Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'community'

Michael Hall

There’s a saying in American political debate that is as popular as it is wrong, which happens when one side appeals to our country’s democratic ideal, and the other side will immediately counter with “The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy”. I’ve noticed a similar misunderstanding happening in open source culture around the phrase “meritocracy” and the negatively-charged “oligarchy”. In both cases, though, these are not mutually exclusive terms. In fact, they don’t even describe the same thing.

Authority

One of these terms describes where the authority to lead (or govern) comes from. In US politics, that’s the term “republic”, which means that the authority of the government is given to it by the people (as opposed to divine-right, force of arms, of inheritance). For open source, this is where “meritocracy” fits in, it describes the authority to lead and make decisions as coming from the “merit” of those invested with it. Now, merit is hard to define objectively, and in practice it’s the subjective opinion of those who can direct a project’s resources that decides who has “merit” and who doesn’t. But it is still an important distinction from projects where the authority to lead comes from ownership (either by the individual or their employer) of a project.

Enfranchisement

History can easily provide a long list of Republics which were not representative of the people. That’s because even if authority comes from the people, it doesn’t necessarily come from all of the people. The USA can be accurately described as a democracy, in addition to a republic, because participation in government is available to (nearly) all of the people. Open source projects, even if they are in fact a meritocracy, will vary in what percentage of their community are allowed to participate in leading them. As I mentioned above, who has merit is determined subjectively by those who can direct a project’s resources (including human resource), and if a project restricts that to only a select group it is in fact also an oligarchy.

Balance and Diversity

One of the criticisms leveled against meritocracies is that they don’t produce diversity in a project or community. While this is technically true, it’s not a failing of meritocracy, it’s a failing of enfranchisement, which as has been described above is not what the term meritocracy defines. It should be clear by now that meritocracy is a spectrum, ranging from the democratic on one end to the oligarchic on the other, with a wide range of options in between.

The Ubuntu project is, in most areas, a meritocracy. We are not, however, a democracy where the majority opinion rules the whole. Nor are we an oligarchy, where only a special class of contributors have a voice. We like to use the term “do-ocracy” to describe ourselves, because enfranchisement comes from doing, meaning making a contribution. And while it is limited to those who do make contributions, being able to make those contributions in the first place is open to anybody. It is important for us, and part of my job as a Community Manager, to make sure that anybody with a desire to contribute has the information, resources, and access to to so. That is what keeps us from sliding towards the oligarchic end of the spectrum.

 

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Daniel Holbach

I’m very happy that folks took notes during and after the meeting to bring up their ideas, thoughts, concerns and plans. It got a bit unwieldy, so Elfy put up a pad which summarises it and is meant to discuss actions and proposals.

Today we are going to have a meeting to discuss what’s on the “actions” pad. That’s why I thought it’d be handy to put together a bit of a summary of what people generally brought up. They’re not my thoughts, I’m just putting them up for further discussion.

Problem statements

  • Feeling that people innovate *with* Ubuntu, not *in* Ubuntu.
  • Perception of contributor drop in “older” parts of the community.
    • Less activity at UDS/vUDS/UOS events (was discussed at UOS too, maybe we need a committee which finds a new vision for Ubuntu Community Planning)?
    • Less activity in LoCos (lacking a sense of purpose?)
    • No drop in members/developers.
  • Less activity in Canonical-led projects.
  • We don’t spend marketing money on social media. Build a pavement online.
  • Downloading a CD image is too much of a barrier for many.
  • Our “community infrastructure” did not scale with the amount of users.
  • Some discussion about it being hard becoming a LoCo team. Bureaucracy from the LoCo Council.
  • We don’t have enough time to train newcomers.
  • Language barriers make it hard for some to get involved.
  • Canonical does a bad job announcing their presence at events.

Questions

  • Why are less people innovating in Ubuntu? Is Canonical driving too much of Ubuntu?
  • Why aren’t more folks stepping up into leadership positions? Mentoring? Lack of opportunities? More delegation? Do leaders just come in and lead because they’re interested?
  • Lack of planning? Do we re-plan things at UOS events, because some stuff never gets done? Need more follow-through? More assessment?

Proposals

  • community.ubuntu.com: More clearly indicate Canonical-led projects? Detail active projects, with point of contact, etc? Clean up moribund projects.
  • Make Ubuntu events more about “doing things with Ubuntu”?
  • Ubuntu Leadership Mentoring programme.
  • Form more of an Ubuntu ecosystem, allowing to earn money with Ubuntu.

Join the hangout on ubuntuonair.com on Friday, 12th December 2014, 16 UTC.

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Daniel Holbach

It’s fantastic that a we have more discussion about where we want our community to go. We get ideas out of it, people communicate and get a common understanding of issues. Jono’s blog post and the ubuntu-community-team mailing list generated a lot of good stuff already. Last week we had an IRC meeting with the CC and discussed governance and leadership in there.

We took quite a bit of notes, and Elfy set up a doc where we note down actions. I would like to suggest we have

Please

  • use Elfy’s action’s doc for submitting agenda items,
  • your agenda item is a concrete proposal or something which could be turned into work items,
  • make sure you’re there,
  • add your name to it!

Looking forward to seeing you there! :-)

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Daniel Holbach

I’m very happy that the ubuntu-community-team mailing list is seeing lots of discussion right now. It shows how many people deeply care about the direction of Ubuntu’s community and have ideas for how to improve things.

Looking back through the discussion of the last weeks, I can’t help but notice a few issues we are running into – issues all to common on open source project mailing lists. Maybe you all have some ideas on how we could improve the discussion?

  • Bikeshedding
    The term bikeshedding has a negative connotation, but it’s a very natural phenomenon. Rouven, a good friend of mine, recently pointed out that the recent proposal to change the statutes of the association behind our coworking space (which took a long time to put together) received no comments on the internal mailing list, whereas a change of the coffee brand seemed to invite comments from everyone.
    It is quite natural for this to happen. In a bigger proposal it’s natural for us to comment on anything that is tangible. Discussions in our community of more technical people you will often see discussions about which technology to use, rather than an answer which tries to comment on all aspects.
  • Idea overload
    Being a creative community can sometimes be a bit of a curse. You end up with different proposals plus additional ideas and nobody or few to actually implement them.
  • Huge proposals
    Sometimes you see a mail on a list which lists a huge load of different things. Without somebody who tracks where the discussion is going, summing things up, making lists of work items, etc. it will be very hard to convert a discussion into an actual project.
  • Derailing the conversation
    You’ve all seen this happen: you start the conversation with a specific problem or proposal and end up discussing something entirely different.

