FLOCK Diaries – Krakow, 2016

tldr ; FLOCK 2016 took place in Krakow, Poland and I was lucky to be a part of it. During the conference, I met many awesome and inspiring folks from the Fedora community including those I have interacted with on IRC, gave my first talk, organized the CommOps workshop and attended many other wonderful talks and workshops which motivated me to further contribute to Fedora – all while enjoying the nightlife of Krakow ! I also made some pretty awesome friends from all around the globe whom I hope to meet again soon..

FLOCK is the annual Fedora contributor conference which happens every year around August alternatively in Europe and North America. This year it was in Krakow, Poland – a beautiful city situated on the Vistula river full of history, culture and Fedora contributors 😛

I had submitted two different talk ideas for FLOCK in April and one of them ‘I contributed ! But what now ? ‘ which was about increasing contributor retention rates in Fedora community using data analytics got accepted ! Yaay !

I was a bit relaxed after that and didn’t worry much when there was no further contact by FLOCK organizers for hotel and travel bookings. But by early July, I was panicking a lot ! Turns out, I had registered for FLOCK using a different email id (non f.p.o one) and submitted the talk using my f.p.o email id and hence was dropped from the list of sponsored attendees. Anyway, thanks to FLOCK organizers and especially, Joe Brockmier it all worked out in the end since I was already in Berlin for my research work and didn’t need a new visa ! So come August 2, I was all set and ready to fly to FLOCK..

I expected a huge crowd at the airport as the Youth Day had just ended and Pope had left the earlier day, but it wasn’t too busy. However, people arriving after us weren’t so lucky. At the airport, I met other Fedora contributors Amita Sharma, Justin Flory, Stephen Gallagher and Ryan Lerch – all tired and groggy from their long haul flights! Rafal Luzynski dropped us to our hotel and also stopped us from making bad decisions like exchanging euros to zolates at the airport konto with bad exchange rates – and a lot more in the near future. A big shout out to Rafal for being an awesome organizer ! That day, we just visited a nearby mall for lunch, relaxed a bit in our rooms and went out to the Town Square at night to try traditional Polish cuisine. There was an issue with my hotel rooms because of the different email id fiasco but it got resolved pretty soon. A shout out to Brian Exelbird(bex) and Joe Brockmeir(jzb) for their organizing a wonderful FLOCK again 🙂 We also had a bit of a scare at night right after we were back in the hotel. We were back in the hotel courtyard-cum-parking lot and we had just met Redon Skikuli, Jona Azizaj and Giannis Konstantinidis – Fedora Ambassadors from Albania and Greece*. Some of us were on the footpath while some of us were on the road (mind you, it was all inside the hotel courtyard) happily talking and getting to know others when a huge bus came suddenly charging at us from nowhere. Had I jumped one second later, I would have been dead ! And yes, the bus driver didn’t even honk – just flashed the lights – as if we were supposed to have eyes at the back of our head ! Anyway, it was an exciting start to the conference ..

August 3rd was the first day of FLOCK. I had my talk scheduled at 11 : 00 am and I was surprised and very happy to see Fedora Project Leader, Matthew Miller(mattdm) amongst the attendees. The talk went quite well and a lot of people were surprised to see from data that after 3 months, about 50% of the contributors drop off the grid completely. I presented some ways and metrics on how we could improve this scenario including having a definite onboarding process, positive community and feedback mechanisms. I had done a quick survey of the Fedora contributors about what made them stay and it was interesting to see it’s not just about loving your work – a strong FOSS community is what makes people stay.  People also cited the four Fedora foundations , a sense of giving back to the community and constant learning as reasons which made them stay ! I also talked about the positive impact of attending Fedora events and the patterns of long term contributors – how they value consistency over quantity while contributing. Later, we also discussed about the ways we could reduce these numbers of contributors dropping out – and one interesting idea which came up was about sending a feedback/reminder email to contributors after a certain period of inactivity ! I would love to see if implementing that changes these numbers in any way. The talk wouldn’t have been possible if Sachin Kamath wouldn’t have helped me – he is a CommOps team member and a current GSoC student working on metrics and Onboarding –  a big shout out to him for all his help ! After the talk (after I had fangirled over mattdm and taken photos with him ), mattdm and I discussed a bit about the tool Sachin was building as a part of GSoC on getting intern statistics and group wise metrics for Fedora and how it could be used to automated the metrics from ‘State of Fedora’ talks.

