Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'planet gnome'

jono

I am looking to hire a new member for my team (the Community Team) here at Canonical. I am looking for a bright, motivated, and experienced person to build, maintain and develop a cohesive, productive and effective Ubuntu QA community.

This role will be full-time working at Canonical, you will be working from home with regular travel to various events (such as UDS and team sprints), and you will be working in a fast-paced, productive, and energetic environment. This is a really exciting role that is designed to bring huge value to the Ubuntu community in the area of quality by refining, optimizing, and growing our QA community participation.

Key responsibilities and accountabilities:

  • Build and maintain a strong, consistent, and consolidated QA community and to act as a point of reference for this community in continuing its growth and opportunities, and resolving issues.
  • Maintain a set of online resources, produce content for those resources and build community participation to generate and optimize content for and from the community.
  • Develop and refine better working practises to ease and improve how community members and stakeholders interact with the Ubuntu QA team.
  • Liaise with the Canonical Ubuntu Platform Team to better align the direction of the Ubuntu QA community with internal QA needs and workflow.
  • Regularly acquire and evaluate feedback from the community and our partners to help improve Ubuntu QA.
  • Be responsive and sensitive to the concerns, ambitions and direction of the community, our upstreams and business units inside Canonical.

Required skills and experience

  • Strong QA skills and experience, strong networking and social networking skills, good relationship building abilities, process driven, able to manage multiple work streams, good prioritisation, independent, willing to travel potentially 25% of their work time, able to resolve conflict, able to communicate well in written form and produce electronic content.
  • Experience of working with community Open Source projects, technical experience with QA technologies and workflows.
  • Have strong social skills, a good networker and a good technical knowledge of Ubuntu, Power and the Open Source and upstream/downstream development process. Candidates should be process driven, strategically minded and committed. Good public speaking skills a bonus.
  • Candidates should provide evidence of existing experience and work in the Open Source community and suitable references.

How To Apply

To apply, see the job description and apply using the apply for this Position button.

Please don’t send me your resume directly; if you use the system it makes it much easier for me to track all the applications.

Good luck!

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jono

Not long now until the Community Leadership Summit 2011; an annual event designed to bring together community leaders and managers to share best practice, ideas, and solutions. The event is entirely free and takes place from 23rd – 24th July 2011 in Portland, Oregon. The event takes place the weekend immediately before OSCON in the same venue, the Oregon Convention Center.

To join us you need to register, and over 260 people have already registered from a diverse range of organizations including Mozilla, O’Reilly Media, Rackspace, Adobe, Partimus, Red Hat, Google, Portland State University, Open Affairs Television, Apache Software Foundation, Xen, Digium, IBM, Microsoft, CloudCamp, OpenSesame, Oregon State University Open Source Lab, Wikia, Eucalytpus, MySQL, MeeGo, Linaro, Oracle, Linux New Media, BitNami, SUSE, setiQuest, Webtrends, Alfresco, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, Open Source Bridge, OpenStack, Joomla!, Peace Markets, Infinity Curve, MoreThanGiving.com, TYPO3 Association, and many more.


Awesome people having a rocking time and building stonking communities. What’s not to love?

If you are interested in community and building great community for your organization or project, be sure to come and join us. The event is an unconference, and as such the content and topics are driven by the attendees, which has resulted in a rich set of content and great best practice shared across many different disciplines.

I also want to offer my thanks to O’Reilly, Oracle, OpenStack, Ohloh, and Microsoft for helping to support the event!

Interesting In Coming? Simple. Just go and register (it is free) and feel free to share some session ideas that you may want to see or run at CLS11.

Scheduling Sessions

The CLS is an unconference, meaning everyone is welcome to volunteer a session while there. We start with a blank slate and then the audience put sessions up.

Thanks to our generous sponsors, everyone who runs a session will get a free copy of my book, The Art of Community as a thankyou for running a session.

If you are interested in running a session, we would love to see you plan your session with other attendees. To do go to the CLS11 Wiki and share session ideas and lightning talks for the event. Everyone is welcome to share ideas!

Spreading The Word

CLS11 is shaping up to be an awesome event, but we could always do with more awareness so as many people can come along and meet people and learn and share ideas. Some ways in which you can help:

  • Tweet about the event and be sure to use the #cls11 hash tag.
  • Join the Facebook Event for further updates.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

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jono

A few weeks ago I was in the UK and got together with the LugRadio team (Stuart Langridge, Adam Sweet, Chris Procter, and Ade Bradshaw) for a bit of a reunion. Thanks to Tony Whitmore and Laura Cowen from the Ubuntu UK Podcast for recording the show.

In the show we discuss:

  • Social networking: what’s identi.ca’s place in the new world order? Is it free-software-specific, and is that a good thing or not? (1.40)
  • The Devil’s Drink: a quiz with an unpleasant forfeit for getting questions wrong, and which could be construed as a way to make Adam’s life miserable. See the video (Part 1 Part 2) (15.45)
  • LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and Oracle: what does it mean that there are now two competing suites, and where do we go from here? (29.50)
  • In season 2 we talked about viruses on Linux and whether they were a problem. Seven years later, we revisit the situation in the light of the rise of Macintosh viruses and say: are we still right to be smugly safe? (44.10)

You can download it here.

Also, be sure to see the awesome LugRadio documentary that Tony made when the show ended.

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jono


The Ubuntu Community Team. L-R: Jorge Castro, Daniel Holbach, John O’Bacon, Ahmed Kamal, David Planella

Last week I flew to Dublin to meet with the rest of the Canonical Ubuntu Engineering team as well as members of the OEM Team, Linaro, and Launchpad. These events are called Rallies and happen in between Ubuntu Developer Summits. We basically get together for meetings and to work on the current release.

Of course as part of this, my team were there and it was a good opportunity to firm up our Ubuntu 11.10 strategy, sync up on progress, evaluate our metrics, identify additional areas of focus, resolve blockers, and for me to sit down with the guys 1-on-1 to ensure everything is rocking and rolling with their work. The team seems happy, and I had a great time working with them this week; I am blessed to have such a great bunch of guys working on the team.

There were a series of common themes this week in terms of meetings. Ensemble messaging (expect to see a lot more of this over the coming months) and our wider cloud strategy was a key component, Unity growth and participation, bottlenecks and optimization of our community on-ramps, the current state of our developer process, developer.ubuntu.com, and our mentoring campaigns were all primary stories this week.


As well as air guitar accented by Daniel’s euro-drum-and-bass-progressive-trance-core. Wa wa wa wa wa…woop.

Overall we are in great shape for 11.10. While there are definitely areas I want to tighten up and bring additional focus in our work, the 11.10 plan is looking good, most of our metrics are seeing growth, and the burndown is looking like everything is in shape.

It was also wonderful to spend some time with my other team; the Ubuntu Engineering Management team, with Rick Spencer, Robbie Williamson, Pete Graner, David Mandala, and Jason Warner, and great to catch up with Mark Shuttleworth again who joined us for the week.

If a productive, successful week was not enough of a good justification for the trip, it was further bolstered with the Bon Jovi Fan Club staying in the same hotel, and Bon Jovi playing for two nights in Dublin, resulting in comedy gold in the bar in the evenings to the soundtrack of Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hit. To top things off, Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi was on my plane coming home. Expect Richie to guest on the next Severed Fifth record.

Alright, back to work! :-)

Thanks to Graham Binns for the pics!

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jono

For those of you who missed the news, Ensemble is the white-hot new cloud deployment technology from the Ubuntu project. To see it is action, check out this screencast from Ahmed.

While Ensemble is awesome, it is only awesome with formulas to cover all the different deployment options in the archive (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, phpBB etc), and we need your help to write these formulas.

Ensemble is a pure community project and if we work together to make these formulas, we can make the Free Software powered cloud easier and powerful than ever.

How Can I Help?

Easy!

Every week Ahmed is preparing weekly posts that outline what work is going on in the community and highlighting areas where we really need formulas.

These posts all appear on the rocking cloud.ubuntu.com; a portal filled with Ubuntu Cloud news, articles, screencasts, discussion and more. Be sure to add it as a favorite in your browser.

See the latest Ensemble Hit List and get involved!

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jono

With many of you folks who read my blog having an active interest in participating or growing a community of some sort, I am re-printing some portions of my book, The Art of Community on my blog. I would feel guilty about doing this if it weren’t for the fact that the book is entirely free and available for download, although if you can afford to, do buy a copy so you can to support O’Reilly in publishing Creative Commons books.

“Before I speak, I have something important to say.” — Groucho Marx

When I was 11 years old, my friend somehow obtained an LP he had “borrowed without asking” from his brother. He handed me the large disc adorned with cardboard sleeve, all carefully buried in a white plastic bag. As I retrieved said sleeve from said bag, my eyes widened and I skipped a breath: it was the first time I witnessed the sheer brilliance of an Iron Maiden record.

I listened to that LP until it damaged the pin in my record player. I loved the energy, I loved the look (including the spandex…I am not kidding), and I just wanted to be them. Unfortunately I had neither talent nor spandex but merely a bowl haircut and large white socks.

Inspired, I decided I was going to learn to play the guitar. My parents bought me an old acoustic guitar and I parked myself on my bed night after night trying to sound like my rock and roll heroes. Of course, I instead sounded like an incompetent 11-year-old with an acoustic guitar. I sucked, but I stuck at it.

As the years rumbled on, so did my guitar playing. Fortunately my skills were improving and I was reading more and more about music, guitarists, and the bands I loved. While flicking through a copy of Guitarist magazine, I came across a quote that I seem to remember was from Eric Clapton, but I’m not quite sure. Whoever it was, his words really resonated with me (pun intended):

It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.

While I am still making oodles of music today, this quote didn’t really take hold of me until five years later when I started writing. What the little nugget of wisdom infers is that although we may obsess over the obvious components in an art (such as the notes in music), it is often the hidden and underlying messages that offer the most value (such as not playing certain notes).

This is a strong and relevant message for building communities. Community is absolutely about understanding the ether. Our notes are the processes, governance, tools, and methods in which we work together. The notes we don’t play are the subtle nuances in how we pull these notes together and share them with each other. The space between the notes is communication.

He Said, She Said

Communication is essential in community. It is the metaphorical highway that connects the many towns and people in your world. Effective communication brings together your community members in a manner that is free-flowing, productive, and accessible. You may spend hours putting together elegant and sleek processes, infrastructure, and governance, but if your community can’t communicate well with each other, you may as well pack up your bags and go and pursue a career in cabaret on The Love Boat.