All of the above are nothing new, but in a part of our project where discussions tend to be quite general and where we have contributors from many different parts of the community some of the above are even more true.

Personally I feel that all of the above are fine problems to have. We are creative and we have ideas on how to improve things – that’s great. In my mind I always treated the ubuntu-community-team mailing list as a place to kick around ideas, to chat and to hang out and see what others are doing.

As I care a lot about our community and I’d still like to figure out how we can avoid the risk of some of the better ideas falling through the cracks. What do you think would help?

Maybe a meeting, maybe every two weeks to pick up some of the recent discussion and see together as a group if we can convert some of the discussion into something which actually flies?

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Michael Hall

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[1] project, I’m calling it the Ubuntu Incubator.

get_excited_banner_banner_smallThe 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[2].

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[3]. 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

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Michael Hall

When things are moving fast and there’s still a lot of work to do, it’s sometimes easy to forget to stop and take the time to say “thank you” to the people that are helping you and the rest of the community. So every November 20th we in Ubuntu have a Community Appreciation Day, to remind us all of the importance of those two little words. We should of course all be saying it every day, but having a reminder like this helps when things get busy.

Like so many who have already posted their appreciation have said, it would be impossible for me to thank everybody I want to thank. Even if I spent all day on this post, I wouldn’t be able to mention even half of them.  So instead I’m going to highlight two people specifically.

First I want to thank Scarlett Clark from the Kubuntu community. In the lead up to this last Ubuntu Online Summit we didn’t have enough track leads on the Users track, which is one that I really wanted to see more active this time around. The track leads from the previous UOS couldn’t do it because of personal or work schedules, and as time was getting scarce I was really in a bind to find someone. I put out a general call for help in one of the Kubuntu IRC channels, and Scarlett was quick to volunteer. I really appreciated her enthusiasm then, and even more the work that she put in as a first-time track lead to help make the Users track a success. So thank you Scarlett.

Next, I really really want to say thank you to Svetlana Belkin, who seems to be contributing in almost every part of Ubuntu these days (including ones I barely know about, like Ubuntu Scientists). She was also a repeat track lead last UOS for the Community track, and has been contributing a lot of great feedback and ideas on ways to make our amazing community even better. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that she’s trying to re-start the Ubuntu Leadership team, which I think is needed now more than ever, and which I really want to become more active in once I get through with some deadline-bound work. I would encourage anybody else who is a leader in the community, or who wants to be one, to join her in that. And thank you, Svetlana, for everything that you do.

It is both a joy and a privilege to be able to work with people like Scarlett and Svetlana, and everybody else in the Ubuntu community. Today more than ever I am reminded about how lucky I am to be a part of it.

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Michael Hall

Last week was our second ever Ubuntu Online Summit, and it couldn’t have gone better. Not only was it a great chance for us in Canonical to talk about what we’re working on and get community members involved in the ongoing work, it was also an opportunity for the community to show us what they have been working on and give us an opportunity to get involved with them.

Community Track leads

This was also the second time we’ve recruited track leads from among the community. Traditionally leading a track was a responsibility given to one of the engineering managers within Canonical, and it was up to them to decide what sessions to put on the UDS schedule. We kept the same basic approach when we went to online vUDS. But starting with UOS 14.06, we asked leaders in the community to help us with that, and they’ve done a phenomenal job. This time we had Nekhelesh RamananthanJosé Antonio ReySvetlana BelkinRohan GargElfy, and Scarlett Clark take up that call, and they were instrumental in getting even more of the community involved

Community Session Hosts

uos_creatorsMore than a third of those who created sessions for this UOS were from the community, not Canonical. For comparison, in the last in-person UDS, less than a quarter of session creators were non-Canonical. The shift online has been disruptive, and we’ve tried many variations to try and find what works, but this metric shows that those efforts are starting to pay off. Community involvement, indeed community direction, is higher in these Online Summits than it was in UDS. This is becoming a true community event: community focused, community organized, and community run.

Community Initiatives

The Ubuntu Online Summit wasn’t just about the projects driven by Canonical, such as the Ubuntu desktop and phone, there were many sessions about projects started and driven by members of the community. Last week we were shown the latest development on Ubuntu MATE and KDE Plasma 5 from non-Canonical lead flavors. We saw a whole set of planning sessions for community developed Core Apps and an exciting new Component Store for app developers to share bits of code with each other. For outreach there were sessions for providing localized ISOs for loco teams and expanding the scope of the community-lead Start Ubuntu project. Finally we had someone from the community kick off a serious discussion about getting Ubuntu running on cars. Cars! All of these exciting sessions were thought up by, proposed by, and run by members of the community.

Community Improvements

This was a great Ubuntu Online Summit, and I was certainly happy with the increased level of community involvement in it, but we still have room to make it better. And we are going to make it better with help from the community. We will be sending out a survey to everyone who registered as attending for this UOS to gather feedback and ideas, please take the time to fill it out when you get the link. If you attended but didn’t register there’s still time, go to the link above, log in and save your attendance record. Finally, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next UOS and what sessions you might want to lead for it, so that you’re prepared when those track leads come knocking at your door.

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Steph Wilson

Community members at the Sprint

Victor and Andrew are two inspiring Community developers that have devoted their spare time to contribute to the Ubuntu Touch Music App team. I sat down with them during the Washington Device Sprint in October where they told us how they drew inspiration from the Design Team, and what drives them to contribute to Ubuntu.

You can read more about Victor and Andrew through their blogs, where they post interesting articles on their work and personal projects.

From left to right: Riccardo, Andrew, Filippo and Victor

From left to right: Riccardo, Andrew, Filippo and Victor

Hey guys, so when did you first get involved with Ubuntu?

Victor: “I started to contribute to the Ubuntu platform in March/April 2013 where I noticed there was no music app, so I started putting one together. It was pretty sketchy to start with, but it worked. I didn’t have a device to test it on so I mostly tested it using the platform on my desktop – so things were a bit hit and miss.

There was also another developer doing a music app, and at the time there was no core capability of playing music through an application for the proposed devices. Michael Hall (Open Source Software Developer) and Alan Pope (Engineering Manager) pulled Daniel Holm and I together, where we merged our core bases and started the music core app.

We didn’t have as much time as other applications, so we more or less sprinted like we are now to get things done. It was very spec driven and specific, which was helpful but sometimes it was hard to put together a full vision of what the designers wanted. So now we are redoing it from the feedback we have gathered, and it’s going pretty well. A little more agile than it was previously as to do thing faster, but it’s been fun the whole time. It’s nice to work on an application that people need and gets visibility, never get sick of hacking at it.”

