DONATE HERE and suggestions welcome in the comments!Read more
The other day I announced our 24-hour horsemen marathon. In a nutshell, we in the Canonical Community Team are going to work for a continuous 24-hour session on Thursday next week. Each of us has picked a charity that we are going to support and I wanted to share some words on why I picked mine…Homeless International.
A few years ago Erica and I were driving through a city and we saw an old guy, bleeding, with no coat, walking along the street in the rain, clearly exhibiting schizophrenia. We both immediately stopped the car and I got out to go and help the guy. I got chatting to him. He was a veteran, he had a son that he had lost touch with, and that day he had given his coat to a lady so she wouldn’t get wet in the rain.
Shortly after I got chatting to a family friend who works with the homeless and he started telling me the true extent of the problems with homelessness and poverty all over the world (he organizes charity events to help the homeless here in the Bay Area). I started looking online more and more into the issue and became more and more passionate about the issue.
Most importantly, homelessness and poverty doesn’t just affect other people. Mental illness, health problems, disability, family issues, escalating drug/alcohol problems and other issues are often the causes of why someone ends up on the streets. It could affect you, your family, or your friends.
Homeless International work to provide support and help to the homeless and poverty stricken all over the world. They do wonderful work in many countries, and they work to provide housing, resources, aid, and other support. They are a truly valuable cause and I am proud to be supporting them.
For more information on the marathon and why you should donate your money to my charity, see the video:
Can’t see the video? Watch it here!
If you donate you will have love, success, and and unlimited supply of bacon (despite the global shortage) in your life. Who could argue with that?Read more
This photo taken when we toured with Justin Bieber.
See that motley crew above? That is my team, the Community Team at Canonical. I am blessed to have such a wonderful team; not only are they all fantastic community leaders, but they are just a fun bunch of guys in general to be around.
A while ago I suggested to the team that we do something for charity. We spent some time brainstorming, and exploring ideas from the sublime to the ridiculous. We then hit on something we were all fans of…an idea in which lots of Ubuntu work will be done, charities will benefit from, and should be fun and entertaining…
…we are going to have a 24-hour work marathon, streamed live online for your morbid pleasure and amusement.
In a nutshell, each of us is going to work for a solid 24-hour block, taking breaks where needed (no, a break can’t include an 8-hour nap). Each of us will log on and our entire day will be streamed live on Ubuntu On Air.
In this 24-hour period we will work collaboratively on projects, discuss our work on the stream, answer questions from the community, give tutorials, and more. We are open to ideas of things we can do throughout the day that might be interesting to the community (such as topics for tutorials, discussion topics, work we should do etc). Feel free to share your ideas on this wiki page.
Anyone who knows us knows that we like to have fun. As such we will all try to bring a little something from our personal lives to the marathon too, after all, you are stuck with us for a full day. As an example, I fully plan on smoking a few racks of ribs while I am working, so you can join me for the cook. I am sure that Daniel will make a Tofu sandwich or something.
The reason why we are putting ourselves through this is to raise money for charity. We couldn’t pick a single charity, so each of us have picked a charity that we care about, and we are frankly going to turn this into a flat-out competition for who can make the most money. As we progress though the marathon we plan on having some bets and forfeits if we can outdo each other with our charities. It should be a lot of fun.
So which charities are we going to be raising money for? Take a look below…
|Nick Skaggs is supporting WaterAid and he says “Water has always played a role in my life. I grew up on the Great Lakes, which are huge reservoirs of fresh water. The lakes, rivers and streams I grew up near at one time were quite polluted — the town I was born in had several dysentery outbreaks in it’s early history. It’s sad to see such waste of fresh water. Water to me is beautiful, and my favorite beverage There’s nothing like a glass of water to quench your thirst. Provided of course, that water is clean. WaterAid has a mission to deliver long-term sustainable drinking water to the world, via wells and better sanitation efforts to keep local water sources pure. Water is crucial to life, ourselves and nature is highly dependent upon it. Access to clean drinking water is the most basic of all human survival needs. We can go for days with food, get by without shelter, but we cannot survive long without water“.||I am supporting Homeless International and because “I have always been aware of homelessness and poverty but it never really touched me until I saw an old man, bleeding, clearly exhibiting schizophrenia, walking through a city street in the rain. Many homeless and those in poverty are our elderly, our veterans, and our sick and vulnerable. No-one is immune to homelessness and poverty…many become homeless or fall into poverty due to health and trauma problems. Homeless International is a wonderful organization who helps provide shelter, aid, and support homeless people across the world. Your donation will provide help the elderly, sick and vulnerable to have shelter. Thanks for your donations!“.||David Planella is supporting Greenpeace and he says “Having grown in an environment very close to nature has made me appreciate how big a gift and how fragile this planet we live in is. I’ve chosen to support Greenpeace as an organization whose core values are to “change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace”, with which I very much identify. Help me support an NGO that gives voice and acts to protect the place we all share and spend our lives in“.|
|Daniel Holbach is supporting Oxfam and he says “Oxfam puts lots of hard work into ending poverty and injustice as part of a global movement for change. Oxfam deeply understand that we all live in this world together and that problems need to be solved holistically. I’ve been supporting them for years and some of my friends have volunteered for them as well“.||Jorge Castro is supporting Little Kids Rock! and he says “In Junior and High Schools I played trumpet, tuba, Sousaphone, electric bass, and a double bass. I made lots of friends, got to do great things like play festivals, and expanded my mind by learning to appreciate everything from jazz to classical to rock and roll. I can’t imagine growing up without playing music, and every kid should have the opportunity to do so. Little Kids Rock helps not only by providing disadvantaged schools with instruments, but with a curriculum that’s modern and not boring. Instead of sitting in a room playing scales all day, the students are taught popular songs and are encouraged to learn by just playing together“.||Michael Hall is supporting Autism Research Trust and he says “Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders are developmental disorders that affect a large number of us in the open source community, our friends and our families. Despite it being wide-spread, very little is know about it’s cause, and the only proven treatment is early detection and intervention. The Autism Research Trust funds the ongoing scientific research at Cambridge University into the cause and interventions for Autism“.|
Thanks to the team for picking a wonderful range of charities, all of which are great causes!
