Opening new markets, forging new friendships and strengthening existing relationships is an ongoing challenge. It requires a consistent effort over time and rarely shows imediate results. Done with honesty, openness, fairness and perseverance it does pay off.
In that way, it's not unlike planting a vegetable garden. After fertilizing and tilling the soil (often after last year's harvest to allow it to sit and take and then again before planting), you put seeds and newly sprouted plants in the soil at the start of the growing season. You tend to the land for months watering and weeding and chasing out pests and generally maintaining the plants themselves. Finally the plants start to produce things we can eat and the joy of the harvest continues. Done right, even a reasonably sized plot can provide a family with food not just through the harvest months but through the winter as well ... when you get to start the process over again.
For those living in warmer climes where the growing season is year-round, it's even more practical to just till and till through the year. Making such a "tropical climate" is every organization's goal when it comes to relationship development, though reality is that not everyone gets to live in the tropics. =)
Harvest festivals are common throughout the world because it gives a well needed "Huzzah!" to the end of a long stretch of work that is done for future gain. It reminds the people that their hard work did pay off, that they should continue planting to make food and that they should be grateful for the bounty they receive.
Ok .. where am I going with all this? Well, a couple years ago at Akademy 2006 in Ireland we put together a speaking track and arranged meetings around the topic of KDE and FOSS in Asia. The soil was being tilled and fertilized.
People came from China, Korea, India and beyond representing both community and companies. We met, we talked, we forged relationships, we exchanged business cards and email addresses. Seeds were being planted. It was the first time I'd personally been able to meet with several of them, including people from Red Flag. We talked about how to draw people from cultures rather different in terms of computer usage, social norms and communication patterns closer to the KDE upstream community. Everyone agreed that working together more would benefit us all, and that simple things like having people send patches upstream would be great.
Red Flag people sent a raft of patches directly after Akademy 2006, but as usual with large patch drops some were already done upstream, some no longer applied cleanly, some were incorrect ... a couple made it through though and that was an interesting first step. Seedlings poked their first leaves through the soil.
Over the next two years, people on the Asian continent continued to work on the communities, such as the awesome KDE India community while others continued to work hard even on their own. When Sung-Jae joined KDE e.V. as a member this year and expressed with great heartfelt emotion his efforts and struggles for FOSS in his country of Korea, it was very evident how hard he'd been working on the KDE garden plot at his home. ASUS hosted a couple of Linux developer events and KDE people flew to Taiwan to participate.
Then about a week ago I noticed something: I was seeing patches for KDE 4 posted to mailing lists from Red Flag employees (plural!) using their work email addresses. Besides signaling that they were working on a KDE 4 based release of their operating systems and preparing the move from 3.5 to 4.2, this was new: they were working on sending their patches upstream as they were working on them.
Yesterday, a Red Flag developer got his KDE svn commit account. This told me that finally we were in the harvest time. The seeds planted in 2006 had sprouted, bloomed and were producing fruit.
I hope this is just the first such harvest and that we continue to build strong bonds with those in Asia. This has been a huge challenge for us, being largely Amero-European, due to the differences in culture and language. Both sides have been learning and growing in the process, but I am thankful everyone has stuck with it through the growing season.
I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that those involved take a moment to step back and appreciate the progress we've all made in Asia over the last 2 years with a bit of a harvest celebration, so to speak.
After all, a new growing season is upon us and we'll need to sow new seeds, expand our garden plot a bit further and look forward to our growing harvest in the next year.