31 August, 2011


A few weeks ago the results of the voting for the openSUSE Strategy came in. 90% agreement, nice!

And another number - I've talked about the openSUSE strategy in no less than 8 posts already. Sjeeminee. Re-reading, I noticed this one where I mentioned that Fedora was also 'doing strategy'. I see that the Fedora Board has created a Vision statement.

Obviously Fedora is quite different from openSUSE (see their Leadership system) and they worked quite differently compared to what we did. Other communities are also having 'strategic discussions'. Looks like we set a trend ;-)

It was quite a learning experience. Doing this in such a large community, with so many ways to let people provide input - wow. I think we did very well. Thanks in part to tools like co-ment and of course the input of many people. I think it's impressive that we did it so open and bottom-up!

In any case, I'm happy with the outcome and I'd like to echo the statement in the article: we're still looking for feedback and further refinement and the strategy mailinglist will stay open! And you're always welcome to provide input in-person at the openSUSE conference.

30 August, 2011

10 steps to building a local community

I've had the question a few times: how do I build a community [here]? With here being in a variety of countries and places. As I speak to quite a few people who lead local communities, I decided to put together a presentation with 10 steps. Feedback on this is obviously welcome, such a thing is never complete! The presentation can be found here and the notes have far more that what I put below.

Step 1: just start!

Start organizing meetings around the subject of your passion! That's all it takes. Pick an interesting subject, find yourself a speaker and get going. Start small: invite friends and collegues. A first meeting with 5 people is fine!
  • find a free venue, small is OK. Meeting room at company is always nice, but universities and schools often have something too
  • pick a time after work. 7-9PM works usually fine.
  • Make sure you have coffee, tea, cake. Not full catering or dinner but basics
  • try to offer this for free (see Step 5: sponsorship)

Step 2: Get interesting stuff to attract visitors

People come out of interest. So, you have to have interesting meetings. For that, speaker quality is crucial.
  • Get a good speaker to talk about an interesting subject! Someone who KNOWS HIS STUFF, preferably not a marketing person... but an engineer or so.
  • meet them before the session to get to know them
  • make sure they have a good presentation (eg avoid death-by-powerpoint etc), help them to improve if needed
  • maintain a good relation with speakers - you might want to invite them again!

Step 3: Make sure they stay

Make people feel welcome! A few tips:
  • make sure you talk to new people and introduce them to others. And introduce them shortly to the group before the talks!
  • if your group grows bigger, pick someone to do the introduction for you: appoint a 'director of communication'!

Step 4: Advertise

Getting the word out is important.
  • set up a nice website with info on the upcoming meetings (something blog-like is fine!)
  • write short reports on the meetings
  • use social media: facebook, twitter/identi.ca etcetera. Be sure to automate as much as you can, often you can link those sites to your blog.
  • provide a place to talk online. Forum, mailinglist, comments on your blogs...

Step 5: Find sponsors

To pay for the coffee and tea it helps to have sponsors.
  • try to find local sponsors and don't stop at one so you don't overtax that one sponsor
  • ask in the meeting if people know potential sponsors
  • don't ask too little money.If you ask $250 you might get 3 sponsors and if you ask $1000 you might only get 1 but - well, do the math... You must realize that $250 or $1000 is almost the same for a company, considering how much trouble they have to go through!
  • Let sponsors pay for things directly to save yourself the tax trouble; or use American Express gift cheques
  • reward the sponsors: put their name on your web site, talk to them about what you do, invite them, let them know they matter!

Step 6: Bring friends

Encourage your visitors to talk to others and bring friends. Reward them with some goodie if they do!

Step 7: Reward creativity

Often, people come up with interesting, fun, weird, creative stuff. They create a nice logo for your local community, postcards with the logo, want to give a origami course to fold it, stuff like that.
SUPPORT IT. Creativity is good; it's fun and showing the love! Talk about it, give people a chance to show what they did. It's good teambuilding!

Step 8: Find minions

You need to off-load work at some point. Find people to help you!
  • give responsibility, don't micro-manage. Mistakes are OK, be patient!
  • value all contributions, no matter how small, it always helps
  • give credit where credit is due. If someone takes care of something for a while, give them a title. Nothing's wrong with being Coffee Master!

Step 9: Be ready for bad weather

Keep the community healthy and fun. That means also to take action when the harmony is threatened.
  • set up a simple code-of-conduct on your site. Nothing complex, just "behave or you're not welcome"
  • if someone mis-behaves, take them apart, talk to them. If they persist, tell them they can't come for a while. Don't argue: it's YOUR event, YOU make the rules
  • if a public apology is warranted, do it yourself. Be non-specific, just say "something not OK happened, I'm sorry. The person(s) involved are sorry and won't do it again."
  • if the people involved don't learn, they're not welcome anymore, period. If you let it drag too long to keep that single person in the group you can loose the whole community! Nobody is worth that, even if they do a lot of work and don't mean it that badly.

Step 10: Have fun!

