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openSUSE:Board election 2012 platform rbrown

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Note: This page is used by the candidate of the board election as a platform to show his views and answer some standard questions.

Introduction and Biography


Hi! I'm Richard Brown, 30 years old, living in Brighton on the South Coast of the UK. Originally from London, I've been steadily moving south, but I still haven't crossed the channel and become French.

I currently work as the Systems Manager for City College Brighton and Hove, a large UK further education college where we use a lot of openSUSE, SUSE, and other FOSS technologies.

I'm also the UK Representative on the Advisory Board of the TTP Academic User Group, an usergroup for sysadmins working in Academia that deals with SUSE, Novell, and NetIQ products, with good links to the developers and management teams in these companies and their partners. This year the TTP was proud to have a track of sessions during our oSC 12 conference in Prague.

I've used SUSE/openSUSE since 2003, and have found myself getting more involved as time has gone on.

These days I'm mostly working with our GNOME, Marketing, Ambassador and Artwork teams. I have very broad interests which finds me often getting involved in both the technical and more 'community' aspects of our project. I'm always keen to help out, try and resolve issues, come up with ideas, and then get my hands dirty trying to implement them.

I spend a lot time in our IRC channels, where I go by the handle ilmehtar

I'm a keen tester who especially enjoys the crunch in the weeks leading up to releases, frantically testing and packaging pactches to try and get bugs big and small squashed out so our releases are as polished as possible.

I'm very happy learning new things and trying to help out in areas outside of my 'comfort zone' - like helping out as a Mentor for the Google Code-In, which was a lot of fun last year, and was successful in bringing in contributors who are still with our project.

I'm an active Ambassador, who regularly attends conferences where I do my best to to both evangelise about our great project, but also gather ideas and feedback on how we could improve. My recent session at oSC 12 "Using openSUSE for Real Work" has really helped shape my ideas as to where we're doing things right at the moment, but also some key areas we need to improve in. I helped organise openSUSE's presence at last years FOSDEM, and intend to repeat the experience this year.

I've been involved in the efforts to reshape the Ambassador programme into something more useful for openSUSE, and hope to see this Ambassador Programme 2.0 implemented soon.

Major Issues

A Visibly Active Board > A Visibly Active Project - From my perspective, the openSUSE board has been a quiet 'background process' of the project for some time now. There is no question that the Board currently contains some highly active contributors, but when it comes to matters of 'the community', the board as an collective entity currently doesn't seem to play as much of a part in things as I think they should.

Project meetings should be happening regularly, but every one I have attended for the past few months has been cancelled and/or did not have a single Board Member in attendance. How can the board do the best job possible if they don't know what's going on?

Even our flagship annual conference had a much lower board attendance than I was happy with.

I think this lack of engagement from the board is a major concern, and misses out an opportunity to energise our community and contributions. For example, I can't help but feel that when it became clear it was going to be a struggle to reach 12.2's release schedule, a call of action from the board, highlighting the problems on the horizon, encouraging people to pitch in and help, could have possibly led to 12.2 being released on time, or (more likely) at least pulled the community together and helped make 12.2's delay a more positive learning experience than it turned out to be.

I'm not advocating the involvement in the Board in decisions of a technical nature, but I do feel there is a large gap requiring cheerleaders, champions, and leaders to help identify the weaknesses in our project and help pull people together to resolve them.

If I am elected to the board, it's my intention to be an active, involved Board member, and do everything I can to encourage my fellow board members to take an equally active role in supporting our Project.

Direction - We need new contributors and users, and I think one reason we are currently weak at capturing then is lack of direction, the lack of a 'goal' for the Project. Besides the joy of playing with open source software, why does openSUSE exist? Who is our target audience for the distribution? What does our distribution do better than all the others?

When I look at other distributions, that's normally an easy question to answer, from Ubuntu and Mints dedication to user-friendlyness, to Arch's focus on customisation, and Fedora's striving for stability.

I don't see a similarly consistent 'story' for the openSUSE Project to give to potential new users or contributors.

