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Leadership, fawgawdsake!

September 20, 2014 1 comment

In a Google+ post last week, Aaron Seigo rightfully ripped into “community managers” — quotes intentional, because it doesn’t really apply to all who are in charge of keeping a community functioning (more on this later) — generally who lead from above or by “star power” rather than leading by the consensus of the community. I wrote about it briefly in my weekly wrap-up on FOSS Force on Friday, but it started me to think about what makes good project leadership.

As I said in my FOSS Force item, I think overall Aaron is right in his tome on G+, yet part of the problem is the term “community manager” itself, which might lend itself to the boss/worker dynamic, and whether this makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy in many communities. It very well might, and that aspect needs changing.

I would rather see the interpretation of those who are given the responsibility of communities — hopefully an earned responsibility granted by the consent of the wider community — to be titled something differently: community gardener, community facilitator, community cat herder, whatever. Those in leadership positions are neither bosses giving orders nor “rock stars” to be adored. Those in charge, regardless of what they’re called, are the ones who facilitate the project through inspiring a committed and focused community.

Reading Aaron’s latest salvo and the myriad of interesting comments that followed, it made me think about what makes a good leader and who might serve a project community well as a facilitator.

One name kept coming up.

My Dad.

Larry Cafiero, Sr., more "happy warrior" than "grammar hammer," would have made a good FOSS project facilitator.

Larry Cafiero, Sr., more “happy warrior” than “grammar hammer,” would have made a good FOSS project facilitator.

Larry Cafiero, Sr. — known as Larry the Elder to my Larry the Younger, or Senior to my Junior (prepare for some pain if you call me that to my face) like the Griffeys — was really more “Happy Warrior” than “Grammar Hammer” as a newsman, but one of the traits that made him exceptional in the field was that no job was too small for him — nothing too insignificant, nothing beneath him — either as a city desk editor at The Miami Herald or as the Herald’s longtime Special Publications Editor, the position at which he worked for the last decade of his journalism career.

It was really no accident that I followed my father into the field, and I always looked to him for guidance. It always impressed me that his staff, never more than one or two, always seemed to go the extra mile, and always went above-and-beyond, for the department. One time, I asked one of his assistants why, and I was told — and I’m paraphrasing — that my father “was one of them.”

I didn’t know what he meant by that until Dad and I talked about leadership when I had been given the keys to a weekly newspaper in Dade County and I had to lead a group of reporters and photographers.

“Did you ever read ‘Henry V’?” He asked me. I hadn’t. He said I should read it, paying special attention to the preparation for, and the fighting of, the Battle of Agincourt.

So I did. And I got it.

It also made something else he said several months before a little less obtuse. We were at Johnny Raffa’s Lobo Lounge — one of Miami’s press bars in the late ’70s — and we talked over identical bourbons about what makes a great newsman. Dad’s answer was simple: You had to be like Captain Kirk.

Actually, I found it odd that my father was referring to a show I knew he didn’t really watch.

“You mean, I have to kiss all the green alien women on the planet?” I asked.

I got the look, then the eyeroll, followed by the admonishment, “Oh, fawgawdsake,” in the New York accent borne of his rearing in the Maspeth section of Queens, New York.

I can still hear him explaining it this way: Kirk had the ability to do everything on the Enterprise by himself, if necessary. The entire crew could drop dead and he’d still be able to fly the ship, at least in theory if not in practice. So a great newsman knows everything about producing the news — he can report, edit, lay out pages, crop photos, set type (what we did back then), make plates, put the plates on the press, and run the press.

So what it comes down to is this: Creating software, or even hardware, as a community in the open-source realm means encountering many rhetorical Battles of Agincourt, and it takes special kind of leader to marshal a team of developers to perform this task, day in and day out, like clockwork. Also, it takes a special leader to be able to “fly the Enterprise” by himself or herself if necessary, having both the knowledge and the desire to pick up where parts of the team may be lagging to bring the project up to speed.

You don’t get that with so-called leaders following traditional management tenets in a traditional manager/worker role. You certainly don’t get that with “rock stars,” as if that needs saying.

