I lost 14 pounds in 2009 because I set a goal and checked in on it a few days each week. Fedora can benefit in the same way.
The topic of weight–amount, gain and loss–is a very personal and sensitive subject. In no way am I implying that this is “the way” or that it should work for everyone. Do what is best for you.
In a previous post about goals for 2010 I mentioned a goal about weight and the magic of writing goals down. In 2009 I didn’t set any goals until July 2009. I had been drifting through the year and realized there were several things I wanted to complete by the end of the year and that by making a little progress each week I could get them done by the end of the year.
In August, having written down my goal about losing weight I was drawn to a post on Get Fit Slowly about a site called Physics Diet. In an article called Physics Diet Graphs Explained, Mac explained how he used the site. I had read somewhere that one way to start losing weight was simply to track it. With nothing to lose (no pun intended) I gave it a try. There was a new voice in my head each time I made eating decisions. There was also the satisfaction from the feedback that showed those small changes were making a difference.
In an opposite sort of way, frequent tracking gave me freedom and reduced guilt because it removed the ambiguity of my eating decisions. Some days I made less than ideal food choices and the data showed that occasionally doing so wasn’t the end of the world.
In September, a friend mentioned he was planning to get back into to shape for ski season. I asked him how he was going to get in shape and he told me about a circuit training class he was signing up for at the local parks and recreation center. Because of my goal it grabbed my attention and I signed up too.
There was also the fortuitous convergence with lunch time smoothies and a book my wife was reading called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. One thing the book talks about (I have not read it) is the effects of a few hundred extra calories each day, over a year–in many cases 10 extra pounds pounds at the end of a year. If you work at a company with free candy bars and snacks in the break room this isn’t hard to do. The same is true of eating a couple hundred less calories a day. I figured with 5 months until my deadline this angle could help too and it did.
How does this relate to Fedora?
For starters, having a goal like this influenced my eating decisions at FUDCon in Toronto where given the opportunity to eat a large delicious dinner, I settled instead for a salad and water. It is not that I have amazing willpower–my end goal was simply more important than one big meal.
If we want to expand the impact and reach of the Fedora Project we need to be more deliberate about what we want to accomplish and how we will measure it. One thing we already measure is how many people are downloading our releases. What do these numbers tell us? How should they influence decisions about the Fedora distribution? What do we need to do differently to move the numbers in a different direction?