openSUSE:Users and contributors

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During the openSUSE Strategy discussions, some questions were raised about users and contributors and their roles within our Community. I'd like to discuss and define these a bit in the context of our discussions.

Community - users and contributors

Community is often defined as a collection of people who interact together - but what does this mean in concrete terms for the openSUSE project? I suggest to define the openSUSE community as an open community that includes everybody that likes to be part of it including users installing openSUSE on a system as well as contributors that shape the project. Still this large openSUSE community can be seen as a larger group of users and a smaller group of contributors.

The users are an important part of the openSUSE ecosystem. They are a target and beneficiary of what we do in openSUSE and we also strive to reach out to our users to become contributors to the Project. This should be a virtuous circle - the more users we gain, the more our pool of contributors and contributions grow. And the more contributors the Project gains, the more users we gain. And in order to sustain that growth of users and contributors, we must ensure an environment that supports the needs of our contributors by providing them with the tools they need as well as delivering products that our users get excited about.

Contribution to the openSUSE project

A lot has been discussed on what a contribution is and I'd like to highlight a few examples of contributions to the project.

Let's start with the distribution first:

A user downloads the openSUSE distribution from the Internet, buys a box, or gets the install media in some other way.

If a problem is encountered, the user asks for help, e.g. via:

  • the openSUSE forums
  • the openSUSE IRC channels
  • via a social network like twitter, or Facebook
  • the openSUSE mailing lists
  • uses a search engine to see what others have said, this might bring him to any of the openSUSE wiki, forum, mail lists or archives

I would expect that this new user receives positive answers from forums, IRC channels, social networks and mailing lists. This might be a friendly pointer (not a simple RTFM!) to specific sections of relevant documentation, a more appropriate place to ask or maybe a detailed answer to the concrete question. People helping this new user are contributing to the openSUSE Project. Users also become contributors by writing documentation, moderating discussions, administrating infrastructure, or by translating existing documentation and openSUSE wiki pages.

There are many other forms of contribution that do not require programming ability - for example, openSUSE Ambassadors running booths or making presentations at conferences and local Linux user group meetings.

Eventually, the user might download a new package from the openSUSE Build Service or report a bug using bugzilla.

Obviously software developers are contributing to the community when their original and creative output is made especially for the openSUSE project, e.g. running on our infrastructure and improving the distribution through iterative testing/fixing, packaging FOSS software, integrating them into the openSUSE distribution, and coordinating with the upstream projects.

Likewise, as innovations or improvements are made by developers, we spread the word of their efforts and successes through blogging, marketing, and other means, which then attracts even more users. The more users we attract, the more feedback is given to developers through conversations, bug reports, feature requests, and other venues.

The large upstream OSS community is contributing with many packages, e.g. the Linux kernel, to the openSUSE project but not in the sense of a core contributor to the project - more as an "independent supplier" that rather than an openSUSE contributor.

However, we extend an invitation to upstream developers to become openSUSE users and make it their platform of choice for developing and contributing both upstream and directly to the openSUSE Project.

Growing Users and Contributors

During the Strategy Team's discussions, we concluded that our primary goal at this time is to focus on increasing the number of contributors in our community by encouraging our users to grow into those roles and attracting contributors. To do that we know we must provide all with the tools and the ecosystem to "Have a lot of fun". And, by growing the contributor community we automatically support the goal of sparking that virtuous circle of sustained growth benefiting the entire community.

Let me also emphasize that the above listed contributions is just a small set of examples. There are many more ways to contribute, and often we encounter fresh and new ideas from users who should be listened to, encouraged, mentored and grown into productive project contributors (where possible).

Let us keep in mind that as a project we care about the whole diverse community - and the discussions have shown how diverse it can be - and I'd like to refer to our guiding principles:

"We value choice. We accept and respect that there are different ways to work, different preferences for applications, environments, tools or interfaces and different goals of users and contributors. We value diversity and pluralism as a way of addressing the needs of a broad variety of people."

--AJ 13:18, 5 July 2010 (UTC)