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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!

Four simple words

January 26, 2014 3 comments

I wrote a blog item back in October 2011 that garnered the highest amount of hits (well into five figures), and the highest amount of comments (around 200), that this blog has ever achieved. Even the follow-up blog item garnered an abnormally high number of eyeballs. No, I’m not linking to either because I’d prefer not to go another round in the ring, so to speak, putting aside the fact that both blogs still get a considerable number of daily hits.

But if you Google “larry fsf” (no quotes), it comes up first — at least it did for me just now (sorry, “Larry Lessig”).

The back-and-forth in the comments is sometimes civil, sometimes not, and since this outpouring of vitriol — mine included — is abnormally high, I have given a lot of thought about the range of civility in the FOSS world.

I’ve been sitting on the following commentary for a long time. I even wrote an unpublished draft months ago that sits in the Larry the CrunchBang Guy draft queue because, well, I didn’t pull the trigger on writing about the incident in that forum which pushed over the first proverbial domino.

Personally speaking, I have no problem with the fact that I’m not going to agree with everyone, nor is everyone going to agree with me. My opinions, here and elsewhere, on the purposes and goals of Free/Open Source Software (or just about everything else) are going to clash with the opinions of others, and I’m at peace with that. In fact, I welcome the exchange of ideas with those with whom I may not agree to see if, perhaps, my mind can be changed, and conversely I would hope that others would take the same attitude. More often than not, I am disappointed here, but never mind. That’s another topic for another time.

So to those who “get it” — those who understand we’re not all of the same mind and there is room for debate and discussion, to say nothing of the fact that one does not have to be disagreeable in order to disagree — a deeply grateful “thank you” goes out to each one who deserves it. This item is not for you, though you’re welcome to continue reading.

It took me awhile to understand this, and as I’ve written in the past, there are times when the “current me” would take the “past me” and slap him in the back of the head, multiple times, and show him the best way, or at least the more civil way, to do things.

But I’m a little tired of appealing to some people — an annoying, yet tirelessly vocal, few — to be more understanding when they seemingly can’t hear me because they need their own individual proctologist to help each of them find their heads.

Nevertheless, this blog is a call out to those who don’t get it: The ones for whom dissent or disagreement is a good excuse to start playing “Call of Duty” verbally, escalating what started as a disagreement or a misunderstanding into a holy war with massive collateral damage.

The problem here is that this lack of civility, this absence of open-mindedness, and this departure from decent behavior scales in an enormous way in FOSS: from the new user warmed in the glow of their new-found FOSS enlightenment thinking their first distro is “the Holy Grail,” to some of those who got the ball rolling back in the day and are responsible for the world-altering digital movement in which we now find ourselves.

Most of the time we wrongfully give a pass to $FOSS_ICON because he or she is just “being $FOSS_ICON” when in reality we should be saying, “Seriously?”

“My way or the highway” is not a FOSS tenet. If you think it is, then the four simple words below are for you.

“Populating forums or IRC channels with troll-worthy posts and abusive behavior is clearly OK, and rules don’t apply to me especially when I have made it my sole purpose in life to shut people up who disagree on this insignificant issue.” If you think this way, then the four simple words below are for you.

“My desktop environment/FOSS program/Linux distro is the digital equivalent of perfection, we should all unite behind one (the one I’m using, of course), and if you disagree, you’re a moron.” If you think this way, then the four simple words below are for you.

“Not being mature enough to handle one’s behavior (or, in some cases, urges) in a large group of people, thereby forcing gatherings to enforce elaborate codes of conduct, is normal and acceptable.” If you think this way, then the four simple words below are for you.

There are more examples, but you get the point.

The Fedora Project, in a motto that embraces that distro’s workings and is oft-quoted in discussions, has boiled this concept down to five simple words: “Be excellent to each other.”

I’ve narrowed it down to four simple words: “Don’t be a douche.”

I’ll let you in on a secret, too: Adhering to these words, whether they’re Fedora’s or mine, also works in real life outside the FOSS realm. Don’t take my word for it — try it for yourself.

See you here next week. Agree or disagree, I’ll still be here, and you’re clearly welcome to return.

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!

