Making Ubuntu development more personal

Getting involved in Open Source development can seem a bit daunting, first you have to go through the documentation, then find a task you are interested in, then work on a fix and then, although the first parts might have been hard enough already, either go public with questions you have or a fix you have worked on.

From my own experience I can say that it is daunting. The good thing like with all other learning experiences, especially the social ones, you often find out afterwards: “all my worries were unfounded, this is actually pretty cool and the people I interact with are actually pretty nice”.

We improved our documentation and now it’s time to improve the social bits too. We recognised the need to do this before and we felt that 1-on-1 mentoring was the answer. Unfortunately it turned out that we could not satisfy the demand easily, also did we have many mentees who never turned up again, thus blocking “mentoring slots”.

After lots of discussions, we made the following observations:

  • we work hard on improving our documentation
  • we work on improving the tools
  • somebody is always around to answer questions (be it on IRC, on the mailing list or on AskUbuntu)
  • we got better at doing code reviews and providing feedback this way

This in some cases is unfortunately not sufficient. Therefore we founded the Developer Advisory Team. Its agenda is clear-cut and a lot more light-weight than doing 1-on-1 mentoring: We reach out to

  1. new contributors, thank them for their work and get feedback,
  2. people who might be ready to apply for upload rights and help them and also
  3. contributors that went inactive and get feedback from them and offer help.

This is no magic bullet to fix every kind of problem in the Ubuntu development world, but it will help to find shortcomings in our processes and also make the whole interaction more social.

If you are interested in helping with this effort, please get in touch with Christophe Sauthier or myself. You actually just need some interest in Ubuntu Development and an active interest in making Ubuntu an even more social experience.

Stay tuned for updates on this initiative! 🙂