Fedora Community

Max Spevack hold a talk about the Fedora Community on 2009 FOSDEM. Which I suggest you listen first before reading on:

Essentially I think Max grabbed the “Community” at the wrong handle. He elaborated a lot about how Red Hat and Fedora  work together and ow they enable people to build uppon the tools that Fedora has invented. Thats all very nice, especially for Red hat. In the last years Fedora often has stated that they do not interfere at all with Ubuntu. This always comes up when people compare the popular success of Fedora to Ubuntu.

Fedora is very developer centric. What Fedora is missing some warmth – some more “family” feeling. Do people feel comfortable? Fedora is also a big testbed for Red Hat – it can look what technologies work or are popular – and which are not. That makes Fedora often bleeding edge – more than a general user might often want. Also the support cycle is much shorter than on Ubuntu. So Fedora is not really a distro you would want to plant on your organisations desktops or servers. You will be forced to update quite often. Fedora moves fast. But thats getting offtopic from the community.

Fact is that trough the developer centricity leads to make the barrier for non-developers harder. One thing is what I already have pointed out in another post is the fact that even when editing the wiki you will have to sign some papers.

My view is that it is very important that the connection between general users and developers is open and flowing. Fedoras style is more a either you are a part of us or you are not.

On April 23rd I will organize my first Ubuntu  Release Party in my hometown. Why not for Fedora? Because essentially also on marketing Fedora INVENTED barriers and  created the Ambassador program, which I interpret as a means to professionalise the marketing efforts. And to make sure that people talk about the right things.

The problem here is that this turns of a lot of general users who are totally capable to talk about Fedora and show people how cool it is and what to do with it. Fedoras problem is that technically it is slightly ahead – but not years, but rather months – and that this alone does not attract people.

From all the talk I can not really see to what audience Fedora is talking. I would say Fedora is for people who want a fairly new Linux as a build platform and do live and like the Red Hat/ Fedora world. So you can use Fedora to develop an application that will work on future versions of Red Hat. Fedora also contributes a lot upstream and so allows work to be transfered outside Red Hat and Fedora.

So in the end that makes Fedora not very attractive neither for general users nor for company desktops – besides being the testbed for Red Hat. Fedora does not seem to have an autonomous agenda and depends highly on Red Hats decision. it does not make much sense for self-employed Linux folks to base their installments on Fedora nor does it make sense for the typical grandpa.

Some people at Fedora might agree and would define Community as this: Developer Community. The problem is that this also means that general users will not participate as whole heartedly as they do (for example at Ubuntu). And to make it clear: Thats a concious decision of Fedora – everything from development, contribution to marketing is organized in a hierarchical way that DOES allow everybody to start contributing but in fact turns a lot of people of.

In my hometown I have not met one guy who uses Fedora. Many early Linux users did use SuSE – and if they were dissatisfied they switched to Ubuntu – and then there is the Debian, Gentoo and FreeBSD crowd. This means nobody ever sees Fedora, this means nobody ever sees Red Hat. If this is a concious business model it is not working here.

What is Fedora missing? I think as a start it should be encouraged to talk about fedora even if you are not an official Fedora Ambassador. Give people something to work with, encourage them to make  Fedora their own. I also had the experience that nobody was willing to give a speak about Fedora at our local Linux conference – actually nobody even answered my plea. But it should be the other way around. Fedora Ambassadors should go out actively and seek for the possibility to show Fedora. And here is also the problem – if only Ambassadors do it, Fedora will be shown in fewer places.

So I think the whole Fedora eco system has a problem and thats why Ubuntu is so much ahead in popularity. And I dont believe you guys that you wouldnt love it if people would adopt  Fedora as much. Technically Fedora is much better than ubuntu, its the better product – but you very miuch have given up the popularity contest, which is sad. Even OpenSuse is doing more in this regard and it shows slowly.

I dont know who does the strategies at Fedora. And maybe you guys are satisfied with the status. But what I think is that in the longterm Fedora will be marginalized, especially when OpenSuse as another RPM based distribution is gaining more ground.

Thats it for now.

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7 Comments

Filed under Free Software, Linux, Programming, Technology, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Fedora Community

  1. Jefferson

    What is Fedora for is answered at

    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Overview

    I would say Fedora is more contributor focussed which is different from being developer focussed and they are very successful in doing so since they have attracted more contributors and they are largest contributors to kernel, Xorg etc among linux distributions. I don’t understand why Fedora should be like every other distribution. They are doing something very useful and good. It might not be a match for what you want but pushing people into doing the same things everybody else is doing isn’t a useful exercise.

    “One thing is what I already have pointed out in another post is the fact that even when editing the wiki you will have to sign some papers.”

    Did you try creating an account recently? It is just a click through process for many many months now.

    “What is Fedora missing? I think as a start it should be encouraged to talk about fedora even if you are not an official Fedora Ambassador”

    You only need to sign up as a ambassadors if you want Fedora Project to refund your expenses and it is a completely voluntary program. Otherwise you are free to talk about Fedora as much as you want and thousands of people do so on a regular basis. You seem to misunderstand the ambassadors program.

    OpenSUSE is growing in large part because they follow the successful community building activities of Fedora as has been openly acknowledged by their community manager. They copied the trademark guidelines, changed their EULA, use smolt from Fedora and many other things.

