First, apologies for cross-posting this, but it's relevant to more
than just the opensuse-project(a)opensuse.org audience. In order to cut
down the noise on other lists, I ask that all responses are sent to
Second, this is a 'from the heart' and somewhat 'off the cuff' post
from me and me alone. This has not been reviewed by anyone else, so
please don't interpret this as some kind of statement from the Board,
the Project, or SUSE. This is just me, talking about things I see and
giving advice that I hope will be useful to the majority of the people
who read it.
So, what is this all about? Well a lot of people talk to me, and after
a very inspirational FOSDEM I got thinking about recurring trends of
questions that come my way:
"How does the openSUSE Project work?"
"Who decides what happens?"
"What do you need me to do?"
"How do I get started?"
These questions come from not only newcomers and potential newcomers
to the Project, but also people I would consider 'veterans' who I
would have assumed already knew the answers to these questions
This post is my attempt to provide answers to these and related questions.
1 - How does the Project work?
The Project is a self-organised, self-governed, community working on
the openSUSE Distributions (Tumbleweed & Leap) as well as various
other Free and Open Source Software, including OBS, openQA, OSEM,
Portus, Machinery, and more.
We have no Product Managers, Project Managers, or Community Managers.
We have no Technical Committees or Steering Groups. For those who have
read "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", openSUSE is very much a "Bazaar"
and hardly anything like a "Cathedral". Whatever Teams we do have are
self-organised by the members of those teams, with different ways of
working together to accomplish whatever particular goals within the
project they are working on.
The Project does have the openSUSE Board , who's role is to 'lead'
the Project by acting as a central point of contact and conflict
resolution. In other words, they help keep everyone in the loop with
what everyone else is doing, help resolve any conflicts that arise,
and being the 'decision makers of last resort' in situations where
decisions need to be made and there is no one else available or
willing to do so.
The Board is a little like the 'A-Team' - If you have a problem, if
no one else can help, then the Board is there for you, either to help
out, or help you find better help elsewhere.
The Board is elected by the openSUSE Members , those contributors
who have demonstrated sustained and substantial contributions to the
SUSE are the primary sponsor of the openSUSE Project. All SUSE
employees are encouraged to contribute to the openSUSE Project. These
contributions are carried out as 'peers'; No special treatment is
granted to SUSE employees, in fact the employer of a contributor
should be irrelevant within the openSUSE Project.
In areas of particular interest or importance to SUSE, they may hire
folk to work in particular roles within the openSUSE Project. With one
exception (the role of Chairman of the Board), none of these roles
should be considered 'exclusive' to SUSE. There is scope for anyone to
contribute to the openSUSE project at any level, assuming they are
willing and capable to do the work.
2 - Who decides what happens?
We are driven by our contributions. If something is not being done,
it's because no one has decided to do it.
We do our best to make openSUSE very accessible in order to make us
the natural choice to be the Project through which you give your time
The openSUSE Project is structured the way it is to empower our
contributors to really shape the direction of the Project. Also a
significant amount of the tools we have as a Project exist in order to
make those contributions easier. OBS and OSEM are obvious examples,
but this is true in all aspects of the project, from the technical
ones to the diverse range of other activities, marketing, advocacy,
outreach, community, wiki, documentation, etc.
You don't need to ask permission to get started, you just need to know
what you want to do.
3 - What do you need me to do?
Please don't be terrified by this! To quote The Cathedral and the
Bazaar, "Every good work [...] starts by scratching a [...] personal
Find things inside openSUSE, our Project, our distributions, our
tools, our wiki, that you do not like, that affect you, that get in
your way, and decide to change them.
While it may sound selfish, there is no better motivation than solving
the issues which affect you first and foremost, the benefit of doing
that as part of a community means your work ends up helping others,
and others will in turn help you when they share that same itch that
Don't expect someone else to do it. Don't think it is someone else's job to
It is your responsibility to help make openSUSE succeed in the areas
that matter to you
And don't expect anyone else to tell you what to do or what needs
doing - volunteers are rarely motivated when given orders from others,
so that just isn't typically the openSUSE way.
That said, I do believe we could do with having some indications of
particular areas where we need help..the new openSUSE Mentoring
website  is a perfect example of something the Project now has to
solve this problem (Thanks to Chris and Henne and everyone else who
has contributed to this!)