Andrew: “I’m from North London, where I’m currently studying Software Engineering at Oxford Brookes University. I was working on my own music app where I just taught myself how to do things using my own framework, then I saw that these guys at Ubuntu had a similar problem to me, and so I thought I’d provide a patch. This then built up from there, and now here I am!”

Steph: “It’s amazing that someone can be in their bedroom writing codes and then suddenly your app is on a phone!”

Victor: “The other great thing about it is the Community Managers make it easy and apparent that you can contribute to different projects.”

Andrew: “Yeah someone just got in contact with me and asked me if I wanted to join the team and told me how open source projects work.”

What inspired you to contribute?

Victor: “A lot of my original inspiration was from what the Design Team had previously done. The previous iteration design spec was very large for the music app and it wasn’t as future driven, more just visually pleasing.”

Do you find it hard to implement some designs?

Victor: “We try to make it as close to the designs as we can, but obviously there’s compromises. There was some very flow driven things such as: sized cover arts that were hard to implement, but we can implement them now. It’s nice because they use the same pattern from other applications.”

Andrew: “Usually we just tell the designer that this is just not possible.”

What is it about open source that you like?

Victor: “I have been a user since 2006, but I have never been a large open source developer myself. It is hard to get involved with when you don’t know what you want to contribute to.”

Andrew: “Most applications are so developed already, so you would have to learn the existing code base and develop on it, whereas if you start a new you know everything from the get-go. Seeing your application on the device and knowing it can be on other devices too, is pretty exciting!”

How does it fit into your lifestyles?

Victor: “I’m a software engineer as well, so I write a lot of code. I haven’t really done QML or QT until I started doing these applications with the Ubuntu platform, so it has been a learning experience. I am learning something new from experienced people.”

Have you made any other applications for Ubuntu?

Victor: I’ve made a few games like Piano Tiles, and another that’s kind of like a clone of that but in QML – It’s a simple app but a good time waster haha.”

How much time does it take you to develop an app?

Victor: “It took me like a day. Andrew made a game last night! In 2 hours…”

Andrew: “Yeah we did! Loads of us at the sprint just got together in a room and made a few games.”

So you’re used to working remotely, does that put a barrier against things?

Andrew: “It sometimes delay things. However, you start to build this image of a person, so when you actually get to meet them you start to understand how they are and what makes them tick.

Victor: “Depends on how personal it really needs to be. If you are collaborating together and it’s mostly writing code and coming up with ideas, it doesn’t necessarily need to be face-to-face. It is obviously nicer, but you also get the benefit if the other person is a night owl in a different country where sometimes our hours overlap, two different chunks of time we’re working in.

Andrew: “There’s usually someone on IRC to speak to, it’s like a 24 hour operation haha.”

What’s the vibe like in the Community at the moment?

Victor: “It’s a pretty small Community at the moment, with close ties. Everyone is receptive to feedback, so if it was larger Community I don’t think it would be as receptive.”

Steph: “Thanks for your time guys!”

Here’s a sneaky preview of the music app, more will be revealed soon:

Album detail

Landing page

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Michael Hall

A couple of weeks ago we announced the start of a contest to write new Unity Scopes. These are the Dash plugins that let you search for different kinds of content from different sources. Last week Alan Pope posted his Scopes Wishlist detailing the ones he would like to see. And while I think they’re all great ideas, they didn’t particularly resonate with my personal use cases. So I’ve decided to put together a wishlist of my own:

Ubuntu Community

I’ve started on one of these in the past, more to test-drive the Scope API and documentation (both of which have changed somewhat since then), but our community has a rather large amount of content available via open APIs or feeds, that could be combined into making one really great scope. My attempt used the LoCo Team Portal API, but there is also the Planet Ubuntu RSS feed (also feeds from a number of other websites), iCal feeds from Summit, a Google calendar for UbuntuOnAir, etc. There’s a lot of community data out there just waiting to be surfaced to Ubuntu users.

Open States

My friend Paul Tagliamante works for the Sunlight Foundation, which provides access to a huge amount of local law and political data (open culture + government, how cool is that?), including the Open States website which provides more local information for those of us in the USA. Now only could a scope use these APIs to make it easy for us citizens to keep up with that’s going on in our governments, it’s a great candidate to use the Location information to default you to local data no matter where you are.

Desktop

This really only has a purpose on Unity 8 on the desktop, and even then only for a short term until a normal desktop is implemented. But for now it would be a nice way to view your desktop files and such. I think that a Scope’s categories and departments might provide a unique opportunity to re-think how we use the desktop too, with the different files organized by type, sorted by date, and displayed in a way that suits it’s content.

There’s potential here to do some really interesting things, I’m just not sure what they are. If one of you intrepid developers has some good ideas, though, give it a shot.

Comics

Let’s be honest, I love web comics, you love web comics, we all love web comic. Wouldn’t it be super awesome if you got the newest, best webcomics on your Dash? Think about it, get your XKCD, SMBC or The Oatmeal delivered every day. Okay, it might be a productivity killer, but still, I’d install it.

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Michael Hall

Next week we will be kicking off the November 2014 Ubuntu Online Summit where people from the Ubuntu community and Canonical will be hosting live video sessions talking about what is being worked on, what is currently available, and what the future holds across all of the Ubuntu ecosystem.

uos_scheduleWe are in the process of recruiting sessions and filling out the Summit Schedule for this event, which should be finalized at the start of next week. You can register that you are attending on the Summit website, where you can also mark specific sessions that you are interested in and get a personalized view of your schedule (and an available iCal feed too!) UOS is designed for participation, not just consumption. Every session will have active IRC channel that goes along with it where you can speak directly to the people on video. For discussion sessions, you’re encouraged to join the video yourself when you want to join the conversation.

Moreover, we want you to host sessions! Anybody who has an idea for a good topic for conversation, presentation, or planning and is willing to host the video (meaning you need to run a Google On-Air Hangout) can propose a session. You don’t need to be a Canonical employee, project leader, or even an Ubuntu member to run a session, all you need is a topic and a willingness to be the person to drive it. And don’t worry, we have track leads who have volunteered to help you get it setup.

These sessions will be split into tracks, so you can follow along with the topics that interest you. Or you can jump from track to track to see what everybody else in the community is doing. And if you want to host a session yourself, you can contact any one of the friendly Track Leads, who will help you get it registered and on the schedule.

Ubuntu Development

Those who have participated in the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) in the past will find the same kind of platform-focused topics and discussions in the Ubuntu Development track. This track covers everything from the kernel to packaging, desktops and all of the Ubuntu flavors.