And as a result, our new users and contributors typically come to us only after they've tried other distributions and found that we are are better fit for what they need. That's not terrible, but I'd like to see us improve things so we can better capture people getting involved in Linux and FOSS for the first time.

I'd like to see the project identify what we're great at and decide on a Public Direction that can then form the cornerstone of our marketing to new users and contributors.

For example, should we target Small/Medium businesses and try and become the distribution for them? or are we a 'showcase' distribution, taking everything we can from upstream communities, polishing and packaging together so our users get to decide what to do with it?

With a stated goal, not only do I think we can improve things when it comes to capturing new users and contributors, but I also hope it would help with the development side of things, as it may give guidance to help developers decide which features to add, which bugs to focus on, and where to apply the most polish for a release, rather than trying to spread ourselves across everywhere like we do now.

If I'm elected to the board, I intend to work hard to work with you all to identify a suitable Goal/direction for the project, and then work with the Marketing team and others to help spread that message to the wider open source community.

Minor Issues

Hidden Excellence - the openSUSE community has a number of areas of excellence that I think are not adequately recognised inside and outside of the community.

With projects like OBS and openQA, we have tools which make it very easy for new contributors to help with the project, but I think many don't realise how easy it is to get involved.

Our tools also have the potential to really help out other FOSS projects, but that potential is yet to be fully realised. There has been a lot of improvement getting the message out about OBS in the last year, but I still think we need to do more.

We also have great potential to improve things for our 'new users', who often don't immediately know of our excellent services like which can often smooth a lot of concerns about moving to our products. I think work on our website, to properly have it reflect what new users need to know, could help with this.

Of I am elected, I would try to work to get these and other areas of hidden excellence more recognised and better advertised.

Role of the board

I would like to see the board become more approachable and more prepared to 'step in' and help resolve issues.

I don't think leadership in a project like ours should be dictatorial. I feel the board should act as 'enablers', 'cheerleaders', 'champions', and troubleshooters. The board's job should be to help you (the community) by proactivly identifying where the project is going wrong and help pull people together to steer it in the right direction.

The board should be the primary point of contact for contributors and users to raise issues that cant be addressed elsewhere, which is why our board needs to be active, visible, and accessible.

The board should also be a source of new ideas and proposals for the community to consider, and should also encourage other contributors to field their own ideas and help keep the great green Geeko rolling forward

Why you should vote for me?

  • SuSE/openSUSE is my first distribution and I've been a loyal user and contributor since 2003. I care a great deal about seeing our project continue and improve.
  • I've provided both technical and non-technical contributions to the project, and I have a strong working knowledge both the technical and community aspects of our project.
  • While I have my own opinions and will often argue passionately for them, I always listen to and consider the opinion of others, especially when they disagree with me. If I am elected I intend to champion the desires of the community, not just my own agenda.
  • My experience outside of openSUSE, especially as a board member of the TTP, give me skills and knowledge I think will help me here
  • I enjoy learning and getting involved in new things, and see working on the board as an opportunity to get help out in parts of the project that I'd probably otherwise not see.


If elected I will strive to

  • Encourage my fellow Board members to take a more active role in the community
  • Investigate ways to better advertise the work the Board is doing for the project
  • Work with the community to hopefully identify a direction or goal for the openSUSE distribution, to make it easier to market to new users
  • Listen to the our users and contributors as much as possible, to figure out what you want the Board to be doing


Room for your supporters to leave a word about you

Bruno Friedmann (tigerfoot). I've worked with (mostly around marketing stuff and branding packaging) & met Richard at several events (Fosdem, osc etc). We share a lot of similar concerns about our project, admin who need the best distribution, and the place of the Board. I can only recommended this guy for the board, if it wasn't him, it would have to be me :-)

(CarlosRibeiro) +1 It was very hard to choose my candidates this year, but after reading their platforms, talks, debate and some questions and answers that I've sent, I have no doubt I really endorse Richard Browmn for the board.