The Ubuntu Core Apps project has proven that the Ubuntu community is not only capable of building fantastic software, but they’re capable of the meeting the same standards, deadlines and requirements that are expected from projects developed by employees. One of the things that I think made Core Apps so successful was the project management support that they all received from Alan Pope.
Project management is common, even expected, for software developed commercially, but it’s just as often missing from community projects. It’s time to change that. I’m kicking off a new personal project, I’m calling it the Ubuntu Incubator.
The purpose of the Incubator is to help community projects bootstrap themselves, obtain the resources they need to run their project, and put together a solid plan that will set them on a successful, sustainable path.
To that end I’m going to devote one month to a single project at a time. I will meet with the project members regularly (weekly or every-other week), help define a scope for their project, create a spec, define work items and assign them to milestones. I will help them get resources from other parts of the community and Canonical when they need them, promote their work and assist in recruiting contributors. All of the important things that a project needs, other than direct contributions to the final product.
I’m intentionally keeping the scope of my involvement very focused and brief. I don’t want to take over anybody’s project or be a co-founder. I will take on only one project at a time, so that project gets all of my attention during their incubation period. The incubation period itself is very short, just one month, so that I will focus on getting them setup, not on running them. Once I finish with one project, I will move on to the next.
How will I choose which project to incubate? Since it’s my time, it’ll be my choice, but the most important factor will be whether or not a project is ready to be incubated. “Ready” means they are more than just an idea: they are both possible to accomplish and feasible to accomplish with the person or people already involved, the implementation details have been mostly figured out, and they just need help getting the ball rolling. “Ready” also means it’s not an existing project looking for a boost, while we need to support those projects too, that’s not what the Incubator is for.
So, if you have a project that’s ready to go, but you need a little help taking that first step, you can let me know by adding your project’s information to this etherpad doc. I’ll review each one and let you know if I think it’s ready, needs to be defined a little bit more, or not a good candidate. Then each month I’ll pick one and reach out to them to get started.
Now, this part is important: don’t wait for me! I want to speed up community innovation, not slow it down, so even if I add your project to the “Ready” queue, keep on doing what you would do otherwise, because I have no idea when (or if) I will be able to get to yours. Also, if there are any other community leaders with project management experience who have the time and desire to help incubate one of these project, go ahead and claim it and reach out to that team.
 While this compliments my regular job, it’s not something I’ve been asked to do by Canonical, and to be honest I have enough Canonical-defined tasks to consume my working hours. This is me with just my community hat on, and I’m inclined to keep it that way.
 I’m not going to forget about projects after their month is up, but you get 100% of the time I spend on incubation during your month, after that my time will be devoted to somebody else.
 I’m using Etherpad to keep the process as lightweight as possible, if we need something better in the future we’ll adopt it then.