The track leads are: Will CookeŁukasz ZemczakSteve LangasekAntonio Rosales, and Rohan Garg

App & Scope Development

For developers who are targeting the Ubuntu platform, for both apps and Unity scopes, we will be featuring a number of presentations on the current state of the tools, APIs and documentation, as well as gathering feedback from those who have been using them to help us improve upon them in Ubuntu 15.04. You will also see a lot of planning for the Ubuntu Core Apps, and some showcases of other apps or technologies that developers are creating.

The track leads are: Tim PeetersMichael HallAlan Pope, and Nekhelesh Ramananthan

Cloud & DevOps

Going beyond the core and client side, Ubuntu is making a lot of waves in the cloud and server market these days, and there’s no better place to learn about what we’re building (and help us build it) that the Cloud & Devops track. Whether you want to roll out your own OpenStack cloud, or make your web service easy to deploy and scale out, you will find topics here that interest you.

The track leads are: Antonio RosalesMarco CeppiPatricia Gaughen, and José Antonio Rey

Community

The Ubuntu Online Summit is itself a community coordinated event, and we’ve got a track dedicated to helping us improve and grow the whole community. You can use this to showcase the amazing work that your team has been doing, or plan out new events and projects for the coming cycle. The Community Team from canonical will be there, as well as members of the various councils, flavors and boards that provide governance for the Ubuntu project.

The track leads are: David PlanellaDaniel HolbachSvetlana Belkin, and José Antonio Rey

Users

And of course we can’t forget about our millions or users, we have a whole track setup just to provide them with resources and presentations that will help them make the most out Ubuntu. If you have been working on a project for Ubuntu, you should think about hosting a session on this track to show it off. We’ll also be hosting several feedback session to hear directly from users about what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve.

The track leads are: Nicholas SkaggsElfy, and Scarlett Clark

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Steph Wilson

We sat down with some of Ubuntu’s unsung Community heroes at the recent Devices Sprint in Washington D.C.

Riccardo and Filippo are two young and passionate developers who have adapted their own software to benefit the whole of the Ubuntu Community. We spoke about how and why they contribute to Ubuntu, and what motivates them to keep giving.

The Community hard at work

(Community gathering at the Sprint)

Riccardo Padovani 

Italian Community site:

http://ubuntu.it/

Personal blog:

http://blog.rpadovani.com/

So Riccardo, how did you get involved in Ubuntu?

I started 3 years ago with the Italian Ubuntu Community as they were looking for someone who could manage the website. I was young and wanted to learn about computer science, so I started for myself. While I was contributing I started to understand what was behind the Ubuntu project and their philosophy, and I thought this was a great project for software. So then I started to do stuff for Ubuntu Touch, where I made new friends and at the same time improved my English and computer science skills.

How does working in the Italian Ubuntu Community fit into your lifestyle?

I’m at University, so in the evenings instead of watching television I open my notebook and do some coding. For me it’s very fun. It’s not something I do because someone is telling me to, I do it for me. I prefer writing code than watching TV haha.

What kind of things have you contributed to Ubuntu so far?

Last year I was mainly working on the Reminder App, but now more recently I’ve started to contribute towards the Web Browser. As I use Ubuntu as my main phone I love seeing the improvements in the software I use everyday, as I know I can do something to improve it. People will benefit when the phone is released, more so on the Italian Community Site for example: when there’s something wrong and someone reports it to me, loads of people can see my work and I can fix it. It’s awesome, as I am getting better experience at the same time.

How did you start to contribute to the Community? How does it work?

I started to use Ubuntu in 2008, but before 2012 I did nothing until I found a project I wanted to get involved with. I think for every project and Community you need to find something you love and want to improve. Opening a new bug when something is wrong is the first step to contributing to an Ubuntu project.

First you find out how the Community works and then you begin to know who you can speak to, which then graduates into a natural evolution.

Does your Community regularly meet-up?

It depends on the team, as some teams are split and do different things. Every 6 months we have a meeting where we can have a beer and socialise. The rest of the year we try to do public hangouts, and then private hangouts on what we’re doing in the next month or so.

Do you find these sprints helpful?

I think during this sprint it takes more energy to do code, because I’m busier talking to people and learning new things. For the people who can or have taught me something I can meet them and say thank you in person, it is nice.

Filippo Scognamiglio

Personal blog:

http://swordfishslabs.wordpress.com/

Hey Filippo, so tell me how did you get involved with Ubuntu?

I started with some gaming applications where I first made MineSweeper. MineSweeper is not in the Ubuntu Store at the moment due to some technicalities and design issues, but it’s all working and should be implemented soon. I also made another game called Ubuntu Netwalk where you connect sources of energy to destinations and then rotate the pieces to solve the puzzle.

I started a new project that was completely unrelated to Ubuntu, which was a terminal emulator. A terminal emulator is a program that emulates a video terminal within some other display architecture.

I published a video of my work and no one cared at the start, but then a few months after I made another video and everyone loses their mind! I was really busy answering emails and questions about it. Then David Planella (Ubuntu Community Team Manager) approached me and asked me to import the terminal to the Ubuntu Touch, as the engine was the same, and so that’s where my Ubuntu story really began.

So, what’s your background?

I am currently studying Computer Engineering at University back in Italy.

Being part of a Community, what does it mean?

I wasn’t part of the Community before doing something relevant, then I got a part after I was approached. Usually people first start with commenting on the forums or fixing bugs, where you begin to build a presence in the Community. For me it was just like falling from the sky, now I want to be more involved in the Community. I never knew all these guys, today I only knew Riccardo, Alan Pope (Engineering Manager) and David Planella through email exchange, that’s it!

How’s the Sprint going for you? 

The Sprint itself is a nice opportunity to see the USA as it is my first time here. For me it is a great opportunity to finally meet the people I have been working with remotely and say thanks. I find it hard when I work from home as you’re on your own, but now I’m here at the sprint I can go grab people and interact more.

When I compare myself to my schoolmates who aren’t involved in Ubuntu or other projects, I can see the benefits it will give me in my career after university.

What motivates you? 

I get motivated by the people I can learn from. In Ubuntu I’m involved with people who are much more experienced than me, so they can teach me new things and I can produce at the same time. Learning from others on your own project or part of Ubuntu is not possible with closed source projects, because with closed source you can have an opinion on what’s good or not. They can’t tell you should do this, they simply have an external point of view.

