[Tails-dev] The future of monthly reports, 2021 edition [Wa…

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Author: intrigeri
To: The Tails public development discussion list
Old-Topics: Re: [Tails-dev] Preparing the next monthly report
Subject: [Tails-dev] The future of monthly reports, 2021 edition [Was: Preparing the next monthly report]

sajolida (2021-02-03):
> I've curated ⅔ of reports since 2017

(I've asked sajolida for clarification privately as this is very
different from the data I see. But anyway, this should not impact the
analysis I did below.)

> but I won't curate them anymore.

> This monthly report dynamics has been recurrently frustrating for me.
> What I envisioned as a way of communicating within the project,
> connecting with the rest of the world, and celebrating our achievements,
> has felt broken for me for years. I've put a lot of energy in the past
> to try to change this but I don't have this energy anymore. I'll find
> elsewhere the information that I need from them.

Thanks for expressing your feelings and sharing your plans!

Historical context

FWIW, here's what I remember from the last project-wide discussion on
this topic:

- Our starting point was that in the past, very few people were
writing these reports. It was done from scratch, looking at Git
history, changelog, Redmine, etc. This work was very tedious.
At some point, the very few people who were doing this work wanted
to stop.

- We decided to make everybody responsible for writing their bits of
report if they wanted, while the person assigned to a report "only"
has to coordinate & curate it, so that:

    - Curating takes much less time, and is now feasible by many more
      community members (it does not require following All The Things
      anymore) ⇒ the curating workload can be spread more evenly.

    - The writing workload can be spread more evenly.


Here's my analysis of how it went in practice wrt. our initial goals:

- In terms of spreading the curating workload

Apart of the aforementioned "very few people", a few community
members took responsibility for curating reports:

    - 2020: 2 people (5 reports)
    - 2019: 3 people (5 reports)
    - 2018: 4 people (5 reports)
    - 2017: 3 people (6 reports)


I would say that on the "spreading the workload" aspect, this
attempt has only been partly successful: on the one hand there's
been more community involvement than in the past, which is great;
but on the other hand more than half of our reports are still
curated by the same 2-3 people, which is not sustainable at all,
so we're back to square one.

- In terms of writing bits of reports

As far as I can tell, very few people have been writing bits of
reports. There's a huge overlap between the set of people writing
their bits of reports and the set of curators.

Also, since these very few people, put together, are members of
almost every Tails team, the contents has kept covering the vast
majority of our work. On the one hand, it's good because it means
our reports are not as incomplete as one may have feared. On the
other hand, it means the attempt to spread the writing workload
more evenly has totally failed.

My conclusion is that overall, this new setup did not reach its goals:
the work is less tedious for sure, but most of the work is still done
by the same few people. In order to make this problem visible, I've
also de-assigned myself from 2021 curator roles.

And now?

I still think these reports are very important in terms of "connecting
with the rest of the world"¹, which matters in terms of relationships
with our upstream & sibling projects, communication with our users,
and in terms of fundraising. So I would be sad to see these reports
stop for too long.

I'm not up to trying yet another iteration of "everybody will do their
bits and the workload will be shared", aka. the community magic dust.
I need a more formal setup, that is sustainable without sajolida and
myself, and with clear roles that reflect the importance of these
reports to us.

The first setup idea that I came up with:

- technical writers act as writers and editors, i.e.:

    - use our internal team monthly reports to write good quality
      contents, with a communication style that's consistent with the
      rest of our communication (for example, shorter than this
      email :]]] )

    - define a strategy, e.g. in terms of frequency (it could be that
      monthly is not the best, I dunno, I'm not trained at this kind
      of communication)

    - welcome contributions from volunteers and decide what to do with

- other teams share info, needs, expectations, and feedback with
technical writers about the intended audience they have in mind for
these reports (e.g. FT about Debian & Tor people, fundraising about
potential donors, etc.)

At this point this is meant to be half a proposal, half a conversation
trigger. Perhaps you disagree with my assumptions and goals?
Perhaps you have other ideas?

Also, this proposal is clearly not perfect. For example, in an
organization with more resources, folks trained/experienced at
communication would handle the communication strategy and act as
editors. In our current situation, my impression is that technical
writing is the closest skill we have in-house to communication, hence
this proposal.

Finally, I'm fine with either putting the reports on hold, or
publishing them only when someone volunteered to curate them, until
our technical writing capacity has increased sufficiently to cope with
this additional task. I understand it is a matter of mere months
now :)

[1] Wrt. "communicating within the project" and "celebrating our
    achievements", IMO we now have better tools.