Beyond FUDCon with Robyn Bergeron, Fedora Program Manager

Feb 23, 2011

"I personally would love to see more folks getting involved in areas that don't necessarily require coding skills. I think that there is enormous room for growth and contribution in these areas, and there are plenty of Linux enthusiasts out there who have the skills and imagination to make great contributions in these places." ~ Robyn Bergeron

Linux Pro Magazine: How did you first get involved with F/LOSS? When? What was your first Linux distribution? When? What do you use now?

Robyn Bergeron: I've been a Linux user for a long time, though it hasn't always been my primary OS. I remember running Slackware back in 1995, 1996, and was an on-again, off-again tinkerer through the early 2000s. My first real involvement with contributing to F/LOSS was a few years ago, when I volunteered to help out with editing papers and compiling the proceedings for the Ottawa Linux Symposium, which I did for two years before becoming involved with Fedora.

LPM: Could you please introduce yourself and tell me a little about what your role at Red Hat is and what you do for the Fedora Project?

Robyn Bergeron: My official title is Associate Program Manager, though mostly I express it as being the Fedora Program Manager. This is basically a rather fancy way of saying that I develop and run the 6-month schedule for Fedora's delivery, and do my best to crack the whip to make sure that things get done, and the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, for each release to get out on time. This is a role I recently took over from John Poelstra, and thus, this will be my first release in this position.

Aside from my "official job," I am also the Marketing team lead, and I also run the Fedora Cloud SIG meetings. I also organized the recent FUDCon in North America in Tempe, Arizona in January, with a lot of help from my Fedora Friends.

LPM: When did you get involved with the Red Hat and the Fedora project?

Robyn Bergeron: I started out doing small things in Marketing in late 2009. Eventually, I started taking on larger tasks, and Mel Chua, who was leading Fedora Marketing at that time, handed off the baton to me. My involvement with the Cloud SIG began mid-2010, and I began employment with Red Hat just this past November.

LPM: Out of all the things in the Fedora 14 release, what are you and your team most proud of?

Robyn Bergeron: I think the one thing that really stood out for me personally was that we really got the Cloud SIG up and running to a point where we actually got things done. Our first task was to get a new release of Fedora on Amazon EC2—the version that was previously the "most current" was Fedora 8, which, obviously, was woefully out of date. Getting an image up isn't as easy as it may sound, but it all came together and is available for people to use now, which is great!

LPM: What was the biggest obstacle you faced for this release and how did you overcome it?

Robyn Bergeron: I don't know that, at least within the teams I'm active in, we had any obstacles in our way. I think one of the more difficult things that the Marketing team has is continually trying to find new people to participate in creating a lot of the Marketing information, interviews, and collateral that we produce, and then working with other teams to make it look "pretty" in time for release. One example I can think of is the Fedora 14 One-page Release notes— as much as people take photos at events, it's always hard to try and find new photos that are suitable, oriented properly, etc. for inclusion. We actually did a call for photos, and had a ton of people submit things online via the wiki, which really helped out when we were up against the time wall. It's just one of the many ways that I continually find that Fedora is great: people ask for help, and others really do pitch in!

LPM: What can we expect from you and your team in Fedora 15?

Robyn Bergeron: As far as my role as the Program Manager, I hope to do my part to have an on-time release, and for everyone to see Fedora 15 out on May 10. As far as the Marketing team, we traditionally do a series of Feature Profiles around some of the interesting features in Fedora for each release, and I think we're going to have some really great ones this cycle; the number of features we have this release is astounding. And the Cloud SIG is making great progress as well. We'll see some Cloud-related features in Fedora 15, and some of the SIG members are already hard at work on things for Fedora *16*.

LPM: Understanding that every developer and community member's contribution and participation is appreciated, but if you had to name shine the spotlight on a Fedora contributor, who would it be and why?

