Open Source Comes to Campus/Curriculum/Saturday/User communication

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Pre-requisites: IRC client installed. Web browser installed.

Learning objectives: Know about the common real-time-ish communication tools used by projects (IRC, mailing lists (including Google Groups)). Be able to join IRC channels. Have a sense of etiquette on IRC channels and mailing lists. Be able to read mailing list threads and find answers embedded in them. Understand that idling is a good thing, especially when waiting for an answer. Understand how to search pipermail/mailman archives. Understand that most projects have a -users and -devel separation in mailing lists, and know when to use each one. Understand how to find answers to e.g. Ubuntu programs via Googling and finding them on e.g. a StackExchange-type site. Learn about Linux Users Groups and any existing ones in the community.

(Generally, be able to ask questions the smart way.)

Group discussion

  • Start by showing a program that doesn't do what you need. Overall idea: where are the humans on the planet who can help?
  • What are mailing lists like?
    • Share a story of getting serious help on a mailing list (e.g. reiserfs+lkml in 2001-ish, or Dovecot, or something else)
    • The list is often just the actual developer
      • but that person's presence is actually somewhat remarkable
    • Show mailman and Google Groups archives
    • Share a story of excellent humor on a list
    • Explain digest mode
    • Show an example of inline replies
    • Show some mailing list spam, and then explain that you must generally join to post
  • 5 min digression: Debian's OpenSSL patch, or "How this can all go horribly wrong"
  • What happens on IRC?
    • Sometimes fast-moving...
      • (animated GIF of unreasonably fast channel)
    • User questions
    • Developer discussions
    • Sometimes slow-moving...
      • screenshot of super slow moving thing
    • Explain existence of separate networks
  • 5 min: How you can help yourself
    • Googling the problem
    • Searching bug trackers for the issue, and discovering workarounds
    • Showing up on IRC and just listening
  • 5 min: General help communities
    • linuxquestions.org
    • Local groups! (LUGs, computer clubs, etc.)
      • Show an example of people in other countries posting to San Francisco groups
    • The Gentoo and Arch Linux wiki (even though they're supposedly specific)
    • Stack Overflow, and how it influenced Debian and Ubuntu's "ask" community
  • Cultural example: Debian's emphasis on email for development over IRC

Individual work

  • Students, with their IRC clients that they set up during Laptop Setup, join the same channel
  • Students read an email sent to a public list, where someone asked for help, and discuss its quality with the student sitting next to them
  • Find the website of a local linux users group (e.g. Philadelphia's PLUG) and join the IRC channel for it and say hello

Assessment elements

  • Showing up on IRC is success!
  • We can idle in the IRC channel of the local LUG
  • Student next to you discusses rankings