Another good thing about open source is that you can do a lot more things with less effort. My terminal was taken from another terminal, if it wasn’t open source I would have had to write the terminal from the engine to the user interface. I drew influenced from other engines that have been made and then adapted it to my needs, of which those people who made that engine probably took it from someone else – that’s the beauty of open source.

I am happy if my project goes on and influences something/someone else, and they can take my software and adapt it to their own needs.

(From left to right: Riccardo, Andrew, Filippo and Victor)

(Community meal out)

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Nicholas Skaggs

Sprinting in DC: Friday

This week, my team and I are sprinting with many of the core app developers and other folks inside of Ubuntu Engineering. Each day I'm attempting to give you a glimpse of what's happening.

Friday brings an end to an exciting week, and the faces of myself and those around me reflect the discussions, excitement, fun and lack of sleep this week has entailed.

Bubbles!
The first session of the day involved hanging out with the QA team while they heard feedback from various teams on issues with quality and process within there project. Always fun to hear about what causes different teams the most issues when it comes to testing.

Next I spent some time interviewing a couple folks for publishing later. In my case I interviewed Thomi from the QA team and Zoltan from the SDK team about the work going on within there teams and how the last cycle went. The team as a whole has been conducting interviews all week. Look for these interviews to appear on youtube in the coming weeks.

Thursday night while having a look through a book store, I came across an ad for ubuntu in Linux Voice magazine. It made me smile. The dream of running ubuntu on all my devices is becoming closer every day.


I'd like to thank all the community core app developers who joined us this week. Thanks for hanging out with us, providing feedback, and most of all for the creating the wonderful apps we have for the ubuntu phone. Your work has helped shaped the device and turn it into what it is today.

Looking back over the schedule there were sessions I wish I had been able to attend, and it was wonderful catching up with everyone. Sadly my flight home prevented me from attending the closing session and presumably getting a summary of some of these sessions. I can say I was delighted to talk and interact with the unity8 team on the next steps for unity8 on the desktop. I trust next cycle we as a community can do more around testing there work.

As I head to the airport for home, it's time to celebrate the release of utopic unicorn!

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Nicholas Skaggs

Sprinting in DC: Thursday

This week, my team and I are sprinting with many of the core app developers and other folks inside of Ubuntu Engineering. Each day I'm attempting to give you a glimpse of what's happening.

Today started with some UOS planning which is happening in a couple short weeks. If you haven't yet put it on your calendar, please do so! And plan to not only attend, but consider submitting a session as well. The users track might be just the place for your session. Session topics can be about anything ubuntu related you might want to share or discuss with others.

As the week has progressed I've enjoyed getting to know the core apps developers better. Today we met with all of them to hear feedback on how the projects have been going. Lots of good discussion was had discussing how things like meetings and reviews work, individual project needs and actions that could be taken to improve all of the projects. It's wonderful to have everyone in the same place and able to talk.


After lunch the QA team discussed manual testing and proposed utilizing moztrap for some of the manual testing they are undertaking as part of the CI process for ubuntu touch images. While it is too early to say what implications this will have on manual testing from a community perspective, I'm happy to see the conversation has begun around the current issues facing manual tests. I'm also happy someone else is willing to be a guinea pig for changes like this! For image testing, the qatracker has served us well and will continue to do so, but I hope in the future we can improve the experience. In fact, we have done work in this area recently, and would love to hear from anyone who wants to help improve the qatracker experience. So, whether or not a migration to moztrap occurs at some point, the future looks bright.

The core app developers also got a chance to both get and receive feedback from the SDK and design teams. The deep dives into applications like calendar were very much appreciated and I expect those suggestions will filter into the applications in the near future. As usual the core apps developers came prepared with suggestions and grievances for the SDK team, as well as praises for things done well.

Finally to end the day, we discussed developer mode on the device. Rather than talk about the history of how it was implemented, let me share with you the future. Rather than locking adb access via a password, we'll utilize certificates. The password based solution already will ensure your locked device isn't vulnerable to nefarious humans who might want to connect and steal your data or reflash your phone. However, things like passwordless sudo will be possible with using certificates. In addition if security is the bane of your existence, you will be able to enable developer mode without setting a password at all.

Whew, today was very full!

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Nicholas Skaggs

Sprinting in DC: Wednesday

This week, my team and I are sprinting with many of the core app developers and other folks inside of Ubuntu Engineering. Each day I'm attempting to give you a glimpse of what's happening.

To kick off the day, I led a session on something that has been wreaking havoc for application test writers within the core apps -- environment setup. In theory, setting up the environment to run your test should be easy. In practice, I've found it increasingly difficult. The music, calendar, clock, reminders, file manager and other teams have all been quite affected by this and the canonical QA team and myself have all pitched in to help, but struggled as well. In short, a test should be easy to launch, be well behaved and not delete any user data, and be easy to setup and feed test data into for the test process. I'm happy to report that the idea of a permanent solution has been reached. Now we must implement it of course, but the result should be drastically easier and more reliable test setup for you the test author.

I also had the chance to list some grievances for application developers with the QA team. We spoke about wanting to expand the documentation on testing and specifically targeted the need to create better templates in the ubuntu sdk for new projects. When you start a new project you should have well functioning tests, and we should teach you about how to run them too!



Just before lunch the community core app developers were able to discuss post-RTM plans and features. A review of the apps was undertaken and some desire for new designs or features were discussed. Terminal is being rebuilt to be more aligned with upstream. Music is currently undergoing a re-design which is coming along great. Calculator is anxious to get some design love. Reminders potential for offline notetaking as well as potential name changes were all discussed. Overall, an amazing accomplishment by all the developers!

After lunch, I spent time confirming the fix for a longstanding bug within autopilot. The merge proposal for fixing this bug has been simmering all summer and it's time to get it fixed. The current test suites for calendar and clock have been impacted by this and have already had regressions occur that could have been caught had tests been able to be written for this area. Having myself, the autopilot team, and the calendar developers in one place made fixing this possible.

To end the day, I spent some time attending sessions for changes to CI and learning more about the coming changes to CI within ubuntu. In summary the news is wonderful. CI will test using autopkgtest, and all of ubuntu will come under this umbrella -- phone, desktop, everything. If it's a package and it has tests, we will do all of the autopkgtest goodness currently being done for the distro.

The evening closed with a bit of fun provided by a game making hackathon using bacon2d and the hilariously horrible "Turkish Star Wars". We could always use more games in the ubuntu app store, and I hear there might even still be a pioneers t-shirt or two left if you get it in early!

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Nicholas Skaggs

Sprinting in DC: Tuesday

This week, my team and I are sprinting with many of the core app developers and other folks inside of Ubuntu Engineering. Each day I'm attempting to give you a glimpse of what's happening.

