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Death to the postmortem, long live …

Every release cycle in Fedora I see folks use the term postmortem to refer to discussions after the release that focus on analysing what happened during the release, with a focus on fixing mistakes and repeating successes.  This is a neologism borrowed from domains such as business.

Humans are wordy people, and the effects of a word that contains “mort” in it is to be focused on death.  A postmortem is an autopsy – it can only be conducted on something after it is dead.  That’s the very definition of the word.  In using it, we talk about the body of our work while implying death. Not healthy!

I get that it has a popular usage, but why follow the trend and refer to our release process as death?  It’s not even a lifecycle, it’s many lifecycles.  It’s an ecosystem. Fedora is a living project with a regular rhythm.  The only death we see are ideas, both good and bad, before their time, or just in time, or long overdue.

Some alternatives to postmortem:

  • Post-analysis
  • Release review
  • Post-game analysis (sports metaphor)
  • Sanity check
  • Pause for the cause
  • Happy hour
  • Post-release analysis
  • Release feedback
  • Post-release loopback
  • After the fact
  • Hindsight meeting
  • Safety check
  • Loopback review