tom callaway (spot) wrote,

February 1

February 1 is an interesting day for me. On February 1, 2001, I started working for a small software company called Red Hat, doing Level 2 technical support. Ten years later, on February 1, 2011, I'm still working for Red Hat, but I now manage a Fedora Engineering Team that does nothing but improve Free Software and help the Fedora Community. When I started working for Red Hat, Fedora didn't exist (fedora.us didn't come about until 2003). One of the first tasks I did was to make a set of addon kernel module RPM packages to support the DPT series of hardware raid controllers that were not included in the kernel source tree (you can still find references to that long deleted work by googling "dpt i2o tcallawa").

February 1 is also the birthday of my first (and so far, only) son, Jimmy. He turned 1 this year.


Having a child has really changed how I see the world, and has really given me a new set of perspectives on things. I know he is learning from me, not just from what I teach him, but who I am and what I do. How I interact with others, how I tackle problems, and how I deal with the world.

As I said before, I've been working with Fedora for a long time. I started working on it because it was an interesting challenge, and I kept working on it for a number of reasons, which coincidentally line up well with Fedora's Foundations.

* Freedom - I truly believe in Free Software. I'm not a zealot, nor am I an extremist, but I do believe that Free Software is the right way to develop, use, and distribute software. Everytime I can work with a software project to clarify or fix its licensing to be Free, I know that I'm helping make Fedora better, and also making the world better.

* Friends - I've met Fedora users and contributors on 4 different continents. I consider the majority of these people friends, and they have made my life better for having met them.
It is not easy for me to make friends, because I've struggled for most of my life to overcome a sense of social anxiety and depression, but in Fedora, I have met many people with similar interests and goals, which gave me confidence and made me braver.

* Features - It is a wonderful feeling to work on something, especially with others, and see it come to fruition. Fedora has always provided me with that opportunity, to take on a challenge and bring it to life.

* First - I love being on the cutting edge of Free Software, figuring out how things work, how code fits together, and what amazing things are coming. Working on Fedora is a lot like running a marathon, except that shortly after one race ends, another one starts. :) It is tiring sometimes, but I secretly enjoy the pace.

But there is a fifth reason I have stayed involved with Fedora for all these years:

* Fun - There is a great quote from Jerry Greenfield (one of the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream): "If it's not fun, why do it?" Working with, and in, Fedora is a lot of fun for me. Not everything is fun, but as a whole, working with the Free Software and the Fedora community is fun.

*****

Lately, the things I've been doing in Fedora haven't been fun. People attack me for decisions I've made without trying to understand them, and when I try to explain, they just go off and insult me in various public and private parts of the community. People assume that Red Hat is forcing me to do things, or that Red Hat has some malicious master plan, when neither is even remotely valid. Community members are saying that Fedora has somehow been "taken from them" and are posting hateful attacks to Fedora Planet, cursing and foaming on IRC, and I'm tired of it.

When I was a new employee at Red Hat, I attended an all-hands meeting in the Durham office with the CEO, and I raised my hand to complain to Matthew Szulik about how broken some process was (I can't even remember what the process was, all these years later). He listened, nodded, then asked me how I would fix it. I had nothing, and I told him as much. Matthew looked at me without much respect and said something that has stuck with me all this time. He told me that if I was going to complain to him about something, I had better have at least one suggestion on how to improve it.

Let me offer this advice to you, the reader. If you're unhappy with any aspect of the Fedora Project, you really should be prepared to describe how you want to make it better, even further, you should be prepared to volunteer your time to improve it. If you can't manage either of those things, your complaint is not constructive in my book, merely destructive.

I'll go one step farther: These people who are proudly showing off their "give me back my Fedora" pins are behaving in a way that is demotivating and poisonous to everyone who is working hard on Fedora. If you don't like something about Fedora, don't just make hateful pins and attack other community members for their choices, propose an alternative and volunteer your time and skills to make it happen. Those people are taking the fun out of Fedora, and it clearly doesn't seem to be fun for them. So, I say to those people: If you're not willing to fix the things you think are broken, and you're not having fun, why are you still here?

No amount of past contributions and good works can undo hateful words and misdirected anger. Nothing productive or useful ever came from slander and personal attacks.

I'm not giving up on Fedora, because there are a lot of good people who put in hard work to make it awesome and fun. I want to teach my son that being positive, using your brain, and working hard are valuable life skills. But if you don't believe that, please consider finding somewhere else to participate?
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