But you get that with leadership modeled after Henry V. And Captain Kirk. And Larry Sr., fawgawdsake.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Among the many things he does, Larry Cafiero writes news and commentary once a week — and occasionally more frequently — for FOSS Force.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Resisting temptation

September 13, 2014 1 comment

When I found out on Friday afternoon that the lead developer for Bodhi Linux was stepping down, I went into breaking-news mode and contacted Christine Hall at FOSS Force to let her know that I was sending her a story. As an aside, FOSS Force normally “publishes” Monday-Friday and takes the weekend off, but in this case, this is a story that is too important to wait until Monday.

I called up LibreOffice Writer and went to work.

“Lead developer Jeff Hoogland had an out-of-Bodhi experience on Friday, when he decided to step down . . . .”

No. I didn’t go there.

Instead I wrote this. Also, Jeff spoke volumes in his own blog item on why he’s leaving, and I understand completely. To see what Jeff achieved with Bodhi Linux over the last four years — all while in school, grad school, family life and now with a child — is simply remarkable and I salute him for it. He leaves for someone, or to the Bodhi community stepping up, a very viable Linux distro.

My hope is that someone, or several folks who are already involved with Bodhi Linux, picks up the reins and continue what is one of the better Linux distributions, especially for older machines. I have said in these pages in the past that Bodhi is a viable distro — my only qualm, and it’s a minor one, is that it doesn’t come with enough programs by default and that you have to go get them after installing it. That’s by design — I get that — but it’s not my proverbial cup of tea.

Also — and this is a very important point — it’s not necessarily a flaw because it’s a design of which I’m not fond. It’s called “different strokes for different folks,” and the distro has gained many users with the formula Hoogland developed.

In other words, it may not be for me, but that doesn’t make it bad or lacking in some way.

Which leads us to a broader issue, that of whether a distro like Bodhi should continue to have the opportunity to prosper and thrive. The answer clearly to this is a resounding “yes.”

Some might think that there should be only $ONE_TRUE_DISTRO, and usually that distro is the one they are using. Nothing could be further from the truth, to say nothing of the fact that nothing could be more hilariously arrogant and world-class myopic than holding such a position. Clearly and unequivocally, one of the many strengths of FOSS — perhaps its biggest strength — lies in the variety of 200-something Linux and BSD distros out there. Choice is clearly good, and the competition between having more than one choice raises everyone up — the rising tide making all the vessels rise with the waters.

Bodhi Linux captured a niche and, with continued perserverence, the community taking the reins will have the opportunity to continue to excel.

That’s only fair, and that’s what FOSS is all about.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Among the many things he does, Larry Cafiero writes news and commentary once a week — and occasionally more frequently — for FOSS Force.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Changing horses in midstream

August 27, 2014 1 comment

OK, let’s not make a big deal about this.

A few months ago, Christine Hall at FOSS Force asked me if I’d like to write for her site. I mulled it over for awhile. After seeing my good friend Ken Starks get a significant amount of exposure from his regular columns there, I thought I’d follow suit.

So now you’re going to see a midweek item every week — possibly more — from yours truly at FOSS Force. While I will still continue to write this blog from time to time, I’d like for you to follow me over to FOSS Force for some of the best coverage of what’s happeneing around the Free/Open Source Software and hardware paradigm (including the excellent commentary you’ve always gotten here).

The first installment, in case you missed it, is here.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

We’re everywhere

August 3, 2014 1 comment

My good buddy Ken Starks is never at a loss for a good Linux tale.

A master at putting Linux boxes in front of underprivileged kids in Texas through Reglue, Ken is also a master of weaving a folksy story in the tradition of other Texas wordsmiths like Jim Hightower (oooh, he’s going to hate me for that), and his latest installment on FOSS Force is one shining example.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait. As is usually Ken’s standard fare, it’s a good story.

LJ-Extremist-red-stampKen’s FOSS Force item puts the exclamation point on the fact that Linux users are everywhere, whether any of us have had direct involvement or not in introducing someone to it. Not only that, it accents the fact that the general reach of Linux is much further than the arm’s length we expect it to be when we hand someone a live disk or live USB stick and give them some instructions on how to use it.

