2010-02-19

Fedora and its many audiences

One of the longest ongoing conversations in Fedora is what is Fedora about and who does it serve (aka a Target Audience). A large part of the confusion appears to me that everyone comes to the table with their own definition of what Fedora means, what a Target Audience means, and why defining things makes things better and worse.

First what is Fedora. Looking through the long conversations, it is clear that some people are talking about Fedora the distribution, others are talking about Fedora the community, Fedora the websites, Fedora the desktop, or even Fedora the hat. Very few people go into what they are talking about and everyone seems to assume that the other person knows exactly what is going on in their heads. Those that do define what they are talking about usually get some headway but too many partisan brain circuits have fired off so listening is very hard.

So I am going to start off by trying to define what I am going to talk about.

'Fedora the community':
People who are interested in some part of the Venn Diagram: Freedom, Friends, Features, First. That covers a lot of things, and also excludes some things also ( a person who is not interested in any of the 4 principles is not in the primary target audience.)

'Fedora the website':
The site where individuals go to do everything from finding out about the OS to discussing the intricacies of PAM modules and selinux (mailing lists, etc).

'Fedora the distro':
Whatever shows up in a branch of the Fedora build system under.. It is much more than could be delivered on a single cdrom or DVD. [When we start delivering 64 GB USB sticks we might be able to put it on something.]

'Fedora the release':
The items that are culled out of 'Fedora the distro' to be the 'flagship' that people download for their or others usage. What many people think of as the 'release' is what appears on the default DVD.

'Fedora the desktop':
Whatever 'default' desktop environment shows up on the default DVD spin of each release. Currently its GNOME based, but heck with all this convergence on the Moblin/Maemo/Migo front it might be KDE someday.
Many of these things have defined their target audience already mostly through processes similar to making sausage. The big question is 'are they in alignment?', 'can we make it clearer?', 'can we help people find things that meet their needs easier?'
  • 'Fedora the community' has the widest target audience. As long as someone has some interest in the non-euclidean venn diagram.. they are potential members of the community. The more things that overlap for a person, the more likely they will be involved, but even a person who is just interested in 'First' has some place and should be welcomed. I see a lot of arguments when people expect everyone to fit in their part of this complex diagram.

  • 'Fedora the website' has a slightly smaller target audience. It needs to help everyone from 'newbies' to 'greybeard gurus'. People coming to it will need to download new stuff, find old stuff, communicate to other people, fix problems, start builds, get fixes, and a million other things. Target audiences here are most likely going to be 'page' by 'page' versus something across the board. Discussions become most heated when people forget that.

  • 'Fedora the desktop' is pretty much defined by the Fedora Desktop SIG. Its a sausage making where many different people come in with filet Mignon and out comes beef Bologna. The target audience is defined by what they include and what they exclude. People who do not like Bologna can create Special Interest Groups that spin it into whatever dish they want.

  • 'Fedora the distro' is pretty much defined by the 1000 of packagers who find software, package and patch it up, and build it in koji. The 'target' audience are people who like to do those tasks. People who do not really aren't going to be interested or want to know.

  • 'Fedora the release' seems to be the current Hot Potato in many discussions. In some ways, it can be seen what the 'target audience' is by what groups it does not work for 'OUT OF THE BOX.'
    1. It is not meant for resource constrained systems. Trying to get the default install to run on less than 256 MB, or small CPU, etc is something the default install is not going to allow for.
    2. It is not meant for long term deployment. Each release has ~18 months before its end of lifed. This cuts out various audiences which require support lifetimes for multi-years or may not deploy a new OS for 6-9 months after its first released so that initial patching is 'done'.
    3. It is not meant for hardware or applications that only works with closed source drivers. People wanting to play DVD's, make mp3's, do the 'best' 3D stuff on an nvidia card are not going to get that 'out of the box.'

    There are probably other negatives that can be used, but those three allow for one to know that the install is not going to cater to circa 1995 computers. It will also not cater to people who are looking for 7 year deployment schedules. People wanting itunes are out of luck.

    Positives can probably be also applied to things a person can find on the default DVD to meet their needs.

    1. People who want to learn or need to program.
    2. People who are needing to write papers.
    3. General browsing of the web (not counting flash sites that gnash doesn't work on.)
    4. People needing to look at what future RHEL releases might be like.
    5. People who want to do more with Fedora.
If I saw the lists above and were asked to say "who would most likely want to use this straight out fo the box?" I would say "Duh this is a product for students of some sort." I would make sure my mockups were done in a way to make sure I was educating people when asked for and getting out of their way otherwise. Sure there are going to be a lot of people who don't fit that model (myself being one) but I can start from there and move out.

Anyway, my thoughts on an empty stomach. [I am sure there are various false dichotomies in this post.. but most dichotomies are false in the first place :)]
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