Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'planet gnome'


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.

Actual eyeballs.

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.

A Little History

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).

If all else fails, bribing people with bubble-wrap grows popularity.

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.

The shadowy GNOME Illuminati

There were three things that really blew my mind about all of this:

  1. From my experience of working on volunteer Open Source projects, new volunteers and their code contributions are tremendously valuable. As an example, if someone comes to my current project (Ubuntu Accomplishments) and is willing to propose new, disruptive ideas, and willing to contribute chunks of code, I will treat those people with open arms. Being challenged is a good thing: it keeps us fresh, and a challenging, innovative idea followed up with running code is awesome. Now, of course, this is not to say that writing code automatically gets the contribution into the core project, but I would treat the entire social engagement with someone offering such a gift with positive open discussion to see how we could find a great solution that makes everyone happy. This seems an area where things could be improved with GNOME.
  2. If I was also running a project that was understaffed and struggling to define its direction (which I would argue was the case with GNOME at the time) I would treat such new contributions as wonderful ways of solving problems and building a new direction for the project, particularly if our major distributor was going to be delivering that technology anyway. Code is the currency of Open Source, and rejecting chunks of this currency because they don’t fit an as-yet incomplete jigsaw puzzle of a vision just doesn’t make sense.
  3. Without sounding egotistical from the perspective of an Ubuntu guy, I would argue that the vast majority of GNOME consumers were getting GNOME in Ubuntu. Of course, there was and continues to be the wonderful work going into Debian, Fedora, OpenSuSE and others, but it seemed that Ubuntu was the most commonly-used GNOME distribution (I suspect it still is). Again, I saw this as a partnership but from my perspective it seemed like parts of the GNOME project saw Ubuntu as fundamentally subservient to GNOME; as if we had an obligation to deliver whatever the GNOME project saw fit, irrespective of our own ideas and feedback from our users. In my position as an Ubuntu guy, I have always tried to treat our upstreams with maximum respect as they are a big part of who we are; Ubuntu is nothing without awesome apps, and a wonderful integrated experience. I guess I just expected a more positive and collaborative experience with GNOME than I experienced…the kind of collaborative experience that I had known and loved in the earlier days of GNOME.

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.

Pictured: a proven conflict resolution technique.

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.

The Future

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.

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We are delighted to announce that the Humble Indie Bundle, that was just announced will have all the games available in the Ubuntu Software Center running natively on Ubuntu.

For the next few weeks you can go and donate whatever you like to buy Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Psychonauts, LIMBO, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP and if you pay more than the average you also get Bastion.

Remember, you only have a few weeks to go and donate whatever you like to buy the games, and when you have bought them from the Humble Indie Bundle Website you can install them with a single click in the Ubuntu Software Center!

Proceeds go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Childs Play, so snap up these awesome games, running natively on Ubuntu, and help charities and indie game devs!

We have a few other fun things planned over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Go and grab the games!

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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. :-)

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Speaking of the Ubuntu Global Jam, if you are in Northern California, you should come and hangout with us fun Ubuntu folks in sunny, beautiful, Walnut Creek on Fri 2nd March 2012 at Caffe La Scala in Walnut Creek.

What will we be doing? Hanging out, working on Ubuntu, sharing tips, tricks and other ideas, and helping to make Ubuntu 12.04 even better. Everyone is welcome, everyone can help (no matter what your experience, technical knowledge, or familiarity with Ubuntu), and everyone can have a fun time meeting new folks and enjoying Ubuntu…all within this really rather awesome little coffee shop.

It is easy to get to from BArt (Walnut Creek station), plenty of parking nearby, and great coffee. :-)

All the details can be found right here.

Hope to see you there!

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This weekend is the Ubuntu Global Jam happening all over the world with 31 LoCo Teams participating across 22 countries. Be sure to find an event near you!

Much of the fun of an Ubuntu Global Jam event is keeping up to date with what is going on around the world and knowing things that you can do at your event to help Ubuntu.

