Last month I picked up a Palm Centro. I quickly discovered that you can’t sync Apple’s calendar and address book applications to Palm OS without a $50 product called “The Missing Sync“. Within a week I had exchanged my Centro for a small, black Samsung dumbphone.
Since then, the topic of synchronization has come up repeatedly in my life.
On my laptop, I’m finally looking into synching Apple iCal with Google Calendar.
At home, I’ve started using Dopplr to figure out travel plans with my family and friends.
In my work life, I’ve started recognizing the fact that I actually play a sync role in the Fedora Commons community. I’m passionate about helping people use Fedora, so I’m constantly asking developers “How did you do that?” or “What went wrong? How did you fix it?”. This has naturally lead me to conversations where I find myself saying “Oh! You should talk to XXX project about the work that they’re doing. It’s right down your alley.” or “I think that someone has already solved that problem. Let’s ping the fedora-users list before we reinvent a wheel.”
I like this new theme. It fits with the way I want to operate in the world.
Fedora Commons is a community-driven project. The team in Ithaca has taken great strides to stabilize and facilitate community process. [In fact, the footwork and brainwork that Sandy Payette has done behind the scenes this year is facinating, but that's a topic for another post.] They now have a Chief Architect (Daniel Davis), a Director of Communications (Carol Minton Morris), and a Director of Community Strategy (Thornton Staples). When these three talented people joined Fedora Commons, I thought “Phew! Problem solved.” What I didn’t realize was that there is still a missing link.
I’ve learned that there is only so much that a centralized organization can do to synchronize community efforts. Ultimately, you still need people who slosh around in the morass of innovations, workarounds and hacks in order to find those gems of best practices and well designed solutions. More importantly, you need those people to put momentum behind the good ideas and ensure that they filter back into the common pool.
Until this month, I had not realized how important this is to community-driven open source software development. There are tons of projects out there who are more than happy to collaborate, to share ideas and solutions, and even to contribute code. However, one thing is consistently true about these projects: their hands are full. They rarely have time to look over each others’ shoulders and trade notes, let alone figuring out how to share their code.
There are, of course, notable exceptions to this rule. For example, Gert Pedersen has done an admirable job of maintaining GSearch and making it generally useful for everyone. Every time a new use case or problem crops up, he usually has a solution on SourceForge within a few weeks.
What about all of the other work that people are doing?
As of late, projects have started inviting me to play an advisory role in their Fedora work, to be their missing sync tool. I’m really excited about this because ultimately it means that I have an opportunity to help more people play to their strengths. I hope that by playing this role, I can help ensure that more great solutions find their way directly into Fedora itself while other solutions join the constellation of tools, services, and documentation that populate the Fedora Commons galaxy.