Alex Hudson

Thoughts on Technology, Product, & Strategy

Developing a “Fedora Welcome SIG”

This is a follow-up post to my previous one.

I was really pleased with the feedback on my idea for Fedora Greeters, from both established Fedora community members and not. Equally, I got feedback offline as well – and I should make it clear right now that I’m more than happy to receive such communication; the amount of trepidation shown by some I think just highlights some of the problems.

One thing which is really interesting is that much of the feedback wasn’t of the form, “Yeah, I agree, [this thing] sucks and really needs to be improved”. People decided to give me, instead, their own story – you can see a couple of them in the comments of my blog. Of course, these are just anecdotes and must be treated carefully, but I thought it was extremely interesting that people approached the issue in a manner more like, “Well, this was my experience..”

This has convinced me that a SIG in this area is, at the very least, worth of some investigation and work. So, I’ve started a wiki page properly for this, and set up an IRC channel at #fedora-welcome. I need to migrate the previous stuff I wrote, but I’ll get on that today. What I would love is for those who expressed interest in this work to contribute their ideas and experiences.

I think what’s particularly important is to work on actual problems first: what are the things which new users find tough? Seasoned members of the Fedora community, which I kind of count myself in, are probably those that would find this the most difficult to comprehend, simply because we’re furthest away from the experience of the problem.

Some of these problems are undoubtedly technical: I’ve seen a number of people totally fail to setup dual-boot systems (either with Windows or just another distro) a number of times, and it’s one of those things that is actually tough for a new user to fix once it has gone wrong. Sadly, though, it’s going to be really tough to talk about some of these things with any kind of data, though: at least initially, I suspect the SIG is going to have to work anecdotally because we really don’t have the information about what goes wrong for people (either technically, socially, or otherwise).

Part of me also wonders if part of being a welcoming community is having the ability and the resources to say goodbye to people: or, at least, see you soon. What data the community has right now – via smolt, package updates, that kind of thing – is about how people use Fedora right now. We have very little information about why people don’t use Fedora after trying it – what made them leave? What went wrong? This information is all key to a Welcome SIG, though, because really there are two classes of users we need to address:

  1. those who came into the community, struggled, but stayed with it;
  2. those who came into the community, struggled, and left.

I actually think those distinctions are as important, if not more important, than whether or not someone was a power-user on another O/S or a complete IT newcomer. While the Welcome SIG absolutely needs to address the needs of those in category 1), I think for it to be truly successful we have to address the group in category 2) – either bringing them back, or helping prevent them leaving in the first place.

One last thought. A couple of people asked about whether we were trying to help people who might be users, or those who might also contribute. But one commenter on my previous post, Dave S, said: “Any tool that eases the trip through the learning curve nightmare helps transform a newb into an evangelist”. I think that actually spells out the motivation in one simple, powerful statement: this SIG isn’t about getting people into Fedora and making it easier for them to use. It’s about turning that first impression into a positive experience, and have the people who come into contact with Fedora take away nothing but enthusiasm and good vibes. Even if Fedora isn’t for them, let’s make them feel positive enough that they can still recommend it to friends. And I think that’s quite a high bar to set.

 

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5 Comments

  1. bochecha

    One thing that we have been doing for a few years now and which works really well in Paris is to have a monthly “welcome desk” in a fixed place, where people can come and chat, ask their questions, or bring their computer to get help.

    Perhaps one aspect of this Welcome SIG could be to list people who volunteer to meet people in real life and help them with their problems?

    Something like:

    “””
    Need some help?

    First try those online resources, but if the problem is too har to diagnose remotely, then you can contact one of the persons below and arrange a face to face meeting.
    “””

    Then the list would be organized by area of mobility for those contributors (e.g “I can’t go outside of New York” or “I travel so often that I can cover the whole of China”), so that people don’t try to contact someone from another country. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’d volunteer to do that in Hong Kong!

  2. Alex

    I think that’s a wonderful idea. This would be one of the areas where the SIG would overlap with an existing team – the Fedora Ambassadors – and in many ways I would hope that all the Welcome SIG would do in this instance is work alongside the Ambassadors to help create an experience for people new to Fedora that’s at least good enough that they will stick with the O/S. Ambassadors do a great job of promoting Fedora, and there are some great support resources within Fedora, and I would definitely see the Welcome SIG as helping provide a bridge between the two.

  3. bochecha

    > “This would be one of the areas where the SIG would overlap with an existing team โ€“ the Fedora Ambassadors”

    I’m an ambassador, so of course that kind of overlaps. ๐Ÿ™‚

    However, ambassadors are not necessarily very technical people, so they can’t always help others fix their problems. But they are actively seeking out promoting Fedora, whereas the group of people I envisioned in my previous comment would wait for others to contact them and bring up their issues.

    So yes, there would be some overlap, but I don’t think such a group would ยซ step on the toes ยป of the ambassadors group. Plus, most ambassadors would end up participating in this group as well. ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. Alex

    Yes, exactly. When I say “overlap” I really mean a partial overlap: there would be many things that a Welcome SIG would want to help with / change / lead on, and this could be in combination with Ambassadors, or members of the website team, or marketing, or who knows else. I think the important thing is to communicate well with the other SIGs, follow their lead in their area, and ensure that the contributions made are positive ones. But yes, I mean, I’m an ambassador too – and I just see this as another resource which Ambassadors can make use of when promoting Fedora. Few things would help convince people to try it, I think, than the knowledge that there’s a group of friends waiting to welcome them into the fold ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. It is a great effort, and I’m willing to help as much as I can. I do know many who have experienced Fedora and had problems with it; many of which are now using other distributions. I think I can provide some help at least in identifying problematic areas for new users.

    Keep up the good work

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