Editor’s note: On a cloudy Monday in Felton, California, Larry Cafiero held a press conference at the solar-powered Felton Fire Station for the purpose of clarifying his departure from the Fedora Project and to dispel any of the rumors that had been flying around regarding this departure.
A transcript of the press conference follows:
Larry Cafiero: (to himself moreso than the press, as he sits down behind a bank of microphones) Okay, let’s light this candle.
LC: Before we start, I have a statement to read and then, obviously, I’ll take questions.
As many of you know, I recently resigned my office as a member of the Fedora Ambassadors Steering Committee (FAmSCo), my position as a Fedora Ambassador mentor and my membership in the Fedora Project. As I had confided in some of the Fedora leadership a few months ago, I had been planning to relinquish much of my responsibilities in Fedora after OSCON in order to pursue other FOSS projects that I will outline later. I had decided recently to advance the date of my departure. Having been a part of the Fedora Project since 2008, I am proud to have served with a number of outstanding individuals, and some not so outstanding, and I still believe that the Fedora Project is the standard by which FOSS projects should be judged. I am still a Fedora user, first and foremost, despite no longer being part of the project.
I’ll be glad to take questions now.
Reporter: A blog called the Fifth Pillar speculates that you’ll be doing a variety of work with other projects — OMGUbuntu and Gentoo to name two. Even the possibility of drumming for Jono Bacon’s band Severed Fifth was mentioned. Any truth to these rumors?
LC: I saw that blog item by my good friend Mark Terranova. No, there is no truth to any of those rumors, though truth be told I think I could jam with Jono and, probably unknown to Mark, I do play the acoustic Theremin in various folk jam bands. As for Gentoo, that’s a joke since it’s known far and wide that I’ve never been able to get that distro to run since I started using Linux in 2006.
Ultimately, it’s my fault that these rumors got started. One of the things I want to apologize for is how I handled notifying people about my departure, because I really fumbled it badly. To be honest, I didn’t think my departure would matter to anyone outside of those who had an administrative interest in my leaving — those who needed to reassign my duties and replace me on FAmSCo. But apparently a lot of other people who I should have told felt they were left in the dark. While I don’t mean to sound egotistical, I did get a lot of “Hey, what happened?” e-mails after resigning, and I want to apologize to those who were wondering what was going on.
If I had a chance to do it over again, I would have contacted more people to let them know my plans. But here we are, with the barn door open and the horse prancing in the field.
Reporter: To follow up on this one, in the OMGUbuntu graphic, it has you as Yoda calling Mark Shuttleworth a “clown.” Does this reflect your dislike for Shuttleworth or Ubuntu?
LC: No. I don’t dislike Mark Shuttleworth or Ubuntu. Let me give you the short- and long-versions behind this aspect of the story. I made a comment on Facebook on a photo of Linux Pro Magazine’s associate publisher Rikki Kite with Mark Shuttleworth to the effect of, “Nice picture, Rikki, but who’s that clown next to you?” Or something like that. Mostly harmless, and completely tongue-in-cheek. I think Mark Terranova ran with that, referring to a dust-up I had last year with many Ubunteros and Mark Shuttleworth over a blog item I wrote about pointing out another item regarding how much — or actually, how little — Canonical/Ubuntu contributes back to the community in the way of technical support, as well as Mark Shuttleworth’s response to my blog posting.
Because I am critical of some aspects of Ubuntu does not mean I dislike it, or the community. I have used Ubuntu in the past and my daughter is an Ubuntu user. I would say I have differences of opinion on some aspects of how things are done in Ubuntu — regarding how LoCos promote a “separate but equal” policy in keeping LUGs at arm’s length, for example — but I appreciate, deeply appreciate, Canonical and Ubuntu’s artesian contribution to the promotion — the promotion — of Linux. However I don’t think this gives them a pass when their contributions back to the kernel development, for example, are woefully lacking. In other words, I don’t tell the emperor he’s got great clothes when he’s wearing nothing at all.