Our analogy with highways and towns maps eerily well to how we wire up our community with the communication channels it needs. To ensure our towns can work together, we have two primary tasks on our hands:

  • Create the highways – first, your community needs to build a set of resources to facilitate communication, discussion, and the sharing of ideas and best practices. In many cases these resources are online facilities, such as mailing lists, forums, and discussion channels.
  • Encourage great driving – once your communication channels are in place, they can be used in all manner of ways. There will of course be some good drivers and some bad drivers; some will communicate exceptionally well, and some will irritate and agitate anyone who crosses their path. You want to inspire and encourage a baseline quality of communication. This is not about excluding people who are imperfect writers or speakers, but instead about providing a consistent example of simple approaches to communication that make the community easier to understand and more pleasurable for everyone involved.

In this chapter we are going to cast our sights on both of these topics, discuss a range of mediums for building the free flow of communication, make good use of those facilities, incorporate transparency, and avoid the common problem of a community preferring to speak rather than do.

So, let’s get started by laying down the highways and putting some cars on the road. Now is the time to build our community’s communication backbone….

Building Your Communication Channels

Good communication serves many purposes in a community. It is the foundation of how your members work together, share goals and ambitions, and build social relationships between each other. It is communication that ensures everyone is on the same page, heading in the same direction, marching to the same tune.

Good communication is also a powerful security blanket. When communication breaks down in community, it can cause havoc. Volunteer communities are driven by members with a set of values that reflect themselves and the values of the wider community. These values are important to regularly reinforce in your community: they are the metabolism that fights off the threats and problems that can undermine the goals of the community. When your members feel like they are disconnected from the community, they lose their sense of value.

Communication can be divided into three primary areas:

  • Incoming – receiving and processing feedback and viewpoints for the purpose of improvement. An example of this could include surveys to determine how well a part of your community is working.
  • Outgoing – sharing news, stories, and achievements from the community with the rest of the world. An example of this could be showing off something your community has created.
  • Internal – internal discussions and meetings in the community to discuss objectives, goals, conflict, and other issues. An example of this could include meetings that are designed to decide on how your community will work together toward its goals.

Each of these forms of communication is essential for a strong community. All communities need open and objective feedback. They should all share their achievements and what they have produced. Finally, all communities need to have regular internal discussion and meetings to ensure everyone is interacting smoothly. Great communication should be a goal for the many different parts of your community, as opposed to one specific area. When we get great communication right, community feels vibrant, thriving, and accessible. We are going to cover all three of these topics in this book. Incoming communication will be discussed in Chapter 7, outgoing will be discussed in Chapter 6, and we discuss internal communication here.

Striving for Clarity

As communication is critical to the success of your community, it is stunning how many communities just get it plain wrong. Many are plagued with long-winded, overly complex, and difficult-to-use communication channels, and it seems you need a degree in rocket science to understand how to join these channels. Then, it seems you need to go back to school to get a degree in computational linguistics to then fit into the culture and expectations of these communications channels. Many have an unwritten rule book stapled to the side of the channel, and if you are unfamiliar with its scriptures, the response can be terse, forthright, and sometimes outright rude. This is the last thing you want. Instead, you want to create simple, efficient, welcoming, and enjoyable methods of keeping in touch with other members of the project.

The greatest form of communication is always going to be sitting in a room with a real person, face to face. In this setting you can speak freely, your words flowing as quickly as your brain conjures them up, with body language, gestures, and facial expressions further augmenting the flow of conversation. Any technological form of communication is going to compromise some of these attributes. Of course, many who are socially uncomfortable in face-to-face situations will hail the muting of these additional attributes in conversation as a victory for accessibility and openness.

When laying down the lines of communication for your community, our goal is to strive for clarity. Imagine if you will a world in which every communication is clear, accessible, and well understood by your community. You need to think carefully about the culture in which your community communicates and strive to build a highway and driving style that achieves that culture. You first need to lay the foundations, which can be found in clarity and transparency.

Your members want to be able to hear, read, or experience each communication and understand it straightaway. When clarity is in place, contributions will begin to flow shortly afterward. When confusion, misunderstanding, and opacity set in, your members will either spend their days seeking clarification or move on, confused and frustrated.

Clarity and transparency are also important in attracting new members. For example, most online communities’ communication channels are indexed by search engines. How many times have you typed something into Google and some of the results that appear are mailing lists, forums, or other online discussions that are happening inside a community? Potential new community members will read these discussions and it will affect their desire and willingness to join your community. If the communications are complex, socially fraught, or otherwise suboptimal, potential members may prefer to spend their valuable spare time playing Guitar Hero rather than joining you and your band of merry men and women.

Achieving clarity requires attention to two areas. First, a sensible choice of communication medium is required (mailing list, IRC, forum, etc.). This is relatively straightforward and actually fairly uninteresting. We will make some decisions about this over the following pages.

The second, more complex part is picking communication channels that match the needs of the users while maximizing clarity. Let’s spend some time talking about that.

Choices, Choices

Your community has oodles of communication channels to choose from, each with qualities that make sense in different scenarios and to different people. The goal is to match the right medium to your community and to understand the pros and cons of that medium to help the pros bubble to the surface and keep the cons well away from the kitchen. Picking an appropriate medium is largely about understanding your contributors and their workflow. Each type of contributor will have different preferences. Software developers generally prefer content to be delivered directly to them. They are generally most comfortable with mailing lists and RSS feeds (updated content from websites and online resources) and don’t like to have to refresh a browser to see if new content exists. This is part of why many (typically western) developers don’t get on very well with forums. Some communities have bridged this divide by proving gateways so a mailing list post goes to a forum and vice versa (an example of this is the Banshee project.

Note: Of course, many developers do love forums. The last statement was based upon general experience with developers over a range of projects and development cultures, largely in western countries. If you know developers who love forums, don’t be alarmed: we are all friends here.

Users are (typically) different. Users often love forums for their accessibility and simplicity. The conversation flow is clear, the interface is friendly, and the web browser is a familiar window to that world. Users are used to having to refresh their browser to see if updates exist. They are used to visiting many websites to find content, and they generally feel uncomfortable about technical barriers to these discussions and content. Users just don’t like to jump through hoops, particularly technical hoops that can easily trip them up. Believe it or not, these roles are fairly set in stone. Trying to persuade a developer to use a forum can be like persuading a cat to chase after a stick. A developer may agree to give it a shot, but I can almost guarantee you that it won’t work out. Communication channels are highways of habit: people have their preferences and they generally stick to them.

At the beginning of a community you need to know which roles and personalities are most comfortable with which communication mediums; this is the very first step in building great communication. You can then make informed choices. We will explore some of these common mediums and some notes that can help inform these choices in just a moment. Communication fetishism Another key consideration when building effective communication channels is keeping discussion focused. This is a two-part process in avoiding communication fetishism and also keeping all your eyeballs in one place.

Communication fetishism is particularly prevalent in online and technical communities and points to the problem of new communities wanting to provide every possible communication channel under the sun. They set up mailing lists, forums, IRC channels, Second Life worlds, and more. This is the wrong thing to do. You should instead identify the key roles and personalities in your project and choose mediums that make the most sense to those roles.

Let’s look at an example.

When I set up the Jokosher project, I knew that the primary roles in the community were going to be users and developers. I wanted to ensure that the project had communication channels for technical discussion about the development of the application, but also a place for musicians to discuss Jokosher, share tips, and show off their compositions. I decided to set up a mailing list for developers and a forum for the users. These mediums reflected the respective developer and user roles well. The only other medium I set up was a #jokosher IRC channel for real-time discussion and meetings for the developers. Although the channel exists, we never point regular users to that channel; the forum is far more appropriate.

The second part of the process is “keeping all your eyeballs in one place.” One of the mistakes a lot of new communities make is to fragment individual communication mediums too heavily. Let’s look at another example.

When we started LugRadio, I wanted us to provide a place for listeners to talk about the show and the topics in each episode. Forums were the best choice, so I set them up. In most discussion forums you can have a number of subforums. As an example, if you had a software project, you could have subforums for General Discussion, Development, Documentation, etc. When I set up the LugRadio forums I created three subforums: General Discussion, Ideas for the Show, and Mirrors. Each subforum had a clear purpose for discussion. In contrast to many other forums, we had a tiny number of subforums. Many new forums have 10 or more subforums, and we had 3. This was deliberate. When you set up a new community, you want to generate discussion quickly. You want to initiate the discussion but encourage and inspire others to participate and get involved. If you have a forum with too many subforums, you will fragment the discussion: you will get many tiny bits of discussion across the subforums, and little consistency. Keep the discussion in just a few places, and conversation will flow.

This happens because people waste time choosing the right forum instead of just posting. What is worse, some get confused and just don’t post at all. Discussion gets going faster when you have fewer choices.

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jono

Many moons ago, when computers were made out of oak and beige slacks, I recorded a heavy metal version of the Free Software Song that Richard Stallman cobbled together. When I recorded this song I didnt really have the right equipment to record a song, and consequently it sounded a bit rubbish.

Richard and I catch-up over email every so often and while he acknowledged the existence of the song, he didn’t really express whether he liked it. Maybe it wasn’t his style.


“No no, I only enjoy Death Metal and Brutal Death Metal”.

For a while now I have wanted to record a new version of the song, so one night this week I knocked together a new version and arrangement. First, some caveats:

  • I only spent about 20 minutes writing this; this is no Bohemian Rhapsody.
  • I played all instruments and recorded all the vocals myself.
  • It was recorded in an evening. This was no huge production, no huge recording, and no week-long mix.
  • This is just a bit of fun to throw a new spin on the song.

Alright, enough excuses, download it below:

Also, for the fun of it (and for you Kareoke and podcast YouTube video fans), here is the song without the vocals:

I would love to see some comedy Kareoke videos and mixes on YouTube from the instrumental cut. Could be fun. :-)

This song is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike so feel free to share it, remix it, even sell it, just provide attribution to me and this blog entry first.

Flame away!

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jono

Not long now until the Community Leadership Summit 2011; an annual event designed to bring together community leaders and managers to share best practice, ideas, and solutions. The event is entirely free and takes place from 23rd – 24th July 2011 in Portland, Oregon. The event takes place the weekend immediately before OSCON in the same venue, the Oregon Convention Center.

