Yesterday the results of the Fedora 18 release name election were announced.
Fedora 18 is going to be called Spherical Cow.
Wait, what? Yes, Spherical Cow.
“/doh” by Hobvias Sudoneighm (striatic on Flickr), used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
Tatica broke the news about the Fedora 18 release name in Vienna to Emichan and me and we have been discussing it tonight. We all have some concerns with it.
Spherical Cows Falling Flat
Fellow Fedorans, don’t you think this has gone a step too far now? We don’t want to Fedora to be a joke, right? What message are we sending about Fedora with these kinds of names? Even if we had the best, most amazing artwork ever paired with a flawless user experience, don’t you think a name like ‘Spherical Cow’ makes it seem as if we as a community don’t care about Fedora or that we don’t believe Fedora is something to be taken seriously? If we believe in free software and we want users to adopt it, how can we convince them to take it seriously with names like this?
“Beefy Miracle,” as Tatica pointed out, has been a challenge for Spanish-speaking Fedora Ambassadors to explain to potential Fedora users at events. Ambassadors are asked quite frequently what the differences are between Fedora and other Linux OSes. Traditionally, the answer has been that Fedora is more for professionals and that it’s a serious distro that takes a progressive stance towards adopting new technology. Whether or not you agree with this answer, it is certainly undermined by silly names, putting our ambassadors in an odd position.
Now, Beefy Miracle, while very much a Fedora community inside-joke and very silly, has had a devout following for a long time and is part of the history of Fedora itself, and he has served as the generic face of Fedora in the generic-logos package. So, I think the extra effort for supporting Beefy Miracle is something that many Ambassadors, including Tatica, do not mind.
But Spherical Cow? Really? What does “Spherical Cow” have to do with Fedora? Where are the “Spherical Cow” devotees? Where is the connection to our community? I don’t see it.
Beefy Miracle aside, we don’t believe that we should have wacky names every release. Furthermore, our names are random and follow a complex and hard-to-understand “is-a” test that causes confusion to pretty much anybody who tries to join in the naming process:
- The complex and non-obvious “is-a” rule makes the naming process seem rather exclusive and difficult, discouraging new participants.
- Since so many folks suggesting names don’t understand the “is-a” rule, a lot of names are suggested that can’t be used, creating a lot of work for the folks running the naming process in checking and rejecting the names that don’t fit.
- The names, for the most part, require some explanation and even with explanation, they are difficult to understand. A community with inside jokes you don’t understand doesn’t feel very welcoming. It’s okay to have inside jokes; what’s wrong is to externalize those inside jokes at the level of the release name which is currently publicized fairly widely.
- The end result is a stream of random names that are completely unrelated, without any common thread or sense about them:
- Beefy Miracle
- Spherical Cow
We’re Not Alone
I don’t think Tatica, Emichan, and myself are alone in this thinking. There was a lot of support for our position in a Fedora advisory-board list thread last month. Here are some highlights from that thread:
- Seth Vidal said:
I think we should drop the naming process altogether. For the following reasons:
1. the names do not serve any use
2. the names are a waste of time and effort to administer the process
3. no one remembers the names.
4. the names are potentially divisive.
- Bruno Wolff said:
I don’t think the ‘is a’ process has resulted in consistant good pools of names.
- David Nalley said:
Now that we’ve had Zod and Beefy Miracle – is there really any point continuing?
- Jaroslav Reznik said:
The perception of the name inside the project, the core people (for us, Beefy Miracle has something magical and you can imagine Bacon!) will be different compared to outside ones. For them it could be more difficult to understand it – some people could be offended (even we don’t see reason), some people who understand fun would be just laughing, some would be angry…
So I don’t think we have a problem inside our community but that *outside* perception could actually sound not the way we wanted it.
- Seth Vidal also said:
I stopped participating or caring in the names a long time ago and from asking around to some of my peers, I’m not alone.
- Jason Brooks said:
Names can be useful, but Fedora hasn’t made much use of them.
I think my favorite quote from the thread is from Matthias Clasen:
I agree – the naming thing started as a fun game, then it got ‘standardized’, and now it is just one more process that has stopped to be either fun or useful. Apart from the problems that Seth has listed, others have pointed out that the expected connection of the release name to the artwork is more often than not problematic.
Time to reevaluate and come up with something fresh and fun that we can do for each release.
Along this line, a suggestion from mario juliano grande balletta:
My only suggestion, based on being new with Fedora, and still full of energy and excitment to work with all of you, is simply stay positive, focus on the fun, smile, find ways to agree, look for the good, insist on being happy, focus on the new, and make changes!
Well, come on then! Let’s do this as a community, okay? We agree with many of the sentiments in the thread that having a release number without any kind of name is a bit cold, especially as our version numbers climb higher and higher. The recent release naming process election results suggest you may feel similarly:
- 550 Fedorans are in favor of keeping the release name, but potentially exploring a new process for developing it.
- 384 Fedorans do not support keeping release names.
A Proposal to Move Forward
Here is our (Emichan, Tatica, and me) suggestion for moving forward on this:
- As a community, let’s propose different schemes along which we can come up with release names moving forward (Fedora 19 and beyond.) These schemes should result in nice names that won’t be quickly exhausted and will reflect on Fedora positively in some way. Let’s take until June 1 to do this.
- Once we’ve had a sufficient period of time to come up with naming schemes, let’s decide on the naming scheme we want to use together as a community.
- For Fedora 19, we can follow a naming process very similar to the one we follow today. The only difference: there is no “is-a” rule for vetting names. The names are instead vetted for adherence to our selected naming scheme, as well as vetted by the entire community for suitability / non-offensiveness, by the Board, and by the Red Hat legal team as well.
We have a wiki page we’ve started with Feodra naming theme suggestions. Please submit your ideas to it.