Also, I like Mark Shuttleworth and I think he’s an interesting guy. Anyone who puts his efforts to the degree that Mark does behind FOSS is OK with me, to say the least. Besides, he’s been to space. The closest I’ve been to space is a Grateful Dead concert.
Reporter: You mention other FOSS project you’re planning to work on. Which are they?
LC: I’ve been working on the Southern California Linux Expo for the last few years, and I want to devote more time to doing press work for it. I think SCALE has the potential to eclipse OSCON as the premiere West Coast Linux event. Also, I am jump-starting the Lindependence Project, and we’ll hold another Lindependence event like we did in 2008 in Felton — only it will be held in conjunction with Software Freedom Day instead of on Independence Day.
One more thing: I have a Facebook app I am working on called Lifeville — so far, it’s a simple script that, when you click on the start button, brings up a message that says: “Real life exists beyond this screen. Your computer is now shutting down. Go outside.” It’s GPLed and CC-licensed.
Reporter: I wonder if you can comment on this line taken from your statement — “some not so outstanding” — meaning, I assume, some people you may have had disagreements or friction with in the Fedora Project.
LC: Yes, I can, and thank you for bringing that up. So much for slipping that under the radar (laughter). Clearly, when you have a group that’s as big as the Fedora community, not everyone is going to be dancing in unison around the proverbial May pole. With strong personalities comes strong disagreements — this is clearly a part of the process.
But since FUDCon, I have felt that there has been some discord in the project that has fostered a lot of ill will. One example of this is a movement started in Europe around “give back our distro” or something along those lines which, personally, I thought was a pitch in the dirt that a lot of Fedora folks who should know better were swinging at. Now I don’t mind disagreeing, but I do mind having people be disagreeable, and those who know me know that, when provoked, I can be disagreeable with the best of them; Olympic-caliber disagreeable. I have to plead guilty to provoking some of the ill-feeling that this issue has fostered, and I am sorry about that. As a part of the leadership at the FAmSCo level, it was probably unacceptable for me to take such a strong stand against against this, despite how stupid I thought it was, and still think it is.
I think, too, there is a degree of burnout involved in my resignation, but much of that burnout was borne of having to do my duties and also participating in this discussions/debates/arguments that took a lot of valuable time and a lot of effort away from what I, and others, should have been doing.
Reporter: So in other words . . .
LC: I’m sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to add one more thing to this in order to give this a clearer context. As I mentioned in the statement, I believe that the Fedora Project does things right, whether it’s engineering an outstanding distro every six months or whether it’s promoting it through an Ambassador program that wrote the textbook on promoting a distro, or a Design team that is second to none. A great part of that is the solid community that drives Fedora, despite a handful of malcontents, and much of the credit can be given to Red Hat for their outstanding support. When a billion-dollar company like Red Hat “gets it” — that is, understands how FOSS works and how they clearly benefit from it — it provides a perfect symbiosis between Red Hat and the Fedora Project where those who are working in the Fedora Project reap the benefits of this relationship.
Reporter: Do you see yourself going back to the Fedora Project at any time in the future, or do you think that you’ll catch on with another distro or FOSS program?
LC: I’d gladly return to the Fedora Project at some time in the future and, as I mentioned, I’m still primarily a Fedora user. One of the things that I’d also like to explore is being a community leader/organizer — or, like Red Hat’s Karsten Wade, a “community gardener” — for a project that I believe in. But while my resume sits on the runway should something in this area come up, I’m still immediately focused on Lindependence and SCALE at the moment.
(Silence follows, with no further questions forthcoming).
LC: OK, so thank you all for coming, and thank you for staying awake.
[Note: I wrote this in the LXer.com forum in response to Jeff Hoogland's blog posting on #fedora that was linked to LXer.com. I did spell out "asshat" below, where I did not do that in the forum posting. Jeff's blog item is here, and I would invite everyone to read it first before reading my response below. Or not. It's up to you. Also, I fixed the link to the Eric Raymond/Rick Moen tome that's worth a read as well.]
