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You & Oblivion

Communication Anti-Patterns

24 August 2016 by jzb

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I’m old and grumpy. I have more than a few “get off my lawn!” moments. But sometimes… sometimes, they’re justified. Especially when confronted with some of the common communication anti-patterns I run into day after day when working with distributed communities/workers. Here’s a few things you shouldn’t do, or stop doing if you do them.

  • “May I ask you a question/send you a PM?” If you have to ask, the answer is no. Just ask your question rather than faffing about with a lead-in to get my permission to ask a question. Do you really think I’m going to say no? Is no really a valid answer? Stop wasting time.
  • “Ping?” Stop naked pings. Really, just stop. If you have a question or statement to convey in IRC, IM, Slack, or any other asynchronous communication method then just send it and stop with trying to verify that I’m sitting and waiting in real time to respond. I’ve been guilty of this myself, and I’m trying to stop. Note that my tolerance for this anti-pattern is directly related to how well I know someone. If I work with you directly every day and a ping is meant to start a longer discussion it’s generally OK if not optimal. If I’ve never interacted with you before and it’s a prelude to asking me for something, it’s deeply annoying. State your case up-front. Note: if I’m not around in IRC, which is often, then learn to live with delayed gratification and send an email.
  • Send everything I need to answer your request in the first damn email. If you are looking for an answer to a question, like “can you sponsor my conference?” or “can you reimburse this expense?” then submit all the relevant information in the first email. Like, how big is the conference, what are the sponsorship options, and how much are you looking for? When is it? If you are looking to be reimbursed, telling me how much in the first email and attaching receipts is recommended. Stop making me ask for information that ought to be obvious will be needed to complete your request.
  • If you’re forwarding something, make it clear what action(s) you are hoping for. Don’t just forward someone an email and hope they’ll sort out what you hope they’ll do after receiving it. (If it’s obvious from the email or previous communication, then that’s fine.) If it’s an FYI, say so. If you’re hoping for an answer to a question that the email has background information on, then state the question. Etc. It’s like 20 extra seconds to type a few extra words that state the nature of the request, so please take the time and save people annoyance.
  • Do not send an email and then pester someone via IRC/IM/Slack/text (or, for the love of God, phone) about their response to said email for non-urgent matters in less than 48 hours after it’s been sent. This goes triple if you’ve received a vacation/out of office notice. If something is truly urgent and you’ve forwarded information by email and then follow up in real time, that’s fine. Note that “truly urgent” doesn’t mean “I’m really impatient and want a response even though strictly speaking it’s not necessary.” It means “if I don’t follow up in real time we might miss a deadline or someone will die a horrible death.”

These are minor sins of communication, and most (if not all) of us commit them from time to time. But, just as a reminder, these are things at folks should generally avoid and the world would be much more pleasant if these guidelines were observed with greater frequency.

Leave a comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Linux

More Open Source is Good Open Source

20 August 2016 by jzb

A few days ago, Microsoft announced that it has released PowerShell under the MIT license for Linux (and Mac OS X). Perhaps surprisingly, this has brought a number of folks out of the woodwork to gripe about Microsoft… releasing something as open source.

Microsoft isn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but this is not Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft. This isn’t Bill Gates’ Microsoft. The days when Microsoft and the open source community are mortal enemies are behind us. (At least for now, anyway. Companies don’t always move in a straight line.) The company still has plenty of flaws (its position on software patents, its Windows 10 update policies, for example), but the knee-jerk “anything Microsoft does is terrible!” attitude needs to go.

Sharing is good, mmmkay? When a company engages in good faith with the larger open source community, it’s a good thing. Even if they’re not perfect at it, it’s an opportunity to improve. Adopting a hostile posture doesn’t help. I get that people might have some residual anger about past behavior, but it’s time to put that to rest.

Having PowerShell on Linux doesn’t really change much for me, for good or ill. I might poke at it out of curiosity, but I don’t see myself switching from GNU Bash to PowerShell. But it doesn’t take anything away from me at all. And it’s a Good Thing™ for a number of people who administer Windows and Linux systems. Maybe we’ll learn a thing or two from their code.

And if you’re not personally interested in PowerShell, it probably doesn’t change anything for you either. So if the idea of running a Microsoft project on Linux is abhorrent, then… just ignore it. It’s OK, just move on without venting your anger all over the place for other people to deal with.

