I was explaining to Red Hat's Mike Paquin, who runs the Technical College within the internal Red Hat University (training for Red Hat employees) why I spend a lot of time hanging out in the Fedora community, though that's not the bulk of my dayjob. I'm here because I love the mission and the community and because it's fun, but I also hang out in Fedora because I learn an amazing amount of stuff here. Fedora lets me overhear other people doing their work. It's like being able to overhear conversations at lunch, except thanks to logs you can overhear lunch conversations that happened last week between Singapore and Arizona.
It's harder to build up this sort of distributed community for a school or a company with offices and classroom buildings; if you're co-located, you don't need to have these side conversations online, and remotees don't have enough common work to pool together and create the momentum needed to have a sustained conversation going.
original image by Francesco Crippa, licensed CC-BY
In the interests of "solving problems in your own house" and "scratching your own itch" first, I'm going to be running a Fedora Classroom on tools we use in Fedora for remote collaboration next week, and specifically inviting Red Hatters (though as with all Fedora Classroom sessions, anyone interested is more than welcome to join!) A lot of Red Hatters seem awed when we show them the tools that we folks in Fedora-land take for granted because we use them on a day-to-day basis, so I figure it's high time we shared more of our best practices with the rest of the world.
All this is to announce I'll be running a Fedora Classroom on basic distributed communication tools and practices on Tuesday, September 14, at 1600 UTC in #fedora-classroom on irc.freenode.net. These (open source, of course) tools aren't coding-specific - in fact, our design, marketing, etc. teams use them as well - so anyone interested in distributed communties
I'm going to assume basic knowledge of IRC, because that's how the session is going to be taught, but if you're interested in this and new to IRC let me know ahead of time and I'd be happy to help you get set up prior to the session.
- Fedora Classroom - we have a channel (#fedora-classroom on freenode) set aside for learning experiences, so if someone needs to teach somebody else something in a structured way, they go there, and other people can then overhear it. This is where I will be teaching the session.
- Running realtime meetings and synchronous conversations on IRC with zodbot - we have a logging bot that sits in the classroom channel (and in other channels for meetings). Using inline conversation tags like "#action" or "#topic" or "#agreed", it produces meeting notes and full logs. Never take meeting notes again! Side note: log archives make for educational reading sometimes, because they're the times in the channel that others deemed interesting enough to log.
- Collaborative text editing with gobby and Etherpad - we'll be using this to take notes on the classroom session being held in IRC. I like getting hands-on as early as possible when I'm teaching. :)
- Sharing what you've done (asycnchronously) afterwards: For Fedora, this is a mailing list; you say things like "I'll be teaching a packaging class on Tuesday" or "I taught packaging class on Tuesday, here are the logs." Individual participants in that class (especially if it's a multi-class experience) tend to blog their reflections to Planet. All these things promote accidental learning - the chances of someone who's not already involved stumbling across these people thinking out loud about what they're doing is very high, so learning groups tend to snowball into functionality very quickly, and people generally have a high degree of peripheral awareness as to what's going on.
Please add suggestions and questions and whatnot here, and I'll see you folks in #fedora-classroom next Tuesday!