The 24-hour Horsemen Marathon will take place on Thu 4th Oct 2012. We will start the marathon at 3am Pacific / 6am Eastern / 10am UTC / 11am UK / 12pm Europe and finish at the same time the following day.
Be sure to come and join us and provide your support and input. This is an interactive event and we are looking to our community to suggest things we can do, chat to us while the marathon is taking place, and take part. You can do this via the chat and social media facilities that are on our marathon page. Let’s make some epic coin for our charities!
Also, please spread the word about the marathon on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. Use the
#ubuntumarathon hashtag and be sure to link to http://marathon.ubuntuonair.com/ – thanks!
I haven’t done a video Q+A for a while and I would like to start them up again this week. As such on Wed 26th Sep 2012 at 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern / 6pm UTC / 7pm UK / 8pm Europe I will be streaming live on Ubuntu On Air. Be sure to join me there and bring your questions; anything and everything is welcome!Read more
Recently there has been some concerns about the privacy of the new feature we recently added to the dash in which it can query external resources to provide related results. I just wanted to follow up with some further details about how these searches are performed, the privacy protections that are put in place, and further work going on.
I reached out to John Lenton, who is the Senior Engineering Manager in the Online Services team at Canonical. He was responsible for building the technology that handles the searches from the dash. He says:
When performing a search, you expose no more information to Canonical than the originating IP of your request, the search terms you enter, and the result you click on (if any). We don’t perform any kind of “tracking”; there is nothing really user-identifyable there…the IP address is unreliable for this, and isn’t relied on other than for collapsing multiple searches into one in the reporting, and even this is after passing it through a one-way hash.
Searches are currently performed over plain HTTP to our servers in a data-centre in either London or the USA, and then forwarded to the upstream providers appropriate to the originating request’s geolocation. The only potentially identifying bit of information, the IP address of the originating request, is not forwarded unless explicitly required to perform the search (so far, only one of 20+ upstream providers requires this: the Headweb video source for scandinavian countries needs to do its own geoip).
We appreciate some of the community concerns about these searches operating unencrypted and we are currently working to encrypt these dash searches ready for the release of this feature in Ubuntu 12.10. This should resolve most of the concerns shared about unencrypted traffic.
In terms of logging, the raw
httpdlogs are only visible to a small group of people whose job requires that they have access and who are trained in respecting people’s privacy in accordance to European law on this matter. The searches themselves, stripped of the IP addresses (replacing them with a one-way hash) are made available to a slightly larger group of people to enable statistical reporting. Because not only the search but also clicking on a result reaches our server (where it is redirected to whatever is appropriate), we will be able to infer what search results people want when searching for particular terms, and at some point in the future this will be used to help us provide better, more relevant results. This statistical gathering of a mapping of search terms to clicked search results is not done yet but will be done soon”.
Please feel free to follow up with any further questions, and we will try to get them answered.Read more
In the last few days there has been some discussion in the community about some improvements that have been added to the dash in Ubuntu 12.10. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some thoughts about these improvements and some of the concerns raised.
If you are anything like me, you are both a producer and consumer. At work and in your hobbies you are likely producing content, and Ubuntu and the many Open Source and commercial applications in the Ubuntu Software Center have long provided plenty of choice for producing great content. In recent years we at Canonical have also invested extensively in adding features in Unity to help make creating things as simple and effective as possible. In Ubuntu 12.04, a good example of this was the HUD, something that I used with the Gimp to produce this blog entry:
The HUD puts search at your fingertips to make operating your productivity applications and your desktop more efficient. Search is a core value in Ubuntu with Unity, and another core goal is that our users should be able to put the dash at the center of their world in being able to find content.