To join us you need to register, and over 180 people have already registered from a diverse range of organizations including Mozilla, O’Reilly Media, Rackspace, Adobe, Partimus, Red Hat, Google, Portland State University, Open Affairs Television, Apache Software Foundation, Xen, Digium, IBM, Microsoft, CloudCamp, OpenSesame, Oregon State University Open Source Lab, Wikia, Eucalytpus, MySQL, MeeGo, Linaro, Oracle, Linux New Media, BitNami, SUSE, setiQuest, Webtrends, Alfresco, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, Open Source Bridge, OpenStack, Joomla!, Peace Markets, Infinity Curve, MoreThanGiving.com, TYPO3 Association, and many more.


Awesome people having a rocking time and building stonking communities. What’s not to love?

If you are interested in community and building great community for your organization or project, be sure to come and join us. The event is an unconference, and as such the content and topics are driven by the attendees, which has resulted in a rich set of content and great best practice shared across many different disciplines.

I also want to offer my thanks to O’Reilly, Oracle, Ohloh, and Microsoft for helping to support the event!

Interesting In Coming?

Simple. Just go and register (it is free) and feel free to share some session ideas that you may want to see or run at CLS11.

If You Are Coming

If you are coming to the Community Leadership Summit 2011 be sure to do a few things:

I look forward to seeing you all there!

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jono

With many of you folks who read my blog having an active interest in participating or growing a community of some sort, I am going to re-print some portions of my book, The Art of Community on my blog. I would feel guilty about doing this if it weren’t for the fact that the book is entirely free and available for download, although if you can afford to, do buy a copy so you can to support O’Reilly in publishing Creative Commons books.

This fragment is right at the beginning of chapter one, and starts covering some of the underlying social elements about how community works. The book then delves into the practical elements of growing community later.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” — Vincent Van Gogh

As my watch ticked over to 8pm, I knew I was in trouble. First of all, I was late, and not fashionably late, either. In fact, at the time, I was about as unfashionable as you could get for someone staring 18 down the barrel. Long hair, Iron Maiden t-shirt, baggy camouflage trousers, and a thumping-great leather jacket. I left my parents’ house and got into my small van, adorned with oversized speakers and a tree-shaped air freshener. It was time to roll. “Rolling” was optimistic. Instead, I sat bumper-to-bumper in traffic with half of Southern England, all joined in curiosity about whether or not that film with Michael Douglas could become a reality on this cold English day.

This wasn’t helping my nerves. As a fairly outgoing, angsty teen, nerves were not usually my bag, but tonight, I was dining on them.

You see, tonight was different. Tonight I was doing something unusual, something that had seemed like a great idea…when I wasn’t running 30 minutes late, hammering my way down the motorway, with my Number of the Beast cassette ritualistically sacrificed to the gods of hi-fi just for good measure.

Thankfully, the world’s longest mechanical conga line decided to crank it up a notch. Before I knew it, I found myself on a street I had never been to, in a city I had never been to, about to head into a room full of people I had never met before, all united by one simple symbol….

A penguin.

An hour before, that penguin had seemed so inviting and friendly. It was a symbol that encompassed everything about the movement it represented, a movement that came together in spirit and mind to build a system that drove a new generation of technology and freedom…a movement that celebrated this drive by forming user groups in unknown streets, in unknown cities, and with unknown people.

But as I stood there, doorbell already pressed, none of that was even close to my conscious thoughts. Instead, the brain of one Jonathan E J Bacon was battening down the hatches, preparing for ultimate, unparalleled discomfort as I walked into a place I both did and didn’t want to be at the same time.

Then, the door opened and a rather nice chap called Neil welcomed me into his home.

Community is a funny beast. Most people—the kind who watch talent shows on television and occasionally dip bread in oil in an expensive restaurant—don’t understand people like Neil. Why on earth would this guy decide to open his home, free of charge, to a collection of strangers who met on the Internet? Why would he want to spend an evening drinking tea and making jokes about something called “Emacs”? And why would he fund online resources like fliers, a mailing list, and a website from his own pocket; start a book-lending service for the group—and even shell out for tea and biscuits?

One person who really didn’t seem to understand was Neil’s wife. Somewhat bemused, and referring to us as his “Internet friends,” Neil’s significant other decided tonight was the night for visiting a long-lost (or possibly ignored) relative, rather than sticking around and faking interest.

Collaboration-Driven Ethos

What intrigued me when I first walked into Neil’s living room was the concept of a collaboration-driven ethos, although at the time I had no idea what those words meant. What that experience taught, and what that evening inspired in me, was an excitement about what is possible when you get a group of people together who share a common ethos and a commitment to furthering it.

In my world, that ethos has thus far been Free Culture, Free Software, digital rights, and breaking down the digital divide, but it can be as critical as creating world peace or as fanciful as sharing photos of kittens playing guitars on the Internet. The importance of community is not in the crusade, but in how you unify people to march forward together, side by side. At its heart, The Art of Community is a distilled set of approaches and thoughts about how to build community. The book is a collection of experiences, observations, and thoughts from my career and elsewhere. My aim is to bring this grab bag of concepts and curiosities together into one consistent text.

However, it is important that we keep the book in perspective in the wider scheme of your growth as a community leader and organizer. You should mentally frame the content here as a foundation for your own ideas, but remember that practical experience is the real magic that we want to create, with theory merely the glittery jacket and spinning bow tie. Community is fundamentally a soft science. Compare it with, for example, programming. If you want to write a computer software application, you write it in a programming language. These synthetic languages are vessels of logic. They live and breathe in a world where the answer to a question is either yes or no ; there is no maybe. In a world where maybe does not exist, you can plan ahead for an answer. With community, the importance and diversity of the question is equally essential.

But Neil is not unusual. At least, not in the Open Source, Free Software, Libre, and Free Culture world. There are many Neils all over the globe, organizing groups, setting up mailing lists, scheduling meetings, and coming together to share an ethos : the combined set of beliefs, customs, and sentiment that flows between like-minded people. In the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen Free Culture in technology, art, and media explode into our consciousnesses. The entire machine is driven by people like Neil: people who volunteer themselves to the concepts of community and togetherness wrapped around such an ethos.

There are Neils outside the Free Culture world, too. They’re in church groups, helping the poor and unfortunate; in Neighborhood Watch and Meals on Wheels campaigns, reaching out to those around them; and in public art installations, political groups, and craft fairs. They volunteer, perform, and share their opinions and creativity on anything from aerobics to knitting to yoga.

The Essence of Community

On February 26, 2004, three friends and I released the first episode of a new audio show called LugRadio. Although LugRadio will be featured extensively in this book as a source of stories, all you really need to know about it right now is that (a) it was a loose and fun audio show (a podcast) about open source and free culture, (b) on that day it was entirely new, and (c) we had absolutely no idea what on earth we were doing. Radio personalities across the world were not exactly shaking in their boots.

Recorded in a very small room that I called a studio, but was actually a bedroom filled with secondhand recording equipment, LugRadio involved my three compadres and me opining into four precariously balanced microphones that fed into a computer. Episode 1 was around half an hour long, composed of bad jokes and a book review, and totally unpolished. At the time, it was just new and different. (Little did we know that four years later we would wrap up the show having achieved over two million downloads.) Anyway, enough of the self-congratulatory back-patting and back to the story….

With the show out, we did what many of us in the open source world do—we set up forums, wikis, and channels, and tried to get people together around our new project. The forums went online first, and people started joining.

The 22nd member was a guy called Ben Thorp, known as mrben on the forums. An Englishman living in Scotland, mrben was an open source enthusiast who stumbled onto the forums, listened to the show, and liked what he heard. For the four years that LugRadio lasted, mrben was there every single day: in total contributing over 3,000 posts; involving himself in the chat channel, the wiki, and the organization of the live events; running an episode download mirror; and much more. mrben was there every step of the way, loving every second of it.

The first question is—why? Why does a 30-something Engli-Scot decide to immerse himself so deeply in a group of people he has never met before? What is it that makes him want to spend time away from his friends and family to contribute to a radio show performed by four strangers in a different country? Why would he want to contribute to something with seemingly no financial, career, or other conventional benefit to him? A cynic could argue that mrben is some kind of socially challenged nerd who can only communicate with other similarly socially inept nerds. Conventional wisdom sometimes argues that anyone who contributes their time freely to something that could not benefit them financially is weird. This was clearly not the case with Ben. He had a job, a wife, and a child. He went to church regularly. When I had the pleasure of socializing with him, I found him a fun, smart, and entertaining part of the group. In fact, at two of the live events, he was a guest in my home. Social deviation was clearly not the answer, or if it was, he hid it well. The reason why Ben was so involved in LugRadio, why Neil ran the Linux User Group meeting, and why thousands of other community members around the world get together, comes down to one simple word: belonging.

By definition, a community is a collection of people (or animals) who interact together in the same environment. Community exists everywhere in nature. From people to penguins, from monkeys to meerkats, the vast majority of organisms exhibit some form of collective grouping. Grouping, however, is a touch simplistic as a means to describe community. It is not merely the group that generates community, but the interactions within it. These interactions, and the feeling of belonging that they produce, are generated from a distinctive kind of economy: a social economy.

Building Belonging into the Social Economy

At this point in our journey, it is clear that belonging is our goal. It is that nine-letter word that you should write out in large letters and stick on your office wall. It is that word that should be at the forefront of your inspiration behind building strong community. If there is no belonging, there is no community.

From the outset, though, belonging is an abstract concept. We all seemingly understand it, but many of us struggle to describe it in words. I identify belonging pragmatically: as the positive outcome of a positive social economy. In the same way that we judge a strong financial economy by prosperity, wealth, and a quality standard of living, belonging is the reward of a strong social economy.

An economy is a set of shared concepts and processes that grow and change in an effort to generate a form of capital. In a financial economy, participants put goods and services on the market to generate financial capital. The processes and techniques they use include measuring sales, strategic marketing, enabling ease of access, and so forth. A social economy is the same thing—but we are the product, and the capital is respect and trust. The processes and techniques here are different—open communications mediums, easy access to tools, etc.—but the basic principles are the same.

Social capital is known by us all, but we know it by many different words: kudos, respect, goodwill, trust, celebrity, influence, supremacy, greatness, and leverage, to name a few. The first known use of the term “social capital” (referred to in Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community [Simon & Schuster]) was by L. J. Hanifan, a school supervisor in rural Virginia. Hanifan described social capital as “those tangible substances [that] count for most in the daily lives of people: namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit….“.