Robyn Bergeron: I think Emily Michan is a fabulous new contributor, and I always love to talk about new contributors. She's yet another example of how someone can come in and rapidly make a difference. She's been contributing to the Design team over the course of the current and past release in a variety of ways, and even designed our shirts for FUDCon. It's simply a great illustration of how anyone can get involved, without barriers to entry. All you need is a small bit of time, and dedication.

LPM: Red Hat staff are often asked to attend and/or speak at events such as conferences, Linux Fests, summits, Fedora Activity Days and more. What events will you attending this year? What topics will you cover in presentations?

Robyn Bergeron: I'll be speaking at SCaLE in late February on the topics of Marketing your Linux Distribution (with Amber Graner!), as well as on Open Source tools for decentralized collaboration. I don't have any other speaking sessions planned currently, though I do enjoy talking about applying TOSW (The Open Source Way) to Marketing, and hope to do so again at some events this year. I do plan on attending Ohio Linux Fest, as well as the SouthEast LinuxFest, and perhaps others as well. I'm also hoping to make it out to a FUDCon in Europe at some point later this year, which is still in the planning stages.

LPM: What’s your fondest memory of Fedora overall? What’s your worst?

Robyn Bergeron: We recently had the FUDCon event in Tempe, Arizona. It was a lot of work. I will fully admit that there are times where I was frustrated with logistical planning to the point of tears. The first day, we had lunch on site, and I was standing around wondering where everyone went; I looked outside to see probably a hundred attendees, all eating outside, talking and basking in the January Arizona sunshine. And that was the moment when I realized that we pulled it off, and that it was a great event.

As for my worst moment, I don't know that I have one. There are certainly moments where I experience frustration, particularly when people are going back and forth on a contentious topic. It can be tiring, and maddening. I think it's also a testament to the fact that Fedora Community members LOVE Fedora, and they're not afraid to be passionate, to fight for what they believe. And it's something I always try to remember in those moments.

LPM: People working for Linux or F/LOSS companies often have side or "pet" projects they are developing and/or working on. Do you, if so could you tell us more about the project(s)?

Robyn Bergeron: I'm currently spending a bit of time helping out my pals who put together SouthEast LinuxFest by doing a bit of community outreach and, as much as I love my Fedora friends, it's always nice to work with others who aren't necessarily involved in Fedora. It always helps to give a bit of perspective on what we're doing and how others see it, swap tips, and generally meet new folks with similar interests.

LPM: How and where you would encourage more community contributions?

Robyn Bergeron: I personally would love to see more folks getting involved in areas that don't necessarily require coding skills. I think that there is enormous room for growth and contribution in these areas, and there are plenty of Linux enthusiasts out there who have the skills and imagination to make great contributions in these places. Design, documentation, and marketing — be it via words, or "man on the street" types of marketing — are all areas where I'd love to see new folks coming in, and there is plenty to help out on, and of course, room for imagination and new projects as well.

LPM: When you think of the Red Hat and Fedora Community cultures, what comes to mind and how do you foster that within yourself and your team?

Robyn Bergeron: I think one of the most important aspects of Fedora is the empowerment to get things done. There's no need to ask permission — if you see something that needs to be done, by all means, go forth and do! I definitely try to encourage this type of thing both in the Marketing team and the Cloud SIG.

LPM: What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? With Fedora?

Robyn Bergeron: Like most people, I'd love to see more widespread use of Linux, as a desktop, as an OS used for devices, as an embedded operating system for the plethora of equipment that the communications networks of the world run on. I happen to think that Fedora is well equipped for folks to develop solutions for all three of those end-uses, and I hope to continue to be proud and able to say that the the things we do in Fedora contribute in many ways to everyday parts of people's lives.

LPM: If there was one thing you could tell all new Fedora or Open Source users, what would it be?

Robyn Bergeron: There are no contributions too little, and no ideas too grand; however, as much you want to contribute, whatever way you want to contribute, it can and will make a difference.

LPM: Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to mention?

Robyn Bergeron: I'll be at SCaLE speaking this upcoming weekend (February 24-27). If you're interested in learning more about ways you can contribute to Fedora, find me!

LPM: Thanks Robyn!

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