Flock formally known as FUDCon was in the US this year. It was the second time for me to travel to another continent to do something Fedora-related. In Spring we went to India to attend nullcon and doing our own outreach thing at the Amrita University at Kerala. As we don’t do the event marathon anymore, it’s OK for me to spend five days of my vacation time on something I believe in.
Different to other years I split this blog post into different posts to keep them shorter and focused on one thing. This one is the general overview post.
One disappointment was that there where a lot of “State of X” talk. I kind of don’t understand why, because the organization team wanted Flock do be a “do” event, announced it that way, and mentioned this a one criteria for sessions to be accepted. My guess is that it heavily depends on if it’s an objective or not. If it’s an objective then you are good otherwise not. I will be the person that complains here. There are always people who are looking for something to complain, right?. As one who was in the driver seat for organizing a FUDCon and several of the largest Fedora presences in Europe in the last decade I know what I’m talking about and the “step up or shut up” (if we are talking about FUDCon it only fair to use a term from that period in time) paradigm is not applicable here. Sorry.
Everything in one place is the way it should be. If the conference is at the same location where you sleep then you don’t need to move around a lot. It’s a bit risky to share a room with a person you never met before but I was lucky again. Like in the past I was able to learn a thing or two about the country where the room mate was from. For me it was a bit wired to see a security bar for securing the terrace door but it seems reasonable because outside was a golf course. Thanks to the dehumidifier in our room the humidity was not over 80%.
Back to the conference…During the “State of the Union” Matt talked about a lot of fires. There are a lot of fires but fires keep us warm. I always liked the fast pace Fedora is taking. If you explore new things the chance for a failure is there even if the fire was huge in the beginning. This is not limited to one particular group in Fedora. Also, fires which were high burning in the past are just left alone to die.
At one point in time. Sorry, can’t remember if it was during the pitching or Matt’s talk. The audience was asked about their involvement in packaging and interestingly a lot hands were thrown in the air. This leads to the question why is there such a huge backlog of review requests? I personally stopped to do reviews and submitting them as it feels more and more as a waste of time. On the other hand packages are the foundation of our distribution. Well, that not an objective and will not be addressed during a setup like Flock.
My session was a complete disaster. It will go into history as one of the three session, I know of, which didn’t had a single attendee. To me the issue is clear: it’s not an objective thus you fly some much under the radar that you are invisible. Or simply people don’t care about it. Last year I had 6 or 7 people for the same session and we discussed a couple of things and worked on issues. Now I’m pretty much alone. I perfectly agree to focus on the objectives and Workstation/Server/Cloud but Labs are bringing diversity. Most distributions are doing different kind of products and some of our Labs are unique which makes them great talking points. At a conference for Graphic design nobody cares about Atomic, Modularity or that we have a Workstation Edition but the Design Suite is something which could attract designers or artists.
Talking about diversity. There was a workshop about this topic. While spending over 20 years of my professional life in an engineering and highly technical area of the industry which is dominated my males, I became interested in the topic of diversity a while back. Thus it’s only natural to be interested about the diversity in the Fedora community as well. Most Open Source communities are formed out of an over represented group. You know which group I mean. I’m part of that group and you perhaps too.
Sure, it would be nice if the community is more multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-age, multi-gender, and multi-*. The problem is that Fedora is very much in the end of the line and there is only a certain amount of contributors. The society still defines the role allocation of females and males. This leads to the present situation. At least in Switzerland there are a couple of initiative on-going to bring underrepresented groups like women into the tech or engineering world. Unfortunately we will see the outcome from the “Töchtertag” (in US “Take our daughters to work day”) only in the next 5 to maybe 15 years. In the short term we will not see much change. In engineering classes (computer science, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering) at most Swiss universities the female representation is still under 10%. In wood work engineering even below 5%.
It already pretty hard to get new contributor out of the over represented group. Nowadays there are a lot of Open Source communities active and the people usually join multiple communities and spread their time where they think that they have the biggest benefit. Over the past couple of years we found in average one new contributor at an event. Not with a T-Shirt or a Surface Pro but because he was intrinsically motivated.
70% of the top contributors are not paid by Red Hat at least this is the message of a slide from 2016. But when it comes to Flock it’s the other way around 30 % or less are not Red Hat employees. Due to the simple fact that the typical Fedora contributor is a volunteer he or she will never be able to put in a 40 hours week to work on Fedora. Also, spending 1/4 of the available holidays per year on one event is a blocker. Diversity starts right under our noses. We may like it or not.
For the future we need to make sure that we don’t end up doing the “Old wine in new bottles” things and change things for the sake of change or because they are old. If there is an alleged new ideas or a solution for something it’s needed go through the archives because some contributors have had good ideas in the past already.
Overall Flock was a nice experience. My goal was to get in touch with people out of the Fedora community I didn’t know before and not to talk to the same bunch of people over and over again during the conference. When it comes to spare time, of course, I hung around with guys I have a history with. The US was different than I expected but most people are very helpful and friendly. It’s strange to see prices and to know that it’s not the amount you have to pay because the taxes are not included. I guess that it would require more than 4 days to get used to that :-).