Social capital is the collective family of positive interactions between two or more people. When you affect someone positively, it builds your social capital. This could include being generous, helping someone, sympathizing over a problem, or something else. Hanifan identifies the opportunity behind social capital:

The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself…. If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors.

The meat in Hanifan’s description is the opportunity for social capital to “bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community.” In essence, if a member of your community has a positive approach to another member, her social capital grows, which has a positive impact on that person and the community as a whole. It all sounds a lot like karma, and it is.

Of course, capital, whether monetary or social, is not the end game. People don’t make money for the purposes of just having money: they make money because it allows them to do other things.

This is an important aspect of understanding where an economy starts and ends. Most folks riding the financial economy are not purely greedy numbers freaks who just want a big pot of money; most people who work with social capital are not merely air-kissing, hand-wavey, superficial animals who simply want to name-drop and be name-dropped in the interests of social acceptance. Of course, the greedy and the socially obsessed do exist, but it is important not to use them as a basis for judgment. The economy is not flawed; those people are flawed.

A final point: for an economy to work, every participant needs to believe in the economy. Belief is a critical component in how any group of people or animals functions. This can be belief in God, belief in values, or belief in a new future. Whatever the core belief is, the economy and the community can be successful only if everyone has faith in it.

So let’s have a quick recap:

  • A sense of belonging is what keeps people in communities. This belonging is the goal of community building. The hallmark of a strong community is when its members feel that they belong.
  • Belonging is the measure of a strong social economy. This economy’s currency is not the money that you find in your wallet or down the back of your couch, but is social capital.
  • For an economy and community to be successful, the participants need to believe in it. If no one believes in the community that brings them together, it fails.
  • Like any other economy, a social economy is a collection of processes that describe how something works and is shared between those who participate.
  • These processes, and the generation of social capital, which in turn generates belonging, needs to be effectively communicated.

So far, we have talked extensively about our goals (belonging), the medium of exchange (social capital), and what is at the heart of an economy (processes). We now need to focus on the final component that binds each of these concepts together: communication.

In many ways, an economy is like a flowing river: it never stops, and the flow is critical to its success. Economies never stand still. Every day they change, adjusting to stimuli in the world that affects them. At the heart of how this movement works is communication.

The Basis of Communication

Peter Bloch, a consultant on learning, makes an important foundational observation about communication in a social economy: “community is fundamentally an interdependent human system given form by the conversation it holds with itself.” When I first heard that quote, I realized that the mechanism behind communication in a community is stories. Stories are a medium in which we keep the river flowing. They are the vessels in which we not only express ideas (“I was taking the subway to work one day, and I saw this lady on there reading the paper, and it made me think xyz”), but also how we learn from past experiences (“There was one time when I saw David do xyz and I knew I had to adjust how I myself handle those situations in the future”). Furthermore, when the characters in the stories are people in a community, the stories are self-referencing and give the community a sense of reporting. Communities really feel like communities when there is a news wire, be it formalized or through the grapevine.

Not all stories are cut from the same cloth, though. Communities tend to exchange two very different kinds of story: tales and fables.

Tales are told for entertainment value and to share experiences. They are individual units of experience that are shared between people, and their primary value is in communicating a given person’s experience and adding to the listener’s repertoire of stories and experiences.

Fables are different. Fables are stories designed to illustrate an underlying message. The vast majority of us are exposed to fables as children, and these stories are passed down from generation to generation, each one extolling a moral message to the youth of the day.

Let us now take a step back to our earlier story about mrben joining the LugRadio community. This story was itself a tale that shared an experience that encased many of the concepts we have explored.

When mrben joined the LugRadio community, he identified with the ethos of the show. Then he began to engage with stories: first hearing them on the show itself, then getting them from the community, and finally sharing them himself. As mrben contributed more and more, his social capital started to rise—the community had a lot of respect for him and his opinions. He, in turn, had belief in the community and his own abilities. This objectivity in his storytelling and his general demeanor all contributed to his social capital. As he continued to be a part of the community, his sense of belonging developed. At this point, mrben was living and breathing LugRadio, its community, and its ethos.

The result of this process is a community member with a strong sense of loyalty. Some of the greatest examples of belonging and commitment to an ethos occur when the community is threatened. An interesting example of this was when we released Season 5, Episode 3 of the show and received a rather angry statement from a listener who was clearly agitated at the level of expertise on the show and the generally positive attitude toward Ubuntu (which all of the presenters expressed):

Nowadays I mostly stick to Dave Yates at lottalinuxlinks who is a genuine linux obsessive, Chess Griffin at linuxreality who maybe does stuff for noobs but is genuinely knowledgeable about Linux, and the guys at the linuxlinktechshow because they work with Linux and know what the f**k they’re talking about.

mrben, who had spent a few years in the community by then, responded to the criticism using stories to make his point:

I think you’ll find that all of the presenters on LugRadio work with Linux on a daily basis. Whether or not they know wtf they’re talking about is, of course, a matter of opinion. But the addition of Chris and Adam to the team, both of whom (IIRC) are professional Linux sysadmins, is an influx of knowledge on that side of things. Jono has a long history of working with Open Source and Linux within the community (bingo!) even if his technical knowledge is not at the same level. Aq is a Free software zealot, but is also experienced in web development and usability. I still think it’s a good mix, personally.

The Ubuntu thing is an issue, admittedly. But then, LugRadio still reflects my experience of LUGs—the majority of people are talking about Ubuntu. It has become the mainstream desktop distro, and the benchmark that most people mark other distros against. But, IMHO, the recent shows haven’t shown an overly Ubuntu slant. Look at this show—you’ve got an interview with Quim Gil, which is about Maemo, not Ubuntu, the finger of God, which is plain silliness, the software vendors and security issue, which applies across the board, and packaging, which was fairly Ubuntu specific, but could easily relate across to other Debian-based distros, and, as Chris said, he would’ve talked about RPM if it had been possible.

The “Ubuntu slant” is more about personal usage and experience, rather than a change in the show’s direction (which was unashamedly Debian slanted before Ubuntu came out….)

In his three-paragraph response, mrben referred to 12 distinctive points and facts, citing many from existing online material. His response not only sought to convince the original poster of his error, but to demonstrate to the community that the poster was wrong, thus providing a sense of security. By using objective facts, he also spoke with the voice of the community, not just his own opinion. mrben’s response was driven by belief in the community, formed by familiarity with stories, and legitimized by a wealth of social capital. Subtle, yet inspiring.

Although the underlying social economy infrastructure in community is compelling, it is important to remember that it is merely a structure designed to deliver a far more exhilarating prospect—opportunity. And with that, let’s spin back in time….

Unwrapping Opportunity

When I first learned about Linux, I was running a small bookshop in Milton Keynes, in Southern England, and living at home, having taken a year off before starting university. When Simon, the eldest of my two siblings, stayed in our house for a few weeks on his return from the U.S., we frequently spent the evenings talking about computers and stand-up comedy. On one of those evenings, while I was hurling abuse at my computer, Simon expressed surprise that I used a “Mickey Mouse Operating System.” I was surprised myself. As far as I knew, Windows—Windows 98, at that—was all that existed. Simon told me about something called “Linux,” which I could get for free, from the back of a book.

Armed with my 10% discount, I eagerly snagged a copy of Slackware Linux Unleashed, and Simon set to installing Slackware 96 on my desktop computer. Two weeks later, having used guile, cunning, and a soldering iron (literally), and maintaining the alignment of the planets, I actually got the thing to boot. As I gazed eagerly at the screen, ready to experience the next generation of operating system technology, I was confronted with:

darkstar login:

It was not exactly Minority Report.

Simon, being the kind and sharing brother he was, wrote the username and password down on a piece of paper, stuck it to my screen, and promptly sodded off. The following day, he moved out. I was left with a login prompt, some nerves, and absolutely no idea of what to do.

So I cracked open the book, threw on a Testament album, and started reading. It was then that I read about the Free Software community: a worldwide collection of enthusiasts all connected by the Internet, sharing an ethos that software should be free while building a replacement to the Microsoft behemoth that frustrated so many. Piece by piece, this global army provided software alternatives, many of which improved on their commercial counterparts. Back then, Linux was in the dark ages of computing. It was all command-line-driven, devices rarely worked, and to do anything you needed to compile code. Still, this concept of a worldwide community sharing code absolutely fascinated me. I first smelled the sweet aroma of opportunity.

Although the reality of open source in 1998 was primitive, the potential within the community is what inspired me to stick with it. To be honest, I was pretty perturbed by the sheer complexity of it all. In those days it was insanely complicated to get a system up and running, and the innards of the operating system were on display for all to see. (These days, as Uncyclopedia so eloquently puts it, “Linux distros are so idiot-proof that you can put their install CDs into the floppy drive upside-down and it will still work” [slightly edited for a family audience].) Back then, we all knew that life with Linux was a lot harder than it needed to be, but the strong sense of underlying opportunity helped spark the imagination to put up with that complexity for the potential of a better future.

There is an important connection here in which imagination and opportunity are close friends. Imagination offers the mind a vision of how things could be. If there is a viable path toward this future, we build a sense of opportunity. If there is no viable path, we enter the world of fantasy.

Linux, and the possibility of it becoming a prominent operating system, was by no means a fantasy. The rails were on the ground. The community just needed freely available tools and communication channels to gather the materials, build the train, and put it on the track. In the case of Linux, this manifested in three primary areas:

  • Open communication – With an open community and publicly visible and accessible communication channels, anyone can join the community and meet hundreds of thousands of other community members just like them.
  • Licensing of work – Every contribution to the Linux community is licensed in such a way that it benefits the entire community. The fair licensing of all contributions adds a strong sense of confidence to the security of the community.
  • Open tools – Anyone with an Internet connection and a computer can contribute. All of the development tools and documentation are entirely free and open to access. This provides a low barrier to entry, and lets new users play with the technology.

Although these elements were essential at the birth of Linux, it is not open communication, licensing, and tools that generate opportunity. These elements merely made it possible to build a world-class Free Software operating system. Opportunity is born in a sense of belief. Belief is a critically important human function. Whether your belief is in an all-creating god, in a family member’s ability to achieve something for herself, in a better future in your neighborhood, or in the reliability of a restaurant guide, belief is what gives us hope for the world around us. Belief can also make human beings surprisingly resilient in intensely difficult and uncomfortable situations.