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Project Fi and replacement phones: Android could learn from Fedora…

12 January 2016 by jzb

nexus2cee_project_fi_hero_thumbI’ve had really good luck with smartphones (/me knocks on wood) over the years. I’ve dropped phones a number of times, but other than a few scuffs and scratches, no permanent damage. (My first-generation iPhone did have an unfortunate encounter with a softball years ago, but since then – smooth sailing.) This weekend, though, I biffed the Nexus 6 just wrong on the tile floor and the screen got the worst of it.

This is one of the big downsides for Project Fi, in my opinion. With normal carriers, I can saunter into a physical store and have a replacement same-day. Or next morning if it happens to be 11 p.m. when the phone has its unfortunate incident. Project Fi? No such luck.

The good news: Project Fi’s support was super-helpful and efficient, and they had a new phone on its way to me right away. My phone’s unfortunate incident was last Friday, and I had a new phone in my hands Monday. Even better, they only charged me $100 to replace it. (One of the phone screen replacement shops near me wanted $249 and seven days to get parts…)

The bad news: As alluded to above, the Nexus 6 isn’t a super-popular phone. If it breaks, good luck finding parts right away. Samsung phones and iPhones are the phones that have the most market share (apparently) and finding accessories and replacement parts for those is a lot easier. (And cheaper – if I’d had an iPhone or Galaxy with a broken screen, there were plenty of specials on replacing the screen for less than $99.)

The other downside? The phone Project Fi shipped out to me is a stock Nexus 6… with the original Android 5.0-something installed. Meaning I’ve spent hours updating the damn phone. And the backup didn’t take all the way (I’m guessing because old phone had the latest 6.0-whatever and the new phone didn’t, but it forces you to try the restore first…) So when it’s all updated, I’ll need to do a factory reset and then try again to do a restore.

As luck would have it, my laptop was flaking out yesterday and I wound up doing a full reinstall of Fedora 23 Workstation. That took all of maybe an hour from start to finish, installing Fedora and then rsync-ing my data back to the new laptop and so on. It’d be great if Android were as easy to work with as Fedora!

2 comments | Categories: Fedora | Tags: , ,

Happy New Year! (Foiled by DDoS…)

04 January 2016 by jzb

So – one of the resolutions I was kicking around for 2016 was to blog more often, perhaps daily. I got up bright and early on January 1st… ok, that’s a lie. I got up around 8 a.m. after the cat batted my nose repeatedly. But I got up, and after the morning ritual of feeding the cats, thought I would log into the blog and write a little something.

Unfortunately, my hosting provider (Linode) was suffering a DDoS and connecting to my server between 1 January and yesterday proved difficult if not impossible. Here’s hoping the rest of 2016 goes a little smoother!

Leave a comment | Categories: Administrivia

Running for Fedora Council

07 December 2015 by jzb

fedora-ambassador-mentor Fedora elections are upon us once again, starting tomorrow. There’s one Fedora Council seat open, and I’ve decided to throw my, er, hat into the ring. I’ve put up the platform questions on the Fedora Community Blog, but also wanted to chime in here.

I’m not stumping for votes, but I did want to take a minute to encourage folks to participate in this election and think about how you’ll participate in the next release cycle. Whether you vote for me or the other candidate for Council (that’d be Robert Mayr aka robyduck – who is awesome) I hope you’ll also be thinking about how you might contribute a few extra cycles to the Fedora 24 release and the project in general.

In particular, for the Fedora 24 cycle I hope to see more folks helping in the marketing group (as I’ve mentioned before), and we can use more hands in the Cloud SIG as well. We have a lot of opportunity ahead, but we need many more hands to reach our full potential.

Leave a comment | Categories: Fedora

On vacation: And acting like it!

08 November 2015 by jzb

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, We can work almost anywhere, anytime. That’s… probably unhealthy. I mean, it’s great when you’re supposed to be working. As long as you have a solid Internet connection(*) and a quiet room (and electricity), you can be productive anywhere.

Which leads to temptation to … work from anywhere. Even when you’re on vacation. (This phrase may be less applicable outside the United States. Insert joke here about European vs. American vacation response messages.) This has certainly been true for me, when I’m on vacation I have generally felt compelled to check in on email, which leads to responding to email, which leads to… not so much really feeling like I’m on vacation.