Later that day, I attended some interesting sessions including ‘Zanata Translation Platform’ by Alex Eng, ‘Fedora Swag’ by Jiri Eischmann, ‘Mailman 3 and HyperKitty’ by Aurelian Bompard and ‘University Outreach’ by Jona Azizaj and Justin Flory. Zanata is a web-based translation platform for translators, content creators and developers to manage localization projects. It also offers translation statistics and API to query data which made me interested in generating metrics for the translator community in Fedora. I was particularly interested in finding if translators were same as other Fedora contributors in their burnout rates especially considering they had different sort of community environment – smaller, non-IRC, different privileges in Fedora community.  The ‘Fedora Swag’ talk was particularly interesting as Jiri discussed on how and why Fedora produced a particular kind of swag, different kinds of swags and their target audience and motivations , how recently marketing had decided to focus on python community in Fedora and hence swag production had become more targetted towards ‘Fedora ❤ Python’ initiatives. We also had an interesting discussion about how swag in terms of flyers promote more interest and involvement than just stickers. However, I would have loved to see some sort of feedback or data backing these motivations but all in all, it was a pretty interesting peek behind the decision making in the Fedora Marketing team. I also learnt during the session that Fedora tshirts were given out at FOSDEM 2016 to anyone with a FAS account getting the FOSDEM badge and while there were some issues while signing up for FAS for people, all in all quite a few people got those Fedora Tshirts. Jiri said there were about a 100 Fedora Tshirts. About 19 newcomers were onboarded during FOSDEM, it would be interesting to see if they just created a FAS account for T Shirt or they actually contributed ! The ‘University Outreach’ talk was the last talk for the day but it was certainly very packed – I almost didnt get a plce to sit! It was presented by Jona Azizaj and Justin Flory. Both Jona and Justin are students and Fedora Ambassadors from Albania and North America respectively. The talk was originally to be given by Ardian Haxha – a Fedora Ambassador from Kosovo and Justin but he couldn’t make it due to last minute visa problems unfortunately. The talk focused on the University Involvement Initiative proposed by Fedora Council in early 2015. It was a pretty interesting talk about marketing thoughts around attracting university students to Fedora and lead to some pretty interesting discussions amongst the attendees.

During the evening, the organizers had planned a walking tour of Krakow and it was really fun. Our guide – the one with an yellow umbrella – was pretty funny and made history seem really exciting. The city – the historical structures, stone buildings, crowds thronging the restaurants, women drawn horse carriages – everything seemed so beautiful that I felt transported to another century – or 1800s to be precise. Once, I got so engrossed taking pictures that we got lost and followed another group ! We saw castles, churches, modern art, dragon statue and the walked along the beautiful river Vistula. Finding a restaurant afterwards for dinner was pretty tough as flock attendees had filled every place, we made a bad choice for restaurant and even missed the last bus back but the night ended well with a game of spin the bottle in the hotel and some pretty interesting dares and friends made for a lifetime.

The next day, August 4th, we had diversity panel discussion and the morning was spent working on it ! I got to meet some awesome ladies in Open Source who were a part of the panel like Marina Z. who works on Outreach Efforts in Red Hat and also coordinates the GNOME Outreachy program, Marie Nordin(reicatnor) who has designed some pretty awesome Fedora Badges and was a past Outreachy Intern for Fedora and of course our very own Amita Sharma from Red Hat Pune , who organized the Fedora Womend Day in India and Maria ‘tatica’ Leonardo – the Fedora Diversity Advisor. While tatica couldn’t be there in person, we however could manage to have a live video session with her. The Panel Discussion revolved tackling bullying in the open source community and devising plans to increase diversity in open source. While we felt the crunch of time as it was just for an hour, the discussion really did give some great insights on how to tackle the issues. I also attended other talks on ‘Bugyou’ by Sayan Chowdhury , ‘Women in Open Source’ by Amita Sharma and partly ‘How we took care of spam’ by Patrick Uiterwijk.