Larry in KDE Land

November 25, 2013 7 comments

This week’s blog was supposed to be a look at the newly released Raptor provided by VSIDO, and there is a version now on the soon-to-be-delivered-to-REGLUE ThinkPad T60 (sorry for the delay, Ken). I didn’t spend as much time as I should have with this release — you’ll see why below — and I didn’t want to provide a half-baked report on what is a very solid distro.

But one is forthcoming, I promise, and any delay should not be interpreted as any dissatisfaction on my part — Terry Ganus and his crew at VSIDO are doing great things making Debian Sid work for the average Joe.

However, I fell down the rabbit hole. For the most part last week I had been playing the role of the proverbial moth to KDE’s hypothetical flame. Having spent most of the week trying to plumb the depths of the K Desktop Environment — better known by its initials KDE — and the accompanying software (of which there is much; most of it remarkably cool and some of it undeniably sanity-testing), I think I’m beginning to understand its appeal across a wide range of users.

But first, how I got here. As outlined last week, I tried and liked Korora 19.1 KDE, so much so that I installed it on a fairly powerful laptop, keeping the other laptop that I always carry with me running CrunchBang. This gives me the best of both possible Debian/Red Hat worlds in an overstuffed backpack (the aforementioned T60 stayed at home). As it turned out, my forum account on KDE.org was still active even though I hadn’t logged in since 2009.

Having hardware that could easily pull the KDE load (a very important point here, since that is not common for yours truly), I went exploring.

There are things about KDE that I find mysterious. There are things about KDE that I find inconceivable (I keep using that word: I think it means what I think it means). There are things about the software that I find both compelling and unfathomable at the same time, and I find it a huge credit to the KDE community that they keep providing this software while keeping the cats herded and moving somewhat in the same direction. With enough time, I’ve fathomed things like Dolphin — getting a hold of what it does and nodding approvingly — and KWallet, which is something I don’t really need, but I can see how others with somewhat more complicated lives can utilize it. The stick-poking care in changing and re-changing icons and desktop patterns created, over time, a confidence that increased the more I did it.

So the basis for a quality desktop environment supported with a variety of software — heck, I’ve even made my peace with Konqueror and, this time around, I actually enjoyed using Konversation until finally breaking down and going back to Irssi, which is what the cool kids use — enjoys a comfortable home with KDE and it’s a testament to its far-flung community around the globe.

But there’s one thing I find I have to mention, and I did so on the forum (though I am told that I may be appealing to deaf ears). It is the “march of the icons” on the splash screen at startup, and it’s not so much the icons themselves as much as the different size of the KDE icon in the lineup.

Here’s an example from Fedora 19 (which looks a lot like the Korora startup screen with different branding):

kde2

So we have a hard drive icon, a tools icon, a globe icon, a desktop icon all the same size, and the piece-de-resistance is a twice-the-size-of-the-others KDE icon. It reminds one of Berke Breathed’s character Bill the Cat, who had one normal eye and one that was two or three times the size of the other. Also, if memory serves, the icons were all the same size in KDE 3.5, which is the last one that I used with any consistency before finding it too resource-intensive for my old hardware.

Trivial? In the grand scheme of things, yeah. I get that if KDE wants to make a statement because they’re proud of their work, go for it, dudes, and make it stand out (thought that would not be the way I’d do it). It still looks funny to me, and I would hope that there is some consideration in KDE’s higher echelons to make this KDE icon more in line, size-wise, with the rest of them.

Meanwhile, I will keep poking and probing this desktop environment and someday — someday — I will be enlightened to the true meaning of Nepomuk.

But before that, a VSIDO reports as promised. Scout’s honor. See you next week, if not before.

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!

A week with Korora 19.1 KDE

November 17, 2013 5 comments

I made a joke recently on social media — not a good joke, I’ll be the first to admit — that I had used Korora way back when it had two A’s at the end.

In an indirect way, Korora — minus the second A of the past, but inheriting the long-vowel line over the last A — crossed the proverbial radar again recently and, as it would happen, it got another one-week test drive from yours truly, this time in the driver’s seat of Korora 19.1 KDE “Bruce.”

In a word, “Wow.”