For the producers among you, Unity has long done this. Unity will search your computer and find documents, presentations, applications, and other content and the applications used to create and manage this content.
But we are not just producers. We are all consumers too. I love Breaking Bad, The West Wing, Mission Impossible, and The Allman Brothers. I love watching shows, listening to music, and watching content on YouTube and elsewhere. I enjoy being a consumer, and I want my desktop to be at the heart of where I not only work, but also where I also play.
The new features that have been added to the dash help to expand it’s functionality to not only searching your computer but also online too. The result of these improvements is that Ubuntu has now been improved to provide quick access to a wealth of consumer content available to me. Let’s take a quick look.
As an example, I have a lot of music on my computer and I listen to it with Rhythmbox, but there is a lot more music that I don’t have. On Friday night I went to see the awesome Gov’t Mule, and they remind me a lot of the Allman Brothers. So, I get back from the show and I want to listen them and maybe buy some Allman brothers music too. By searching in the dash I can find all the music I own but also see other albums that might interest me:
The More suggestions section at the bottom is part of the new feature that landed in the dash. I can now see content that relates to my search. This is not advertising: this is content related directly to something I am interested in.
I can now right-click an album and see more information:
Here I can see the songs that are on the album with a single click. If I hover over the songs I can click them and hear a quick snippet of the music.
Here Ubuntu has helped me find interesting and new content without having to perform countless Google searches, navigate through various music websites and all their advertising and other such nonsense. It was all integrated right into the Ubuntu desktop.
This also applies to videos, TV shows, and movies. I love to watch shows, and I can search for shows right within the video lens. As an example, I love Mission Impossible, and I can find related content right within the dash:
Again, this not only searches content on my computer, but also multiple online resources. As such I can see YouTube videos as well as paid content that I can purchase from Amazon. Once again, the content is related to whatever I am interested in and searching for. Again, if I right click an item I can see more information:
Both of these features are integrating content that I care about as a consumer right into my desktop. Speaking personally, I love this. This is helping me to browse and consume content more easily than ever before.
One aspect of this new feature that some folks have found a little controversial is that the dash also exposes content from Amazon in the home screen. As an example, as I have written about previously, I am getting really into BBQ right now. If I perform a search in my dash for BBQ I now see the following content:
Here you can see that the dash shows content on my computer (such as the photos I took of my recent cooks), but it also provides some recommendations of products that might relate to my search. Once again this allows the dash to provide visibility on the world both on my computer and outside it.
If any of you are like me and my wife, Amazon is part of our life. We buy products from there all the time (particularly with Amazon Prime), and as such, I often find myself browsing Amazon for products that I am interested in. We even get our coffee regularly shipped to us from Amazon. Now these products are integrated into my regular workflow and I can see products that might help me with the content or topics I am searching for in the dash. Of course, in many cases these products won’t be of interest, but you can simply ignore them; the dash is not intrusive and does not prioritize the product searches over your local content, it merely provides some suggestions of things you might be interested in.
All in all, I personally feel these features add a lot of value to Ubuntu; I feel they make the dash a lot more useful and interesting, and they save me time in finding the content I am interested in both on and offline.
Now, some folks have expressed some concerns about the fact that products are appearing in the dash. It is no secret that for each product sold (not searched) from Amazon or the Ubuntu One Music Store, Canonical takes a small cut. This affiliate revenue is a useful way in which we can generate revenue that we can continue to invest into the Ubuntu project to build new features, maintain our infrastructure, and improve Ubuntu.
Importantly, these music, video, and product suggestions are not advertising, they are search results that relate directly to the content you are searching for in the dash, and these results are presented in a non-intrusive manner.
Now, some of you may have a fundamental objection to Canonical making money from Ubuntu. When I hear this feedback, I usually translate it in my mind to “I have an objection to a company abusing a Free Software Operating System with revenue-generating content“. While I am certainly sympathetic to us not abusing Ubuntu and filling it with adware, bloatware, and crapware, I don’t think there is anything wrong with providing services and content that is strongly related to the needs and interests of Ubuntu users and that can generate revenue to continue the investment in Ubuntu.
If we are going to continue to pay the salaries of hundreds of developers to build new features, continue to maintain and improve Ubuntu, and provide the infrastructure, support, security updates and other content, we need to find ways of making the project self-sustaining from a revenue perspective. Making money is not a bug, abusing Ubuntu with crass irrelevant revenue-generating crap-ware is, and this is why we feel these new features are appropriate: they provide related content and opportunity for our users to acquire those products and help support the project.
I can understand some of the concerns from our community about these features, but I would encourage you to try Ubuntu 12.10 before you make your mind up. These features are neatly and unobtrusively integrated into the dash, and they not only provide a more useful and comprehensive dash in giving you visibility on this content, but it also generates revenue to help continue to grow and improve Ubuntu.
