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:
- those who came into the community, struggled, but stayed with it;
- 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.