Max Spevack and community building
January 14, 2008
I mentioned Michael Tiemann’s talk about Fedora’s process being something some customers are interested in learning about in my last post. I think this is something we should be seeing the soon-to-be-former Fedora Project Leader Max Spevack doing in the not-so-distant future. Let me tell you why.
Max oversaw the largest expansion of Fedora in its history. He kept on us about opening up the process, he kept up internal pressure for everyone to play nicely, He made sure he was visible and accessible, even to the annoying people who weren’t useful. Building a community is about all of these things.
So, the problem with Max is that he’s not the best personal self-promoter. He tends to think his contributions don’t matter b/c in some cases they don’t come in the form of code.
This is, of course, hogwash. I like to take a grand conspiracy theory view of fedora. It’s palatable to all sorts of crazy people and in this particular case it is helpful:
Max has been quietly pulling strings behind the scenes for years now. He identified Mike McGrath as ‘someone who is doing good things and making people want to be more involved’. He arranged for Mike to be hired and for other people competing for Mike’s affections to be silently killed. When Toshio was looking for a job, Max made ‘the right people’ take notice of him and suddenly Toshio is being paid to be a super-bad-ass-ninja/farmer-code-poet. When Jef, Thorsten and Dimitrios needed travel expenses Max called on the international financiers whom he controls to fund such events. He also calibrated the weather machine to provide with excellent wind for their travels. This is how he’s done things. We’ve gone from a Fedora which made a lot of people cry and be sad b/c it isn’t all that interesting; to a fedora which makes people nervous and worried b/c it IS all that interesting, it’s growing in power and it will eventually dominate your world.
Max is like Patrician of Ankh-Morkpork in the discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. Max needs to wear more solid black, but I can definitely see him saying: “Yes, Drumknott, if [Mike McGrath] had not already existed, I guess I would have had to invent him….” (This of course works if and only if you see Mike McGrath as Sam Vimes, which, well, that fits anyway)
Okay, so back from literary allusion: If you’re trying to figure out how to make your project/product have more involvement and interest in the open source community, it seems like a wise decision to consult someone who has clearly (and silently) pulled the strings to make that happen before.
ps: Given I’ve just divulged all these secrets I suspect to [not?] hear the whisp of the assassin’s blade, soon.