UPDATE: For more details on the privacy side of this feature, see this post.Read more
I just wanted to let you folks know that unfortunately I won’t be joining you in person at the next Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen in October. The timing of the event is too close for comfort to the due date for our first baby and the timing unfortunately means I can’t attend UDS without risking missing the birth.
Much as I am hugely excited about being a father, I am also really disappointed I won’t be there at UDS in person. UDS is one of my favorite places to be in the world, and although I won’t be there in person, if the baby is not born yet, I will be there remotely and working European hours from California. Sleep is for the weak.
In terms of logistics, I have asked Daniel Holbach to run the community track in my absence as well as Nicholas Skaggs running the QA track and David Planella running a new App Developers track. We recently finalized the sponsorship list for the event and it is going to be a fantastic UDS – I look forward to seeing you there remotely!Read more
Recently I have been working with David Planella and Michael Hall on my team around a new specification for empowering app developers to deliver their content in Ubuntu. This post provides some background information around this work and the problem it seeks to solve.
Like many of you, I am hugely proud of the progress we have made with Ubuntu over the years. We have worked together to create a simple, powerful experience underlined with the foundation of our core Ubuntu values of creating a free platform, available to all, in your language, irrespective of (dis)ability.
While our platform has been growing and maturing, in recent years we have been presented with a new challenge that we need to solve: making it simple for content creators to deliver their content in Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is not the only thing that is maturing. Mother nature needs a helping hand to keep this solid slab o’ Bacon in it’s prime.
When Ubuntu was started the competitive landscape was very different. We focused on being the best Linux distribution we could and making Ubuntu as powerful, reliable, and flexible as possible. Back then our primary competition was Microsoft with their Windows platform, but we could compete there by making our own, better platform. Ubuntu was faster, more secure, had more choice and other benefits. With these benefits we started to grow.
The competitive landscape today is very different. No longer are we content with just being the best Linux distribution, but we are going head-to-head with Apple, Microsoft, and Google with IOS, Windows, and Android respectively. It is not enough to just make a better, more stable, and more reliable platform these days; a reasonable assertion of success is giving users the content that they want.
To a large extent this boils down to applications. People don’t just choose their devices and platforms on the competence of the platform, but also on the apps (often specific app brands) that they want to do their work, manage their lives, and relax.
And here lies the challenge.
A few years ago we identified that we have a problem in Ubuntu with the complexity and expectations of how app developers get their apps into the Ubuntu Software Center. Please note: in this post I am referring to Free Software and Open Source apps; commercial app developers can submit their applications and have them reviewed by Canonical and this works pretty efficiently. The challenge here (ironically), is with Free and Open apps.
Now, when I say app developers here, I am not just referring to the upstreams that we know and love who already have a close relationship with Linux distributions such as Ubuntu. I am instead talking about the long tail of app developers who frankly don’t really care about the Operating System but just want to deliver their applications on it. These folks are typically excited by Ubuntu and the opportunity of Ubuntu, but they don’t want to be involved in the nitty-gritty of how Ubuntu is built; they care about Ubuntu merely as a platform to get their apps out to more users. There are literally thousands of application developers out there like this and I believe that for Ubuntu to be successful, we need to engage and empower these users.
No longer can we merely fall back on Hungry Hippos to engage and empower our users.
When we discussed this a few years ago we identified the following problems with our current processes for getting apps into the platform:
These approach was frankly, not all that surprising: Ubuntu inherited much of its process and workflow from how Debian works, and this process and workflow is designed for Operating System integrators and people who fundamentally care about creating and building an Operating System as opposed to content creators whose priority is their app and not the platform. This is not to say that app devs don’t want to harness the platform and ensure that their apps runs well, but their priority is their app and the connection points to the platform and not the platform itself.
To resolve this we put together a new process in which app developers could submit their applications to the Application Review Board (ARB), which is a community team that performs a security and code review and assesses the suitability of the app going into the archive (a different part of the archive called
extras). Importantly, these applications, when approved by the ARB would be delivered to stable releases, thus solving the first bullet above.
As the years passed it became clear that despite the admirable efforts of many members of the ARB, the process was simply not set up for success. The ARB struggled to keep on top of the queue of applications that came in, and very few applications successfully got through the process. From the app developers perspective this was frustrating; their application entered the queue and typically took months to get through, if at all. Again, kudos to the ARB for their efforts, but the source of the problems was not the members of the board but the process: requiring a security and code review for every version of every app submitted was never going to scale effectively.
I wish this would “scale more effectively” too.
A good example of this was the recent Ubuntu App Showdown. We had 133 applications submitted to the contest and the ARB buckled under the load of the reviews. If we face this problem with the relatively small number of apps coming in currently, as Ubuntu grows as a consumer-grade product, we will face this even more. Put simply: Ubuntu is not currently optimized for the needs of free app developers in delivering their apps on Ubuntu.
