Monday, September 10, 2007

Linux Kernel Summit: Future Directions

The last formal session for the kernel summit was to look at the logistics for the next summit. There was quite a bit of discussion about the incestuous nature of the program committee, the elite attitude that the summit appeared to create, and some question of the pedigree of some of the vendors and committee people on the kernel summit discussion list. It makes for amusing reading at times, but some of the concerns needed to be raised and discussed in person. To help improve the neutrality of the discussion, Ted Ts'o introduced the topic but then asked Dave Miller to moderate. Dave happens to be among the most highly respected people of the core, wasnot on the committee the past couple of years but has served on the committee and understands the challenges that such a committee has. As such, he was able to moderate with an eye towards representing the community point of view. I captured a number of the questions/comments raised during that session. Not all questions raised had answers, but many did, and the net summary is that the view is that the program committee is actually doing a good job at pleasing most people most of the time (the highest achievable goal, in many people's eyes ;).

Here are some of those comments, captured mostly via stream of consciousness discussion.

Process Issues vs Technical Discussion
- How was this year? Too much on process issues?

- Holding BOFs in the evening was a bit much
- Is three days a good idea: NO
- BOFs in mid day would be good
- Process was good to have here.
- This has been far more productive than it has been in several years
- Linus still likes the customer/user feedback
- Linus might like to have more (two) different customer sessions?
- Linus really likes the feedback on the process stuff here/face to face
- Hugh strongly agreed on the customer panel.
- Dave Miller pointed out that the customer panels are often
so negative; hearing both good and bad as good
- Benh found it to be amazing

Number of attendees: too large? Too small?
- No larger
- 12 person committee seems large
- Ensures less bias in voting
- Provides shepherds for some of the topic areas
- Most would be invited anyone - Dave Jones doesn't think they
auto-invites are bad
- the invite-only nature causes issues
- Limiting the invitations seems critical; otherwise too many people,
lots of vocal fans
- Elite-ism versus openness issue
- Co-locating with another conference adds value in conjunction with
invite-only
- Important discussions seem to still happen in the short breaks
- Proposal for some smaller discussion groups/parallel panels
- Counterproposal - no small groups (hch)
- Mini-summits before the conference
- HCH strongly believes this should not be panels and lots of
people but should foster cross-polination.
- linux.conf.eu - several attendees who weren't burned out by KS
- KS + OLS usually leads to burnout by end of OLS
- Some went to a pre-minisummit + KS
- Alan Cox - much smaller and you have just "the usual suspects"
and then nothing useful gets done.
- Quite a few new faces - first timers, which is viewed as good
- 5 slot lottery of Maintainers is viewed as a good thing
- Should there be more people here representing lower levels of
user level, e.g. glibc? (they were invited and didn't show)
- After the first round, consider an appeal process for round #2,
per Steve Hemminger?
- Andrew Morton - it is easy for people to fall through the cracks
- Matt Mackall - 2,000 people on the committer list - did we invite
enough of them?
- Andrew - should we consider moving to every other year? Or Dave
Howells - maybe every 18 months.
- Holding this every other year has a corporate downside - it might
fall out of budget.
- Russell King - how well is embedded represented? about 10 people
Would also like to also see some other well-known arm/embedded
people present (Cambridge is the home of ARM, hence would have
expected more people here).
- Should take into account whether someone is local a bit, including
perhaps local funding.
- David Howells - going to Japan might bring in local embedded developers
then, for instance.
- At LCA there will also be a kernel mini-summit.
- Generally people seem to be pretty happy with the program committee.

Organizing committee:
- Picked to have adequate knowledge/coverage of kernel subsystems,
corporate/distro funded work, etc. to pick invitees and topics

- How is the PC chosen? Ted has been chairing and has picked the
program committee. Ted is trying to pick people who have good
coverage of all of the different parts of the kernel, as well as
providing some corporate insight. People who contribute actual
work to the program committee are more likely to get invited
back. People who are interested in being on the program committee
need to let Ted know.

Location next year?

(Here Ted showed some statistics from a survey he did about the time of this years OLS, numbers are from those statistics):

Will people attend KS in US? 12% object, 88% no object
Will people attend KS in Canada? 3% object, 97% no object
Should we coalese KS with another conference? 10% very important, 46% somewhat important, 44% does not matter
Location is much more important for sponsors who care about travel budget.
Approximately 87/188 responses 46% response rate
How many are likely to attend OLS? 18% will, 27% likely, 21% attend if co-located with KS 31% not likely to attend, 4% will not attend

Possible future locations, ranked by interest:
Vancouver
Australia
San Fran
Portland
Seattle
San Diego
Boston
Ottawa

No European Location listed/ request to ping/pong between Europe/US)
We talked about India/Asia/South America as options; very few attendees from there, thus travel long distance for everyone. Dave Miller strongly objects to ruling out China, for instance.

Possible locations considered (including co-location with another conference):

Ottawa w/ OLS (3rd week in July, 2008)
Portland w/ Plumbers Conf (September 2008) - Kristin
Someplace else? LCA Early 2009

Strong votes for going with FOSS in Bangalore
Also recommended China + some conference.

During all of this discussion, Dave Miller was a very strong advocate of taking kernel summit and/or developers to Asia (China, Japan, Korea, etc.) as well as India, South America, and other developing areas to help build a strong global contingency. The general leadership consensus seems to be that there are huge pools of talent to be tapped in those areas, as well as significant Linux usage, but that development and use of Linux are not well represented by the current activities on linux-kernel. Usually building face to face relationships helps expedite and encourage this sort of contribution and should be highly encouraged through both the kernel summit, related conferences, individual developers participating, and through the Linux Foundation's outreach program.

And that took us to the warm beer (did you know you could find Budweiser in Cambridge, UK? I thought England was more or less famous for either its beers or its beer drinking, but come on! Budweiser?!) and then the photo session.

I also recommend checking out the coverage on lwn.net by Jonathan Corbet - he brings insights to his reporting that are well worth the subscription fees for early access, and, if the trivial cost is too great, all of his articles become public after a week. (shameless plug for someone who's editorial and reporting skills I greatly respect!).

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