We might be giants.

There’s a picture opposite me / Of my primitive ancestry / Which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free

Though I respect that a lot / I’d be fired if that were my job / After killing Jason off and countless screaming argonauts

Bluebird of friendliness / Like guardian angels, it’s always near

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch / Who watches over you / Make a little birdhouse in your soul.

I’ve been at SCaLE the past few days.  One of the things I love about regional Linux and F/LOSS conferences is the time I get to spend meeting other Fedora contributors that I haven’t met before, new potential contributors, and catching up with some of the people I already know.  Spot and I had a nice chat the other night, talking about Ye Olde High School things, and it reminded me of the blog post I’ve been meaning to write — which, friendly Planet folks, is what you are now reading.

One of my dear high school friends was our class Salutatorian.   His graduation speech: reciting the lyrics to “Birdhouse in your soul,” by the awesome They Might Be Giants.  It was a Totally Awesome Moment.  I still think about it fondly to this day.

I once was combing the Fedora wiki, looking for a banner of some sort or another, and came across some of the Fedora 12 banners, which featured blue birds.  I was immediately reminded of the “blue canary in the outlet by the light switch.”

Since then, I’ve thought a bit about it now and again, whenever the song comes up in my music mix.  The song itself, like so many other songs, is one of those, “What does it mean? Does it mean anything?” types of songs… but of course, now, in this age of intertoobz wonder, there are people who sit around dissecting songs FOR YOU! What a glorious thing.

So while I’m not going to go into gory detail (though you can certainly go read about it yourself if you want), I’ll give the 80-foot-view of what I believe to be the general premise of the passage I quoted above. Yeah, this blog post is TL;DR.  But I know you’re sucked in by now, so keep reading!

The voice of the song is a bathroom nightlight, shaped like a blue canary. Nightlights are friendly little things, particularly when you’re a child; they illuminate things just enough to see, essentially watching over you and protecting you.

The picture opposite the light, of his primitive ancestry? The one that stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free? A lighthouse.  (For some reason, people like the whole beach / lighthouse theme in bathrooms.)   He totally respects the lighthouse, but also understands, he’s not a  lighthouse; if he had to act as one, well, something terrible would happen, like killing off Jason and the Argonauts, since they wouldn’t be able to see by the light of a nightlight. [1]  But the similarity between the two is that they’re both beacons of light – one for the safety of people using the restroom when it’s dark, and one for the safety of sailors when it’s dark.

The metaphor? If Fedora is the Blue Canary nightlight in the outlet by the lightswitch – the picture opposite Fedora, of our primitive ancestry, is Red Hat. [2]  We totally respect them. But if we tried to do what Red Hat does – well, we aren’t designed to do that.  Just as a nightlight isn’t designed to guide sailors.  More importantly – we have our own strengths. And we embrace those strengths, just as the little blue canary nightlight does.

The rest is easier. “Bluebird of friendliness; like guardian angels, it’s always near /  Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch / who watches over you / Build a little birdhouse in your soul.”   Interpret at your own will, really. It speaks for itself.

I have a home for Fedora in my soul. My Birdhouse is filled with all of the things about Fedora that are near and dear to my heart. And I like to think that I continue to build that little birdhouse in my soul every day, in one way or another.   The Cloud SIG, the Marketing team, FUDCon… these are the things that are important to me.  The things I care about, and want to grow, and flourish, and eventually pass off to others to make even better.

I love Fedora because *anyone* can build a little birdhouse in their soul for Fedora.  It’s versatile, it’s flexible, it offers opportunities for people to build that birdhouse in their soul that you won’t find ANYWHERE ELSE.  And for every individual in Fedora, those things are different, and special.  And makes Fedora, Fedora.

A lot of times, we forget about that birdhouse.   I think that nearly every contributor has a reason *why* they’re passionate about Fedora, why they continue to contribute, what brought them to Fedora in the first place.  The birdhouse can tend to get cluttered with a lot of other crap.  You know what I’m talking about: Things you committed to at some point, but your interests have changed; frustrations about disagreements; getting stuck on a problem you can’t solve.  We get so wrapped up in those things that we forget to keep building that birdhouse – we lose sight of the things we love. And the things we love are really what keep us going.

I challenge you (one american dollar, not included): Think about your birdhouse a bit., maybe over the course of a few days.  Have you looked at it lately? What are the things that you are *passionate* about in Fedora? Have they fallen by the wayside? What can you do to get back to doing those things you love to do?

There really should be no “Might” in my blog post title. It’s really just a play on the band name. We are *all* giants.  We all possess the power to do great things in Fedora.  And even when some of the things we work on as individuals seem as though they’re diverging, or maybe don’t seem like they’re on the same general pathway — it all comes back to what Fedora has always been great at, and the reason why so many of us are here today: Fedora the Product is filled with the tools and materials you need to BUILD THAT BIRDHOUSE IN YOUR SOUL.  And as we individually build those birdhouses, we create more materials, more tools, for others to come and remix, and reuse, and build their own birdhouses.  And, in the end,  enable new contributors to stand on the shoulders of giants[3].

[1] This is the one minor detail that puzzles me, as they actually sent a dove between the rocks, and there wasn’t really a lighthouse involved, but, well, this works, I suppose.

[2] This is not an “upstream/downstream” metaphor; in that case, Fedora is really the ancestry of RHEL. What I’m talking about is more of a historical timeline.

[2] I promise that my next blog post will not be an allegorical interpretation of the song “King of Birds,” by R.E.M.  Even if it does say something about “standing on the shoulders of giants,” and “a hundred million birds fly.”

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