On Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 4:18 AM, Max Spevack <mspevack(a)redhat.com> wrote:
I warn you in advance that this is a very long email.
There's been a discussion on famsco-list for the last week and a half now,
and I volunteered to try to summarize some of that conversation, so that we
could move it to fedora-ambassadors-list.
Wow! This took some serious effort Max and I really appreciate it.
Helping the ambassador community understand the work that FAmSCo is
undertaking and giving us the opportunity to contribute to the end
result is really a great thing for the community.
My response might be longer than yours so please bear with me. All
comments below are intended to just let you know the way I'm thinking
about these issues. I don't expect you to adopt them, just give them
some consideration and make your best decision after suffering through
what you are about to suffer through. :).
The main topics of the discussion center around these three points:
* Purging of inactive Ambassadors
* Raising the standard for membership
The thread was started by David Nalley, and his initial email brought up the
The "probation" idea for Fedora Ambassadors is flawed, and can be improved.
Improving it will help raise the overall quality and effectiveness of
Fedora Ambassadors. In particular, David advocated for the following:
1) Fixed term for probation should go away, and be replaced with a specific
set of tasks that need to be achieved.
2) If someone makes no progress in X amount of time, we purge them from the
system. If they are making progress, then give as much time as is needed.
3) New Ambassadors should immediately be given a mentor -- a specific name
of an Ambassador in their region.
To help you understand my thoughts on all this I'd like to begin by
describing the roles of mentor and sponsor as I'll be using them since
I don't think everyone agrees on what these roles are currently. Oh,
heck, let's just visit a dictionary for this.
(1) A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
(1) One who assumes responsibility for another person or a group
during a period of instruction, apprenticeship, or probation.
(2) One who vouches for the suitability of a candidate for admission.
Given these common definitions, I think in the early stages of
membership we want to pair up in some fashion a new ambassador (or a
new candidate to become an ambassador) with a sponsor. The role of the
sponsor would be to help guide the candidate through the process and
in my opinion should culminate in the sponsor recommending the
candidate for admission to the group. There should be some at least
loosely defined criteria for anyone recommended by a sponsor that
should include basic grokking of free software and the philosophy of
Fedora. This doesn't need to be a high bar but just some minimal
understanding of key issues demonstrated by the candidate.
kital has been performing the guidance function for all new
ambassadors and we should relieve him of some of that burden.
Once admitted to the group as an ambassador we should help the new
ambassador find a mentor for longer term, deeper help. This often
might end up being the same person as the sponsor if they hit it off
well. But it could be anyone the ambassador trusts and is comfortable
working with who can volunteer the time to help this ambassador. I'm
not sure all sponsors would be able to provide deep mentoring to
everyone they sponsor. That is asking a lot I think.
4) Current restrictions on getting resources as an Ambassador while
probation should go away, and be replaced with "at your mentor's
Max's note #1: This begins to lay out what looks like a more formal
sponsorship process for Ambassadors, which is similar to the sort of thing
that happens in the Fedora Package Maintainers community.
Max's note #2: As Fedora Ambassadors continues to grow, a sponsorship
process becomes more and more critical, and Package Maintainers has set a
good example and precedent.
I agree with this and think we should bite the bullet and just set up
a sponsorship system now.
Francesco Ugolini commented that we want to continue to ensure that
resources are managed regionally (which is consistent with David's
proposal), and that one important task will be to ensure that *whatever* the
requirements are on new people who want to join Ambassadors, it be as clear,
and as internationalized, as possible.
Max's note #3: In Ambassadors in particular, it's important for us to try to
simplify and clarify policy as much as possible. The number of languages on
our list and in our sub-project is very large, even compared to other parts
of Fedora (perhaps with the exception of Localization).
Thomas Canniot expressed concerns with the mentorship idea. He was not
"against" it, but wanted more discussion and some "convincing".
Now I'm going to list the three points that Thomas made, as well as some of
the conversation that came after each of these points in the email thread.
(1) There are two types of Ambassadors -- the already-active Ambassadors
around the world who don't need any mentorship, and the Ambassadors who do
need mentorship and guidance.
I don't feel like an old ambassador but some might classify as such
and I still feel like I could use mentoring. We can all benefit from
the wisdom of Max and others who understand our community far deeper
than we do.
David Nalley responded to this point by saying that some of the
Ambassadors didn't have anything like a mentor and had to figure out and
build the current structure by trial and error. Now that we have a chance
to be more efficient with training and mentorship, shouldn't we take that
David said that he'd categorize Ambassadors instead as "those who take
ownership of something" and "those who don't know that they *can* take
ownership of something", and that we want to move people from the second
group into the first group.
He also went on to say (and I'm adding in a bit of my own thoughts here
also) that one of the goals of the Ambassadors project needs to be ensuring
that new Ambassadors realize quickly that they play a crucial role in
Fedora, and that they have tremendous power to represent Fedora, and that it
is also very important that Ambassadors understand and believe in the main
principles of Fedora -- the four foundations, for example, and what they
And this is exactly the sort of thing I really want the sponsor to
"sign off on" when recommending a new ambassador to the group.
