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Fedora Project Leader Robyn Bergeron: Fedora Is More Than Just Software

Red Hat recently appointed Robyn Bergeron as the new Fedora Project Leader. In this exclusive interview Robyn talks about the upcoming release of Fedora (17), the role of a FPL, the relationship between Fedora and Red Hat and much more. Read on…

Swapnil: What is the role of the Fedora Project Leader, what are your KRAs?
Robyn: The role of the FPL is defined on the Fedora Project wiki as:

The Fedora Project Leader (FPL) is ultimately accountable for everything that happens within Fedora and in particular is responsible for maintaining Red Hat’s relationship with Fedora and vice versa. He/She is Fedora’s President, CEO, Chairman, Fearless Leader, whatever-you-want-to-call-it. However the project leader is not a dictator, benevolent or otherwise. The FPL leads the Fedora Project Board and strives to do it by consensus.

There is a certainly latitude to the position. All previous FPLs have brought their own ideas and objectives to the role. My primary responsibilities are delivering the Fedora distribution every six months, keeping the community healthy and vibrant, and ensuring project goals progress.

Robyn Bergeron, Fedora Project Leader

Swapnil: What are the challenges for you as the new FPL? What are your goals?
Robyn:
I will ensure a smooth transition into the role of FPL to continue project momentum.  Ultimately, listening is a huge percentage of this job – understanding the needs of various stakeholders, leaders and contributors and incorporating them into a workable plan for the future.

Swapnil: What kind of relationship is there between Fedora and RHEL? How do they contribute to each other?
Robyn:
The Fedora Project is a global partnership of free software community members. The Fedora Project is sponsored by Red Hat, which invests in our infrastructure and resources to encourage collaboration and incubate innovative new technologies. Some of these technologies may later be integrated into Red Hat products. They are developed in Fedora and produced under a free and open source license from inception, so other free software communities and projects are free to study, adopt, and modify them.

Swapnil: Fedora is always looked at as Red Hat’s project – how does the community works? How much influence does Red Hat have over the development of the project?
Robyn:
Fedora is more than just software – it is a community of contributors from around the world, including volunteers and Red Hat employees, who work with each other to advance the interests of the free culture movement. Everyone is invited to join and, no matter what your skills are, we have a place for you in our community! The Fedora community includes software engineers, artists, system administrators, web designers, writers, speakers, and translators — all of whom will be happy to help you get started.

We believe that all contributors should “be excellent to each other.” By creating an environment for constructive contribution, we can more effectively and successfully compare and challenge different ideas to find the best solutions for advancement, while building the size, diversity, and strength of our community.

Swapnil: Can you tell us more about the growth of the Fedora community? Who can contribute to the project? How can one become a Fedora developer? Do you run programs to engage with new developers?
Robyn:
Anyone can contribute to Fedora.  We do outreach in a number of ways, including through our own FUDCon, as well as through attending and participating in a large number of events each year.  The Fedora Ambassadors are responsible for determining where we will conduct outreach.  They have done  and will continue to do a fantastic job.

Information on how to participate in Fedora can be seen here: http://fedoraproject.org/join-fedora

Our community doesn’t just look for developers.  We have a number of teams for people with a variety of skills.  We have teams dedicated to marketing, design, documentation, translation, and maintaining and developing Fedora’s technology infrastructure.  I think we have opportunities for contribution for everyone.

Swapnil: Fedora 17 is shaping up, can you tell us what new technologies, features will be introduced for system admins?
Robyn:
I’m expecting tons of new features for sysadmins – some of them are very focused on Cloud technologies.  We’ve got a number of IaaS platforms already in Fedora, such as OpenStack and Aeolus, and I’m expecting to see both CloudStack and Eucalyptus added this time around.  Improvements in clustering and high availability technology updates and new ways of doing things.  Virtualization, specifically KVM, will get enhancements, as well.

Swapnil: What new features will be there for developers and users?
Robyn:
For developers, we expect to have a number of updates in languages, including PHP, Ruby, D, and Opa; there are a number of development tools scheduled to be updated as well, including Java 7, Eclipse, and the GCC tool chain.

For users, as always, we have fresh versions of a variety of desktop environments, including GNOME 3, KDE, and Sugar. There are some very cool improvements related to language and keyboard support for India and China.  We’ll also be getting the latest version of GIMP, improvements for networking with Network Manager, and color management for printing, and power management.

Swapnil: What are the other areas where you see there is scope and possibility for reduction in duplication done by different communities?
Robyn:
I think most of the projects upstream of the various distributions make a reasonable effort to take the ownership to reduce duplicate work. While we may see various projects first in one distribution or another, owners generally recognize the value of having their work available in multiple distributions, and that it’s a better way to build exposure and community around their own project. I believe the rest of the work is simply in building better communication and bridges between distributions, and recognizing that we all share common problems – and that’s something that continues to happen on an ongoing basis.

Swapnil: There has always been a confusion around Fedora’s target audience. A general perception is that Fedora is targeted at advanced users/IT admins and is not meant for average home user. Is that true? Who according to FPL is the target user of Fedora?
Robyn
: Our user base is well-defined here: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/User_base

Fedora’s rapid pace of innovation and short life cycle tend to make it more friendly for advanced users, IT admins, and developers; however, it certainly is not unusable for the average home user, and we find that many people who fit in the latter category feel that it meets all of their needs and expectations for a desktop at home. I think we resonate well with people who believe in Freedom, and free-as-in-freedom software; we are a great fit for people who are considering contributing to open source, whether by developing code or developing community infrastructure, such as design or translations.

Swapnil: What do you see as the biggest obstacle for GNU/Linux’s adoption in the desktop market? Do you see Linux will ever have a decent market share in the desktop space?
Robyn:
Right now, it’s most certainly the shift in usage from desktop/laptop computers to devices, such as mobile phones and tablets.  I think it is encouraging to see more-and-more applications that people like to access on a day-to-day basis tend to be web-based, and invariably involve Linux in the chain somewhere.

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Swapnil: Any plans to visit Europe for any Fedora/Red Hat events?
Robyn:
Fedora has a FUDCon (Fedora Users and Developers Conference) in Europe every year, and I will almost certainly attend that event.  The events I attend are somewhat determined by audience, if there is an opportunity to speak, and where we’ll be in the release cycle.

Slideshow Image:
Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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