With this in mind we have put together a handy little dashboard:

Access the dashboard at

The dashboard has a number of cool features:

  • A list of fun tasks you can work on to help Ubuntu 12.04. This covers a range of different topics and there is something for everyone!
  • A built in chat window so you can chat to other Ubuntu community fans all over the world and see what is going on at their jams.
  • A Twitter/ stream that shows the latest tweets and dents with the #ubuntu hashtag. Be sure to tweet and dent throughout the weekend about what you are doing. :-)
  • A regularly updating collection of photos from flickr, picasa, and that are tagged with #ubuntu. Be sure to take plenty of pictures, put them online and tag them!

Thanks to Michael Hall and daker for their efforts on the dashboard, and thanks to Charles Profitt, Randal Ross, Laura Czajkowski, Benjamin Kerensa, Daniel Holbach, David Planella, Jorge Castro, and many others for helping to promote and raise aware of the Ubuntu Global Jam. Have an awesome weekend, folks, and thanks for contributing to Ubuntu!

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Can’t see the video? Watch it here.

Just a quick note to let you know that this Friday, 3rd February in San Francisco we will be having the Severed Fifth CD Release Party. The new album ‘Liberate’ was funded by donations from the Severed Fifth community and will be released soon under a Creative Commons license.

As such, on Friday we will be releasing the album at Cafe Cocomo, 650 Indiana St, San Francisco, CA where we will perform a full, live set of the new record. We will also be supported by Ulysses Siren and My Victim. Not only this but everyone who comes to the show will get a free copy of the new album on CD and there will plenty of give-aways and prizes.

Tickets are $10 advance ($12 on the door). You can buy tickets for the show here as well as buying tickets on the door. Doors open at 8pm.

I would love to encourage you to come out to support Creative Commons and local music and have a great time. :-)

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After my recent blog post about the lack of Python GTK documentation since the new era of GIR bindings, I was delighted to find this awesome online documentation.

I am certainly not presuming that this documentation was as a result of someone reading my blog post; I assume I didn’t see it online before, but thankyou to everyone who has contributed to it.

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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 12.10 release.

The next UDS takes place at The Oakland Marriott City Center, Oakland, California, USA from the 7th – 11th May 2012. 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:

  • We strive to support community members who are actively involved in Ubuntu and who are providing significant and sustained contributions to the Ubuntu project.
  • We always welcome Upstream contributors who are bring value to Ubuntu indirectly via active participation in their upstream project, but who are keen to see quality support for that upstream in Ubuntu.
  • Contributors are willing to actively participate not only throughout the full Ubuntu Developer Summit week, but also following with active contributions throughout the release cycle.
  • We are always keen to welcome members of the community who have never been to UDS before and are keen to participate and experience the event.
  • You don’t have to provide technical contributions to apply – if you have participated in the areas of advocacy, documentation, testing, art, design etc, you are encouraged to apply.
  • UDS is an event that encourages diversity – we welcome everyone to apply for sponsorship, irrespective of gender, race, impairment, technical expertise, or other factors.

If you are participating in the Ubuntu community, we would love you to apply for sponsorship. This is how it works:

  1. You can apply for sponsorship by following these instructions. Apologies for the different forms you need to fill in – we are going to consolidate these forms at the next UDS. The deadline for submissions is Wed 22nd February 2012 so be sure to get yours in!
  2. When the deadline is reached we will assess the applications and finalize who we will be able to sponsor.
  3. You will then receive an email outlining whether we can sponsor you or not.

Simple! I look forward to seeing your applications, and seeing many of you in Oakland!

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Today we announced the HUD that is landing in Unity. This is an awesome new feature. See Mark’s blog post, the coverage on PC Pro, and the interview with John Lea on OMG! Ubuntu!. Here is a video of the feature in action:

Can’t see it? See it here.

I wanted to point you folks at Nicholas’s blog post about how to test the HUD. You will need to be running Ubuntu 12.04 (which is still in development) to test.

We would like to encourage everyone to test so we can get this rock-solid for 12.04!

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I am a pretty terrible programmer. Anyone who has read my code can see that. Unfortunately, I tend to have lots of ideas about how we can use technology in different ways, hence why I write some code. Examples of this have included Lernid, Acire, RaccoonShow, and Jokosher.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your view), I have had Python and GTK to serve my needs here. Python, with it’s awesome batteries-included range of facilities and GTK as a simple yet flexible toolkit has allowed me to create implementations of the ideas that I have dreamed of. I started using these tools many years ago, and they have always provided a simple and effective toolset for me.