For those of you keeping score at home, Korora is a Fedora remix that “aims to make Linux easier for new users, while still being useful for experts.” It’s a noble effort, to say the least: Fedora, which as I’ve said on a million occasions, does everything right, especially building and maintaining the distro’s software, as well as building or maintaining the community supporting it. The principles driving Fedora are excellent ones to emulate, and to provide an option of a Fedora respin in which everything works right out of the box (*cough* Flash *cough*) is indeed a noble task.

So in taking that route, it bears mentioning that the Korora lead developer, Chris Smart, is a man who lives up to his name.

As many of you know, I’m not stranger to Fedora, yet I threw caution to the wind and opted for KDE, given Korora’s choice of KDE, GNOME, Cinnamon and MATE. Here’s why: First, I haven’t used KDE in quite awhile and I wanted to see what’s new, and secondly, my friend Ken Starks at REGLUE is using it in the OpenSUSE machines he’s building for kids down in Austin, Texas.

On a Dell Latitude D610 with the touchpad turned off in the BIOS (due to the wandering cursor thing that Dell refuses to fix — which is why someone gave this hardware to me, I think), the install went flawlessly and any worry that the 1.5GB of RAM would labor under the weight of KDE was put to rest early. For the week I used the D610 on a daily basis, the only hiccup was in updating which, eventually, was traced back to the flaky wireless where I was rather than to the distro and/or desktop environment.

Other hurdles aside — “Why doesn’t apt-get work on this . . . oh wait.” — getting used to KDE was not as hard as I thought. Much of the habits in using a window-manager based distro like CrunchBang took some unlearning. KDE and I have always had a love-hate relationship, but casting aside any prejudices I had about the desktop environment, I found that the same things that bothered me still do (KDE Wallet – seriously?), but the other facets of KDE Plasma were very workable and spending an entire week tweaking it was both educational and fun. Plus, I think there have been many improvements to much of the KDE software lineup: Using Kmail and Konversation much of the time, they performed flawlessly during the course of the week.

On the whole, I like this distro a lot and I think Korora has a bright future. There is a clear comparison that can be made between Korora and Fedora that mirrors the relationship between Linux Mint and Ubuntu. Just as Linux Mint improves the user experience on that particular Ubuntu-based distro, so then can Korora enhance the user experience on this Fedora-based distro.

Trivial, I know: The naming convention is based on characters in “Finding Nemo” in the same way that Debian’s project names are based on “Toy Story” (or CrunchBang’s is based on “The Muppet Show”). It’s always a source of interest to me how projects are named, and you just have to bear with me on that. But a tip of the hat to Nemo, or in this case, Bruce!

So a word of warning, Kororans: I’ve signed up on your site and I’m going to keep Korora on the Dell for the forseeable future. See you around.

I promised last week to look at VSIDO and we’ll have to take that up next week. Apologies to those who were expecting that today.

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!

May the Fourth Be With You

May 4, 2013 4 comments

In what would rank as probably the shortest Larry the Free Software Guy blog item in the history of, well, Larry the Free Software Guy (and the blog’s predecessor, Larry the Open Source Guy), here’s a classic Mark Terranova mash-up of Red Hat’s Karsten Wade — Obi-Wade Kenobi — and Larry the Free Jedi Guy.

May the fourth — I mean, force — reamin strong with you always.

FOSS Wars 2

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!

How it’s done

April 9, 2013 2 comments

I haven’t tried SolusOS yet — it’s on my list of things to do and, without casting aspersions on its list-ranking because I really have a lot to do on a daily basis, it’s somewhere in the 40s on my list of things to do and I’m still on, oh, Number 11 at the moment.

However, people I trust about these things — Ken Starks at Reglue, in particular — loves this distro and his word is as good as gold. So if he says that SolusOS is a good distro, you can bank on it being so.

Ikey Doherty, the lead developer for SolusOS, posted a brief blog item today saying that they’re going back “to the old ways” from releasing planned ISOs. Instead they’re going to put out frequent releases for testing in order to restore the sense of everyone working together as a community.

Transparency: That’s how it’s done here in the FOSS paradigm. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try making a dent in this list in order to get to trying out SolusOS.