The problems with our current processes were also well known to app devs. A while back I kicked off a campaign with my team to encourage app developers to put a button on their websites that would provide a direct link to download the version of their software in the Ubuntu Software Center. A significant number of app devs were resistant to this as the versions in the Ubuntu Software Center were simply too old and their view was “why would I recommend my users download the old version in Ubuntu when I can instead ask them to install this PPA or download this Deb“.
In other words, free app developers are unable to deliver their recent releases to Ubuntu users via the Ubuntu Software Center. In my mind this means our current processes are failing them, and this will inhibit the opportunity of taking Ubuntu and Free Software to the masses.
To be honest with you all, this issue has been frustrating me for a while. I see it in pretty blunt terms: if we don’t solve this issue of app developers being able to deliver their content to Ubuntu, Ubuntu is simply not going to be successful. If we don’t solve this problem our users won’t want to use Ubuntu as they can’t get the apps they want and app developers won’t want to deliver apps to Ubuntu as getting them into the Ubuntu Software Center is such a nightmare or impractical.
Of course, we could continue with the traditional processes I outlined earlier, but I believe this will always relegate us to an awesome Linux distribution as opposed to chasing the real opportunity of bringing a Free Software Operating System to the masses with the apps that people want and a fantastic opportunity to expose Open Source and Free Software apps and the hard work of their developers to more people than ever before. People talk about the chasm and how to get over it, I believe we need to solve this issue for us to get over it.
About three weeks ago I called a meeting with my team with the goal figuring out how to resolve this. Solving this problem properly was going to mean allowing app developers to upload new releases of their apps directly to Ubuntu safely and securely without requiring the manual reviews that caused the bottlenecks with the ARB. To achieve this outcome though there is a lot of work to be done in terms of application insulation and sand-boxing, tooling improvements and other things.
The security team hard at work sand-boxing.
I first started surveying various engineering managers and engineers in Canonical to see what work they were doing along these lines to get an idea of current resourcing (as Canonical will likely need to invest most in delivering this work), and then David Planella, Michael Hall and I spent a lot of time putting together the first cut of a proposed specification that would resolve this issue in Ubuntu. I am proud of the output of this work: the specification is crisp, detailed, includes clear design guidelines, and takes the reader through every layer of delivering such a vision. The specification takes into account current resourcing, and breaks the work down to the work item level that we can discuss at UDS. As part of this process we gathered a lot of input from people such as Jamie Strandboge, Steve Langesek, Michael Vogt, Matthew Paul Thomas, Allison Randall, and the the ARB. This feedback helped us to ensure that the specification is detailed, practical, and reflective of the needs of our users, while being safe and secure.
Big process discussions like this can often turn into unmanageable spidery mailing list threads that lose people when they hit a certain size. My goal here was to put together a really detailed first cut of a spec that we could first take to the ARB and then to
ubuntu-devel and people could then discuss the specifics of the spec, debate changes, and otherwise get people together around a document and a specific approach. This could help focus the discussion on refining and improving that approach, as opposed to bike-shedding until everyone’s fingers fall off. You can read the on-going discussion here.
Like many of you, I really care about Ubuntu. I want to see us succeed, and I want to see us deliver the very goal we set out with in bringing the very best Free Software platform to the world. I think there is a tremendous amount of opportunity here, and easing how content creators such as app developers can get there content into Ubuntu will not only enrich the Ubuntu ecosystem, but provide more choice for our users and make us a more compelling platform when people choose which computer or device to use. I look forward to the discussion over the coming weeks and at UDS.
Thanks for reading!Read more
The Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) is the most important event in the Ubuntu calendar. It is where we get together to discuss, design, and plan the next version of Ubuntu; in this case the Ubuntu 13.04 release.
The next UDS takes place at Bella Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark from the 29th Oct – 1st Nov. You can find out more about why UDS is interesting from the perspective of a member of the community, an upstream contributor, and a vendor. We also welcome everyone to participate remotely if you can’t attend the event in person. More more details on how to get there, see this page.
At the heart of a great UDS is a diverse group of attendees who can bring their experience and expertise to the discussions. You don’t have to be technical, or be a programmer or packager to attend – UDS is open to everyone (including non-Ubuntu folks) and free to attend. We encourage everyone with an interest in Ubuntu to attend.
For every UDS Canonical sponsors the hotel and accommodation of a set of community members to ensure they are free to contribute and bring value to the discussions. We have a limited budget so we can’t sponsor everyone, but we are always keen to have a capable and diverse group to sponsor:
If you are participating in the Ubuntu community, we would love you to apply for sponsorship. This is how it works:
Simple! I look forward to seeing your applications!Read more
Last week Benjamin Otte shared some thoughts about GNOME that were pretty stark. It gathered some steam and hit Slashdot and this all happened the week GUADEC was taking place in A Coruña. I wasn’t at GUADEC but I can imagine there was some fervent discussion about the blog entry.
