||[Apr. 29th, 2009|10:41 am]
Adam's summary of Linuxfest Northwest got me thinking a little bit.
Sunday I spent some time at the Fedora booth and also chatted with a few people from other projects, including Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier of Novell / OpenSUSE. I’ve now met the community managers of Ubuntu (that would be the incomparable Jono Bacon, of course) and OpenSUSE (and of course I was the community manager of Mandriva, and I’ve met Anne Nicolas, who now more or less holds that title, along with all her others). That means, a bit ironically, that I’m left with just the sort-of community manager of Fedora - Max Spevack - to meet to complete the full set of major commercial (or commercially-backed) distributions. It’s very interesting to see how differently the role is conceived; I was sort of a user community mouthpiece at Mandriva, Jono considers ‘community’ to mean mostly the developer/contributor community, and Zonker says his role works out to be mostly evangelism (he prefers the title community manager because it avoids the rather off-putting overtones of the ‘evangelist’ concept).
I certainly would love to meet Adam, but I don't consider myself Fedora's "community manager". In fact, I don't think Fedora has a single "community manager" at all, and that is a good thing.
Regardless of whether or not you even like the term "community manager", I think we can all agree that there are a variety of functions around community building, volunteer organizing, resource allocation, and general management/leadership that any successful open source project needs to have.
In Fedora, and at Red Hat, we have made a conscious decision to spread these responsibilities among a variety of people, with the aim being to build a large team of people (both within Red Hat and within the larger Fedora community) who can put on the "community manager" hat when they need to -- the various people who have been the Fedora Project Leader, guys like Mike McGrath and Adam himself for whom part of their formal job descriptions is to build community in particular sub-sections of the Fedora Project, and Red Hat's Community Architecture team.
Why is this distributed "community manager" philosophy better? Simple economics and scalability. When there's an event on the west coast of the USA that needs a "community manager", we can send Karsten. Guys like Sankarshan and Harish can help us out in India and Asia, while Rodrigo takes care of Latin America. We don't have to fly one person all over the world, because we treat community "management" as Just Another Community Project, in which both Red Hat employees and Fedora volunteers work together to grow and develop our communities worldwide -- sometimes directly in the Fedora space, and sometimes under the larger Red Hat name (reference Greg's current work in open source education).