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!

Tipping the SCALE

March 3, 2013 1 comment

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, and certainly I am not. Honest. But one of the problems with working on a show like Southern California Linux Expo and this year’s SCALE 11X leaves me little time to do anything but the wood-chopping and water-carrying that goes with being the publicity chair for the show. Let me be clear: This is not a complaint, but rather an explanation about why you’re not going to get a comprehensive report about the event.

Others are doing that for me, and it was as great as they say it is; possibly moreso.

scale11x-125x125aThe reason SCALE achieves an annual uptick in greatness — and SCALE 11X is no exception — lies squarely with the volunteers who make this work. I have it easy chairing publicity and I’m not referring to what I do so much as the stellar work the Publicity Team does — Hannah Anderson, Dennis Rex, Michelle Klein-Hass, Sam Lee, and Scott Ruecker (remotely — we’ll see you next year, Scott!) all put in a herculean effort to get the word, and photos, out before and during the show. Words can’t describe the effort of those who set up the rooms, those who set up and make sure the AV works, those who make sure the tsunami of humanity coming to register and attend have their badges and swag bags ready, and those who keep the digital infrastructure running to the best of its ability under trying conditions and uncooperative attendees or exhibitors — all these folks get my undying gratitude and they deserve everyone’s deepest thanks. All you guys make it work.

Also, the show doesn’t work without the speakers who provide deeply informative talks on a wide range of topics. One of the telling factors in the success of SCALE 11X is that standing room only was the course of the day for many of the presentations, including the last group of sessions at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. It’s a testament to the quality of the speakers and their topics, and

And . . . it doesn’t work without the folks who attend — so a big thanks go out to each of the 2,304 attendees at this year’s SCALE 11X. It would have been 2,305 if the pass for Elvis Presley, who had been comped for the show (the King of Rock and Roll should go to the event that goes to 11!), had been picked up, thankyouverymuch.

But a few things bear mentioning:

Tap, tap . . . is this thing on?
I got to speak twice at SCALE, once to the Linux Beginners class at SCALE 11X, where I talked mostly about how not to be intimidated about joining a distro community (“just tell them if they’re not nice to you, I’ll come and make their lives miserable” . . . OK, just kidding). I also held a Birds of a Feather event for CrunchBang, which was attended by about 20 people and my short presentation was followed by a pretty lively discussion.

Pleased to meet you, hope you’ve guessed my name: I have carried on online conversations for years with people and have never met them in person, but occasionally shows like SCALE 11X allows us to meet face to face. I finally got to meet Patrick Stewart’s BFF and Red Hat guy Thomas Cameron, which didn’t go as smoothly as it could have. “Hi, Thomas,” I said, shaking his hand. “How’s it going?” he said. Cue awkward silence. “OK, so let me draw my beard on my face so I look like my Facebook photo . . . ” Hilarity ensued. Apparently I don’t look enough like my former Facebook photo, and thanks to Ruth Suehle for taking my photo with Raspberry Pi on my face — yes, the little motherboard — I now look more like, well, me on Facebook. Whether that’s a good thing or not . . .

Conversely . . .
: Because I have to keep the SCALE media humming, I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with the people I do see somewhat frequently at shows like SCALE. Apologies to Clint Savage, Scott Williams, Scott Dowdle, Christer Edwards, Jeremy Sands, Trevor Sharpe, Deb Nicholson and many others for just saying “hi” and “bye” in the hallways during the course of the show. Of course, a -1 to Mother Nature for keeping Rikki Endsley home in Lawrence, Kan., thanks to a heaping helping of snow.

Thank you, Fedora: For years, I’ve always wanted a Fedora cap. Let me rephrase that: I’ve always wanted a Fedora Project cap, and finally this year the Fedora Project had them in the booth. They also had the Spherical Cow, a.k.a. Fedora 18, in the booth, and one of the perks about making a quick run to the show floor was picking it up. I gave it a quick run, live DVD style, and I think it was worth the wait. I’ll install it and put it through its paces later.

In fact, maybe I’ll just sign off and do that now. See you in Bellingham, Wash., for Linux Fest Northwest at the end of April.

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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