One example of this is an incident that occurred a few years back. Every year, as part of LugRadio we host a face-to-face get-together called LugRadio Live (http://www.lugradio.org/ live/ ), which is a very different style of conference. We have worked hard to deliberately make the conference fundamentally a community event. Equality between commercial vendors and the community is a key attribute, and we deliberately set a low cover charge to keep it accessible. In addition to this, we have worked to produce a very informal and inclusive atmosphere, inspired largely by music events. (Many referred to LugRadio Live as a “rock conference.”)

LugRadio Live has carved out something of a reputation for being different, and each of its participants has been very keen about advocating it and its formula. There was a strong sense of belief in the event—an event that was distinctively community-oriented and -driven, open to participation, and available to all.

With LugRadio Live scheduled for July 22–23, 2006, everything was going to plan. The speakers and exhibitors were sourced, the schedule was in place, the social events were arranged, and the crew and community were ready. Everything was great until the evening of July 18, when I received news of an impending rail strike. The strike was planned for the full weekend of the event, with every rail link going down. The country would be completely inaccessible by train.

I have never experienced such anger and frustration. For about an hour, I transformed into an ultra-conservative right-wing anti-union crazy, and I stomped around the house, venting in the direction of my computer screen. We had spent six months of feverish planning and hard work, and this union decided that their problems were more important than anyone else’s, and it was entirely reasonable to take the country down. I, for one, was not a happy bunny. But, as my fellow organizers and I seethed on the phone, the community was already doing its thing. Forum threads appeared instantly to keep people up-to-date on the strike, blog entries were drafted, a nationwide car-sharing scheme kicked into play, and speakers and exhibitors were notified. While all of this was going on, I was on the phone tearing a strip out of both the union and the rail organization for their decision. Fortunately, the strike was called off a few days later.

What stunned me was just how mobilized the LugRadio community was. The community saw a threat to something they felt invested in, and reacted as a team to cover all the bases and try to limit the damage. Without any prodding from us, they made things happen. In a time of such panic and frustration, that community wrapped around each of the organizers like a comfort blanket. It was one of the most inspiring examples I have ever seen of a community coming together, driven by a belief in something we all shared.

Where belief gets exciting is when it is combined with that friend of ours from a few pages back: opportunity. Belief in a shared crusade—and a sense that the tools and opportunities are available to achieve that goal—is an intensely liberating feeling. People get a sense that they have control over their own destiny.

An example of this was the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. Building up to his victory, the U.S. was facing difficult times. Led by a president who many lacked faith in and faced with a global economic crisis and a complex set of foreign affairs, the U.S. had a lot to deal with, including a growing sense of cynicism among its people. Many Americans had lost faith in politics and pride in their country. As Barack Obama stepped up as a candidate for the presidential election, he instilled a sense of belief and opportunity that inspired his followers.

When people feel that they can achieve a dream, it builds an incredible sense of liberation and a willingness to step up to the plate. People become very committed, very quickly. We saw this in droves throughout the presidential election. Thousands of people across the country took to the streets to tell the world about Obama.

Around that time I had kissed chilly England goodbye and relocated to sunny California. The Bay Area was a particularly fascinating place to be—people setting up tables, selling stickers, knocking on doors, and making phone calls. It seemed that one in three people on the street was wearing an Obama t-shirt.

Whether Obama was the right man for the job is the topic of a thousand other books, but he had the ability to define belief, opportunity, and liberation in a language that a nation could understand. His inspiration—and his army of passionate Obamaniacs—sealed his place in the Oval Office. This in itself was an incredible exercise in building, energizing, and inspiring community, and regardless of your political inclination, it was a stunning feat.

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jono

In the interests of transparency, at the beginning of each cycle I tend to summarize my team at Canonical’s plans for the forthcoming six month period of work. This is the result of an extensive process of assessing requirements, gathering needs, discussing topics at UDS, fleshing out actions, documenting blueprints, and determining resource availability. Part of the goal of this process is to ensure the team (Daniel Holbach, Jorge Castro, David Planella, and Ahmed Kamal) knows exactly what to do, but to also clearly communicate to other entities (such as senior management and the community) what the team is seeking to accomplish.

Remember also, folks, that I am looking to hire a QA community coordinator and will be fleshing out those goals and responsibilities too. If you have QA and community growth experience, check it out!

The practical output of this process is a set of blueprints, each of which contain a set of actions assigned to different people. Anyone and everyone is welcome to subscribe to the blueprints that interest them and to receive emails when those actions are completed, postponed, or marked as in-progress. This provides a great level of transparency for the community to keep an eye on what is going on in their areas of interest. Finally, I track this work and it’s continual completion via our burndown chart. This provides me as a manager with a useful tool for ensuring we make consistant and clear progress to drive to delivery.


Of course, part of my responsibility as Community Team Manager is also to be this guy sometimes.

So, as usual, I am going to list each of these approved blueprints. Before I get to this though, I also want to mention a few other activities that we will be working on as a team that don’t fit into the blueprints. This includes:

  • the mentoring campaign I blogged about the other day to build more scalable community growth.
  • Ubuntu Open Week
  • Ubuntu Developer Week
  • Ubuntu App Developer Week
  • Ubuntu Global Jam
  • Ubuntu Cloud Days
  • Release Parties
  • Organizing the next Ubuntu Developer Summit to take place in Orlando, Florida.
  • Various day to day needs in the community, resolving bottlenecks and other bits and pieces.
  • I am also really keen ratchet the LoCo Teams up to the next level to help encourage more advocacy work and making loco.ubuntu.com “tab-worthy”. See this blog post and this blueprint for more details.

So, onto the blueprints…

(you can see who on the team is driving which blueprint by the name in brackets)

Developers

In this cycle we want to refocus on getting more developers involved in Ubuntu, and Daniel Holbach will be leading much of this work. This also fits in to the more scalable mentoring strategy I blogged about recently.

Processes

In the Natty cycle we identified a set of common bottlenecks that Ubuntu Developers face as they contribute to Ubuntu. We are going to work to eliminate as many of these bottlenecks as possible throughout the 11.10 cycle.

Translations

As David Planella diversifies and expands his responsibilities he is going to be working to help deliver a more sustainable translations community.

App Developers

Our continued focus on encouraging and enabling application developers will continue in this cycle.

Cloud

Ahmed Kamal will be continuing his Ubuntu Cloud community growth and spending a lot of time encouraging and growing a community to build around Ensemble.

A key focus in this cycle is to drive traffic, participation and discussion to cloud.ubuntu.com as a primary source of cloud information and community discussion. Ahmed will be blogging more about this soon.

Upstreams / Downstreams

Jorge Castro will continue to help grow a sustainable Unity and Ayatana community. We got off to a great start in the Natty cycle, and I look forward to seeing continued growth in the Oneiric cycle.

To be clear, I am only listing here the blueprints that my team at Canonical are working on; there are course many other wonderful blueprints that are being worked on by other teams and the community.

It is going to be an exciting cycle!

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jono

I am pleased to announce that I am looking to hire a new member for my team (the Community Team) here at Canonical. I am looking for a bright, motivated, and experienced person to build, maintain and develop a cohesive, productive and effective Ubuntu QA community.

This role will be full-time working at Canonical, you will be working from home with regular travel to various events (such as UDS and team sprints), and you will be working in a fast-paced, productive, and energetic environment. This is a really exciting role that is designed to bring huge value to the Ubuntu community in the area of quality by refining, optimizing, and growing our QA community participation.

Key responsibilities and accountabilities:

  • Build and maintain a strong, consistent, and consolidated QA community and to act as a point of reference for this community in continuing its growth and opportunities, and resolving issues.
  • Maintain a set of online resources, produce content for those resources and build community participation to generate and optimize content for and from the community.
  • Develop and refine better working practises to ease and improve how community members and stakeholders interact with the Ubuntu QA team.
  • Liaise with the Canonical Ubuntu Platform Team to better align the direction of the Ubuntu QA community with internal QA needs and workflow.
  • Regularly acquire and evaluate feedback from the community and our partners to help improve Ubuntu QA.
  • Be responsive and sensitive to the concerns, ambitions and direction of the community, our upstreams and business units inside Canonical.

Required skills and experience

  • Strong QA skills and experience, strong networking and social networking skills, good relationship building abilities, process driven, able to manage multiple work streams, good prioritisation, independent, willing to travel potentially 25% of their work time, able to resolve conflict, able to communicate well in written form and produce electronic content.
  • Experience of working with community Open Source projects, technical experience with QA technologies and workflows.
  • Have strong social skills, a good networker and a good technical knowledge of Ubuntu, Power and the Open Source and upstream/downstream development process. Candidates should be process driven, strategically minded and committed. Good public speaking skills a bonus.
  • Candidates should provide evidence of existing experience and work in the Open Source community and suitable references.

How To Apply

To apply, see the job description and apply using the apply for this Position button.

Please don’t send me your resume directly; if you use the system it makes it much easier for me to track all the applications.

Good luck!

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jono

Today we released Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, and you can find out more about it and download it here.

This has been a ferociously busy cycle and with it we set out with significant, audacious goals. We shipped a new shell, a new media player, significant improvements to Ubuntu One, and we worked hard to deliver all this change and opportunity in a predictable, stable and slick product. I am really proud of the result.

In this release we had over 320 developers contribute to it from both Canonical and the community, a new community of 17 new Unity contributors form, hundreds of translators translate Natty into 43 languages, countless LoCo teams get together for different global events and many other contributions made to documentation, testing, art, design, and more.

In short, out community came together and really delivered.

Thankyou.

Thankyou to everyone who shared their insights and skills to help make Ubuntu better for everyone. It is you all who are helping us to bring Free Software to the world, and I can’t think of a better family to be on this train with.

And now, we celebrate!

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jono

Elizabeth blogged it already, but I thought I would pump it through my loudspeaker too.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday night (28th April at 7.30pm), be sure to head over to the Thirsty Bear (661 Howard Street, San Francisco 94105) to join us for our Ubuntu 11.04 release party. It will be a pretty informal affair – just a get together in a bar/restaurant.

Feel free to just show up, and if you can RSVP here that would be great too.

Oh, and to be 100% clear – everyone is welcome to the party. This is a celebration, and a celebration to welcomes everyone, whether you use Ubuntu or not; if you are not part of the Ubuntu community but would like to meet everyone, you are more than welcome!

Not in the San Francisco Bay Area? No problem, find a release party near you – there are currently 60 events planned!

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jono

I have an idea for something that I think could be a fun little meme. I would like to encourage all of you to join in. All you need is a blog.