My preferred toolset of choice. One day…

Having not written any code for a while, I got the itch this weekend to start writing the trophy helper app that I wrote about as part of the accomplishments system spec that I created with Stuart Langridge and Daniel Holbach. I thought this would be a good opportunity to brush up on my skills, given that PyGTK is dead and the new world is instead the GIR approach to GTK. In a nutshell, this is where the language bindings basically match the C API for GTK thus reducing the need for people to maintain different language bindings.

Of course, this is a good thing: less work for volunteers in maintaining multiple-language support for GTK and a consistent API is good. Unfortunately, I found getting started with this new world a little more complex than I imagined.

From reading the documentation it suggested that all I needed to do was to import Gtk from gi.repository and instead of creating widgets with gtk.<foo> that they would be Gtk.<foo>. The docs suggested a few other lexical adjustments, but not much more than that. There is even a script that can convert older PyGTK code over to the new PyGI way. Unfortunately the script didn’t work for me, so I instead used it as a cheat-sheet for things that needed changing. Sadly, it seemed like some things were not covered in the script.

An example of this included when I was creating a ListStore. In PyGTK code I could add a gtk.gdk.Pixbuf to the ListStore for an icon, but I had a difficult time trying to figure out the new way to describe this. I tried Gtk.gdk.Pixbuf and Gtk.Gdk.Pixbuf but had no luck. Fortunately the awesome Ryan Lortie informed me that it needed to be GdkPixbuf.Pixbuf. Another example of this was gtk.SORT_ASCENDING in my original code and the new Gtk.SortType.ASCENDING in the new code. It seems like various functionality in GTK has been moved around and re-factored.

Unfortunately I could not find any documentation to help me with this. Sure, the C docs are available online, but I am not a C programmer; I am (in the most generous and understanding way) a Python programmer and where I previously had a pretty decent tutorial and reference guide to PyGTK, as a desktop app developer I no longer have these resources to help me. Even though I am not a fantastic programmer, I have written enough Python and GTK code to fumble my way through writing various apps, and if it stumped me as a relatively old hand, I wonder how a brand new developer would get on.

Pictured: old hand.

Now, this may sound a little critical, but it is not mean’t to be. I have tremendous respect for the GTK team, and I am hugely thankful to them for all their hard work. I am also thankful for the team that has worked on the GIR support so that multiple language support can be more efficiently provided. Thanks to all you folks for providing great tools that let a programming numpty such as myself be able to write Free Software.

I just wanted to share this because I feel like these tools are missing the final component: if we had a good solid set of reference documentation generated for each language (naturally, Python is the language I mainly care about), this would help novice and established developers use GTK more effectively. From my personal experience, my patience started wearing pretty thin when I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to find help as I navigated C documentation to try and figure out how the API fitted into my Python application. A good solid Python reference manual would have resolved this issue, and from what I understand, this could potentially be generated from the GIR files. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the skills to help solve this problem, so I figured the best I could do was to share my story and see if anyone would be interested in helping to solve this problem.

If so, thanks in advance, and thanks again to the GTK team for all your hard work!


I found this excellent documentation after publishing this entry. This provides exactly the kind of documentation I was looking for. Thanks to anyone who helped contribute to this!

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A week ago I flew to Budapest for an Ubuntu Engineering Team Rally. This is where we get the Ubuntu Engineers at Canonical and some other groups together for a week to work together, plan future work, have meetings and make progress on our existing commitments. It is in this week that I gather together with the guys on my team and we have the rare privilage of working together from the same office (we all work remotely usually).

Daniel Holbach, Jorge Castro, and David Planella were there, and we welcomed Nicholas Skaggs to the team who started his first day at Canonical on the first day of the Rally; a brave man! Unfortunately Michael Hall could not join us, but we had a tablet with his gleaning smiling face beaming into our room on Google+. He was there in spirit, if not physically.

Chris Farley was also there in spirit, if not physically.

