In the first weeks when I started contributing to the Ubuntu community about six years ago, I was constantly amazed at a number of things:
- how friendly, encouraging and motivating people were: in a very short time I made lots of friends, people who are always there for me and I’d always be there for (extended family – kind of)
- how much I learned in a very short period of time (a state of constant “a-ha! moments”)
- the incredibly strong sense of opportunity: “if I fix this bug, I not only fix it for myself, but for millions of users”
After a few months I helped out new contributors myself, answered questions and tried to give them a similar experience as I had. Learning to do something great by experiencing it first hand. The great thing is that a lot of contributors already went ahead and became involved in upstream projects and Debian.
I’m extremely grateful I’m in a position where I can do this as part of my job.
I’ve been working on a few things in the last time that will hopefully give even more people that sense of opportunity and that sense of achievement soon. Please note that all of the items below are just happening because of “a little help from my friends”, I couldn’t have possibly pulled this off all on my own.
- Daily Builds documentation and testing: with Jorge Castro and others I went through the process of getting Daily Builds up and running, we documented it, found issues, reported them and thought about how it would make most sense to package maintainers, upstreams and users. So we set up a knowledge base as well, that should help upstreams and package maintainers to figure out when a daily builds makes sense, how to sell it to their users and what kind of preparation ios necessary.
- Harvest: I had the extreme pleasure of working with Dylan McCall on Harvest this cycle. It was an awesome experience. He chose Harvest as his Summer of Code project and directly dived into the hardest things first: instead of fixing small things here and there, he implemented a great user interface that’ll be great to use. I did quite a bit of code-review and fixed a bunch of bugs myself. It’s soon in a state where it can be deployed. With Harvest out there, it will be a lot easier to find things that need doing, get a good overview of outstanding work regarding a few packages you might care about and coordination/cooperation might actually be easier too.
- LoCo Directory: Starting from a vague idea we first just set up a place where LoCo teams could register themselves, then we added team events and then started making it pretty. At times I was hacking a lot on it, at other times doing lots of code reviews, but I’m very glad to see that more and more people are starting to help out and implementing their ideas and visions into it. It’s an amazing project and hopefully helps LoCo teams to coordinate their work and make people interested in Linux and Ubuntu open source enthusiasts and contributors by giving them that great first experience.
- Lots of Sponsoring/Code Review: I still feel this is the best way to help out new contributors on their way. By explaining how things are done (also when to better get stuff upstream first), how to do them better and guide them on their way to commit access/upload rights, you do Ubuntu and Open Source a great service. Make people feel welcome, help them out, by having a good experience with the process of fixing problems for millions of people you get contributors hooked up forever.
- Operation Cleansweep: Speaking of patches and code review: we have a huge backlog of patches that didn’t follow the process and need to be reviewed and forwarded to Debian and Upstream. The team reviewed heaps of patches and I was glad to be part of the initiative. I helped with the documentation, organisation of events and reviewed a couple of bugs myself. This is an awesome way to get involved and immediately make the whole open source world benefit.
There’s quite a lot of other things where I could be helpful too to keep the ball in the Ubuntu community rolling: as member of the Community Council I do bits of organisation here and there, within Canonical I often answer questions about Ubuntu development processes to new starters and development-unrelated teams, I helped organising the Ubuntu Global Jam, Ubuntu Developer Week and other events, thankfully found a team to take over the “Behind MOTU” interviews, helped with the organisation of Ubuntu’s participation in Google’s Summer of Code, that plus calls, heaps of mails, small and big arguments keep me quite busy.
I feel very privileged being in this position and hope I’m instrumental to the open source world at large. One thing’s for sure: I still immensely enjoy it.