First of all, thank you to Kaio for translating my earlier blog post, and to everyone who's responded - on the original post, the translation, IRC, and the Fedora Chinese mailing list - I'm about to fall asleep (jetlag) but will sit down and reply to everybody when I wake up tomorrow morning.
My schedule in China is starting to settle down a bit - I am in Beijing from today (Sunday) until Wednesday afternoon, and in Shanghai from Wednesday evening until Saturday morning when I fly back to the US. If you're involved with or interested in Fedora or even FOSS in general, and you are in either of these two cities, I'd love to meet with you; propose times, dates, and locations and I'll continue to blog here every day I'm in China.
Today I spent the afternoon with Gerard Braad and his wife Shan, who graciously helped with travel logistics (have you ever tried to book a hotel via a website in a language you don't know?) showed me around Beijing and told me about their perspective on the situation. We have an overarching goal for this week: RAPTOR-PROOF FEDORA EFFORTS IN CHINA. What this means is that we need to spread and scale the knowledge here that we have about how to participate in the Fedora community so that if any one person is eaten by a raptor, the Chinese Fedora community is still ok. Right now, the burden lies on too few shoulders - so few that one person getting the flu could seriously bottleneck efforts the entire country. Clearly, this must change!
The major raptor-proofing problems we have identified, and potential solutions we'll be working on
0. There is only one regional Ambassador mentor, so it is very difficult to grow Ambassador presence (and hence Fedora brand awareness) in China. Strong mentoring is particularly important here; Chinese culture is considerably from existing FOSS subcultures, so teaching new Ambassadors about upstream communication may take a lot of time and patience. Solution: identify and train multiple potential Ambassador mentors.
1. There are few materials (swag/media) in China. This includes things like t-shirts and LiveCDs, the latter being tremendously important in a country with slow download speeds, fickle connectivity, and firewalls. The price of manufacturing and distribution within China is very cheap, and the price (and difficulty) of importing them from elsewhere is very high, so it makes sense to make these things in-country, but it has been difficult for Chinese Ambassadors to get financial resources from Fedora. Solution: Get small quantities of physical media of all sorts (pens, stickers, CDs, etc) to China and have them duplicated; Chinese factories are fantastic at making copies, and it's easier to hand someone an item to copy than to go back and forth with written specifications describing it. Also look into the state of the queue via which APAC Ambassadors are supposed to be requesting resources; who maintains it? Is it well-understood and publicized? Is there a clear process by which Ambassadors can find the status and expected response time of their requests?
2. The language barrier is a red herring. Yes, the Chinese-English language barrier makes things more difficult, and we should encourage and cultivate participation in (the various forms of) Chinese so people can work in their native tongue, and improve the cross-communications between the Chinese and English (and other-language) speaking parts of the Fedora community - BUT it's not a blocker and we shouldn't use it as an excuse. Solution: Set up opportunities to cross-collaborate between China and other regions, THEN use that existing collaboration to drive linguistic crossover, rather than always planning things the other way around. We'll try to start with a MIPS FAD centered around Beijing; more on this later.
3. There are very few people in China with exposure to the open source way of doing things - there are many people with the technical ability to contribute, but few who know how to do that work in the context of a FOSS community and push their work upstream. Solution: See #2, with an emphasis on getting people to meet other strong contributors from outside their region. Can we bring some MIPS hackers from China out to January 2011's Tempe FUDCon to present their work to NA contributors? Can we send EMEA Ambassadors to APAC events? Also, Ambassadors can focus on getting individual people started in the community; it's easy to find, request, and use resources once you know it's easy (people tend to have the ungrounded perception that it's hard, because they don't know what the process is).
Other topics on the table:
- Major dates for media availability in China: Software Freedom Day (September 2010) and F14 release day (November 2010). We'll treat the first event as a test run for how to do media production in China, so the second one will be a simple "just do the same thing again" execution.
- Marketing and Ambassadors in China in general, and the relationship between the multiple groups and people involved in one or both.
- Fedora-zh community infrastructure hosting. Where can this be done? Right now, everything except the IRC channel (#fedora-zh) and mailing list is scattered in an undocumented manner across individual uncoordinated VPS accounts that cost a tremendous amount of money relative to the average Chinese salary, so it's a fragile network that is in danger of disappearing with no backup.
- Getting introduced to existing Fedora contributors in the region, both online and in person, and trying to understand the network of contributors in China, and articulate the structure of that network and the culture it works within back out to the broader Fedora community, along with what work is being done here.
Thoughts? Other things we need to add to the agenda?
We'll be in #fedora-zh (irc.freenode.net) all week if you want to talk or find out what's happening in the region; I'm mchua and Gerard is gbraad, and there are plenty of others in the channel who can fill you in on what they're doing as well. You don't need to speak Chinese to hang out in #fedora-zh (I sure don't!) There are many people there who understand English, and some of us also understand other languages as well, so please come on in and join us and lurk; we'll be posting and logging conversations there throughout the week.