Truth in advertising disclaimer: Many of you already know that I have been an active participant in the Fedora Project for several years; for those of you who don’t, that secret is now out (and, man, do I feel relieved admitting it!). I have also been a regular in many IRC channels, both Fedora and non-Fedora related, though I am not a regular in #fedora — in fact, I avoid #fedora for the same reasons Jeff outlines in his self-proclaimed “rant.”
That said, Jeff accurately points out a situation that has been a sticking point, and one that is being addressed and corrected, in the Fedora Project around the types of caustic responses that sometimes come up in #fedora. Also, while I don’t frequent the channel and usually find answers to my questions elsewhere — a good practice (and more on this later) — I can say that it’s something that has caused some of us in the Fedora Project some concern.
However — and you knew that was coming — just as an observation on my part, it appears Jeff shot from the hip on this one rather than giving it some thought before writing.
Believe me, I am not casting the first stone against this “sin” — I speak from experience here: lots of experience in which I have fired off unretractable words that a walk in the redwoods or shooting a few hoops would have tempered into something more reasonable and justifiable.
So, Jeff, with apologies, I think your blog goes over the top in the following ways:
a.) #fedora has not cornered the market in asshats by any stretch of the imagination, despite our mutual experience in this particular channel. The cantakerous tards who have an inflated self-worth exist in most IRC channels in every distro across the board — maybe not in Bodhi, if their leader has any say in it (I sincerely hope) — but I think it’s more the nature of things like how IRC operates as well as a wake-up call for the need for change, positive change, in this regard.
b.) It’s a little myopic to judge the performance of a distro by the people “representing” it (and, arguably, any bad experience in any distro-related IRC channel does not accurately reflect the community as a whole, but rather reflects personality flaws in those responding to questions, regardless of whether they’re chanops or not). If that were the case, I would never, ever, EVER use PCLinuxOS, since I have had the same experience seeking information from them that we have had with Fedora (and I do have a box in the lab with PCLOS).
c.) An aside: When I first started using Linux, I was told to read this tome by Eric S. Raymond and Rick Moen: “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” which lives here:
(You may have to copy/paste the link above — there is no space before the ~ though each posting insists on inserting one)
Why this isn’t a README in all distros is a mystery, but it should be. I am not suggesting that Jeff asked the wrong question here, but often times questions are not asked in the most efficient or direct way. But as Jeff points out in his blog, we don’t know the circumstances that the user is facing in finding out an answer, but it does help immensely to ask the right question. Immensely.
d.) Another aside: I can’t imagine Jared Smith of Fedora or Jono Bacon of Ubuntu firing off a rant like this. As a project leader for what I think is an up-and-coming distro, I hope you understand, Jeff, that as a project leader, you’re in the bigs now and what you say and do reflect on your project for better or worse.
For those of you who have gotten this far, thanks for staying awake. I’ll now put on my Nomex and feel free to flame away.
(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.)
There are a lot of people around the planet who talk the Free/Open Source Software talk and walk the Free/Open Source Software walk. Fortunately for us here in the Silicon Valley — and those of us “over the hill” from the valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains — many of them live within driving distance of yours truly.
Mark Terranova is one of those FOSS activists in the San Francisco Bay Area who puts me to shame. Between Gidget Kitchen and the variety of distros he advocates, Mark is one of the people you want on your team if you want to get things done.
Mark wrote a blog item here equating some of the characters in “Star Wars” to some of the, ahem, “characters” in the FOSS galaxy.
Mark honored me with being the Yoda in this constellation. About halfway down the blog item, I’m teamed up with Quaid Gon-Jin, also known as Red Hat’s Community Gardener Karsten Wade. Mark’s mashup can be found here.
As long as I don’t have to talk in disjointed sentences — disjointed sentences I will not talk in, hmmm? — I’d gladly say that I am both grateful and humbled by Mark’s designation, and I hope I can live up to it. Thanks, MarkDude.
[Although one thing, Mark: I find it hard to believe that the mashup of Jono Bacon, as Han Jono, looks any different than Jono in his usual daily garb. But never mind.]