Next steps for ‘Hidden Influencers’

With Paris only weeks away it’s time to announce that we have a time and place to meet people whose job is to decide what OpenStack means for their company. The OpenStack Foundation has offered a room to meet in Paris on Monday, November 3rd, in the afternoon: please add the meeting to your schedule.

There have been discussions in the past weeks about the hidden influencers, there was a recent call by Randy Bias to identify people, functions, groups, anything who can own the product OpenStack. The time is ripe to get to know who directly control the engineers’ priorities and complete the circle of end users, operators, product owners, developers.

Rob, Sean, Allison and I have the idea of creating a working group modelled after the Operators group: get people in the same room, some time mid-cycle and sync up on the development effort. It’s just an idea, mid-cycle is when the development roadmap gets more realistic, it’s more clear which blueprints are in good shape and which are less likely to make it into the release. We believe it would be valuable to have a moment when product decision makers can coordinate and get a chance to share their priorities.

The room is available for 4 hours, but of course we can use for less time if needed. It makes sense to start hacking some of the topics in the next weeks, before Paris. Please join the mailing list and introduce yourself while the agenda will be drafted on the etherpad. For naming the group you can join the async brainstorming session (drop names at random and don’t judge yourself nor others: everything is fair game).


How is your OpenStack team organized?

I’ve been collecting a lot of good insights talking to directors and managers about how their companies are organized to contribute to OpenStack. For geographic reasons I have mostly gathered comments from people between San Francisco and Silicon Valley and I’d like to expand the research.

I’m especially interested in learning about internal processes, system of incentives, things that impact performance evaluation for engineers contributing to OpenStack.

To expand the research I’m asking the OpenStack community to fill in this brief survey or contact me directly (stefano for a quick interview.

How do companies do OpenStack?

I’m cruising Silicon Valley these days asking “how does your company do OpenStack?”  to collect best practices and notable mistakes from various leaders of OpenStack corporate community. I’m hoping to build a ‘how to’ manual to help managers build better dev teams, more effective at collaborating while shipping products to their customers. This is an effort that goes hand-in-hand with training new developers with Upstream Training and other initiatives aimed at sustaining OpenStack growth.

I often have to explain to managers of OpenStack corporate members how and why to contribute to the project. The level of complexity reached has now exceeded the simple answers, like ‘fix simple bugs’ or ‘read the wiki pages’. For example, the participants to the Upstream Training in Atlanta had difficulties finding low-hanging-fruit bugs to work on: by the time they were ready to commit, someone else had already fixed it. Too much is going on at the same time, newcomers are confused at many different levels.

While we will keep training developers through Upstream Training (and other initiatives), we’re going to start talking to managers too.  I’d like to know how development teams are organized, how they balance shipping products to customers with contributing upstream, what incentives are in place that help or prevent contributions to go upstream, how career paths are influenced by contributions to the open source collaboration, etc.

If you’re managing a team of developers or devops, you’re a CTO, a HR executive or are managing in any way a team of engineers contributing code to OpenStack, I would like to talk to you: email me and vote for my talk proposal “How to maximize effectiveness of your developers contributing to OpenStack”.

Engage in technical discussions keeping in mind the OpenStack promise

When OpenStack launched, it made four clear promises to its community: Open Source, Open Design, Open Development and Open Community. Open Source for OpenStack founders has been clearly explained:

We are committed to creating truly open source software that is usable and scalable. Truly open source software is not feature or performance limited and is not crippled. There will be no “Enterprise Edition”.

I find it worth restating that promise because I believe the four ‘Open’ promises that largely contributed in boosting OpenStack growth. There is a conversation about what is Cinder itself and what’s the role of its drivers. It’s a highly technical debate and a very important one, where I think this promise needs to be reminded: There will be no “Enterprise Edition”.

I won’t enter into technical details because it’s not my role.  John Griffith and Ken Hui have a lot of interesting things to say about this and I suggest you to read their posts.  My personal opinion based on what I heard in Atlanta and read afterwards is that one approach puts Cinder in danger of becoming only useful if you pay a license to someone offering “value added” (better, freedom removed) pieces of hardware and software. That would be very shortsighted and that’s not what OpenStack is.  I think any leader of OpenStack has to be very careful when implementing changes that may put OpenStack’s promises in danger. The promises we made as a community are the first things to keep in mind during any conversation, technical ones included.

The quest to sustainable development of free software

A few articles on the topic of how to sustain development of free/libre software caught my attention lately:

It’s a hard problem, especially when you compare the revenues of a Red Hat selling “free as in freedom” software with the insane amount of money that can be made developing software that enslaves and sells users to advertisers. On the other hand, I know of a good amount of people making a living (and saving for the rainy days) while respecting users freedoms.

Ubuntu is not going to give me a decent desktop OS anymore

I’ve always been an Ubuntu fan for the past 10 years since the distribution came out with the promise of a usable deskto, with a promise of openness, regular releases, great integration between different and separated projects, great vision for world dominance. I loved all of that and I loved the execution, including the latest evolution. I love HUD and how it uses screen real estate, allows me to be more effective at commanding window-based application without having to touch the mouse. I love most of Unity, the dash and the lenses although I don’t use most of it.

Lately I’ve gone from concerned fan to very sad: I’m considering switching to another distribution. What I don’t really like is the lack of investments from Canonical on productivity tools that we live for: an email client and a calendar client. I already ranted about the sad state of free software collaboration tools and unfortunately Canonical decided to invest time and energy in supporting not a desktop for productivity but as a gaming platform, a cloud operating system and a mobile system. Canonical is devoting its engineers to develop things I really don’t care about. All I wanted was a good, solid desktop operating system for my daily computing needs: email, calendar, web browsing, audio/video collaboration tools and a decent way to exchange ‘office’ documents with peopls stuck in 1998 way of producing content. Sadly Ubuntu is not going to provide that in the near future, it even backed out from offering the most basic tools like an email client and a calendar client.

When I look at the alternatives though, I am even more sad and want to cry. GNOME seems to be stupidly following all the things that Apple does, including the obvious mistakes like the broken behavior of ALT-TAB (I expect GNOME developers to invert the way we scroll pages any time now, because Apple did that with absolutely no logical reason). GNOME also lacks a modern email client, addressbook and calendar client, with Evolution being stuck in 1998. And spare me to mention KDE: great technology, just no decent UI for it.

I’m sure Ubuntu will look great in a couple of years on TVs, phones, clouds but all I wanted was my desktop and I fear that for the next couple of years I’ll be stuck with a broken one, being it Ubuntu or Fedora or something else.

Watching the live streaming from Cupertino’s council debating…

Watching the live streaming from Cupertino’s council debating the new Apple campus. Even the environmentalists are defending the massive pouring of concrete in the middle of orchards and farming land. Not sure if I should admire the democracy in action or laugh at these people saying silly things to defend Apple, a company that has deprived them of basic rights like the right to sell or give to your friends the books or music you rightfully bought.