Friday, September 24, 2010

Restructure for the sake of progress.

There has recently been a lot of chatter about the future of Fedora, vision statements, goals, progress and where to go from here. I would like to voice my opinion on the topic and for all who disagree please let me know why and voice your solution because I am always open to new ideas and I am definitely not saying this is the only way to continue or to solve the current issues but its the idea I had.

First off, what's the problem? Well from my perspective there are a few but I only want to focus on a couple right now: There's a lack of focus which makes marketing really difficult as there are so many things to promote and we have such a breadth of innovation wrapped up together offering a multitude of solutions which is confusing for newcomers. This is something I would like to think that we as a project aren't fond of. Others might have opinions of what they think are problems and they might very well be problems, but these are the ones that I personally think I can offer an idea for solution.

Our lack of focus is pure marketing pain: This rounds out a bit of the recent talks about Vision Statement which I'm not against as many appear to be and I think the blog post from Thorwil nails this right on the head. What can we do, where can we go and how do we do it without breaking up the community? My proposal for this is to continue the Fedora Project in a similar manner as it is going now but to migrate a little on how the Fedora Distribution is handled. I think we as a group should focus on the concept of a "Fedora Experience" and ask ourselves "What makes Fedora, Fedora?" I think we need to strip out a lot of our ambiguity for the official Fedora Distribution. Lets get rid of the KDE LiveCD, lets throw out the Spins, and lets let the Fedora Distribution focus purely on the default Gnome offering along with all that entails as a start to finish desktop experience, the "Fedora Experience". Now before you get angry and want to throw me to the sharks please just read on and save the flame mob until the end. I just don't see a way to be able to carry on the way we are while continuing to grow adoption. If we refocus on just one installation of one environment then we are decreasing the strain of the documentation team, the QA team, release engineering, the design team, the marketing team, and others who partake in the wonders of the Fedora Distribution as we've stripped out the ambiguity of "Its Fedora because it came from" or "It's Fedora because its all one package repository" and we just focus on one environment.

"But Adam, you're just pissing people off and they will leave the project"

This is true and this is false, this is inevitable and its completely avoidable, this is heavily a loaded statement. My idea is that we will restructure ourselves into forking off brands who operate under the same parent project, The Fedora Project. The idea is that those of us interested in KDE (or $other) will break off and make "Kepi Linux" (random name I selected for sake of example) and what is Kepi Linux? Kepi Linux is a distribution of linux focused on delivering a KDE centric experience that is based on the Fedora Project, it is a brand. I'd like to take a moment to quickly direct everyone's attention to Steve Yegge's talk at OSCON 2007 it's only about 25 minutes but if you don't have that kind of time the jist is, "The look, feel, packaging, and naming of a product, i.e. the brand, is more powerful than the function." I want people to take that and think about it hard for a moment because as much as you'd like to argue it at first, when you mull it over you know its true in at least some capacity. So back to the Kepi Linux example, now we have this new brand, new identity, and new outlet that packagers and developers can come together an work on that allows the specific group to focus on their own space. Essentially the KDE SIG within the Fedora Project would be the driving force behind Kepi Linux. As long as it is structured such that we are still using the same package repository, still using the same build environment, same bugzilla instance (maybe with some changes for branding), the same account system, continue contributing code, content, and packages to the same project and still share the same over all goal of leading the advancement of free, open software and content then I think we can still as the community at large stick together while being slightly more focused on our own areas (brands).

This idea probably isn't perfect and I understand that a paradigm shift like this would require a *LOT* of work from a lot of people but I think it would be a positive change in the long run. If we were to make Kepi Linux we could even have an "About Us" page that describes how we are the KDE SIG and that Kepi Linux is a sub project of the Fedora Project but is different from the Fedora Distribution, this way we are removing the confusion from new users because if they want Fedora and they go to there is one option, period. We are removing the over saturation of the Fedora brand which I like to think will result positively.

Just my thoughts on the topic, take them for what you will.



Kevin Kofler said...

This "separate brands" idea is what Ubuntu is doing. It draws all sorts of complaints from the Kubuntu community, as it effectively makes KDE a second-class citizen in Ubuntu land. Do we really want to copy this? Why do we have to copy everything Ubuntu does?

I think we should be doing the exact opposite, reduce the focus on the "One True Spin" (in fact, I want to outright eliminate it), instead having a set of equally-positioned primary offerings (GNOME, KDE and whatever else draws enough interest to qualify as "primary", be it LXDE, Xfce, Server, Sugar and/or whatever) replacing the one default.

Rezza said...