We made some great progress and put quite a dent in our burn-down chart, but I wanted to summarize some of the work going on right now that might interest you:

  • David, Daniel, and I spent quite some time opening up the ARB process and helping to get things back on track. We now have a flow of lenses coming through and the queue is looking in better shape. Thanks to the ARB for their work here and we will be continuing to build refinements into the process over the coming weeks.
  • Nick got on-boarded at the event and met the QA team (Gema, John-Baptiste, Carlos, Pete etc). We discussed plans around putting in place a manual test case system (we will be piloting Case Conductor). We also centralized QA communication channels (#ubuntu-testing on Freenode) and Nick started cleaning up the documentation for how people participate in Ubuntu QA. I am excited by the progress happening here…more to come soon!
  • Jorge made further progress on the charms front and we planned out a tour of events to run charm schools. Good progress is being made on upstream charm targets and awareness of Juju is growing.
  • David and I discussed next steps for Things will be on hold a little in this cycle due to the web team being re-assigned to other work. Instead we are fixing up chunks of, particularly around publishing apps and reference materials.
  • Daniel (who just got back from an awesome holiday in Morocco) and I synced up on the sponsorship queue which has got a little out of shape recently, so Daniel is re-focusing on that over the coming week as well as building out the developer advisory group and identify prospective developers and providing 1-on-1 guidance to get them through the developer process.
  • Michael is going to be putting in place a patch pilot scheme for the DX team to ensure community merge proposals are getting through in a timely manner. He also coordinated the move from #ayatana to #ubuntu-unity on Freenode.
  • Michael also connected with Jorge regarding the transition of Unity responsibilities and he will be coordinating further relationships with upstreams. The goal here is simple: encourage more participation in Unity development as well as the consumption of our APIs by upstreams.
  • I spent some time with the team on team-related workflow. Everyone is pretty happy with how we are working, are happy with the public IRC meetings and comfortable in how we are tracking our work and moving forward on projects.
  • We discussed raising the awareness of cool things going on in Ubuntu and discussed how we can provide a more representative view of this work across blogs and social media. You can expect more blogging out of our team and other teams.

Of course, there were many other things that happened, but these were some of the main ones. Remember you can keep up to date with out work on the burndown chart and in #ubuntu-community-team on Freenode.

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Like many of you I get a lot of email, and like many of you I often struggle to keep up with it in the context of everything else that is going on. Recently I have been trying a few little experiments in adjusting my email workflow to see if I can be more productive. I am seeing some good results and just wanted to share a few small changes I have made that have impacted my workflow in the interests of them possibly being useful for you too:

  • Using the GMail web interface – I back-end all my mail in GMail and traditionally use IMAP to access it via the default email client in Ubuntu (e.g. Thunderbird). While I love Thunderbird and Evolution, unfortunately GMail IMAP access is a touch slower than I would like (I have talked to Chris Coulson about this issue in Thunderbird who has looked into it) and the small delay in loading messages makes the email experience feel a little less sleek. Using GMail directly removes this slight lag, and it has made the email experience feel more satisfying (obviously for those of you who don’t have this lag, such as POP users, should be fine). Importantly, if you use GMail too, check out the GMail labs split pane view which makes GMail act like a traditional email client; I find that it makes GMail useful for me as opposed to the traditional view.
  • Top posting – I realized recently how anal I am about laying out my messages and replies. I hit reply, say hi to the person, respond inline, make sure there is space between my response and the quoted text, add my name etc. For most 1-on-1 conversations this level of layout is not really needed (although on mailing lists I still bottom post), and just hitting reply and typing without all this laying out makes email feel so much more efficient.
  • Don’t star mails to reply to – my traditional email workflow is that I wake up in the morning, grab my tablet, and while I wake up I read my email and star all the mails I need to respond to. I then grab breakfast, do all my calls, and then get to the starred emails to respond to. Instead of starring I experimented by marking emails unread that I need to reply to. For some reason this makes the urgency of replying more amplified in my head. I think that I just don’t like seeing unread emails, and it flips a psychological bit that makes me want to reply to them quicker as opposed to starring and my email just being another list of things to tend to. I know sounds a little strange, but this small change also affects how I handle my email.

Of course, while these things work for me, many of these won’t be of interest or work for you folks, but some may, and I just wanted to share them. I am sure there are lots of little tweaks to your own email workflow that you have found useful, and I would love to hear them in the comments. Happy emailing!