Bugyou is a service which listens to fedmsg messages and interacts with the issue tracking tools through an API. It has a collection of plugins where each of the plugin is configured to listens to one or more fedmsg topics and automatically files bugs to the configured issue tracking tools. Sayan talked about it’s structure and plugin configurations. It was interesting to note that we had to manually configure the bug topics in .cfg file along with the issue tracking tool and I was left wondering of how I could use the tool for tracking some metrics or topics and not just bugs. Amita and Patrick’s talks were at the same time so I had to jump between them. Amita talked about increasing women participation in Open Source. This is especially important considering the skewed numbers – in about 250 FLOCK attendees, only 15 were women !! She shared information about great groups and opportunities, such as OpenHatch, Women in Drupal, PyLadies, Outreachy and Google Summer of Code – and some of them were even new to me ! I am so signing up for a PyLadies meetup in Berlin – Thanks Amita ! She also talked about the idea for a helping-pyramid in Fedora community where each Fedora woman can be a mentor of two more women and so on helping in making the numbers grow which I really like. Patrick Uiterwijk(puiterwijk) talked about the recent spam FAS accounts in Fedora community and how he wrote Basset to tackle it. I was especially interested in learning about the Machine Learning and scoring techniques behind Basset and all I can say here is that, patrick has done some pretty great work on it ! puiterwijk++ That evening we enjoyed a river cruise. They view from the cruise was pretty scenic with trains, bridges, castle and the river and I also saw a bridge with locks of love like in Paris on it. However, the night didn’t end there – some of us were crazy enough to go clubbing afterwards but it was a lot of fun even though we took quite a while to find the club !


The next day was CommOps workshop and Justin and I worked on it early in the morning. Later, they were some Lightning talks – which I wanted to attend but couldn’t and some workshops. The CommOps workshop went pretty well. We had discussions about Python SIG onboarding , how to improve the Fedora election process and the voter turnout and some discussions regarding what type of metrics we should work on in near future. There was also a G11N meetup later where Pravin Satpute led the discussion about the globalization team, the issues they were facing and the things they were looking forward to in the future. There was also some discussion about Zanata metrics which interested me to contribute to and I hope to introduce myself on the localization mailing list once we are back home. In the evening, we all went to celebrate at Brewery Lubicz.


The next day was the last day of FLOCK and there was surely a feeling of bittersweet goodbyes in the air.  There was a Hubs workshop which I was interested in and Wallpaper Hunt but we all ended up walking on the streets of Krakow in the evening instead. We sat down at an expensive restaurant, got out and ate cheap kebabs and doner instead, saw an improptu parade – I met a Gryfinndor and a butterfly lady too – and just soaked around in the beauty that is Krakow. Obviously, the night ended in a party – like always – and Jona and I even managed to convince Adam Miller(maxamillion) and Justin to stay and party with us even when they had a early morning flight. The next day all of us left for our own destinations, but that night – we were each happy in the moment – FLOCK had ended but our Fedora journey had just began 🙂


Before attending FLOCK, I was a bit hesitant about continuing to contribute to Fedora and mainly whether I could manage it with my research. However at FLOCK, I met and interacted with people who were contributing much more than me while managing other aspects of their life – and they were doing it pretty well too ! I also met contributors whom I have interacted and collaborated with in IRC like pingou , threebean , jflory7 and mattdm and felt the impact of my work – when people met me and they knew me beforehand because of my metrics related work, or when they used my work in their talk, or when Jan Kurik came up to me and thanked me for helping him out in the elections – I knew I was working in the right direction. It is all these moments – of knowing that my work is impacting someone somewhere – that I contribute for and will continue to do so. Till now, I have only worked on metrics which show how attending fedora events increases the contribution activity of participants and how it makes them contribute longer – but today, after attending flock – I also know the why behind it 🙂










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