(2) We don't need mentorship until the growth of Ambassadors
Max's note #4: I think the rate at which we are getting new Ambassadors
clearly demonstrates that mentorship is needed now, because QUALITY is far
more important than QUANTITY. I don't want to be signing up new Ambassadors
if only 1 in 10 is developing into true stars and leaders in the Ambassadors
(3) Adding in mentorship and sponsorship suggests that we don't believe
people can reach the same level of success as some of the older Ambassadors
without help, and that is disappointing.
Max's note #5: Personally, I disagree with this. The ability to have a
mentor or a sponsor (who serves as a mentor) is a luxury, not a sign of
As David Nalley said: "The Ambassadors are representatives of the Fedora
Project; They are the spokespeople and the public face for Fedora. What
concerns me is that we essentially have these representatives that may know
precious little about Fedora and free software, and the penchant for
misrepresenting is high. I personally like our low barrier to entry. At the
same time I think that it is incumbent upon us (FAmSCo) to provide the
background education to the uninitiated if we are serious about our
responsibilities the Ambassadors project and plant to continue having a low
barrier to entry.
I could not agree with this statement more. I think this is really the
key to making sure we have quality ambassadors in the future.
As has been noted previously in this email, the Package Maintainers
provides an excellent example of this, as does the Art team.
The Art team does a stupendous job of reinforcing core values in their
Joerg Simon responded with an email promoting the virtues of mentoring, with
specific examples from his own time in Fedora, both the people who helped to
mentor him (Chitlesh & Gerold) as well as the people who he has helped to
mentor (Mirlan & Thibault). "Trust and Mentoring is the Key!", says
and I agree with him.
David Nalley notes that we don't want to devalue what it means to be a
Fedora Ambassador by not having enough structure. Max adds that it is not
simply enough to say "I think Fedora is great!" but rather that Ambassadors
serve a specific, and crucial role in our community. We give our
Ambassadors tremendous amounts of freedom and trust to be the public face of
Fedora, and therefore there is a requirement to provide some level of
"quality control" and oversight.
In short, Fedora Ambassadors is not a social club.
A specific proposed action by Joerg is to clean up the FAS group for Fedora
David Nalley agreed, saying:
"This is an ideal time to do so - with the recent password reset I'd guess
that 30% or more of the people in the Ambassador fas group have their fas
account inactive due to failing to change their password. I'd argue that we
should give them 30 days (~April 6th iirc) and if their account is still
inactive in FAS we should jettison them. They clearly aren't active if they
haven't had to use their fedora account (or missing the fedora email addy)
over a period of 30 days. That's a better indication IMO than any 'I'm
Susmit and Francesco both gave a +1 to this, as did Rodrigo, who went a step
further and said that in LATAM, he plans to have a personal conversation
with all people who want to be Ambassadors.
The only thing that continues to bother me about this is the nagging
feeling that we are changing the rules on ambassadors without giving
them reasonable warning. Some people probably very seldom log into FAS
and figure they will change it when they next have a reason to login.
Even I had no idea that by not changing it (I did change it but
probably read the warnings with about the same level of care as most
people) my account would be flagged as inactive.
A specific proposal for a FAmSCo vote was suggested by David:
""That FAmSCo direct the Ambassador Membership Service to request from
Infrastructure a list of all users who are Ambassadors and whose account has
remained inactive for a period of greater than 30 days after a password
reset, and further that FAmSCo direct the Membership Service to purge said
users from the Ambassadors list"
Fedora Infrastructure ran a query for us, which showed that of the 772
Ambassadors in FAS, 300 were inactive based on the statement above.
Max's note #6: For me, this sets off major alarm bells, and goes back to the
idea of quantity versus quality. The Ambassadors numbers grow, but they are
inflated because most of the people are joining the group because they want
to basically join the Fedora Fan Club, and this is the closest thing that we
have to that, but the purpose of Ambassadors is not to be a Fan Club.
Thomas Canniot agreed that this set off alarm bells for him to, and conceded
that some cleanup of the FAS group is clearly necessary. Susmit notes that a
mixture of automated and manual cleanup processes would be the best, to
prevent false positives or other mistakes that could lead to hurting the
feelings of an important community member.
Joerg states that he is in favor of cleaning up inactive accounts, and
coupling that with a higher barrier to entry for the Ambassadors project.
David agrees, and wonders why we are taking so long to make what seems like
an obviously right decision.
Francesco notes that a decision is made, but that another opportunity for
full discussion among Ambassadors is required, which is what this email that
I have been writing attempts to lay out and summarize.
Wasn't this voted on and settled today?
David Nalley notes that Fedora Infrastructure might already be planning some
sort of action for people whose accounts remain inactive past a password
reset, because there is a potential security issue for having dormant
accounts, with various permissions, just sitting around. Perhaps our problem
of inactivity will be solved by a larger problem of inactivity across Fedora
that needs to be addressed.
Max's note #7: Solving the inactivity problem and the mentorship problem are
two different things!!!
Max's note #8: It seems to me that the actions on the table for FAmSCo to
ultimately deal with are:
(1) Dealing with inactive accounts, either within our sub-project itself or
within the whole of Fedora Infrastructure.
(2) Reforming our barriers-to-entry and sponsorship process to remove time
limits, but to require specific actions and a show of progress.
(3) Putting together a mentorship/sponsorship system similar to that of
Thanks again for this great summary Max. And thanks to everyone on
FAmSCo who takes the time to read and consider the ideas that
percolate up from the community.