Let’s face it, none of us are perfect. We all have areas in which we can be better people and learn ways in which we can do better at what we do. From my experience we get better by being honest in our weaknesses and learn from constructive suggestions from our friends and colleagues. Our communities are a great place to experience this learning…they are filled with a wealth of experience and wisdom…so the meme is:

  1. Blog about three things you feel are your weaknesses and summarize them. Express how you would like to improve.
  2. As a reader, when you see one of these blog entries leave some constructive and encouraging suggestions for how the poster might be able to improve in that area.

The most important thing here is that we should all be nice and friendly in providing our suggestions to help the blogger improve in those areas.

So, to kick things off, here are my three areas in which I feel I have weaknesses:

  1. Cope with all my email better – I have three different email INBOXes; my Ubuntu and Canonical addresses, my personal email address, and my Severed Fifth mail. Without wishing to portray myself as some kind of über-popular member of the glitterati, I get a lot of email. Frankly, more than I can handle. I have put together a fairly comprehensive process for handling email in which I read it, mark it for replying to, have filters for my team and closest colleagues, have calendared appointments for me to process email and more, but it still just keeps piling up. Some INBOXes I prioritize more than others, such as my Ubuntu/Canonical email, but this means the other ones suffer more than they should. I hate replying late to emails, but only have so many hours in the day, and I feel this is an area in which I could do better.
  2. Widen my approach to the community – the Ubuntu community is a pretty huge place with lots of different teams covering lots of different types of contributions. In each release cycle myself and my team focus on a common set of teams. Unfortunately, I get so wrapped in my work with those set of teams that I often end up neglecting other teams. As an example, in Natty I worked with the accessibility team, Ayatana, developer teams, Desktop Experience team, Ubuntu One team, Ubuntu Women and some other teams, but I barely spent any time with the docs team, forums community, LoCo teams, Ubuntu Beginners team, testing teams and many others. If this happens to the same team for a few cyles I can end up going for quite some time without getting to know those communitty teams and what they are doing – I want to be able to spread my around better in a way in which I can still deliver on my commitments, but be less of a stranger to these other teams.
  3. Better multitasker – I am the kind of person who starts to work on something and then I really get into it, and sometimes it is hard to break out of that mindset and multitask. As an example, I will really get into organizing an event or campaign, and throughout this period I will need to do some paperwork for something else. In some cases I will keep putting off the paperwork as I am pre-occupied with the bigger projects I am working on. This results in generally well delivered big projects but then a big pile of non-critical loose ends, and I don’t like having this pile of things left. I think I need to have a better mental capacity to multi-task; not the daily multi-tasking betweek email, IRC, calls, blueprints etc, but between different types of work and tasks.

Of course, I have many more weaknesses, so it took me a while to pick and choose. :-)

Suggestions for improvement welcome, friends!

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jono

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 2 is released and this will be the last development release before we unleash the final official lovable Narwhal into the wild on Thu 28th April 2011.

This means we have two weeks. Two important weeks for you all to download, test and file bugs. Now, I know what some of you are thinking:

Naaa, I think I am just going to wait a few weeks for the final release to come out and then I will install it.

Quash such improper thoughts from your insightful minds and install the beta, test it and file bugs.

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jono

Recently a friend of mine asked me to contribute to a free book that collates together the experiences of various people involved in Open Source. She asked me to write about what I would tell myself ‘if I knew what I know today’. I was pretty intrigued by this, so was happy to take part, and I asked if I could re-print my contribution here. She was happy with that, so here it is. It is quite long (because it is for a book), but it might be of interest, particularly for those of you interested in community management. Oh, and these are my views, and not the views of my employer, Canonical.

I first learned of Linux and Open Source back in 1998. While the technology was gnarly and the effort required to get a smooth running system was significant, the concept of this global collaborative community transfixed me. Back then I had no knowledge, limited technical skills, and zits.

As an angsty teenager complete with long hair and Iron Maiden t-shirt, my path was really already mapped out for me in the most traditional sense; I would go to school, then college, then university, and then a job.

Fourteen years later, the path I actually took was by no means traditional, and that intrinsic fascination with community has taken me around the world and thrown me into some engrossing challenges. It is interesting to sit back and reflect on this period of time. Well, it might be interesting for me…you might want to skip to the next chapter… :-)

Still with me? OK, let’s roll.

Science vs. Art

I have always believed that community management is less of a science and more of an art. I define science as exploring methods of reproducing phenomena through clearly understood and definitive steps. In the science world if you know the theory and recipe for an outcome, you can often reproduce that outcome like anyone else.

Art is different. There is no recipe for producing an incredible song, for creating an amazing painting, or sculpting a beautiful statue. Similarly, there is not really any reproducible set of steps for creating a thriving community. Sure, there are tricks and techniques for achieving components of success, but the same happens for other art-forms; we can all learn the notes and chords on a guitar, it doesn’t mean you are going to write the next Bohemian Rhapsody. The formula that generates Bohemian Rhapsody is one part learned skill and one part magic.


Sometimes magic plays a cruel joke on us.

Now, I am not suggesting that community management is this frustratingly hip and introverted artform that only the blessed few with such talents can achieve. What I am instead lamenting is that there is no playbook for how to create a wonderful and inspiring community; it is still one part learned skill and one part magic, but the magic part is not divinely anointed to you by the gods, but instead obtained by trying new things, being receptive to feedback, and getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Rather frustratingly, this means that there is no single recipe to follow for the magic, but there is still an opportunity to share the learned skills, as I have sought to do with The Art of Community and the annual Community Leadership Summit.

Before I get started reflecting, and for those of you who have not bored yourself into oblivion by following my career, I will summarize the communities I have worked with so we can define the context. In a nutshell, I started out in my hairier days by producing one of the UK’s first Linux community websites called Linux UK and got involved in the Linux User Group (LUG) community. I went on to create my own LUG in Wolverhampton in the UK and founded the Infopoint project to encourage LUGs to advocate Linux at computer fairs across the UK. I then went on to contribute to the KDE community, founded the KDE::Enterprise site, got the KDE Usability Study going, and contributed to a few little apps here and there. I then founded the PHP West Midlands user group and started also getting interested in GNOME. I wrote a few apps (GNOME iRiver, XAMPP Control Panel, Lernid, Acire) and also co-designed and wrote some code for a new simplified audio app called Jokosher. Around this time I co-founded the LugRadio podcast which would run for four years with over 2million downloads and spawning five live events in the UK and USA. At this time I also started work as an Open Source consultant at the government-funded OpenAdvantage where I really got a chance to cut my teeth in community and working with organizations across the West Midlands to help them to move to Open Source. After a few years at OpenAdvantage I moved on to join Canonical as the Ubuntu community manager and developed a team of four and together we are involved in a wide variety of projects in Ubuntu and Canonical.

Still with me?

Wow, you are persistent. Or bored. Probably bored. There will be an exam at the end; that’ll learn you… :-)

Reflecting

So this brings me to the focus of this piece – the curios question of if I knew what I did today, what would I tell myself? Over the course of my career so far I believe that everything I have learned can be boiled into two broad buckets:

  • Practical – the tips and tricks of the trade; e.g. approaches to communication mediums, using technology in different ways, event planning techniques, project management approaches etc.
  • Personal – core life lessons and learnings that affect the approach you take to your world.

I am not going to talk much about the practical – you should should read my book for more on that topic (the book also covers a lot of the personal too).

Today I am instead going to focus on the personal life lessons. Approaches and practices will always change, but the life lessons don’t so much change but grow and evolve as we get wiser.


Not wise.

The Importance Of Belief

Communities are fundamentally networks of people driven by belief. Every community has an ethos and a focus. This could be something as grandiose as documenting all human knowledge or changing the world with Free Software, or it could be as humble as providing a local group for people to get together to talk about their favorite books. Whether life changing or just a bit of fun, each community has a belief system; the humble book club still sees tremendous value in providing a fun, safe and free environment to share reading preferences and recommendations. It might not change the world, but it is still a good thing and something people can get behind.

The underlying often unwritten rule of community is that every contribution from a community member must benefit the wider community. This is why it is fun to write a patch that fixes a Free Software bug, contribute documentation, run a free event or otherwise, but it is rare that anyone is willing to contribute as a volunteer if their contribution only benefits a single person or company.

Of course, I am sure all of you cynical bastards are now going to try and find an exception, but remember that this decision is typically deeply personal – the community member decides how comfortable they are that their contribution will benefit everyone. As an example, some would argue that any contribution to Mono would only benefit Microsoft and the ubiquity of their .NET framework, but hundreds of contributors participate in Mono because they don’t see it this way – they see their contributions as a valuable and fun way of making it easy to empower Free Software developers to write Free Software more easily.

If I was talking to the Jono of 1998 I would really emphasize the importance of this belief. I had a hunch about it back then, but I have since seen countless examples of belief truly inspiring people to participate. I have often talked about the story of the kid from Africa who emailed me to tell me how he would walk three hours to and from his nearest Internet cafe to contribute to Ubuntu. He did this because he believed in our mission to bring Free Software to the masses. The same can be said for the tremendous growth in Wikipedia, the incredible coming together of the GNOME community around GNOME 3, the success of OpenStreetMap and many other examples.

Belief though is not a PR stunt. It has to be real. While each of us has different belief systems, some map their belief systems to software, some to education, some to knowledge, some to transparency or whatever else, you can’t concoct a belief system unless it serves a valid goal that a group are likely to care about. Sure, it can be obscure, but it has to be real. With the success of Open Source, we have seen some examples of some companies trying to use similar language and approaches around belief, but applying it to self-serving needs. I could invent a belief of “let’s all work together to help Jono get rich” and concoct some nonsense of the benefits of this belief (e.g. if I am rich I can focus on other work that would benefit other communities, my future kids would get a wonderful education and upbringing and this will benefit the world), but it would be rubbish.


No one wants to be this guy. Or that guy.

As such, belief is a strong driver for collaboration and contribution, but it must be met with respect and balance. While it can be a trigger for incredible change, it can also be hugely destructive (e.g. some television preachers who use religion as a means for you to give them money, or fake psychics who use cold reading to latch onto your belief to desperately try and re-connect with a lost loved one).

Your Role

Community managers play an interesting role these days. In the past I have talked about there being two types of community managers; those who go out and give presentations and wave their hands around talking about a product or service, and those who work with a community of volunteers to help them to have a fun, productive and enjoyable collaborative experience. I am more interested in the latter – I feel that is what a real community manager does. The former is a fine and respectable position to have, but it is more in the area of advocacy and public relations, and requires a different set of skills. I have a few tips here I think are interesting enough to share.