The gist of Benjamin’s blog was that people are leaving GNOME, that the project is understaffed, and arguably the reason for this is that GNOME has lost its direction and Red Hat have overtaken the project as the primary contributor-base. Of course I am summarizing, but check out the original post if you feel I am not representing Benjamin’s views fairly.
I wanted to share a few thoughts. To be clear: these thoughts are my own, and I am not speaking on behalf of Canonical, but I am speaking from my experiences as someone who has primarily been affiliated with Ubuntu and as a Canonical employee. My feedback is going to be frank but I really do care about GNOME as a project, and this feedback is intended from a position of love for the project and to be open and transparent about my own experiences as just one set of eyeballs in this story.
Fortunately, I think all of these problems are solvable, but for them to be solved GNOME is going to need to do a little soul searching to discover and focus on the right problems and explore and deliver the right solutions.
To provide a little context, my interest in GNOME pre-dates my involvement in Ubuntu. I have worked on a few applications that use the GNOME platform (Jokosher, Acire, Lernid, and most recently Ubuntu Accomplishments) and I have had a long interest in where the project is moving forward and as a core part of Ubuntu. I used to go to GUADEC every year, and I consider many folks in the GNOME project to be good friends.
While I care about where the project moves forward I too have also become concerned about the direction it is going in, not in terms of the design and user experience of GNOME (there are other, better versed people to assess this work), but instead in terms of how the project works with others such as companies, developers, and other partners.
In my mind GNOME has become bittersweet. I remember back at GUADEC in Stuttgart in 2005, discussions started happening about what form GNOME 3 would be in. As the years progressed the project struggled to decide on a final vision for what GNOME 3 would look like. This is not surprising: GNOME 2 was such a smashing success that GNOME 3 was going to be difficult second album time. Ideas were shared and bike-shedding occurred, but ultimately it seemed that the project was lacking leadership to take take all of these ideas and flip the switch to a vision and design and move it forward.
Around this time Ubuntu had become arguably the most popular way in which people were consuming GNOME and we (Canonical) were hiring more and more people to perform this integration work (which is no light task, as any distro developer will tell you).
Back then Canonical was taking quite a bit of heat for “never writing code and just shipping other people’s work” (which I always found a misguided viewpoint as integrating and delivering a solid Free Software Operating System is significant work and a great contribution to the wider Free Software commons).
We were starting to find though that there were areas of GNOME 2 that we felt could be improved and expanded (largely based on feedback from our users). We started growing a design competence and hiring developers to build new code to add improvements to the experience. Many technologies were created such as the messaging menu, notify-osd, dbusmenu and the global menu, control center improvements, and ultimately Unity as an additional shell for GNOME.
I remember this time vividly. I was in weekly discussions with Mark Shuttleworth, Rick Spencer (Ubuntu desktop team leader), Ivanka Majic (head of design), and David Barth (head of engineering these components). Our goal was simple: be able to showcase these technologies in Ubuntu and bring value to Ubuntu users, but to also ensure they were contributed to the wider GNOME project as technology that could help the general project in moving forward.
I personally saw this all boil down into pretty simple parts: Canonical and GNOME were partners and it was a mutually beneficial relationship – the GNOME desktop with barely any users defeats it’s purpose and Canonical was helping to deliver it to millions of users in Ubuntu, but Canonical could not build an awesome Ubuntu without the wonderful components in the GNOME desktop to fill in the many different pieces in an OS.
My simple philosophy was also marinaded in the gift culture of Open Source and Free Software: Canonical was paying designers and developers to produce new code that could be of value (and thus offered as a gift to the GNOME commons) and as with all gifts, while it may not be exactly what you want (and may need some adjustments and improvements), I presumed there would be a polite, respectful, and open discourse to take these contributions and bring them into the shared commons that was GNOME, particularly as they were created with GNOME in mind.
This was not my experience of what happened.
I was really disappointed with what resulted. After years of Canonical and Ubuntu being criticized for not contributing code, when we then engaged in writing code we were met with a frosty, suspicious, and at times, frankly entitled attitude from some parts of the GNOME camp.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Canonical was not perfect here either. I fully admit that some of this relationship could have been handled better (and I am partially to blame here). We made some mistakes early on in which code was released too late and there was sometimes not enough open discussion. Retrospectively, we could definitely have done better in being more pro-active in some parts of the relationship too. At the time we were still learning how to do this, and as such we made some mistakes too.
Canonical wanted to strike the right balance of bringing innovation to Ubuntu releases with new features, but to also openly engage and contribute that innovation to upstreams such as GNOME. My goal here is not to open up a blame game of who did what and when (I will leave that to the commentators ), but what disappointed me most about the whole situation was that from my personal perspective it seemed that some influential members of the GNOME project were treating Canonical’s contributions more critically and suspiciously than others.