Many of us who advocate for the adoption of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) have been waiting for the day when we can say, “Yeah, we’re ready for prime time.”

So, yeah, we’re ready for prime time.

When the Felton Linux Users Group hosted the table promoting FOSS as “organic software” (no artificial additives or preservatives, all natural 1’s and 0’s) at the Felton Farmers Market in the past, we would encounter many Linux users who were introduced by friends or neighbors. These were people we know from our town — it’s not very big — and for whatever reason they had for not coming to meetings, they used Linux and were happy with it.

It’s not perfect. You still have to pay attention to your hardware and software when using Linux, much in the same way you pay attention to your house as a do-it-yourselfer who frequently haunts Home Depot or Lowe’s. As mentioned with mantra-like frequency in this blog, Linux and FOSS work best for those who consider hardware as more than just a toy or a diversion, and paying even a marginal amount of attention to it, not to mention learning some of the most basic maintenance practices, pays huge dividends.

So we’re everywhere.

ONE MORE THING: Speaking of friends, Don Marti posted an interesting blog item where he asks if you’re seeing buttons on his page. Are you? If you are, you need to get Disconnect or Privacy Badger (Shameless plug: I use Privacy Badger and I think it’s fantastic — thanks, Electronic Frontier Foundation).

As a Privacy Badger user, I get a small button saying “Privacy Badger has replaced this button.”

Good exercise, Don. Thanks for posting it.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora Guy, and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Concession speech

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment

We ran hard, and we ran long. We ran a campaign of which everyone should be proud. I salute my opponent on his well-deserved victory, and . . . .

37vjkPfffffft. Forget all that nonsense. The FOSS Force Best Personal FOSS or Linux Blog Contest is over for 2013, and Alien Pastures has won. Good call, voters, and congratulations Eric Hameleers. Honestly, it was an honor to make the finals — twice in my case, with this blog and Larry the CrunchBang Guy — and we’ll see if either (or both) of us can do better in 2014.

What’s more important is I had a blast “campaigning” to try to win the poll. I’m sorry if some of you were put off by my asking for you to vote for me, but it was a lot of fun, and it was a pleasure introducing folks to FOSS Force, if they weren’t already aware of it.

Yet what’s most important, when all is said and done, is that FOSS Force did all of us on the poll, starting from the beginning and through two rounds to the finals, a monumental favor in giving us a lot more exposure than we would normally get.

So thanks for that, FOSS Force. Also, thanks for the FOSS news coverage and commentary you provide on your site.

Like the rest of the group on the ballot, I don’t get paid to do this. This commentary is part of my personal commitment to promoting both Free/Open Source Software in general, as I do in this blog, and promoting my distro of choice in the Larry the CrunchBang Guy blog. Sure, I’d like to be able to make a living writing this type of commentary for an on-line publication, but I don’t (actually, for those of you who don’t already know. I’m a “print guy” — a wire news editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper in Santa Cruz, California).

None of us you voted for on this poll earn their keep writing about FOSS. Yet it doesn’t make our blogs any less important than those who do. My hope, as I am sure is one I share with the rest of the candidates, is that you were able to get a new perspective and, heck, find a new source or two (or three) of news and commentary going forward.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

The new cool

August 25, 2013 2 comments

[First things first: Some consider today the 22nd "birthday" of the Linux kernel, or at least the anniversary of the legendary e-mail from that Linus guy holed up in his room somewhere in Helsinki. What started with that announcement, augmented by subsequent kernels coupled with various GNU tools added to the mix over time, brings you today to the operating system most, if not all, of you are using right now. So feel free to take some time to keep this in mind today.]

While much of the FOSS world over the past few weeks was either spellbound or insulted by a doomed-to-fail crowdfunding campaign by a large company for a concept smartphone/computer combo, a significant event took place earlier this month that, for all intents and purposes, flew under the radar.