This week I’m going to be in Churchill, Canada to observe polar bears, Northern Lights, and generally take a breather. While I occasionally grab a day or two of PTO here and there, I’ve not done much proper vacationing. For many years I was freelancing and… I was never very good at feeling that I could step away for a week or three to vacation when I was being paid by the piece or stipend. So, I’m going to do my best to make it stick and actually not do any work while away.

() Don’t make your co-workers put up with lousy connectivity. Sometimes it’s unavoidable (e.g., during conference travel) but if you can’t count on reliable connectivity and quiet surroundings… maybe re-think whether working from a cafe is *really workable.

Leave a comment | Categories: Administrivia, Random

Proprietary tools for FOSS projects

05 November 2015 by jzb

slackMy position on free and open source software is somewhere in the spectrum between hard-core FSF/GNU position on Free Software, and the corporate open source pragmatism that looks at open source as being great for some things but really not a goal in and of itself. I don’t eschew all proprietary software, and I’m not going to knock people for using tools and devices that fit their needs rather than sticking only to FOSS.

At the same time, I think it’s important that we trend towards everything being open, and I find myself troubled by the increasing acceptance of proprietary tools and services by FOSS developers/projects. It shouldn’t be the end of the world for a FOSS developer, advocate, project, or company to use proprietary tools if necessary. Sometimes the FOSS tools aren’t a good fit, and the need for something right now overrides the luxury of choosing a tool just based on licensing preference. And, of course, there’s a big difference between having that discussion for a project like Fedora, or an Apache podling/TLP, or a company that works with open source.

Fedora is generally averse to adopting anything proprietary, even using things like YouTube or Twitter to promote Fedora tends to generate discussion and questions about whether it’s proper to use proprietary services. Grudgingly, though, most folks have accepted that to promote Fedora you have to go where the people are–even if that means using non-FOSS services. Apache has been more willing to adopt non-free services (e.g., Jira) where acceptable FOSS services exist. Not surprising, because Apache’s culture is more “use open source because it’s pragmatic” rather than driven by ideology. (That is painting with a very broad brush, and I think you can find a diverse set of opinions within Apache, including mine.)

Generally, though, I worry about making too many concessions to non-free software. I worry that we’ve gone too far towards business concerns, and too far away from wanting to change the world for the better. There’s a balance to be struck, I think, where we put food on the table, build successful companies and successful and sustainable communities. Where we use tools we’ve built to do our work, and tools we can improve, but don’t rake people over the coals because of the tools they choose or make bad business decisions out of a desire for purity.

This post asking people not to use Slack really resonates with me. I see this as a wholly unnecessary adoption of proprietary software where there’s a reasonable and serviceable alternative. The good news, I think, is that Slack seems to be spurring some development of better IRC alternatives that might not have developed without Slack. And it’s spurred more people thinking about the tools they use, and whether they’re open, and what that means. Full disclosure, I have a personal Slack account. I’ll use it to chat with friends, just like I’ll use Facebook or Google Hangouts. But I don’t see recommending it for an official channel for, say, Project Atomic.

Leave a comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Linux, Random | Tags: , , , , ,

Marketing is not a spectator sport…

05 November 2015 by jzb

fmag-ribbonA piece over on Fedora Magazine, following a talk I did at Flock this summer. The short version: open source projects need all the help they can get spreading the word. Fedora, Apache projects, GNU projects, Debian, etc., all depend on word of mouth to reach users. By reaching users, we find new contributors, and it’s the new contributors that help keep projects going and reaching new users. We don’t have megabucks to throw at ad campaigns, but we have millions of users–and the impact would be enormous if even 10% of those users spent a little time spreading the word about Fedora (or other project).

More users means more contributors. More contributors equals better projects. Better projects mean more users, and fewer people choosing proprietary solutions. Don’t wait for somebody else to spread the word, jump in and lend a hand.

The marketing group was a bit disorganized in the F23 cycle, and we can do much better. I hope to do more in the F24 cycle, but I can’t do it alone, and don’t really want to! So if you want to see Fedora succeed wildly, I hope you’ll find a way to join our efforts. Read the full piece on Fedora Magazine, and feel free to ask if you need help jumping in!

Leave a comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Linux | Tags: ,

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