Now I haver never subscribed to conspiracy theories, and I don’t believe that there was a shadowy GNOME Illuminati that was meeting together in a hollowed out volcano to plan how to keep Canonical and their contributions out of GNOME, but I was surprised and disappointed at the attitude that came out of parts of the GNOME project to us, when we were ultimately delivering GNOME to millions of users as well as writing new code that could enhance GNOME. It just seemed incredibly entitled.
There were three things that really blew my mind about all of this:
Of course, it takes two to tango and we at Canonical could have no doubt done better to improve our relationship with GNOME, but I remember back then feeling like no matter what we tried to do, we came up against resistance from the GNOME project, and this was de-motivating and no-doubt added stress to our relationship.
To shift gears a little, one of the points in Benjamin’s post was that GNOME 3 is a Red Hat project. To me this is a bit of a double-edged sword.
On one hand, the crux of his point is entirely valid: most people contributing to GNOME seem to be a clique of Red Hat folks. What concerns me a little are the concerns in parts of the community that Red Hat is “running the show” and that much of the decision-making has been private to Red Hat staff.
Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt that this is probably happening, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. These concerns again highlight what I think continues to be an unrealistic expectation in parts of the GNOME project with those who are willing to invest in the platform (in this case, Red Hat). If Red Hat have decided to invest in a team of developers to work on and bring value to GNOME, building Free Software that can be shared with everyone, these contributions should be received with open arms. Leadership is leadership, irrespective of the employer.
Of course, there needs to be a culture of openness and transparency, and I suspect a certain amount of internal water-cooler chat is happening in Red Hat, but you will find that with any commercial team that is actively engaged in a Free Software project; we just need to always try to keep things as open as possible. GNOME is definitely going to need to ensure that the openness and values of open collaboration are not compromised, and an open and frank discussion with the Red Hat team about resolving these concerns is no doubt the best step forward.
I personally think it is wonderful that Red Hat are investing so much in GNOME and they have arguably led in much of the direction and leadership in delivering GNOME Shell and the various other parts of the platform. What seems ironic to me is that the same criticisms that were thrown at Canonical with Unity (as a perceived competitor to GNOME Shell, which it was never intended to be) are now being leveled at GNOME Shell (“you don’t care about our needs”, “you are pushing your own agenda” etc).
Maybe a solution to this problem is to be open and frank about the relationship with Red Hat. As an example, we always try to be open about our relationship between Ubuntu and Canonical; there is no doubt that Canonical drives a lot of the development and innovation in Ubuntu, although this leadership and innovation is firmly rooted in expectations around openness and collaboration. We don’t try to hide the influence Canonical has on Ubuntu, and I wonder whether the wider GNOME community feels comfortable in accepting the influence Red Hat has on the project. This is always a delicate balance.
I would agree with Benjamin that GNOME is essentially a Red Hat project these days, but as I say this is double-edged: the wonderful benefits of the investment from Red Hat will be tinged with the challenges of how vendor-neutral the project wants to remain.
So what is the future of GNOME and how can these problems be solved? Can they even be solved in the first place?
I think so.
I love GNOME as a project, and I love the folks involved in it. While we don’t always agree, the core ethos and goal of GNOME is admirable: to bring an awesome Free Software desktop to everyone. While I personally prefer Unity as a shell, I think the work that has gone into GNOME Shell has been a wonderful rebirth of the motivation and focus of GNOME. The architects of this vision should be credited in getting GNOME out of the slump I mentioned earlier that seemed to stem from 2005. Of course, I will always be disappointed that GNOME seemed quite so resistant to much of the contributions we wished to make, and I think we could have helped to have moved things along a little faster, but I am delighted that GNOME 3 has got to the point it has got to.
As I mentioned earlier, my feedback here really has nothing to do with the design and technical direction of GNOME, and others can provide more insightful commentary than me. I do though think this people-problem issue of GNOME being a rather difficult project to work and interface with at times is a problem that has not yet been confronted and resolved. While this problem continues to exist, I worry that it will eat away at GNOME more and more.
GNOME is blessed with some wonderful leaders, and I hope that the content in this post can act as some food for thought: I am not expecting everyone to agree with me, but if this opens up a discussion about these topics I will be happy.
What is not a solution is for us to give up on GNOME. I know some folks are moving on from the project and moving onto other things, and we have more competition than ever for desktops, but I still see GNOME as an important foundational component of the Free Software and Open Source desktop today.
Now, I am sure this blog entry is going to result in some folks screaming from the rafters that I am misrepresenting GNOME and it is all Canonical’s fault, and you are entitled to your view. Traditionally I have not wanted to raise these concerns publicly as I didn’t want to cause any further harm in the relationship between Ubuntu and GNOME, but Benjamin’s blog post seemed to offer a good opportunity to throw out some feedback that might be helpful in constructing a solution.