The first and probably most important lesson is having a willingness to accept that you can and will be wrong sometimes. In my career so far I have got some things right and some things wrong. While I believe I am generally on the right path and most of my work is successful, there have been a few turkeys here and there. These screw-ups, mishaps and mis-steps have never been out of maliciousness or carelessness, they have instead typically been from me overshooting the target of what I was trying to do.

This seems like a pretty obvious point, but it gets less obvious when you have a fairly public role. By and large, community managers are often seen as representatives of a given community. As an example, I know that I am personally seen as one of the public faces of Ubuntu, and with that responsibility comes the public pressure of how people perceive you.

For some community leaders, having the spotlight shone on them causes a defensive mechanism to kick in; they cringe at the idea of making mistakes in public, as if the chattering masses expect a perfect record. This is risky, and what has been seen in the past is that we get public leaders who essentially never accept that they have made a mistake due to this fear of public ridicule. This is not only a fallacy (we all make mistakes), but it also doesn’t set a good example to the community of a leader who is honest and transparent in both the things they do well and the things they do less well. It is important to remember that we often gain respect in people because of their acceptance of mistakes – it shows a well rounded and honest individual.


Not entirely rounded.

I remember when I first became a manager at Canonical and at the time Colin Watson and Scott James Remnant, two original gangstas from the very beginning of Canonical and Ubuntu, were also managers on the Ubuntu Engineering Team. We would have our weekly calls with our manager, Matt Zimmerman, and on these calls I would hear Colin and Scott openly accepting that they were not good at this, or had made a mistake with that; they were stunningly humble and accepting of their strengths and weaknesses. As a rookie manager I was a little more tight-lipped, but it taught me that this kind of openness and honesty is not only good as a manager but as a community leader and since then I feel no qualms in publicly admitting to mistakes or apologizing if I screw up.

Listening

In a similar way, while openness to mistakes is important, another lesson is the importance of being a good listener and learning from our peers. In many cases our communities look to community managers and leaders as people who should always be providing guidance, direction and active navigation of the project and it’s goals. This is definitely a responsibility, but in addition to the voicing of this leadership, it is also important to be a passive listener, providing guidance where appropriate and learning new lessons and insight.

Our community members are not just cold, hard, machines who perform work; they are living, breathing, human beings with thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas. I have seen many examples, and I have accidentally done this before myself, where someone is so used to providing guidance and direction that they sometimes forget to just sit down and listen and learn from someone else’s experience. Every industry is filled with thought leaders and scholars…famous people who are known for their wisdom, but in my experience some of the most revolutionary life lessons that I have learned have come entirely from non-famous, day-to-day, meat-and-potatoes community members. Being a great listener is not just important to help us learn and be better at what do, but it is critical in gaining respect and having a great relationship with your community.

On vs. Off Time

While on the subject of how we engage with our community, I have another take-away that I only truly processed in my own mind fairly recently. Like many people, I have a number of different interests that fill my days. Outside of being married and trying to be the best husband I can be, and my day job as the Ubuntu Community Manager, I also have projects such as Severed Fifth, the Community Leadership Summit, and some other things. As you would naturally expect, my days are committed to my day job – I don’t spend time at work working on these other projects. As such, as you would naturally expect, when my work day ends I start working on these other projects. The lesson here is that it is not always clear to your community where the lines are drawn.

Over the years I have developed a series of online facilities that I use for my work and viewpoints. My Twitter, identi.ca, Facebook pages, this blog, and some other resources are where I talk about what I do. The challenge is that if you take into account these public resources, my public representation of the Ubuntu project, and the wealth of timezones across the world, it does not take an Einstein to confuse whether I am writing about something as a Jono thing or a Canonical thing.


“Einstein was best known as a badass Hungry Hippos player”. [citation needed]

This has caused some confusion. As an example, despite my repeated clarifications, OpenRespect is not and never has been a Canonical initiative. Of course, some idiots choose to ignore my clarification of this, but I can see how the confusion could arrive nonetheless. The same thing has happened for other projects such as Severed Fifth, The Art of Community and the Community Leadership Summit, of which none are, or ever have been part of my work at Canonical.

The reason why I consider this a lesson is that I have seen, and at one point shared the view that “of course it is a spare time thing, I posted that at 8pm at night” and shrug of concerns of the lines blurring. When you have a job that puts you in a reasonably public position, you can’t have the luxury of just assuming that; you have to instead assume that people are likely to blur the lines and you have to work harder to clarify them.

Don’t Travel Too Much

On the topic of working for a company that employs you to be a community leader, you should always be aware of the risks as well as the benefits of travel. This is something I learned fairly early on in my career at Canonical. I would see the same faces over and over again at conferences, and it was clear that these folks had clearly communicated the benefits of travel to their employer, as I had done, but I also came to learn the risks.

I would travel and it would not only be tiring work and emotionally exhausting, but I would also be away from my email more, on IRC less, unable to attend many meetings, and have less time to work on my work commitments. As such, my role would largely become that of getting out and visiting events, and while fun, this didn’t serve my community as well as it should have done. As such, I fairly dramatically cut my travel – if fact, I went to the Linux Collab Summit a few days ago, and outside of Ubuntu events that I needed to attend, I had not made it to conference for a nearly a year. Now I feel the pendulum has swung a little too far in the other direction, so it is all about balance, but I also feel I serve my community better when I am able to take to the time to be at the office and be online and accessible.

Planning

For some folks, the role of a community leader or community manager is one that is less about pre-disposed structure and instead more interrupt-driven. When I started out, I used to think this too. While there is absolutely no doubt that you do indeed need to be interrupt-driven and able to respond to things that are going on, it is also essential to sufficiently plan your work for a given period of time.


Apparently, awesome at laying plans.

This planning should be done out in the open where possible and serves a few functions:

  • Shares plans – it helps the community to understand what you are working on and often opens up the doors for the community to help you.
  • Assurances – it demonstrates that a community leader is doing something – your community can see your active work happening. This is particularly important, as much of the work of a community leader often happens out of the view of the wider community (e.g. having a one-on-one conversation with a community member), and this lack of visibility can sometimes generate concerns that little is happening in key areas, when instead a lot is going on behind the scenes.
  • Communicates progress up and down the ladder – this is relevant if you are working for a company – having some solid planning processes in place demonstrates your active work to your management, and it also re-assures your team that they will always know what to work on and create great value for the community.

Over the years I have put more and more importance in planning, while still retaining enough time and flexibility to be interrupt-driven. When I started as the Ubuntu Community Manager my planning was fairly personal and ad-hoc – I took the pulse of the community, and I applied my time and resources to tend to those areas as I saw fit.

Today I break goals into a set of projects that each span an Ubuntu cycle, gather input from stakeholders, put together a roadmap, track work in blueprints, and assess progress using a variety of tools and processes such as my burndown chart, regular meetings, and more. While the current approach requires more planning, it helps significantly with the benefits covered in the above bullet points.

Perception and Conflict

One thing I often hear about in the world of community management and leadership is the view that perception is everything. Typically when I hear this it is in response to someone getting the wrong end of the stick about something, often in a conflict period.

Of course, perception does indeed play an important part in our lives, but what can fuel incorrect or misaligned perceptions is lack of information, mis-information, and in some cases, heated tensions and tempers. This can be some of the most complex work for a community leader, and I have come away with a few lessons learned in this area too.

Communities are groups of people, and in every group there are often common roles that people fill. There is usually someone who is seen as a rockstar and hero, someone who is sympathetic to concerns and worries and a shoulder to cry on, someone who is overtly outspoken, and often someone who is…well…deliberately difficult. Heroes, sympathetic ears and outspoken folks are not particularly challenging, but deliberately difficult people can be complex; if someone is being overtly difficult to deal with, it can cause tensions to form with other members and bring conflict to an otherwise happy community. We need to nip those issues in the bud early.


Not how you nip something in the bud.

Part of the challenge here is that people are people, groups are groups, and it is not uncommon for a single person or a few people to become known and complained about behind closed doors as difficult to work with. In addition to this, most people don’t want to get involved in any conflict, and as such the person being complained about can sometimes never actually know that people see them this way, as no-one wants to confront them about it. This results in one of the most dangerous situations for a community members – a reputation is spread, without the knowledge of the person who it applies to, and because they never know, they never have an opportunity to fix it. That is a pretty sucky position to be in.

A common response to this conclusion is the view that “they are so difficult to deal with that trying to reason with them will fall on deaf ears anyway“. While this certainly does happen from time to time, don’t be so quick to assume this will be the outcome; there has been a few times when I have had the uncomfortable experience of feeling I need to share with someone the reputation that they have developed, and in virtually all cases it has been a real surprise to them, and they have almost all modified their behavior based on the feedback.

On a related note, while often not a common part of the daily routine of a community leader, conflict will often raise it’s head here and there. I just wanted to share two brief elements about conflict.

The first is understanding how conflict forms. To introduce this, let me tell you a little story. Last week a friend of mine flew out to the Bay Area for a conference. He arrived in the evening, so I picked him up from the airport and we went to the pub to catch up. While there he started telling me how disappointed he was with Obama and his administration. He cited examples of health care reform, Wall Street reform, digital rights and more. His agitation was not with the policies themselves, but with Obama not doing enough. My perspective was a little different.

I am not a democrat or a republican; I make my decisions on each issue, and I don’t align myself with either party. Where I differ to my friend though is that I am a little more sympathetic to Obama and his daily work. This is because I believe that he, and anyone else in a public position, whether as internationally recognized as the president, or as obscure and specific as a community manager, realizes that the story read and understood by the public is often only a fragment of the full story. There has been cases in the past where something controversial has kicked off in the communities that I have been a part of, and many of the commentators and onlookers have clearly not had a full knowledge of the facts either because they have not picked up on the nuances and details of the topic or some parts of the story have not been shared.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say – some parts not shared?! Surely we should be transparent? Of course we should, and we should always strive to be open and honest, but there are some cases when it would be inappropriate to share some parts of the story. This could be because of private conversations with people who don’t want their comments shared, and also just being classy in your work and not throwing dirt around. As an example, I have always had a very strong policy of not throwing cheap shots at competitors, no matter what happens. In the past there has been some questionable behavior from some competitors behind the scenes, but I am not going to go out and throw dirt around as it wouldn’t serve a particularly useful purpose, but with that I have to accept that some community critique will only have part of the picture and not be aware of some of the behind the scenes shenanigans.


