensive to one of the upstream communities.