I would even go further than Kevin - to the Fedora/Red Hat roots, to the time when it was showroom of the best Free Software (or no showroom, we want users to actually use it!). It does not depend if it is G, K, X, Y or Z but we're F! Fedora from Freedom, Friends, Features, First - our values! We should ship best free and open software available - from all camps, no barriers, no walls! I really liked the vision picture from Mairin's link - all pulling the same rope, same Fedora - the best free OS. We don't want to be just and average Gnome upstream dump as Desktop spin (or Plasma Desktop one). Just like other distros :( With proper integration, we can be more! I see a few problems:
1. some people are just blind (nothing personal, Adam, Kevin :-), they see only one character...
2. is just a fail - no one leads it, no interface reviews... nothing... Red Hat/Fedora should take care more as we're leaders in free desktop
3. even Canonical cares more about proper integration, best offer to their users...

Please, please! We can work together!!! We can be best (or at least lead!). Like we were a few years ago and we failed (that's why we need to reconsider it and move one step back).

Devine said...

I think Rezza is exactly right - and though I understand that the current configuration has marketing issues I still think it is the best configuration.

Also, why anybody would want to ship yet another generic Gnome distro anyway is beyond me.

Market Fedora as Fedora - give noobs the DVD and they can click Next Next Next Next... to get the generic Gnome desktop and nobody gets hurt right? If they want to check out KDE then they can install that from the DVD instead and if they know which one they want to stick with they can start using the LiveCDs to install just the one they want like everybody else.

Christofer C. Bell said...

I think the biggest problem facing this entire "vision statement" endeavor is that it's impossible to distill Fedora down to a single catch phrase as it's a *general purpose* operating system.

Microsoft's "Where do you want to go today?" works because it captures the essence of what Windows is - a general purpose operating system that doesn't limit what you can do with it (within the context of that ecosystem).

Fedora's drive towards a vision statement is a drive towards restricting the audience of the product. "It's for developers (not users)." "It's for users (not developers)." "It's for hobbyists (not serious use)." "It's for serious use (not hobbyists)." Yes, the parenthesis are mine to show how any single "vision" that tries to define what Fedora is excludes someone else. And that's not what Fedora is about. It's a general purpose operating system. Having a single "this is what Fedora is" vision statement implies that it's not something else. I feel that this particular adventure is doomed to failure.

Nathan said...

I use the Xfce Spin, and there's a definite 'feel' to the Fedora Xfce environment that is different to, say, Xubuntu, or Debian Xfce, or Slackware, even though I couldn't pin it down to anything specific. I chose to stick with Fedora partly because I liked this particular feel. I wouldn't be able to say whether all the spins share the same je ne sais quoi (although when I read other people's experiences of the GNOME and KDE spins they sound familiar), but it does suggest there is something distinctive about Fedora that comes across regardless of the desktop environment. It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of people who are familiar with more than one spin on this.

Rex said...

Heck, part of me likes your ideas here. This could help solve some common uncertainties around fedora right now. Things like "what is fedora?" and the use/status of the classic (dvd) installer.

Consider taking this idea some steps further,
1. define fedora as the classic distribution, with it's official/standard (dvd) installer.
2. Consider all spins, including fedora desktop(gnome) as derivatives with their own branding, etc...

Jon Stanley said...

I like this and I don't. First of all, the splintering of branding is a problem, as Kevin mentions. As you yourself say, "the brand is everything" - without it, any Fedora-based KDE spin is going to fail (speaking as a GNOME user myself). Also, you mention having less load on QA/releng/etc, but I don't see this further on, when you talk about "using the same buildsystem and tools" - the two are mutually exclusive. Either you have all the requirements that go along with it (you wouldn't want to have Fedora associated with an inferior product) or you completely desert it and say "you're on your own now", much as we have (unfortunately, but understandably - money doesn't grow on trees) done with secondary arches. I don't really see too much of a middle ground.


tezcatlix said...

I don't like any of these marketers douchebaggings: i'm a teacher on a K12 school at Mexico and we choose Fedora as our Linux migration distro not for his "awesome-just-one-option-branding". We choose it because we tested LXDE, Sugar and Xfce spins and LXDE had the best performance and optionally we could install SoaS to our children to let them try our distro on his PCs at home.

In the process of taking a decision, as other options were Lubuntu (we dropped it 'cause his outdated packages), i knew more about the community and even not being perfect, i like it and now i'm ambassador for my country.

So, we don't like Fedora as it were a Coke or McDonals shit: we'll buy it even not functioning "just for its branding". No, we choose it based on *his functions* and *his community*.

Please, don't make my distro another friggin'copy of Canonical crap.

Jesús Franco (tezcatl on FAS)

lamiss ibrahim said...