Sitting in stunned silence
For those of you who keep track of such things, the Fedora Project’s naming convention is somewhat unique. Fedora doesn’t take a character from the famous Pixar movie “Toy Story,” as Debian does, or have the distro’s space-traveling master of all he surveys unite an adjective and an animal both starting with the same letter, as Ubuntu does. No, Fedora puts a little more effort into the name choice for each release; an effort that can sometimes border on performance art when debated publicly among those in the community.
The formula is simple: “$CURRENT_NAME is a ______ and so is $NEXT_NAME.” A history of the names can be found here.
So this formula has produced some interesting names. Fedora Core 5′s Bordeaux — a wine region in France, but also a comic book character — begat Fedora Core 6′s Zod, another comic book character. One of my favorites is Fedora 11′s Leonidas — which comes from Fedora 10′s Cambridge (Cambridge is a ship in the Navy, and so is Leonidas) — because it allowed some fun with the name with “300″ memes. Ubuntu? THIS! IS! FEDORA!
As an aside, it’s unfortunate that Barona was not chosen as the Fedora 16 name, which would lend itself to rewriting the lyrics to The Knack’s “My Sharona.” Such are the things that go into consideration in Fedora circles regarding what name to choose in the ranked voting.
There was a huge effort to bestow Beefy Miracle as the Fedora 16 name, to the point where T-shirts and sites abounded. As noted here and elsewhere, I was not fond of that name, which didn’t come from an A-is-a-(blank)-and-so-is-B formula as much as it came from an algorithm based on the Fedora 15 name, Lovelock (not exactly a barnburner either). The problem wasn’t the formula so much as the name, arguably, lent itself to painting a target on the distro for merciless derision in the FOSS world. However, with all the effort that went into promoting the name and with what it meant to those who pursued it – hell, it’s only a name that never gets remembered anyway — I gave it the highest rank in votes anyway in a field of candidates (Barona excluded) that seemed to be so weak as to ensure Beefy Miracle’s success.
So I waited for Fedora 16 Beefy Miracle.
Well, guess what? The Fedora world woke up this morning to the results of the naming vote to a shocker. Beefy Miracle finished second in the polling to Verne — not Jim Varney’s off-screen buddy (who I believe doesn’t have the tailing e at the end of his name), but Jules Verne, the science fiction writer and futurist. Therein lies the connection: James Lovelock is a futurist, and so is — or was — Jules Verne (never mind MY futurist, Marshall McLuhan not making the ballot, despite celebrating his centennial year this year as well as coining the phrase “the global village”).
Personally, I’m stunned. Everywhere you went in Fedora circles — and that would mostly include IRC channels, Beefy Miracle was collectively on the tips of everyone’s tongues and a lot of effort went into promoting the new “god” — but it was not to be. I truly thought that some approved candidates were left off the final ballot — Dusty, Talladega and others — to ensure Beefy Miracle’s success. The prospect that Fedora Activity Days at events would be called “Meat Ups” now falls by the wayside. There is no joy in Mudville.
Now I have to rework my presentations for Fedora 15 — the standard stump speech has a “what’s coming up in the next release” and part of that is explaining the naming convention and how we came up with the name for the following release. I feared the derisive laughter that, “Well, upcoming in Fedora 16, which is code-named Beefy Miracle . . . ,” and found a way to deliver it with some decorum. Now I don’t have a chance to do that.
It’s sad on various levels.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)