On Tuesday I was finally able to sit down with the team and plan our week. In addition I was able to plan some of the work I had in mind with the community folks working on the core apps. Being obsessed with testing, my primary goals this week are centered around quality. Namely I want to make it easier for developers to write tests. Asking them to write tests is much easier when it's easy to do so. Fortunately, I think (hope?) all of the community core apps developers recognize the benefits to tests and thus are motivated to drive maturity into the testing story.

I'm also keen to work on the manual testing story. The community is imperative in helping test images for not only ubuntu, but also all of it's flavors. Seriously, you should say thank you to those folks helping make sure your install of ubuntu works well. They are busy this week helping make sure utopic is as good as it can be. Rock on image testers! But the tools and process used weigh on my mind, and I'm keen to chat later in the week with the canonical QA team and get there feedback.

During the day I attended sessions regarding changes and tweaks to the CI process. For core apps developers, errors in jenkins should be easier to replicate after these changes. CI will be moving to utilizing adt-run (autopkgtest) for there test execution (and you should too!). They will also provide the exact commands used to run the test. That means you can easily duplicate the results on the dashboard locally and fix the issues found. No more works on my box excuses!

I also met the team responsible for the application store and gave them feedback on the application submission process. Submitting apps is already so simple, but even more cool things are happening on this front.

The end of the evening found us shuffling into cab's for a team dinner. We had a long table of folks eating Italian food and getting to know each other better.


After dinner, I pressured a few folks into having some dessert and ordered a sorbet for myself. After receiving no less than 4 fruit sorbets due to a misunderstanding, I began carving the fruits and sending plates of sorbet down the table. My testcase failed however when the plates all came back :-(



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Nicholas Skaggs

Sprinting in DC: Monday

This week, my team and I are sprinting in Washington DC with many of the core app developers and other folks inside of Ubuntu Engineering. Sprints are always busy, but the work tends to be a mix of social and technical. I get to assign names (IRC nicknames mostly) to faces as well as get to know my co-workers and other community members better.

I thought it might be useful to give writeups each day of what's going on, at least from my perspective during the sprint. I won't yammer on too much about quality and instead bring you pictures of what you really want. And some of this too. Whoops, here's one.

Pictures of people taking pictures . . .
Monday was the first day of the sprint, and also the day of my arrival! Personally I'm busy at home during this week, so it's tough to get away. That said, I can't imagine being anywhere else for the week. The sprints are a wonderful source of respite for everyone.

Monday itself consisted of making sure everything is ready for the week, planning events, and icebreakers. In typical fashion, an opening plenary set the bar for the week with notes about the progress being made on the phone as well as the future of the desktop. Lots of meetings and a few blurry jet lagged hours later, everyone was ready to sit for a bit and have some non-technical conversation!

Fortunately for us there was an event planned to meet both our social and hunger needs. After being split randomly into teams of bugs (love the play on quality), we played a bit of trivia. After each round teams were scored not only on the correct response, but also how quickly they responded. The questions varied from the obscure to fun bits about ubuntu. The final round centered around Canonical itself which was fun trip down memory lane to remember.

As I crawled into bed I still had the wonderfully cheesy announcer playing trivia questions in my head.


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Michael Hall

Will CookeThis is a guest post from Will Cooke, the new Desktop Team manager at Canonical. It’s being posted here while we work to get a blog setup on unity.ubuntu.com, which is where you can find out more about Unity 8 and how to get involved with it.

Intro

Understandably, most of the Ubuntu news recently has focused around phones. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation building around the imminent release of the first devices.  However, the Ubuntu Desktop has not been dormant during this time.  A lot of thought and planning has been given to what the desktop will become in the future; who will use it and what will they use it for.  All the work which is going in to the phone will be directly applicable to the desktop as well, since they will use the same code.  All the apps, the UI tweaks, everything which makes applications secure and stable will all directly apply to the desktop as well.  The plan is to have the single converged operating system ready for use on the desktop by 16.04.

The plan

We learned some lessons during the early development of Unity 7. Here’s what happened:

  • 11.04: New Unity as default
  • 11.10: New Unity version
  • 12.04: Unity in First LTS

What we’ve decided to do this time is to keep the same, stable Unity 7 desktop as the default while we offer users who want to opt-in to Unity8 an option to use that desktop. As development continues the Unity 8 desktop will get better and better.  It will benefit from a lot of the advances which have come about through the development of the phone OS and will benefit from continual improvements as the releases happen.

  • 14.04 LTS: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 option for the first time
  • 14.10: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.04: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.10: Potentially Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option
  • 16.04 LTS: Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option

As you can see, this gives us a full 2 cycles (in addition to the one we’ve already done) to really nail Unity 8 with the level of quality that people expect. So what do we have?

How will we deliver Unity 8 with better quality than 7?

Continuous Integration is the best way for us to achieve and maintain the highest quality possible.  We have put a lot of effort in to automating as much of the testing as we can, the best testing is that which is performed easily.  Before every commit the changes get reviewed and approved – this is the first line of defense against bugs.  Every merge request triggers a run of the tests, the second line of defense against bugs and regressions – if a change broke something we find out about it before it gets in to the build.

The CI process builds everything in a “silo”, a self contained & controlled environment where we find out if everything works together before finally landing in the image.

And finally, we have a large number of tests which run against those images. This really is a “belt and braces” approach to software quality and it all happens automatically.  You can see, we are taking the quality of our software very seriously.

What about Unity 7?

Unity 7 and Compiz have a team dedicated to maintenance and bug fixes and so the quality of it continues to improve with every release.  For example; windows switching workspaces when a monitor gets unplugged is fixed, if you have a mouse with 6 buttons it works, support for the new version of Metacity (incase you want to use the Gnome2 desktop) – added (and incidentally, a lot of that work was done by a community contributor – thanks Alberts!)

Unity 7 is the desktop environment for a lot of software developers, devops gurus, cloud platform managers and millions of users who rely on it to help them with their everyday computing.  We don’t want to stop you being able to get work done.  This is why we continue to maintain Unity 7 while we develop Unity 8.  If you want to take Unity 8 for a spin and see how its coming along then you can; if you want to get your work done, we’re making that experience better for you every day.  Best of all, both of these options are available to you with no detriment to the other.