With all the tips and ideas in here, you would almost miss the most crucial and important point. If YOU don't have fun, you'll be burned out quickly. So make sure it's fun for yourself.


And bonus openSUSE tips

For openSUSE and other communities which have a connection to a global community, I have an additional tip: stay connected!
  • Follow the international news site(s), blogs and mailinglists. Blog yourself about the events, let people know your community exists.
  • And the other way around: discuss the international news in your local community. A 30 min "what happened this week/month" can be fun and interesting.
  • Make sure you invite people from the international community to big events in your country; let the team know and let them meet with the international community members!
    use the materials the international community creates:
    • translate articles or discuss the topics in there;
    • ask for goodies, DVD's to hand out, other materials!
    • use the travel sponsorship where needed to go with your team to events!
    • use the materials on the marketing wiki, talking points, release announce information and other stuff to make sure you say the right things!
    • and use the graphics, folders, flyers and other things created by the international team!
  • have a release party around releases!
  • come to the openSUSE conference to talk with other leaders of local communities and learn!

29 August, 2011

CLS, DS, COSCUP... Plasma Active, ARM, ...

It's been quite a while since I wrote a decent blog and it might be a while longer until I really get to it. I do have a lot to write about, however. First about the Community Leadership Summit - the notes of which I'd like to turn into a few blogs. Second, the Desktop Summit, which was awesome. And third my trip to Taiwan. Finally the upcoming openSUSE conference which is going to be awesome. But let me get the most important stuff out of the way first.

Desktop Summit Awesomeness

At the Desktop Summit (which imho was a great success) I organized 3 food cooking parties where we made some Asian-inspired curries. I've put the recipes on-line for those who asked for it. Find them on the Desktop Summit Food page.

At those cooking evenings we had between 25 and 30 people join us each night. It was big fun, we had good food (and beer and more) and I really intend to do it again next time. As a matter of fact, I hope to do the cooking again at the openSUSE Conference. And remember - if you don't use openSUSE that doesn't mean you can't come and enjoy the company, food and discussions about all kinds of things. See for yourself in the detailed program. You can also learn how IO travels in the kernel, how to use the mtux console multiplexer, the sessions about GIT, cross-cultural communication, GCC and Kernel stuff and more. And that's just stuff from day one, we have about 100 sessions in 4 days.

Talking about cool stuff, on Tuesday we'll have an 8-bit music workshop... Seriously, I look forward to that. If you want to join, hurry up, the conf takes place September 11-14!


Taipei and Plasma Active

Last week I made a trip to Taiwan to meet the openSUSE community there. There's quite a bunch and they did awesome at the booth at COSCUP. Really cool. We had lots of interesting stuff there, flyers, geeko's, stickers, USB sticks and Aaron left his Plasma Active tablet (runs openSUSE, of course) at the booth a few times. That thing drew quite a crowd - and rightly so. I hadn't seen that much of it but Plasma Active is really something very interesting. It's a unique touch tablet UI, yet easy to use and intuitive. Build in just a few months it's amazing to see how well it works already. The team aims to stabilize it in the next few months and I'm absolutely certain it will result in a pretty darn impressive product.

Aaron spoke quite a bit about how well the Open Build Service works for them during development. The team works closely with an interaction designer and obviously she's not such a hugely technical person. With a traditional development process someone would have to do packages for her - or she'd have to learn how to check out a repository and then compile and install stuff herself. Thanks to OBS, packages are build continuously and very easy - a dev checks some code in and the next day the designer can give feedback! Continuous build services are not unique of course but they usually don't come easily, don't produce packages, etc. build.opensuse.org has an easy web interface, can build for all major Linux distro's and architectures (yes, including ARM) and is of course entirely free.run it in-house,

I'm quite proud that openSUSE proves to be so successful for the Plasma Active team. They also build packages for MeeGo, as they want to support ARM systems. I know several openSUSE contributors want to have ARM in openSUSE, well, Plasma Active is at the openSUSE conference so we can meet and talk about it there...

Anyhow. So Taiwan was fun. You can find some pics of COSCUP on flickr and I have an image of two of my hosts as well as fellow visitor Aaron below :D

You'll probably find all three of them at the openSUSE conference too, btw.

05 August, 2011

DesktopSummit about to start!

I'm already late to be at Humbolt and help the team to prepare for the arrival of many hundreds of Free Software desktop* contributors.

For those who missed the mail by Claudia with some last minute information, let me include the most important stuff:

  • Pre-regisration starts at 16:00 at C-base, coolest place in Berlin. Be there for a badge and beer! If you can't make it you can register on Saturday but you'll have to enter the building via the back ;-)
  • Lunch vouchers for food at the uni cost 17 euro
  • Yes, bad weather here, lots of rain. Get Umbrella's...

For more info, see the the desktop summit wiki and here. Contact info can be found here.

Have a good trip if you're not there, and if you've arrived already, enjoy your stay!!!

*I'm unsure what to say these days - "desktop" doesn't cut it, but "UI" or user interface is too vague, user experience too fancy, "desktop/mobile" too long etc etc etc...