How can we measure Fedora’s success?



The Fedora Project’s mission is to lead the advancement of free and open source software and content as a collaborative community.

Several years ago, the Fedora community put considerable thought and effort into high-level strategic planning, resulting in this mission statement, a vision statement, and I think most famously, the four foundations of Freedom, Friends, Features, First.

This was all great stuff, and I don’t think we’d be doing much good by going all the way back to first principles and redoing that particular level of soul-searching. (Although if you want to look back and see how it all started and how we got here, Máirín Duffy recently posted an impressive list of links into the history, starting with Mike McGrath’s much-shorter-than-this mailing list post.)

I particularly like that the mission is broad, aimed at advancing all of free and open source software (and content!), not just focused on packaging up the specific bits that make an operating system. It’s ambitious, and it should be.

Okay, so what?

Having figured out what we want to do, we can stop the introspection and start doing, right? Well, sure, but how do we know if what we’re doing actually advances us towards our goal? Do we do all of the things that might fit? What about when there’s a huge number of things we could do – how do we chose which is the most useful? How do we show other people that what we are doing is having a real impact?

This is where the title question comes in: How can we measure Fedora’s success?

If the mission were package all the software, we could tell how much progress we were making by counting the percent of all software packaged. Traditionally, one of the measures we’ve used is number of direct downloads. That’s easy to measure, but how much connection does it have back to the actual goal? We can also do some rudimentary measures of participation levels in the project itself – number of active packagers, mailing list traffic, badges earned, and so on. But these just measure how busy we are, not whether we’re actually accomplishing anything.

The Logic Model

All that makes it seem like maybe this is a trick question. Is our mission too vague? Is it hopeless? Actually, I think it just means we need to do the next phase of strategic planning.

blah blah blah logic model