Fedora Project is naming names

Why project names are still important.

The Fedora Project is still trying to clarify its process of naming major releases, a process that has been met with calls for revision within the Fedora community.

To address the problem, Fedora Advisory Board member Toshio Kuratomi is working to build a new naming process that will avoid some of the pitfalls of the most-recent naming concerns.

Currently, the Fedora release names are selected by the community through voting. Candidate names aren't supposed to be chosen completely at random, however; they need to follow a specific "is-a" test that links the release name of the prior version of Fedora with the new version.

Thus, for Fedora 16 "Verne," James Lovelock was a futurologist, and so was Jules Verne. ("Lovelock" was the code name for Fedora 15.) But the process seemed to go a bit off the rails with Fedora 17 "Beefy Miracle," as the Fedora Project wiki describes the connection point:

"Beefy Miracle is a name that was suggested for Fedora 16. Verne was also a name suggested for Fedora 16."

By that logic, the Fedora Project could have come up with virtually anything for the Fedora 17 name, but the logical pattern for the naming scheme has never been so strict that it sucked the fun out of everything.

Complicating the problem were the concerns from some in the Fedora community who were offended by the use of "beef" within the release name. Others expressed concern that perhaps too much energy was being put into the naming process, energy that could better be spent on other aspects of the Fedora Project.

Even though I just rolled my eyes at the name--the same reaction I had when "Beefy Miracle" was lobbied as a release name for Fedora 16--I also recognize that what's funny for others might not be funny for me, and that's all well and good.

For me, the naming process for any open source software project is pretty much little more than an affectation, but it is also an affectation that carries a lot of meaning within the open source community.

For instance, and I can't recall off the top of my head which release this was, but at one point a few years ago Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth was publicly mulling the discontinuation of Ubuntu's quirky animal-themed code names or at least not announcing them directly, because he thought the community and the media were paying to much attention to the names and not the product underneath.

That idea, as you might imagine, did not take. Nor do I think the discontinuation of Fedora's naming system will happen any time soon. But changes are definitely coming.

Kuratomi's message today on the Advisory Board list confirmed this, and detailed the progress the board is making on resolving the naming issue to date.

"At the last Board Meeting, the Board looked at the poll results asking whether people felt like continuing to name releases. The results seemed to show that many people do like having a name associated with Fedora releases. However, the discussion before and after has shown there is a desire to improve upon the current method of selecting the names."

To that end, before the naming process for Fedora 19 gets underway (Fedora 18 is already known as "Spherical Cow"), the board wants to have two questions addressed by the Fedora community, Kuratomi wrote.

  • "What benefits does the Project get from the current release naming process?
  • " What changes do people want to see in a revised process?"

Kuratomi has posted a new wiki page today that summarizes the answers he has already seen to these questions on discussions that have taken place on the Advisory Board mailing list. It's a little early to see a dominant idea, but one of the overarching themes within the answers on that page seems to be, well, applying an overarching theme to the names.

Such a theme would be similar to Ubuntu's adjective-animal scheme, or Debian GNU/Linux's use of Toy Story characters. Kuratomi also linked to Fedora developer Máirín Duffy's wiki page that contains a voluminous amount of suggested naming themes.

I'm partial to the Types of Coffee theme myself, but then I would, given the central line I have connected to my coffee machine. I am wondering, though, why types of hats aren't on the list of themes. Too on the nose?

Such process revision may seem (again) like too much energy is being spent on the whole naming rigmarole, but in this case, I think it's energy well worth spending. Too many times open source projects can get bogged down in the technical weeds. Yes, contributing great code is important and rewarding, but so is going to school.

Sometimes, you just need to have some recess.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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