  2. Ok, but to whom would you recommend Fedora? You say its contributor focused. Does that mean it is only good for those who contribute? OpenBSD is in a sense similar to the Apache project – a project of people who create an operating system in the one instance or a webserver in the other instance from those people who have to install and work with a webserver/OS. I think besides the contributors themselves Fedora is only good for people aho regularily like to reinstall the whole system (at least so they said on install CDs some years ago). Update via CD was not recommended, or better was second best to a new install and the last thing you should do is update via YUM while it is running.

    Thats where I think OpenBSD has the best attitude, because it consists of ver few stable file sets and on top of it there are packages – and part of the base system is Apache and since some weeks also smtpd (which replaces as a homegrown software finally sendmail). This base OpenBSD you can mostly have installed for years without updating. And you can patch those files and code which has a security issue – which is very rare.

    On Fedora OTOH the support cycle is about 13 months – they you will have to update (not recommended) or reinstall. I found that not very practical. See also Wikipedia switch away from Fedora/Red Hat: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/13/wikimedia_goes_ubuntu/ .

    I think the idea that new is always better and always a welcomed progress is wrong. Fedora thinks so, Foresight Linux does so also – and partly Ubuntu Desktop.

    I would not say new technology is always bad – but is a risk. Linux switches technologies very often (ipfwadm, ipchains, iptables,…) – some like Linus Torvalds see this itself as an indicator for a progressing Linux. Personally I rather believe that the kernel of an operating system should be rather made more secure and if extended those features should not be too short lived.

    Although I know about Fedoras mission and goals – its still unclear for me where it is heading and who would want to use it.

  3. Jefferson

    I personally used it a regular home desktop system and for clustering environments which often needs the latest software and so do a lot of people for different needs looking at

    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Statistics

    What they use it for is up to them and every individual’s choice. Linus Torvalds does and so does NASA. It is flexible enough to meet the needs of a wide variety of users. It has a good PPC base. People who want get their stuff into a future RHEL release. I see people from Dell, Intel, Oracle and IBM among the Fedora contributors. A lot of contributors like the active community with a good partnership with the brilliant engineers at Red Hat who are the top contributors even on the desktop. I would recommend it to people who want to give something back to free and open source and also to people who are like or want the very latest software.

    I always yum upgrade my boxes to a newer release on the desktops and never had any issues. I doubt you even tried it. The Preupgrade tool which you seem to completely unaware of is just great. You should check it out. On any system though, upgrade is by nature a more problematic thing. You can’t move from LVM1 to LVM2 in a live upgrade regardless of the distribution. Nor will you be able to move from say Ext4 to Btrfs in the future.

    I have read horror stories about Ubuntu upgrades on the net (just google for them) and the Debian upgrade notes are pages and pages long full of known issues. So what? Anyone with a clue will have a good data backup anyway.

    Wikipedia has always been Debian oriented for a long time (I know their sys admins) and they never used anything Red Hat. Just some old Fedora Core 2 boxes and it is good that they shifted to something that fits their use more and is a currently maintained release especially since Canonical is offering them free support in exchange for some press. I don’t see why I should particularly care though. It is all Linux.

  4. > I always yum upgrade my boxes to a newer release on the desktops and never had any issues. I doubt you even tried it.

    Wrong, I did. I left Fedora 2006 – so I can not talk about every new release – i could only if I would test every release. But I am not just talking trash here without any experience. The Yum Upgrade FAQ says “Although upgrades with yum have been tested and work, live upgrades are not recommended by the Fedora Project. If you are not prepared to resolve issues on your own if things break, you should probably use the recommend installation methods instead.”

    if you do upgrade via yum you will not get any support. In the past I had the same issues with test releases. If you are smart you can work with a test release and then upgrade to a stable release – but if you are not you will also have to reinstall. I was not aware of the preupgrade tool.

    About backups: Actually I think backups dont make a lot of sense when upgrading. If an upgrade fails you eventually will not want to go back to the old status but rather make a fresh install of the new system. I am talking about installations with an extra /home partition. What you most likely want is to save the status of installed packages, so you can feed that back to the installer.

    Wikipedia: As far as I recall, Wikipedia has always used a mix of Red Hat and Fedora. I dont know your sources, but thats what I had read. See also http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Ubuntu_migration_FAQ

  5. Jefferson

    I upgrade via yum and I get support all the time. There is even a special interest group in Fedora that explicitly tests and helps out on such issues.

    http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/SIGs/LiveUpgrade

    At any rate, PreUpgrade works just as well and is a completely supported option mentioned in the same FAQ you quote from.

    Never had a real problem with either of these options. If there are issues, filing bug reports has always been met with either fixes or explanations as to why.

    Backups always make sense. If you have a good backup, you can go back to a old release or fresh install a new release. Both are valid choices and users do both as they wish.

    My source is the actual admins there. Red Hat now is Red Hat Enterprise which as the FAQ indicate they never used. They had mostly FC2 boxes and maybe one or two very very old Red Hat Linux systems, none of which were ever maintained. They didn’t update it ever and had gaping security issues on the servers for a long time. Glad they finally managed to consolidate on something they actually maintain.

  6. I often had issues when updating with yum (not only with an upgrade to a new release) your preupgrade method requires a reboot of the system, which means that system is down while updating a package. I think this is basically the same method as you choose to update from CD and means your system is down for quite some time – which is especially an issue for production servers. Just to say that might not be a solution for everybody. Sure a fresh install is often the nicest solution for an update if you can do it. Removes a lot of old cruft also.

  7. Jefferson

    I manage thousands of systems and yum upgrade/ preupgrade is not a problem at all. We can afford a few mins of downtime after some careful planning with a few staging systems like anyone responsible should be doing. For enterprise systems, we pay for enterprise class services. RHN Satellite rocks.

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