11 August 2009

Advancement of technical skills with CentOS project tools

I posted this piece inside a post on a runaway mailing list thread on the CentOS mailing list. It represents my opinions, and are not some policy statement of the CentOS project. To a degree it reprised earlier pieces on how to advance one's technical skills with CentOS, but it is worthwhile carving it out, so I have a reference point to discuss sub-pieces of, here. Others have other views

If a person wishes to be advanced in the CentOS project, contribute to the project. [It is not clear to me WHY people think there is some huge benefit for being a 'project insider' as it is really just a chance to do more work. Early access to QA is just not that hard to earn] We are not likely to hold your hand much, but will answer questions well framed. Be a self starter. Do something material. Some things to do to gain my notice as a contributor of merit:

  1. The bug tracker is open self serve for people to sign up. Add its RSS feed, and read every one as it crosses. Start working through the bugs to replicate or note an inability to replicate issues; Work through the bug tracker from latest to earliest, seeing if there is a similar upstream bug, or a fix, or if an issue is CentOS local. Note your results. That would be useful
  2. The centos-docs ML is open for proposals of new content into the wiki. Add its RSS feed, and read every commit diff as it crosses. Fix broken stuff that can be fixed at once. Some even believe it is more useful to re-write documentation locally rather than feeding improvements upstream so that it flows back down and out into RHEL, Fedora, etc as well as just CentOS [I do not, and refer you to Fedora to push non-centOS specific content out more widerly]
  3. Set up a local mirror of SRPMs, not just of the released Enterprise sources of upstream, but its RawHide as well. I have a daily diff report in my email queue each morning to scan for new material to review. Start building and testing and filing bugs to make the .spec files more general and less distribution specific, so that cross pollination can occur. You may get rejected (I often am), but at least try to improve the breed
  4. The same problems repeat time and again in the Forums. Add its RSS feed, and read every new post as it crosses. Add pointers or content as needed, and 'cc' into updates on the thread. I have noticed a excellent trend, that lately the three or four regulars are moving content more to the correct tree location, and asking questioners to do their research, and dropping out-links to answers rather than doing so in line. I like to do this as well when I form an answer, there on on a mailing list that is archived, as it provides the linkage hints Google needs to note 'reputation' and to weave answers together
  5. Join the main IRC channel or mailing list, and confirm you can answer every question posed for a solid week; if not, fill in your knowledge gaps with experimentation. At that point, start thoughtfully pointing a person toward the answers. Spoon-feeding is NOT a good thing, and does not gain any points in my eyes, as that is not the stated purpose of the channel

    The mailing list is looser as to /on topic/ but when a person repeatedly recommends 'non-CentOS' approaches over acceptable CentOS product, I'll certainly notice ... and that is perhaps not a good thing for further advancement. I _USE_ tinydns some places where it is the right fit, but I don't mention it here
  6. Once you have demonstrated skills, ask to be admitted to the next QA effort (we get three of four point update chances a year), and do QA. People who sign up and are admitted often slack off [don't participate in the ML, don't file reports, are not in IRC], and by that inaction demonstrate they are are not interested in progressing further. People _do_ get busy with real life or have to rest from burnout and take time off
  7. Once you have demonstrated skills, ask for some special project to build some element of needed infrastructure that is not otherwise getting done, and do it. John Pierce's post earlier this week certainly caught my eye, as he demonstrated self-starter problem solving skills in a complex space I had not seen before. He is now on my 'watch list' to draw into the project

More personal opinion: Will any of those 'earn' a centos.org mailing address as someone lamented they lacked earlier in this thread? Sometimes, but frankly, we don't give those out easily. I saw a remark earlier:

In the meanwhile some things ... are getting a bit clearer so I guess we are on the right track

'We' can perhaps be read here as a generic 'things are on the right track' -- but frankly, the only 'we' that I would look to for authoritative statements as to the project are people with a '@centos.org' in their email address. There is back channel coordination, infrastructure, and much more