Fedora, in a word. (Actually: I’ll take multiple words, too. Paragraphs, even.)

Marketing FAD, Day 4: We’re going to be doing lots of videotaping today. Actually, I guess it’s probably not called videotaping these days; I wonder if people have started referring to it as “video-disking” or some such thing. We’ve got plans to pull together content for an F13-specific video, some along the lines of a “friends” video / individual profile highlight movie, and then, what we’re hoping will be… a more timeless video on “What is Fedora.”

One of the recurring themes that we’ve been discussing is how people outside the community – who are potential contributors, or even, potential users – perceive Fedora.  How would they describe it, in one word?

Turns out that asking people for just One Word is not a simple task.  We posted two large white sheets here on the Red Hat campus in the elevators of the building we’re in, with accompanying markers, and wrote, “What word do you think of when you think of Fedora?”

Hours later, we went to the elevator and discovered…. that people apparently don’t like brainstorming in elevators, because the pieces of paper were GONE, without a trace.  And the markers!

And so, in the hopes of gathering other results, I conducted a highly scientific poll of a group of friends I have on a mailing list. (By highly scientific, I mean a pool of sysadmins, programmer-types, geeks, tinkerers, experimenters, and awesomeness in general… mostly male, about 30 people…. realllllly scientific. I hope the readers are gathering my sarcasm here.)  To be a little more serious, though, most of these people are people who have used Fedora at some point, are familiar with multiple Linux distros, and in some cases, are more than just casually familiar with the Open Source Way.

The results were — and continue to be — interesting, surprising, and more than one word.  I originally asked for one word, and people started saying, “oops, that was a sentence….” — and eventually it evolved into me saying, “Okay, just dump your thoughts on me.”

One-word (or, “few word,” answers) –

Feature rich.  Green. Bleeding edge.  Unstable. “Yum”…ish. “Pain. Physical and emotional.” Fat. Incubator. Indy.

Another thing I discovered is that a lot of people have used Fedora — Many, Many years ago.  And that is their last impression of Fedora — and despite the fact that, obviously, Fedora (and other distros) has made significant improvements over the several years, they’re not interested in coming back.

This was my experience too (extensive RPM troubles) as a linux user.
I suppose I had one RPM difficulty as a linux administrator as well,
though the source was not RH (it was the annoying people @ Plesk).  I
was happy to settle on Ubuntu in 2005.  My last RH was RHEL 5.  Can’t
remember the version number of my last Fedora.

At least some people recognize that what’s gone on between now and then has probably changed things…

I don’t know how to describe fedora anymore because it wouldn’t be
fair. The last time I tried RHEL was 4 years ago, and fedora maybe 1
year before that.

last time I dealt with it was like release 8 or 9 and thinking ZOMG, 6
CDs…6!?!

And yeah.. I’ve recommended Ubuntu desktop for some of my friends
that are totally sick of Windows.  The feedback I’ve been getting
has been along the lines of “wow, why didn’t I do this years ago?”

The Ubuntu desktop gui environment is really quite nice.  Install
is super easy as well.  You don’t have to be a Linux-pro to move
around in it, do updates, copy files, install new hardware, etc..

That being said, I would never use Ubuntu as a server platform…

Sometimes, just HAVING the discussion does some good….

Ubuntu has the momentum and word of mouth.  I don’t know much about Fedora and have not been motivated to try it because Ubuntu makes me happy.  That being said I am downloading it now to get a feel for it.

And other times, people just get it (more or less):

Personally I don’t do Fedora because of the short support lifecycle.
When I install a box, I don’t want to have to reinstall it 1-2 years
from now just to keep getting security updates and fixes.  So, I use
centos…   If I want a sneak peek at the tech that may make it into
rhel next year, I install the latest Fedora and play with it.
However, that’s what Fedora is for — I don’t think it is something
that needs fixed by extending Fedora’s support lifecycle.

You shouldn’t pick Fedora for imporant shit that matters to an
enterprise — it’s not what it is for.  Fedora is the leading/bleeding
edge proving grounds and development grounds for RedHat Enterprise
Linux (RHEL), which is the slower, more stable, more robust, longer
support life option that is designed for your super important shit
that matters to your enterprise.

IMO, the reason to use Fedora (in places where it is appropriate, like
in R&D situations or a desktop env) is if your enterprise systems are
running RHEL/CentOS and you want something that is familiar and
similar to what you know and use already, but you want newer stuff for
a particular situation.  Also, as an added bonus, anything new you
learn in Fedora may apply to future versions of RHEL/CentOS.   less
crap to learn and remember ftw.

So, yeah.  Lots of input.  I think the one thing that is clear is that people aren’t necessarily getting the message – or that they’ve started elsewhere, and will never even try Fedora, simply because they’re Happy now.  How can we convince them to make the switch — or try Fedora as their first, or try it again?

How about you? If you ask people at your local LUG meeting what the one word is that comes to mind when they think about Fedora, what are you hearing? How about in a paragraph or less?

5 comments

  1. Hi Robyn.. scientific polling guy here :). One thing your poll does show is a standard Brand problem… once it is associated with something it is very hard to get people to change their minds.

    Or as some people put it, lose a returning customer and you have lost 10 new customers. This happened to Red Hat Linux back in the 5.1 days. The release was really bad, and people went to Mandrake in large numbers. They had similar reasons and some came back over time, but many went to anything but Red Hat Linux over the years.
    The same with people who went to SuSE over the years. Their brains have built in avoidance circuits and it takes a lot of energy and coaxing to route around them.

    In other cases, Fedora isn’t going to be what they want any more than selling a person a Prius to haul heavy cargos would be or selling a deuce and a half to someone wanting to save gas. The issue is learning what we are trying to sell and putting effort into it.

    Even if we aren’t charging money, we are asking for people’s time/attention and we need to treat that like money.

    1. How much scientific polling stuff do you know? You should come talk to me sometime about my EPIC JOURNEY to getting limesurvey going on fp.o infrastructure, getting it packaged, and actually get a general fedora user survey out the door… you know, if you’re interested :)

  2. I will do that question, and mail it to you. It’s interesting, but yeah – I also would like to know.

  3. I believe the first word was “RPM.” I’ve spoken to two of my colleagues at work (in IT) and that was pretty much what both said. The one guy had gone far enough that our web server for our company runs Ubuntu Server (I guess I just assume most web servers run Centos).

    Sadly I just had to go back to Ubuntu last night after having some breakage with F12. I don’t have time to tinker with my distro anymore (I spent all of Sunday trying to get it working, Monday was Ubuntu day) — I’ve got work to do.

    That being said, I’ve got a lot of respect for the Fedora/Red Hat team. Lot’s of great tech being developed.

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