Home > Fedora Project > Default offerings, target audiences, and the future of Fedora

Default offerings, target audiences, and the future of Fedora

Ever since I started contributing to the Fedora Project I’ve always loved the work (still do!).  The operating system is flexible (just a bunch of puzzle pieces, really) and that flexibility allows people to build pretty much any type of system they need to get their work done.  Everything being licensed under a free and open source license makes all those puzzle pieces very easy to work with as well.  In short, what I see in Fedora is what I’ve come to expect from all software solutions.

An almost common topic on the Fedora Board is the “target audience”.  I dread these conversations because the conversation has never made much sense to me.  To me, Fedora is flexible enough to be whatever anyone wants it to be.  If you need to use Fedora on a server to serve up web pages or email it can do that.  Need it to be your primary operating system on your laptop?  Yep, it does that well too.  So why do we spend so much time, energy, and effort on the “target audience”?  I have some theories, which I won’t discuss here, but in short we really shouldn’t be trying to pidgin-hole ourselves when our flexibility is one of our major selling points.

For years now we’ve made some assumptions about our “target audience” and what that “target audience” wants.  The assumption of what they want ends up being the default offering and everything else becomes a Spin.  I’ve been on the Board now for a year (just entering my second term) and I’ve yet to hear any evidence that says that this is what our “target audience” wants and why we need to push the hard work of other SIGs down to second-class citizen level.  It doesn’t matter that Fedora runs on tablets, headless ARM devices, servers, cloud environments, and pretty much anywhere else people can think of putting it.  We still think that everyone wants the GNOME Desktop Environment with all the bells and whistles for every installation or that you can just manually add and remove packages or by use a kickstarter file at installation to fix these issues.

So before it gets brought up in the next Board meeting (taking place in just over twelve hours from now) I figured I’d take the opportunity to explain my thoughts on the idea.  Why don’t we let the SIGs determine what’s important and let them build the releases that create Fedora offerings?  The Desktop SIG could put together what they wanted as could a Server SIG, ARM SIG, cloud SIG, etc.  The new download page could display several desktop environment downloads, server ISOs, cloud images, and perhaps several ARM images to allow specific hardware goals to be more easily met.  The Project could focus more on the core packages and then help the SIGs develop their releases.  This isn’t exactly different from what we already have, as far as logical people layouts are concerned.  Today there are people who work under several SIGs and sometimes the work they do also falls across those lines of interest.  The biggest change would be that Fedora would no longer be only known for its desktop OS but rather it would be known for its flexible OS that is pre-built for many situations making it easier for people to adopt it for their use.

Lets add another foundation to our current four.  Let’s make it five with Flexible.

Categories: Fedora Project
  1. 2013-08-22 at 01:39 EDT

    I doubt more people use Gnome 3. The old Gnome 2 crowd has scattered into XFCE,MATE, LXDE, cinnamon, Thanks to Gnome 3 “the inflexible”.

    Fedora SIG are in a corner of the fedora room, even though they functionally perform better than the primary gnome 3.

    Why not just remove the term SIG and consider every DE as equal?

  2. 2013-08-22 at 01:53 EDT

    I think you make good points here. I am much less concerned with whether a spin comes with this set of default rpms or that. I am more concerned that the repository offer a range of options for a range of users. To use crude examples, the spectrum of drawing programs should run from the easiest, say tuxpaint,through mpaint, through pinta, through the GIMP and so on, so that anyone can find what they need. What the “spin” contains by default is,to me, less important. Similarly, as long as I know that abiword/gnumeric and libre office are all in the repository, I do not worry about whether the default is x or y.

    I do contradict myself in one way, though. If I am loading (as I do) Fedora LXDE onto a system in order to get something lightweight, I’d rather have lightweight rpms by default to keep the distro light.

    To my simple-minded view, it is far less important to conjecture what the “target” desktop consumer wants than to ensure that the repo(s) contain rpms to let her/him download what he/she wants.

    • 2013-08-22 at 08:30 EDT

      Maybe a better way of doing this is to also offer a build-your-own ISO service. This would obviously be for advanced users who would know what they were looking for.

      Overall, I think our repositories offer a large range of options for people. It’s the “gluing it all together” part that leaves us lacking.

  3. drago01
    2013-08-22 at 03:47 EDT

    Well ” making it easier for people to adopt it for their use” .. does not make it really easy for users that do not know about the differences between spins to make an informed decision. If you just offer a list of images chances are that some of them will either pick a random one and ends up frustrated or just move to a different distro / OS.

    And you are not solving any problem with this. If a user *knows* that he wants to use $SPIN we will get to the “more options” (or whatever its called) page and get it.

    So in the end you make it harder (or even exclude) for a subset of users to save another subset of user an additional click.

    • 2013-08-22 at 08:25 EDT

      I disagree. If people don’t know which “version” of Fedora to use then we aren’t doing a good enough job in explaining what we’re “selling”. This won’t make it harder for people but rather it will make it easier for them to get going with what they want to do.

      • drago01
        2013-08-22 at 16:39 EDT

        Not really. Someone wants a “desktop operating system” you offer ten of them on a page. So what now? Not only do they have different UIs but different levels of support (some are just packaged up, while some have upstream authors that can fix bugs behind them, some integrate with the rest of the stack some don’t etc.)

  4. lsatenstein
    2013-08-22 at 13:47 EDT

    For me Fedora 19 is an engine. By that I mean that you get the reliable functioning system and if need be you add to it to make a distribution. On the minimal case, it is Fedora with one of the distributions listed in anaconda.

    More generously there are the Fedora website spins and the more generous Russian Fedora Spin, Kororaa, and a few others that provide free closed source codecs etc.

    We pick and choose what we require, be it a vanilla download, or a complete desktop version

  5. anonim
    2013-08-23 at 13:51 EDT

    The problem with this approach is that it will never be good at anything becase the devil is in the details. And if you don’t try to settle for a focused product you cannot put all the detail it needs, it will always be a half-backed product.

    • 2013-08-26 at 19:14 EDT

      I disagree. We can possibly get contributor into our project by becoming more flexible. Their work could easily be spread across all our offerings.

  6. flebber
    2013-10-16 at 05:39 EDT

    There are 2 parts.

    1. Like the new Gnome walk through in 19 there needs to be better upfront documentation(walkthroughs) for desktop spins. There is a lot too configure on a default instal of Fedora.

    2. This has been said discussed and had too many deteriorating conversations but users and developers keep debating a “stable LTS” fedora, so it’s not so much hitting a moving target. Won’t go into it it’s all been said before and will continue until some form of resolution is discussed.

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