Things that we’re getting in the new Ubuntu Desktop

  1. Applications decoupled from the OS updates.  Traditionally a given release of Ubuntu has shipped with the versions of the applications available at the time of release.  Important updates and security fixes are back-ported to older releases where required, but generally you had to wait for the next release to get the latest and greatest set of applications.  The new desktop packaging system means that application developers can push updates out when they are ready and the user can benefit right away.
  2. Application isolation.  Traditionally applications can access anything the user can access; photos, documents, hardware devices, etc.  On other platforms this has led to data being stolen or rendered otherwise unusable.  Isolation means that without explicit permission any Click packaged application is prevented from accessing data you don’t want it to access.
  3. A full SDK for writing Ubuntu apps.  The SDK which many people are already using to write apps for the phone will allow you to write apps for the desktop as well.  In fact, your apps will be write once run anywhere – you don’t need to write a “desktop” app or a “phone” app, just an Ubuntu app.

What we have now

The easiest way to try out the Unity 8 Desktop Preview is to use the daily Ubuntu Desktop Next live image:   http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/   This will allow you to boot into a Unity 8 session without touching your current installation.  An easy 10 step way to write this image to a USB stick is:

  1. Download the ISO
  2. Insert your USB stick in the knowledge that it’s going to get wiped
  3. Open the “Disks” application
  4. Choose your USB stick and click on the cog icon on the righthand side
  5. Choose “Restore Disk Image”
  6. Browse to and select the ISO you downloaded in #1
  7. Click “Start restoring”
  8. Wait
  9. Boot and select “Try Ubuntu….”
  10. Done *

* Please note – there is currently a bug affecting the Unity 8 greeter which means you are not automatically logged in when you boot the live image.  To log in you need to:

  1. Switch to vt1 (ctrl-alt-f1)
  2. type “passwd” and press enter
  3. press enter again to set the current password to blank
  4. enter a new password twice
  5. Check that the password has been successfully changed
  6. Switch back to vt7 (ctrl-alt-f7)
  7. Enter the new password to login

 

Here are some screenshots showing what Unity 8 currently looks like on the desktop:

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The team

The people working on the new desktop are made up of a few different disciplines.  We have a team dedicated to Unity 7 maintenance and bug fixes who are also responsible for Unity 8 on the desktop and feed in a lot of support to the main Unity 8 & Mir teams. We have the Ubuntu Desktop team who are responsible for many aspects of the underlying technologies used such as GNOME libraries, settings, printing etc as well as the key desktop applications such as Libreoffice and Chromium.  The Ubuntu desktop team has some of the longest serving members of the Ubuntu family, with some people having been here for the best part of ten years.

How you can help

We need to log all the bugs which need to be fixed in order to make Unity 8 the best desktop there is.  Firstly, we need people to test the images and log bugs.  If developers want to help fix those bugs, so much the better.  Right now we are focusing on identifying where the work done for the phone doesn’t work as expected on the desktop.  Once those bugs are logged and fixed we can rely on the CI system described above to make sure that they stay fixed.

Link to daily ISOs:  http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/

Bugs:  https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity8-desktop-session

IRC:  #ubuntu-desktop on Freenode

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Michael Hall

Ubuntu Mauritius CommunityBut it isn’t perfect.  And that, in my opinion, is okay.  I’m not perfect, and neither are you, but you are still wonderful too.

I was asked, not too long ago, what I hated about the community. The truth, then and now, is that I don’t hate anything about it. There is a lot I don’t like about what happens, of course, but nothing that I hate. I make an effort to understand people, to “grok” them if I may borrow the word from Heinlein. When you understand somebody, or in this case a community of somebodies, you understand the whole of them, the good and the bad. Now understanding the bad parts doesn’t make them any less bad, but it does provide opportunities for correcting or removing them that you don’t get otherwise.

You reap what you sow

People will usually respond in kind with the way they are treated. I try to treat everybody I interact with respectfully, kindly, and rationally, and I’ve found that I am treated that way back. But, if somebody is prone to arrogance or cruelty or passion, they will find far more of that treatment given back and them than the positive ones. They are quite often shocked when this happens. But when you are a source of negativity you drive away people who are looking for something positive, and attract people who are looking for something negative. It’s not absolute, nice people will have some unhappy followers, and crumpy people will have some delightful ones, but on average you will be surrounded by people who behave like you.

Don’t get even, get better

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, as the old saying goes. When somebody is rude or disrespectful to us, it’s easy to give in to the desire to be rude and disrespectful back. When somebody calls us out on something, especially in public, we want to call them out on their own problems to show everybody that they are just as bad. This might feel good in the short term, but it causes long term harm to both the person who does it and the community they are a part of. This ties into what I wrote above, because even if you aren’t naturally a negative person, if you respond to negativity with more of the same, you’ll ultimately share the same fate. Instead use that negativity as fuel to drive you forward in a positive way, respond with coolness, thoughtfulness and introspection and not only will you disarm the person who started it, you’ll attract far more of the kind of people and interactions that you want.

Know your audience

Your audience isn’t the person or people you are talking to. Your audience is the people who hear you. Many of the defenders of Linus’ beratement of kernel contributors is that he only does it to people he knows can take it. This defense is almost always countered, quite properly, by somebody pointing out that his actions are seen by far more than just their intended recipient. Whenever you interact with any member of your community in a public space, such as a forum or mailing list, treat it as if you were interacting with every member, because you are. Again, if you perpetuate negativity in your community, you will foster negativity in your community, either directly in response to you or indirectly by driving away those who are more positive in nature. Linus’ actions might be seen as a joke, or necessary “tough love” to get the job done, but the LKML has a reputation of being inhospitable to potential contributors in no small part because of them. You can gather a large number of negative, or negativity-accepting, people into a community and get a lot of work done, but it’s easier and in my opinion better to have a large number of positive people doing it.

Monoculture is dangerous

I think all of us in the open source community know this, and most of us have said it at least once to somebody else. As noted security researcher Bruce Schneier says, “monoculture is bad; embrace diversity or die along with everyone else.” But it’s not just dangerous for software and agriculture, it’s dangerous to communities too. Communities need, desperately need, diversity, and not just for the immediate benefits that various opinions and perspectives bring. Including minorities in your community will point out flaws you didn’t know existed, because they didn’t affect anyone else, but a distro-specific bug in upstream is still a bug, and a minority-specific flaw in your community is still a flaw. Communities that are almost all male, or white, or western, aren’t necessarily bad because of their monoculture, but they should certainly consider themselves vulnerable and deficient because of it. Bringing in diversity will strengthen it, and adding minority contributor will ultimately benefit a project more than adding another to the majority. When somebody from a minority tells you there is a problem in your community that you didn’t see, don’t try to defend it by pointing out that it doesn’t affect you, but instead treat it like you would a normal bug report from somebody on different hardware than you.