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The always awesome didrocks posted yesterday to encourage the testing of the Unity PPA. In this cycle we have changed how Unity is deployed into Ubuntu by required a set of acceptance criteria tests before it enters the archive. As such, much of the testing of the new Unity releases is happening in a PPA and then when a new Unity release is ready, it is added to the 12.04 development branch.

Not only this, but the PPA includes a set of checkbox tests that you can use to provide solid feedback on many different elements of Unity. If you can take a little time to grab the PPA and run through the tests, that would be great.

I have tested this most recent release in the PPA, and I am stunned with how solid Unity feels.

I wanted to share didrocks’ post but his blog is currently down (he knows and is resolving it), so I wanted to republish below. Be sure to grab the PPA and test on 12.04!

Here is the post:

The Canonical ubuntu platform and product strategy teams are gathering in Budapest this week to tackle as much work as possible on precise pangolin. Despite the promise of snow and cheap beers, we are working hard on getting Unity 5.0 out of the door.

One of the goal of this release is to increase quality, precision, no regression on the work we push to the unstable version of ubuntu. The desktop experience team made automated and manual tests for that and we can already see the first benefits from it. We pushed an automated building infrastructure with public test reports to have commits automatically tested, pushed to the trunk of development branch as well as available packages in a ppa.

With all those news features and requirements, we needed to redesign the release process and that’s what we have done last Monday. Let me expose the few steps I will explain there.

  1. On Monday evening, we have frozen the trunk, which means, no more new code can enter unity at this point (as well for all the related components like unity-2d, nux, dee, libunity, bamf, unity lenses). Only selected branches can now get in, and those are picked only if they contribute to getting closer to this release quality.
  2. Then, after ensuring on Tuesday that people can safely install the new release candidate, the unity-team ppa started to contain the whole latest of what will soon be the 5.0 version of unity. If you install from this ppa, you will see a kind prompt asking you to contribute when logging back to your desktop.
  3. This prompts help getting to our main goal, which is ensurin the quality of the new release. Multiple things have been put in practice for that. The desktop experience team qualified the release using their manual tests and running automated ones again. Aurélien and I run our own manual tests (120 of them, trying to covering the whole Unity functionnalities). This finished on Tuesday evening (we rephrased some) and we rebuilt all needed packages again, as well as some other dependencies like update-manager, usb-creator, nautilus, empathy, and gwibber to still make them working when you install from the ppa (ABI bumps). From those test we spotted regressions and get them fixed/fix them, regenerate everything and such.
  4. The manual test wrapper over checkbox is also automatically installed from the ppa. Which means that YOU can help too! I’m bootstrapping this process with the French Musketeers to ensure everything is correct and ready for the next release. How to help there will be widespread for Unity 5.2. More on that soon!
  5. On Thursday morning, we will collect the results from the tests, see what’s still needed to be fixed (if it’s the case) and then cycle back on the previous steps.
  6. At the same time, the bugs that are fixed will be milestoned, some cleanup will be done and everything will be then ready to format an explicit text of what’s in the new release.
  7. Then, the process is well known: we will issue tarballs for every projects we need to upload
  8. Packaging them properly, with the right build-dependencies and needed tweaks will be done, and upload to precise to share the love!
  9. Finally, every non fixed bugs but targeted will be reported to the next milestones.

And that’s it! Everyone will be able to enjoy the whole new shiny Unity 5.0, containing a bunch of bug fixes, as well, as all the layout and ground for being rock solid, speeded up and just… precise Unity version!

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Be sure to follow Ubuntu TV on Facebook and on Google+. That is all.

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Today I am going to host my first Ubuntu videocast of 2012. I am going to switch this up a little and talk more about the goals for the year, summarize work that is going on, and then dig into the usual Q+A where you folks are welcome to ask any questions you like about Ubuntu, Canonical, Unity, or anything else. I am always keen to improve the show, so let me know your ideas of what you would find interesting on there.

Join me today at 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern / 7pm UK / 8pm Europe by visiting this page. Be sure to register a account first so you can answer your questions.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

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Erica and I just spent a busy few weeks visiting family and friends over in the UK, and it was wonderful to see everyone. My family all get on wonderfully with each other, but my two brothers and I have always lived in different places and this Christmas was the first time we have all been together for Christmas in about 20 years.

It was awesome. I feel privileged to have such a wonderful and caring family. We miss them all, but are happy to be back home in California after such a hectic trip.

