FESCo Elections: Interview with Stephen Gallagher (sgallagh)

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This is a part of the FESCo Elections Interviews series. Voting is open to all Fedora contributors. The voting period starts on Tuesday, August 8th and closes promptly at 23:59:59 UTC on Monday, August 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 Stephen Gallagher (sgallagh)

  • Fedora Account: sgallagh
  • IRC: sgallagh (found in #fedora-devel, #fedora-server, #fedora-modularity and many others)
  • Fedora User Wiki Page

Questions

What is your background in engineering?

I’ve been working in software development professionally since 2004. I joined Red Hat, Inc. to work on the System Security Services Daemon in 2008 and have subsequently become involved to a greater or lesser extent in many of the open-source communities represented in the Fedora Project. I have worked on many open-source projects over the year, including SSSD, FreeIPA, OpenLMI, rolekit, Fedora Server, Cockpit and Fedora Modularity. In my day-job currently I am working on supporting the development and release of Fedora Modularity through Fedora Server.

Why do you want to be a member of FESCo?

I’ve been a member of FESCo for quite a few years now, and I like to think that it has been beneficial, both to me and the Fedora Community. It provides me an opportunity to see a great deal more of the Project as a whole than I would otherwise see working on only my corner of it, which in turn allows me to focus my efforts on the bigger picture. From the perspective of the Fedora Project, I believe that I’ve been helpful in bringing groups together and navigating their conflicts and integration points.

Describe some of the important technical issues you foresee affecting the Fedora community. What insight do you bring to these issues?

Without a doubt, the biggest technical issues we are going to face in the next few years is going to come from some aspect of the modularity efforts. The world is shifting towards systems that can be updated piecemeal but still work seamlessly and Fedora is uniquely positioned to be a driver of this shift. From containers like OCI, Docker and Flatpak over to modularity and OSTree, we are in the midst of a new era in computing. We need to be ready for this.

For my part, as someone rapidly approaching “old-timer” status in Fedora, I think that I will be able to bring a measure of history and memory to the situation. It’s all well and good to have exciting new technologies to work with, but we also need to keep in mind existing solved problems and make sure we don’t reintroduce them.

What are three personal qualities that you feel would benefit FESCo if you are elected?

First of all, I think my existing time on FESCo, the Fedora Council and numerous other engineering and political organizations in the open-source community means that I have built up a network of contacts and relationships over the years that I can access, both for research and influence purposes.

Secondly, I’ve worked very hard over the years to develop my communication skills such that I’m pretty good at translating, both between two engineers in a dispute and from engineering-speak to manager-speak. In my position at Red Hat, this makes me well-suited to relating the needs of the Fedora Community to the Red Hat management structure and coordinating between the two organizations.

Lastly, I’m passionate about Fedora. I believe strongly in its mission and I work hard to see it reach the goals we set for it.

What is your strongest point as a candidate? What is your weakest point?

I suppose I’m repeating a little bit what I said in the previous question, but I think my strongest point as a candidate is my experience here. I’ve done this job for a long time and I know what it entails, how much effort it is (and how rewarding it can be!).

I always dislike being asked about my “weakest point” in an interview. The obvious answer is to go with the classic “humblebrag” like “I probably care *too* much”. But more honestly, I think my weakest point as a FESCo candidate is that I’m getting to be an “old-timer”. There’s always a risk that I’ll fall into the “well, we have always done it this way” trap. But I try to watch out for that.

Currently, how do you contribute to Fedora? How does that contribution benefit the community?

Today, my full-time job at Red Hat is to work on modularity efforts within the Fedora community in general (and the Fedora Server Edition in specific). I act as the chairman of the Fedora Server SIG, making sure that the Fedora Project as a whole doesn’t forget about its hard-core base of system administrators. I think our efforts in the modularity space will be a huge win for this constituency.

What objectives or goals should FESCo focus on to help keep Fedora on the cutting edge of open source development?

We need to keep finding ways to lower the barriers to entry in the Fedora Project. Open Source won the battle and now it’s the default for hundreds of thousands of valuable projects. We need to keep focusing on Fedora as the best place to integrate all of these projects into something that one can deploy and use. This means adapting our classic approaches to be able to consume projects being developed with newer tools and development styles.

If a past member of FESCo, identify a negative factor you noticed while serving in FESCo. How would you propose to improve on that for the next cycle?

I think the biggest “negative factor” we have in the Fedora Project is in our communication. This is a difficult problem to solve, because we have contributors from all around the world, many of whom understand English as a second or third language. Additionally, nearly all of our communication happens over slow written media such as email or IRC, where it can be difficult to communicate nuances and tone. I think part of FESCo’s responsibility has to be stepping into technical arguments and trying to help find common language to avoid disagreements that are actually misunderstandings. (Yes, I realize that some of this falls into the category of the Community Action and Impact Coordinator and Diversity Advisor roles on the Council, but I think FESCo has a responsibility to at least step in where the confusion is technical.)

Do you believe the Modularity objective is important to Fedora’s success? Is there anything you wish to bring to the modularity efforts?

I wouldn’t call it “important”, I’d call it “vital”. There’s a new wave of computing coming our way and modularity is our strategy for how to ride it rather than being drowned by it. As I noted above, my full-time job is working on getting the modular platform in shape so that we can build atop it.

What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

African, or European?

Closing words

If you read this far, thank you for taking the time.

Categories: Development, Elections

1 Comment

  1. I mentioned this in Adam’s interview too (see longer here), but with regards to communication, I would love to see FESCo either develop a plan or strategy to do monthly updates to the Community Blog. Also, I might consider a communication strategy that directly involves FAmSCo, who is currently trying to find ways to improve the pipeline of technical information to the Ambassadors. I see a significant opportunity for collaboration there.

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