Not a competitor.

Finally, on the topic of conflict, I believe a real life lesson I have learned has been the approach in which critique and successful outcomes should be approached. Although blogging has had a hugely positive impact on how people can articulate and share opinions and perspectives, there has been a dark side. Blogging has also become a medium in which much overzealous opinion can sometimes be expressed a little too quickly. Unfortunately, I have a rather embarrassing example of someone who fell into this trap: yours truly.

First, a bit of background. There used to be a company called Lindows that made a version of Linux that shared many visual and operational similarities to Windows. Microsoft frowned at the name “Lindows,” and a fight started to change the name. Lindows initially resisted, but after mounting pressure, changed their name to Linspire.

Now to the issue. Let me take the liberty to explain in the words of the article itself:

Recently a chap named Andrew Betts decided to take the non-free elements out of Linspire and release the free parts as another Linspire-derived distribution called Freespire. This act of rereleasing distributions or code is certainly nothing new and is fully within the ethos of open source. In fact, many of the distributions we use today were derived from existing tools.

Unfortunately, Linspire saw this as a problem and asked for the Freespire name to be changed. Reading through the notice of the change, the language and flow of the words screams marketing to me. I am certainly not insinuating that Betts has been forced into writing the page, or that the Linspire marketing drones have written it and appended his name, but it certainly doesn’t sound quite right to me. I would have expected something along the lines of “Freespire has been changed to Squiggle to avoid confusion with the Linspire product”, but this is not the case. Instead we are treated to choice marketing cuts such as “To help alleviate any confusion, I contacted Linspire and they made an extremely generous offer to us all”. Wow. What is this one-chance-in-a-lifetime-not-sold-in-stores offer? Luckily, he continues, ‘they want everyone who has been following my project to experience ‘the real’ Linspire, FOR FREE!!!”. Now, pray tell, how do we get this “real” version of the software “FOR FREE!!!”?

“For a limited time, they are making available a coupon code called ‘FREESPIRE’ that will give you a free digital copy of Linspire! Please visit http://linspire.com/freespire for details”. Oh…thanks.

I gave Linspire a pretty full-throated kick in the wedding vegetables in my blog entry. I told the story, objected to what I considered hypocrisy given their own battle with similar-sounding trademarks, and vented. I wish Guitar Hero had existed back then: it would have been a better use of my time.

I was wrong. My article was never going to achieve anything. Shortly after the article was published, then-CEO Kevin Carmony emailed me. He was not a happy bunny. His objection, and it was valid, was that I flew off the handle without checking in with him first. My blog entry was my first reaction. The reality of the story was far less dramatic, and Linspire were not the ogres that I painted them to be. I apologized to Kevin and felt like an idiot.

Many conflict scenarios are resolved in private discussions where people can be open and focus on solutions without the noise. Over the years I have seen many examples of a furious public blogging war going on while behind the scenes there is a calm exchange of opinions and the focus on solutions.

Wrapping Up

When I started writing this it was much shorter, but I just kept adding one more thing, and then one more thing and so on. It is already long enough that I can probably count the number of people reading this bit on one hand, so I am going to hang it up here. I could go on forever with little tidbits and experiences that I have been fortunate enough to be involved in and expand my horizons, but then I would end up writing The Art of Community II: This Time Its Personal.

Life is a constant on-going experience, and I hope your investment in reading this has added to it a little. I look forward to hearing from your experiences in the comments.

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jono

The Community Leadership Summit 2011 is the third incarnation of the popular free event designed to bring together community leaders and managers and the projects and organizations that are interested in growing and empowering a strong community. It takes place from 23rd – 24th July 2011 in Portland, Oregon and is the weekend immediately before OSCON, so this is a great chance to join both events in the same trip!

The event provides an unconference style schedule in which attendees can discuss, debate and explore topics. This is augmented with a range of scheduled talks, panel discussions, networking opportunities and more.

The event provides the first opportunity of its kind to bring together the leading minds in the field with new community builders to discuss topics such as governance, creating collaborative environments, conflict resolution, transparency, open infrastructure, social networking, commercial investment in community, engineering vs. marketing approaches to community leadership and much more.

Why Go?

CLS brings together community managers and leaders from all different walks of life. We already have been registered who are coming from Rackspace, Open Source Bridge, Microsoft, Oracle, MySQL, MeeGo, Xen, Adobe, O’Reilly, Eucalytpus, Google, Stanford University and more. It is a great environment to meet new people, have some great discussions, and have a great time.

Register and Keep Up To Date

The Community Leadership Summit is entirely free to join, but we ask everyone to register. You can register by clicking here.

You can also keep up to date by joining the Facebook Event – be sure to say you are coming. :-)

Sponsorship

We are currently looking for companies who may be interested in sponsoring the event. If you are interested, please email me.

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jono

I am about to head out to the Linux Collaboration Summit, so I won’t be online when GNOME 3 hits the tubes in a few hours, so I just wanted to offer my congratulations in advance to the GNOME 3 team for their wonderful achievement in delivering GNOME 3. :-)

As many of you will also remember, GNOME 3 was something of a pipe dream when it was discussed way back at GUADEC in Stuttgart. With each following GUADEC the discussions would continue and at one point it felt like GNOME 3 would never happen, but in the last few years it has been incredible to see how the community really came together to form around a vision an not just deliver on it, but really deliver on it. The last few months in particular have demonstrated a feverish commitment to delivering a solid release, and this work has not just involved developers, but designers, marketing folks, web developers, advocates, testers, artists and more. Everyone has done such a wonderful job, and I just wanted to have a specific shout out to Jason Clinton for the videos on the website – awesome work!

Anyway, you folks should be celebrating, not reading my inane ramblings – go and crack open a beer and reflect on the success of delivering GNOME 3. Today is a clear indication that GNOME is stronger than ever. Have a great day, folks!

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jono

Just a quick note to let you all know that the Ubuntu Developer Summit sponsorship deadline closes tomorrow (Tues 29th March 2011).

Be sure to get your sponsorship request in.

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jono

The best I can do right now to help with the Tsunami tragedy in Japan and affecting areas is just help spread information of what to do.

Tsunami Arrival Times

If you are in an area affected this page provides times of expected arrivals for the Tsunami

What To Do

From What to do if it affects you – key point is get to higher ground. Guidance from that page:

The Facts

  • Tsunamis that strike coastal location in the Pacific Ocean Basin are most always caused by earthquakes. These earthquakes might occur far away or near where you live.
  • Some tsunamis can be very large. In coastal areas their height can be as great as 30 feet or more (100 feet in extreme cases), and they can move inland several hundred feet.
  • All low lying coastal areas can be struck by tsunamis.
  • A tsunami consists of a series of waves. Often the first wave may not be the largest. The danger from a tsunami can last for several hours after the arrival of the first wave.
  • Tsunamis can move faster than a person can run.
  • Sometimes a tsunami causes the water near shore to recede, exposing the ocean floor. The force of some tsunamis is enormous. Large rocks weighing several tons along with boats and other debris can be moved inland hundreds of feet by the tsunami wave activity. Homes and other buildings are destroyed. All this material and water move with great force and can kill or injure people.
  • Tsunamis can occur at any time, day or night.
  • Tsunamis can travel up rivers and streams that lead to the ocean.

What You Should Do

Be aware of tsunami facts. This knowledge could save your life! Share this knowledge with your relatives and friends. It could save their lives!

  • If you are in school and you hear there is a tsunami warning, you should follow the advice of teachers and other school personnel.
  • If you are at home and hear there is a tsunami warning, you should make sure you entire family is aware of the warning. Your family should evacuate your house if you live in a tsunami evacuation. Move in an orderly, calm and safe manner to the evacuation site or to any safe place outside your evacuation zone. Follow the advice of local emergency and law enforcement authorities.
  • If you are at the beach or near the ocean and you feel the earth shake, move immediately to higher ground. DO NOT wait for a tsunami warning to be announced. Stay away from rivers and streams that lead to the ocean as you would stay away from the beach and ocean if there is a tsunami. A regional tsunami from a local earthquake could strike some areas before a tsunami warning could be announced.
  • Tsunamis generated in distant locations will generally give people enough time to move to higher ground. For locally generated tsunamis, where you might feel the ground shake, you may only have a few minutes to move to higher ground.
  • High, multi-story, reinforced concrete hotels are located in many low-lying coastal areas. The upper floors of these hotels can provide a safe place to find refuge should there be a tsunami warning and you cannot move quickly inland to higher ground. Local Civil Defense procedures may, however, not allow this type of evacuation in your area. Homes and small buildings located in low lying coastal areas are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures should there be a tsunami warning.
  • Offshore reefs and shallow areas may help break the force of tsunami waves, but large and dangerous waves can still be threat to coastal residents in these areas. Staying away fro all low-lying coastal areas is the safest advice when there is a tsunami warning.

If You Are on a Boat or Ship

  • Since tsunami wave activity is imperceptible in the open ocean, do not return to port if you are at sea and a tsunami warning has been issued for your area. Tsunamis can cause rapid changes in water level and unpredictable dangerous currents in harbors and ports.
  • If there is time to move your boat or ship from port to deep water (after you know a tsunami warning has been issued), you should weigh the following considerations:
    • Most large harbors and ports are under the control of a harbor authority and/or a vessel traffic system. These authorities direct operations during periods of increased readiness (should a tsunami be expected), including the forced movement of vessels if deemed necessary. Keep in contact with the authorities should a forced movement of vessels be directed.
    • Smaller ports may not be under the control of a harbor authority. If you are aware there is a tsunami warning and you have time to move your vessel to deep water, then you may want to do so in an orderly manner, in consideration of other vessels. Owners of small boats may find it safest to leave their boat at the pier and physically move to higher ground, particularly in the event of a locally generated tsunami. Concurrent severe weather conditions (rough seas outside of safe harbor) could present a greater hazardous situation to small boats, so physically moving yourself to higher ground may be the only option.
    • Damaging wave activity and unpredictable currents can effect harbors for a period of time following the initial tsunami impact on the coast. Contact the harbor authority before returning to port making sure to verify that conditions in the harbor are safe for navigation and berthing.

As dangerous as tsunamis are, they do not happen very often. You should not let this natural hazard diminish your enjoyment of the beach and ocean. But, if you think a tsunami may be coming, the ground shakes under your feet or you hear there is a warning, tell your relatives and friends, and move quickly to higher ground.

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