That may have been by design, for reasons I’ll get into later. But various birds-of-a-blue-feather flew in to Charleston, South Carolina, a few weekends ago for Fedora Flock.

For the last eight years, Fedora users and developers have gathered at the Fedora Users and Developers conference, or FUDCon. As an aside, this acronym always grated on my nerves — I get the concept of Con = anti, thus the anti-FUD, but I always thought it sounded goofy.

They’ve taken the concept of gathering together to uplift FOSS a step further at Fedora. Flock is essentially FUDCon 2.0, a brand new conference where Fedora contributors can come together, discuss new ideas, work to make those ideas a reality, and continue to promote the core values of the Fedora community: Freedom, Friends, Features, and First. But in this manifestation of the event, Flock opened up not only to its own community, but also opened up to a growing open hardware community in an effort to create better things together.

Clearly, a gathering of this magnitude only helps to promote FOSS development which in turn helps the wider FOSS community when the results of its development are readily available for use. In addition, the face-to-face aspect should never be discounted, and there’s clearly much in the way of value when you can talk to a team member in person rather than through the ether of an IRC “developer conference.”

That’s where Fedora’s coolness comes in; a cool that’s always been there, but one that should be getting the recognition it deserves.

One of the telling aspects about the increasing coolness of Fedora (and one that made me regret not being in attendance) was this tweet, from Michael DeHaan (the retweet arrow, of course, is mine):

flock

As I mentioned earlier, how did this happen to fly under the proverbial radar?

What used to drive me up the wall and across the ceiling when I was a Fedora Ambassador years ago was the fact that Fedora has never trumpeted its accomplishments as much as it could; in complete contrast to the me-first, us-uber-alles, history-rewriting distro with too many of the same vowel in its name. My guess is that it’s not ultimately important to Fedora to self-promote, but rather it seems what’s important to Fedora is to get things done.

So Flock was promoted within the Fedora community, and with a round of various reports on social media and a couple of stories in the FOSS press, that was the amount of the publicity.

But the real story was that work got done — important work, and work that will benefit everyone across the FOSS spectrum and across software-to-hardware boundaries.

And that, more than anything, is the ultimate in cool.

=====

Well, because I mentioned, at least indirectly, Ubuntu Edge at the beginning, it is my sworn duty to post this. Now that many of you are getting your money back from the failed Ubuntu Edge campaign, why not give a donation to a project that really makes a difference? Give instead to:

Reglue (especially Reglue, which is creating a new generation of FOSS users as you read this sentence)

Partimus (bringing Linux boxes to classrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area, or any other project like it)

CrunchBang (or your favorite distro, if it accepts donations)

Tux4Kids (the folks who bring you Tux Paint and other educational FOSS programs across platforms)

Or even taking a look at the list of projects at Software for the Public Interest and choose one of those.

One more time, with feeling: The final round of FOSS Force’s Best Personal Linux and FOSS Blog poll ends tomorrow. So, if you haven’t done so already and are so inclined, vote here. It’s an honor to be in such great company on this ballot, and I hope when comparing blogs you’ll find this one to be worthy of your vote. Thanks.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Zonker gets a new hat

August 19, 2013 Leave a comment

There are few more likeable people in the FOSS realm than Joe Brockmeier. That’s probably the mildest of accolades, of course, that Zonker deserves; a wealth of accolades tied to a stellar career in various FOSS projects as well as in FOSS journalism.

This morning, Red Hat scored. On a brief note on his personal blog, Joe makes the announcement that he gets his own personal chapeau rouge after joining the folks in Raleigh.

So lift whatever you’re drinking (in my case coffee — if it’s something stronger, shame on you, so early in the morning! :-) ) and join me in saying, “Congratulations, Joe!”

Friendly reminder: The second round of FOSS Force’s Best Personal Linux and FOSS Blog poll ends today, with the final round starting once the votes are tallied. So, if you have a minute or two to spare and are so inclined, vote here. While I’d like to win, truly the best blog on the ballot is Akkana Peck’s Shallow Thoughts, but since you have two votes in this round, I’d be grateful for one of ‘em. Thanks.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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