In the highly unlikely event that you think everything is wonderful
and there is nothing that annoys you, but you still want to give
something back to the openSUSE project, then dig a little deeper, try
something new, either technically in our products, or get involved in
a new aspect of the Project that interests you - I guarantee you'll
find something somewhere which could do with your help.
4 - How to get started?
So, you've picked something to work on, how to get started. Here is my advice.
4a. Do your homework - Make sure you understand the topic you're
tackling. Dig through the problem to make sure you haven't missed
something. Read our wiki pages on the topic. Google. Look at how other
FOSS Projects deal with the problem? Is their solution better or worse
that what you are thinking? Talk to people who might know stuff about
the topic, and bounce your ideas off them. Our IRC channels are a good
place for such discussions, as are events like our openSUSE
4b. Plan your solution - You've decided what you want to do, decide
how you intend to do it. You don't need to have all the details worked
out, but you should have a clear understanding of the direction you
want to go in, and how things should look when you are done
4c. Do you need help? Is this going to impact other people in a
noticeable way? Do you want a second opinion? If the answers to any of
these questions are yes, continue to 4d. If no, skip to 4h
4d. Share with the Project - Take everything you have learned, and
what you plan, and put it all together in a clear, succinct email for
Avoid writing open ended questions. Despite everyone's best
intentions, coming to the Project with a question like "What do you
think we should do about X?" will lead to either silence, or an almost
infinite number of responses, many of which will disagree with you,
often without proposing alternatives.
Write the email from the perspective of "This is what I think we need
to do, and this is what I intend to do about it". Describe your
findings from step 4a, explain your plan from step 4b. Include proof
of concepts if you have them.
Post this mail to an appropriate mailinglist . If you cannot
identify an appropriate list, or you think the topic is deserving of a
project-wide audience, then use either opensuse-factory(a)opensuse.org
for technical changes, and opensuse-project(a)opensuse.org for
Once you are happy the email makes it possible for everyone else to
understand the problem, and that this is your problem and you are
going to solve it, fire away. Now it is the responsibility of everyone
else in the Project to convince you that you need to do things
4e. Listen - the openSUSE Project is full of very clever people.
Listen to their feedback, consider it. Your proposal included your
reasoning, their feedback should be equally reasoned and informative,
and so even a 'failure' of a proposal at this point is a learning
4f. Respond - fast feedback drives innovation. If people are giving
you feedback, discuss back with them, tell them when you agree with
what they're saying, tell them when you disagree and why. This is how
you will find other people to work with you on this thing.
4g. Decide - You do not need to accept all, or any, of the feedback.
If nothing comes up that convinces you to deviate from your plan, then
carry on as you planned.
If something gets in the way, then work together to find a solution,
either one that includes a compromise that everyone is equally unhappy
with, or one where 'both' options are possible.
This is an aspect of the openSUSE community that we often overlook -
when we have two sets of contributors wanting to pull in two different
directions, our collective natural instinct is to often find a way of
accomplishing *both* - How else do you think we ended up with KDE,
GNOME, XFCE, LXDE, Enlightenment, etc?
This is a good thing, makes our project reflect everything which our
contributions want to work on, and something which really sets us
apart from many other Projects out there
4h. Do it
4i. Talk about it! Our statistics show that the openSUSE Project is on
the up and up, and we are in many ways ahead of a great many similar
projects who are often perceived as being more successful than us.
A big part of that is because we excel at doing stuff, and are lousy
about talking about it. So this is a call to action to ask that
everyone reading this email keeps in mind the cool stuff that they're
working on as part of openSUSE, and talk about it.
Social media, conferences, meetups, whenever you get a chance, tell
the world about what you're doing.
It is not just a case of being 'Green and Proud', but talking about
recent successes often leads to conversations that reveal what the
next challenge is, and so the cycle continues, but at least it's a lot
of fun ;)
Thanks to all for reading this. Hopefully it is food for thought for
old and new contributors alike. I intend to throw this up on some blog
sometime, or find a way of squishing some of these thoughts onto the
wiki, so please direct any feedback and discussion to the
opensuse-project(a)opensuse.org mailinglist where I promise to listen
and respond ;)
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