October 29, 2009

Fedora Talk Activity Day

Article Source Fedora Community
October 28, 2009, 10:00 pm

John Poelstra writes:

The Fedora Talk “activity day” was two full days packed with good discussions, learning more about Asterisk, sharing some good laughs, and getting a lot done.  Paul Frields did a great job coordinating the logistics for the event including our lodging and work place.  Paul picked a great location called Business Playce, a co-working office in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The owner, Paul Delagrange was a fantastic host.  After seeing all our gear and noting that a bigger room was available, he “upgraded” us to a larger conference room on the spot.  This turned out well considering the tangle of cables,  phone hardware, and power cords we had assembled in the first hour.  Jeff Collie brought a nice speaker phone which we connected to Fedora Talk so others could call in.

The main purpose of this event was to get Asterisk gurus Jared Smith and Jeff Collie in the same room with the rest of us–Jon Stanley, Paul Frields, and Ian Weller, to nail down and implement Fedora Talk’s ability to record and stream conferences.  We also spent a fair amount of time increasing the depth and quality of Fedora Talk’s documentation which will hopefully be published soon at http://talk.fedoraproject.org.  A reminder that key links are in the navigation panel on the left even though they look like the regular sidebar links from the wiki.

We had great participation from all over the world.  Not only did six of us gather in Fredericksburg, Virginia, but a number of people called in from: Chicago, Brisbane Australia, Washington State, Utah, and other unknown locations.  We were able to provide this conference, free of charge for sixteen hours using the existing Fedora Talk set-up. On the phone we had help from Clint Savage in the way of setting up the IceCast streaming server, Mike McGrath answering Infrastructure questions, and Darren VanBuren and Clint working on documentation and creating screen shots.  Bruno Wolff also helped with a variety of things including testing of our new documentation.  Others helped too so if I missed you and forgot to mention you did send me an email or chime in on the comments.

I focused on the overall facilitation of the event by helping to guide the sprints and keep us focused on meeting our goals.  Along the way I learned how to configure my new (to me) used Grandstream phone, format documents for the Fedora website, and increase my git knowledge–it was funny and sad how many types I attempted to issue a git command by starting with cvs.  I also spent a lot of time updating the use cases and making sure we they were all documented and linked properly.  We discussed the possibility of taking another run at the unfinished tickets and documentation at FUDCon in Toronto (December 5-7, 2009).

One of the most interesting things I learned at this event was that Fedora is blazing a trail in the area of providing an open framework for managing the recording and streaming conferences with Asterisk.  As were getting started I asked Jared Smith (who also happens to work at Digium and would know better than anyone else) what other existing solutions we could use instead of “writing all this new stuff ourselves.”  Jared noted that while a lot of people have developed applications to manage call recordings and streaming, to his knowledge all of those applications have been developed privately and non of them are open source or freely available.

Specific things we accomplished:

  • Thorough list of use cases for three types of Fedora Talk roles: Callers, Conference Facilitators, and Administrators
  • Documentation for each of the use cases or URLs to open tickets
  • Ability to record and/or stream conferences
  • Call recording notifications
  • Protoyped web application to control recorded or streamed conferences
  • Comprehensive documentation for configuring and troubleshooting soft phones
  • Jared enabled numerous bits of Asterisk functionality on the spot as result of simple ‚ÄúCan Asterisk do‚Ķ?‚Äù questions.

Things to consider in the future:

  • Identify specific tasks in advance that people on the phone can help with
  • Have one person on the phone take the lead for helping coordinate tasks with other people on the phone and IRC or forming pairs to work on tasks

Key success ingredients:

  • Being very clear, reasonable, and focused from the start about what we wanted to accomplish
  • Lots of advanced planning, including mailing list discussions and IRC meetings
  • Detailed use cases created before the event.¬† Use cases with people‚Äôs names made them more personal and fun.
  • Having subject matter experts present‚Äìnot on the phone, but in person to draw diagrams and explain complicated technical things in person and in real time
  • Working in short sprints (45 minutes to an hour) to avoid getting too bogged down on a particular topic or going down needless rat holes
  • Giving status to the rest of the team at the end of each sprint to explain what we had worked on or accomplished and what we learned.
  • Working in pairs with a small group (six seemed to be a really good number).
  • Being flexible about how we used our time while maintaining the same goals.¬† The sprints worked well for the first part of the first day.¬† At other times they did not fit the nature of the tasks we were working on.
  • Outside of defined sprints, periodic check-ins with the group about progress and what we wanted to work on next‚Äìno less than once every 1.5 hours.
  • Having lunch delivered to us so we could all eat and keep working‚Äìthis added 1.5 hours to the day that would have otherwise been lost by going out, coming back, and starting up again.

For me the biggest win was the use cases we created in advance.  They were a critical filter to run new ideas through and keep us focused on what we wanted to accomplish and how we wanted to define “success” for the event.

Thanks again to all the people who participated and gave their time!

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