Good people are human too

The appendix is a funny organ. Most of the time it’s just there, innocuous or maybe even slightly helpful. But every so often one happens to, for whatever reason, explode and try to kill the rest of the body. People in a community do this too.  I’ve seen a number of people that were good or even great contributors who, for whatever reason, had to explode and they threatened to take down anything they were a part of when it happened. But these people were no more malevolent than your appendix is, they aren’t bad, even if they do need to be removed in order to avoid lasting harm to the rest of the body. Sometimes, once whatever caused their eruption has passed, these people can come back to being a constructive part of your community.

Love the whole, not the parts

When you look at it, all of it, the open source community is a marvel of collaboration, of friendship and family. Yes, family. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about people I may not have ever met in person. And just like family you love them during the good and the bad. There are some annoying, obnoxious people in our family. There are good people who are sometimes annoying and obnoxious. But neither of those truths changes the fact that we are still a part of an amazing, inspiring, wonderful community of open source contributors and enthusiasts.

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Michael Hall

Recognition is like money, it only really has value when it’s being passed between one person and another. Otherwise it’s just potential value, sitting idle.  Communication gives life to recognition, turning it’s potential value into real value.

As I covered in my previous post, Who do you contribute to?, recognition doesn’t have a constant value.  In that article I illustrated how the value of recognition differs depending on who it’s coming from, but that’s not the whole story.  The value of recognition also differs depending on the medium of communication.

communication_triangleOver at the Community Leadership Knowledge Base I started documenting different forms of communication that a community might choose, and how each medium has a balance of three basic properties: Speed, Thoughtfulness and Discoverability. Let’s call this the communication triangle. Each of these also plays a part in the value of recognition.

Speed

Again, much like money, recognition is something that is circulated.  It’s usefulness is not simply created by the sender and consumed by the receiver, but rather passed from one person to another, and then another.  The faster you can communicate recognition around your community, the more utility you can get out of even a small amount of it. Fast communications, like IRC, phone calls or in-person meetups let you give and receive a higher volume of recognition than slower forms, like email or blog posts. But speed is only one part, and faster isn’t necessarily better.

Thoughtfulness

Where speed emphasizes quantity, thoughtfulness is a measure of the quality of communication, and that directly affects the value of recognition given. Thoughtful communications require consideration upon both receiving and replying. Messages are typically longer, more detailed, and better presented than those that emphasize speed. As a result, they are also usually a good bit slower too, both in the time it takes for a reply to be made, and also the speed at which a full conversation happens. An IRC meeting can be done in an hour, where an email exchange can last for weeks, even if both end up with the same word-count at the end.

Discoverability

The third point on our communication triangle, discoverability, is a measure of how likely it is that somebody not immediately involved in a conversation can find out about it. Because recognition is a social good, most of it’s value comes from other people knowing who has given it to whom. Discoverability acts as a multiplier (or divisor, if done poorly) to the original value of recognition.

There are two factors to the discoverability of communication. The first, accessibility, is about how hard it is to find the conversation. Blog posts, or social media posts, are usually very easy to discover, while IRC chats and email exchanges are not. The second factor, longevity, is about how far into the future that conversation can still be discovered. A social media post disappears (or at least becomes far less accessible) after a while, but an IRC log or mailing list archive can stick around for years. Unlike the three properties of communication, however, these factors to discoverability do not require a trade off, you can have something that is both very accessible and has high longevity.

Finding Balance

Most communities will have more than one method of communication, and a healthy one will have a combination of them that compliment each other. This is important because sometimes one will offer a more productive use of your recognition than another. Some contributors will respond better to lots of immediate recognition, rather than a single eloquent one. Others will respond better to formal recognition than informal.  In both cases, be mindful of the multiplier effect that discoverability gives you, and take full advantage of opportunities where that plays a larger than usual role, such as during an official meeting or when writing an article that will have higher than normal readership.

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Michael Hall

When you contribute something as a member of a community, who are you actually giving it to? The simple answer of course is “the community” or “the project”, but those aren’t very specific.  On the one hand you have a nebulous group of people, most of which you probably don’t even know about, and on the other you’ve got some cold, lifeless code repository or collection of web pages. When you contribute, who is that you really care about, who do you really want to see and use what you’ve made?

In my last post I talked about the importance of recognition, how it’s what contributors get in exchange for their contribution, and how human recognition is the kind that matters most. But which humans do our contributors want to be recognized by? Are you one of them and, if so, are you giving it effectively?

Owners

The owner of a project has a distinct privilege in a community, they are ultimately the source of all recognition in that community.  Early contributions made to a project get recognized directly by the founder. Later contributions may only get recognized by one of those first contributors, but the value of their recognition comes from the recognition they received as the first contributors.  As the project grows, more generations of contributors come in, with recognition coming from the previous generations, though the relative value of it diminishes as you get further from the owner.

Leaders

After the project owner, the next most important source of recognition is a project’s leaders. Leaders are people who gain authority and responsibility in a project, they can affect the direction of a project through decisions in addition to direct contributions. Many of those early contributors naturally become leaders in the project but many will not, and many others who come later will rise to this position as well. In both cases, it’s their ability to affect the direction of a project that gives their recognition added value, not their distance from the owner. Before a community can grown beyond a very small size it must produce leaders, either through a formal or informal process, otherwise the availability of recognition will suffer.

Legends

Leadership isn’t for everybody, and many of the early contributors who don’t become one still remain with the project, and end of making very significant contributions to it and the community over time.  Whenever you make contributions, and get recognition for them, you start to build up a reputation for yourself.  The more and better contributions you make, the more your reputation grows.  Some people have accumulated such a large reputation that even though they are not leaders, their recognition is still sought after more than most. Not all communities will have one of these contributors, and they are more likely in communities where heads-down work is valued more than very public work.

Mentors

When any of us gets started with a community for the first time, we usually end of finding one or two people who help us learn the ropes.  These people help us find the resources we need, teach us what those resources don’t, and are instrumental in helping us make the leap from user to contributor. Very often these people aren’t the project owners or leaders.  Very often they have very little reputation themselves in the overall project. But because they take the time to help the new contributor, and because theirs is very likely to be the first, the recognition they give is disproportionately more valuable to that contributor than it otherwise would be.

Every member of a community can provide recognition, and every one should, but if you find yourself in one of the roles above it is even more important for you to be doing so. These roles are responsible both for setting the example, and keeping a proper flow, or recognition in a community. And without that flow or recognition, you will find that your flow of contributions will also dry up.

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