Community Discussion - Part 4

Yup, I’m still trying to get us, the openSUSE Community, to discuss ways we can improve ourselves.  This time round I’m going to look at Education, Coaching and Teamwork.  Again there is nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary here, but these are topics I feel are easily forgotten or misunderstood.

One item that seems to pop up fairly regularily regardless of which side of the fence you’re on (Novell employee or not), is community contribution and ownership.  Basically some people think getting code/packages/whatever into openSUSE is harder than getting a rocking horse to poop.  Can I just say it isn’t – honest! You just need to know the process to do it.  The flip side of the conversation is, why aren’t more non-Novellians putting more code and what not into openSUSE?  Maybe because they don’t know or understand the process?  So basically we are all to blame, non-Novellians for not asking for help/clarification and Novellians for not going out there and teaching.

So how do we educate?  Firstly that good old method of documentation, yup it’s boring and tedious at times but if done right can save a whole load of hassle.  It does not mean people can just respond to calls for help with RTFM, it mean we have to point people to the correct section of documentaion and also give a little reason as to why they should read it.  Documentation isn’t the only method we can use, after all we are well and truly in the Web 2.0 buzzword bingo era; let’s use video (screencast/presentation/podcast), anotated images, code examples, comic strips, audio (regular podcast or one offs), and last but not least we could always throw a bit of each into a blog post :-)  We need more of the modern methods, they’re much more palatable and fun from a consumer perspective.

Sometimes just having all this information can be daunting, and you can easily get lost in it all.  So we need coaching, some gentle guidance and when needed a good slap!  If we really want more people to take ownership then let’s help them take ownership.  Just throwing it out there and hoping for the best is good for no-one, and if anything will just create a bad atmosphere and generate friction.  Let’s make sure that those that want to do something get as much help as we can give, it may mean that Novellians have to spend a little bit of time holding people’s hands but we will all see the gain.  Don’t think that I would expect it all the time, if you take it for granted you won’t get the oportunity again.  So to those that want the help, make sure you make it clear that you do want and need help and also try and calm any fears that it’s a one off glory hunting mission.  It is a commitment from all parties, and you really need to stick with it.  It may well be that the best person for coaching you isn’t a Novell employee, so ask around.  We can all teach each other a thing or two.  A great example of coaching is Darix and all the others in the Buildservice irc channel and mailing list.  Package building can be really daunting, and getting it right can be tricky at times.  Those guys and gals there are a huge asset to the community, they’re friendly and very knowledgable.  You just need to not be afraid to ask a question.  If you don’t understand an answer, say so!  If you learn something document it and let everyone else know.

Lastly try and not go it alone.  If you can do something as part of a team, then that’s a massive win for us all too.  You don’t have to shoulder all the burden, so you reduce the risk of burn out and we reduce the risk of you getting angry and leaving either the thing you were doing or worse off you leaving openSUSE entirely.  Getting other people’s input can most of the time improve things and spreading the workload also means more peoiple have visibility on what is happening.  So should you not be able to continue for whatever reason (hopefully a valid one, and not because you’re bored) then the ball keeps rolling.  It also helps with the whole knowledge sharing aspect, everyone learns a bit and as we grow stronger and brighter as a whole.  The borg is strong because it is made up of many, we can be stronger.

So have you got any examples of where you recieved education/coaching, maybe you had a bad experience trying to get some?  Please let me and everyone know.  We need to learn from our actions, and if we don’t know whether they were good or bad how can we improve?  If you have an idea on what needs/can be done then discuss it.  Remember this isn’t about me, but about you the openSUSE community.  Let’s step up and really make a difference, and prove to all those naysayers that we do care and are actually doing something about it.