February 17, 2009

686 words 4 mins read

Half a year of Jamming in Berlin

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with the Global Bug Jam coming up at the end of the week, I thought I’d share the experience we made in the Berlin team, where we had Jams every two weeks for about half a year now.

The obvious aim of all Ubuntu Jams is: make Ubuntu better and have fun in your local team. To answer the question “When is a Jam a success?", I’d ask a bit more specific questions:

How many people

  • got to make Ubuntu better in a way they never did before?
  • brought along friends the next time or talked about it afterwards?
  • came back showing you a piece of work and asking for advice?
  • showed up in various other Ubuntu IRC channels and mailing lists?

As you can see none of the questions I ask revolves around “How many bugs were touched? How many packages were uploaded?", etc. The key in my mind is letting your fellow jammers have that experience of achieving something. There’s no substitute for having the experience of “Aha! That’s what it’s all about!” yourself.

But how do you achieve that? How do you get people to the point where they go from the point of learning, asking and listening to actually doing it?

It sounds easy, so here it is:

  • show a few examples
  • get away from the front of “the audience” as soon as possible
  • set goals
  • get people to work in groups

Creating a “working atmosphere” isn’t very easy if you get myriads of good questions and you don’t want to give the answers to everyone individually. It’s only natural that you answer them for the whole group and you get follow-up questions and everybody naturally stops doing whatever they were doing before.

Be prepared. Set goals, have a list of bugs/packages/whatever you want to work on. You can always adapt the list of bugs to whatever your team is interested in. Use gobby to share notes collectively.

Ask people to check out the documentation. We have good documentation and if it’s not good enough, we need to fix it.

Another hurdle is English for teams whose native language is something else. It’s not trivial to get people to ask in #ubuntu-bugs or #ubuntu-motu or on a mailing list or even worse: fix documentation on the wiki. Encourage them, ask people to collaborate on writing the text.

If you’re running regular Jams you will notice that you attract new people every time. In Berlin we had new people there almost every single time. Even newcomers who did not even know about Launchpad yet. Still they wanted to help out and get started. The only thing that works there is: split up the group to avoid giving the same presentation to everybody over and over again.

Another thing that happened every now and then was that people joined in who were new and wanted to get “their bugs fixed” (sound not working, etc). That’s completely fine, but try to make sure the group files bugs about it afterwards. :-)

If you lead the Jam talk about what collaborating in the bigger picture of open source means to you. That it’s all about “going out there” and “doing it”. That you’re not safe from somebody saying “I don’t like your idea”, but that it’s important that you share in the first place and create a topic of discussion. That you make the world a better place by collaborating and getting in touch with other teams.

You might notice that I’m just giving advice on the first question I asked. That’s because I firmly believe that getting the first one right will lead to positive answers of the other questions. Of course some people might realise that packaging or bug triage is not their cup of tea, which is fine. At least they tried.

Ask for feedback. Factor it in.

Share your stories!

Have a great day and jam on!

My 5 today: #330265 (unionfs-fuse), #330378 (gtk2-engines), #329982 (lxlauncher), #329161 (transmission), #329903 (xom) Do 5 a day - every day! https://wiki.ubuntu.com/5-A-Day

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