So here we are at the beginning of 2012 and many of us are in the frame of mind about new ambitions for the coming year. Some people have been sharing their new year’s resolutions, and I wanted to share a few of mine outside of the obvious passion to put my family first and be the best husband, son, and brother I can be. I am blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people, and I want to be there for all of them in the best possible way.

In terms of new resolutions, firstly I want to get fitter. I am not particularly out of shape and have a reasonably healthy diet, but I want to amp it up, get healthier, practice a regular exercise routine, and tone up. I will be tracking this with the awesome Fitbit, who assure me that Linux support for syncing data is coming, although their have gone a little dark when I ask when. Come on Fitbit, show us some love. :-)

Me in 2012.

Related to this in part is my second resolution that I want to learn how to cook. I am a terrible cook. I want to learn how to cook some healthier food, but I am particularly interested in continuing to learn how to grill. Grilling is a big cultural part of California, and I started learning how to cook steak, kabobs, veggies, and some other things last autumn, but I want to ramp this up to the next level. I am particularly interested in learning how to smoke some brisket.

This image has not influenced my resolution at all. Honest.

2012 is going to be the year of Ubuntu. 2011 was a year filled with great progress, tough decisions, and renewed focus, but 2012 is going to be where we really shine. Speaking personally of my team at Canonical, we could not be stronger; we have the unstoppable Daniel Holbach, Jorge Castro, and David Planella, and we will be joined by Nicholas Skaggs and Michael Hall to complete the line-up. The team is raring to go, we have a strong strategy in place, and 2012 will all be about growth, efficiency, and continuing to grow and a fun and inspiring community.

Finally, 2012 will see the new Severed Fifth album released, the second edition of The Art of Community and no-doubt plenty of other fun (and some likely slightly bonkers) projects. I have a few charity projects I am interesting in doing in 2012 too that I didn’t have the time for last year. Who knows where the year will take us?

Anyway, enough rambling, let’s roll. :-)

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Quality has always been an important value in the Ubuntu community, but over the last few releases we have faced some challenges in how we can assure and deliver quality. There have been various reasons for this, which include:

  • Fewer automated tests that we would like and limited coverage in key components (e.g. Unity).
  • Out of date manual tests with limited coverage.
  • No acceptance testing for the distribution (this mean’t that some broken features would land in the development release).
  • Limited support and leadership from the Canonical Community Team in harnessing community participation.

Over the last year quality has become a strong area of focus inside Canonical. This has included re-factoring the roles and responsibilities of QA staff (focusing them on defect analysis as opposed to just bug triage), Pete Graner has been leading an effort to get an extensive automated testing infrastructure in place, Jason Warner has led an effort to put acceptance criteria in place for Canonical upstreams (this requires that a certain level of quality is assured before Unity updates are landed in the development branch of Ubuntu), and I have hired Nicholas Skaggs who starts in January to build out our QA community, with a particular focus on manual testing and triage.

Defect Analyst hard at work.

I also wanted to share an interesting post from Olli Ries about how he is building out his team around quality, and Thomas Voß followed up with an interesting post on the new Product Team QA Blog. Thomas and Olli will also be holding their first meeting on the 10th Jan in #ubuntu-qa.

I will be following up more in the new year about QA as Nicholas joins the Canonical Community team and we build out our QA community infrastructure, communication channel, and focus.

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Tonight I recorded and put on my YouTube Channel a presentation that I delivered at OSCON earlier this year called A New Era Of Community Management. I cover the history of community management, it’s early leaders, and how the science of understanding and growing community is changing with the advent of new technologies, social norms, and cultural challenges. I also cover the direct business opportunities for harnessing this new science, and some of the risks and pitfalls associated with it.

You can watch it below:

Can’t see it? Watch it here.

You can also see the other Community Management Crib Notes videos:

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Can’t see the video? Click here!

Now in it’s fourth year, the Community Leadership Summit is the annual event for community managers and leaders, attracting over 200 attendees from all around the world and a diverse range of industries and projects.

Be sure to join us the weekend before OSCON on the 14th – 15th July 2012 in Portland, Oregon. The event is free but you need to register first.

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Seen just now in a Google Hangout:

Google, we salute you.

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