While I don’t have much time to contribute to GNOME formally these days, I am more than happy to talk more, provide any further feedback, and help where else I can. I would love to see the GNOME project that we know and love be back in a healthier state. Thanks for reading.
On Friday I will be traveling to Portland, Oregon to run the Community Leadership Summit 2012 this weekend and then join OSCON the following week. While I will be dipping into some sessions and meeting folks at the two events, I also use these events as an opportunity to coordinate and schedule meetings while at the conference venue.
If you want to have a meeting with me while I am in Portland, please drop me an email. My schedule is starting to fill up, but happy to meet if we can make it work.Read more
We had a new team photo taken. Thanks to Graham Binns!
L-R: Jorge Castro, David Planella, Jono Bacon, Daniel Holbach, Nicholas Skaggs, Michael Hall.Read more
Just a quick reminded that my band Severed Fifth will be playing tonight at:
Roosters Roadhouse, 1700 Clement Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501
This is about a 5 – 10min cab ride from the Oakland Marriot hotel.
Get down there for about 7.30pm to ensure you get your tickets as the show has sold out of pre-sold tickets. We go on stage at 8pm. Hope to see you there!Read more
Today we released the highly-anticipated Ubuntu 12.04 LTS release after a busy six month development cycle. The release is available in Desktop (see OMG! Ubuntu!’s great summary), Server, and Cloud Infrastructure form. You can also install the desktop easily from Windows by clicking here.
I am hugely proud of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS; I believe it is the best and bravest release we have ever shipped, and I am delighted to see Ubuntu’s continued progress in delivering a simple, elegant, and powerful Free Software platform for the Desktop, Server, and Cloud.
Aside from the release, the Ubuntu 12.04 cycle was in my mind an evolutionary cycle for us as a project. The focus on quality was firm and unrelenting; initiatives such as gated trunks, acceptance criteria, automated testing, and a strong focus on growing a testing community and widening our manual tests, all contributed to delivering a solid release. Canonical as a company continued to see a lot of growth, as did our community with initiatives such as the Developer Advisory team, application developer focused outreach, and our continued growth of the Juju charming community. I am not only proud of the 12.04 LTS release, but also of these workflow and growth improvements we also made as a community that are not immediately visible in the release. Thank-you to everyone who helped drive this important work.
Thank-you also to everyone of you who has participated in this release, whether you have worked on packages, provided testing, documentation, translations, support, advocacy, or anything else. Ubuntu really is a community effort, and without our wonderful community of contributors and supporters we would be nothing. Thank-you for all of your hard work and fantastic efforts.
After a busy six months let’s all take a few minutes to take a step back and be proud of what we accomplished. Rock and roll.Read more
Folks, I just wanted to let you know about an exciting new event that will be happening the same week as the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Oakland, California.
Canonical in collaboration with Redmonk will be hosting The Ubuntu Cloud Summit; a one day event for both technology and business attendees interested in how open-source cloud computing can help their organizations.
The event takes place on Tuesday 8th May, at the The Oakland Marriott City Center Hotel.
The agenda is still being defined, but the sessions will cover some interesting ideas, challenges and trends around cloud computing and how attendees can deploy an open cloud in their organization.
Topics will include:
Click here to find out more information.
The cost of a ticket for attending this event is $100 which includes lunch and refreshments. Spaces are limited, so please share this information with your contacts and prospects to get registrations flowing.Read more
Earlier today we announced Ubuntu on Android; the perfect combination of a phone that is powered by Android and when docked provides a full Ubuntu desktop experience. Not only that, but when plugged into a TV you also get the Ubuntu TV experience. All within one consistent and beautiful experience.
I posted this news on Facebook and Google+ today, and in just 12 hours look at the response:
I think this speaks pretty well about how much interest and demand there is in this. Put it this way: in 12 minutes Facebook had over 1000 likes.
If you are a handset maker or network operator, get in touch.Read more
Just a reminder…every Tuesday at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern / 4pm UTC on
#ubuntu-community-team on freenode IRC.
Everyone runs through a a list of the work they have been doing over the last week and you can ask questions. Feel free to join us; everyone is welcome!Read more
Today I had a call with another team at Canonical who were wanting to ask for guidance on (a) how to write good blog entries that people want to read and (b) how to regularly get into the habit of blogging and get more eyeballs on your posts.
I thought this could be of general interest to the community, so I figured I would write these things down into a blog entry. So meta.
code, different heading sizes and more. Use them to help add emphasis to your posts.
In terms of blogging more and getting more eyeballs on your posts, here are some tips:
I am sure there are plenty of other suggestions from you folks; please add them to the comments!Read more
On Friday we had the first Google+ Hangout with the full Canonical Community team. To observe this important moment we all showed how happy we were:
L-R: Daniel Holbach, David Planella, Yours Truly, Jorge Castro, Michael Hall, and Nicholas Skaggs.
Google Hangouts are awesome for team meetings.Read more
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