The importance of apps in Ubuntu

Jono blogged about the importance of application developers to Ubuntu earlier and I wanted to echo some thoughts and add some of my own.

I have been in the Ubuntu Developer camp for most of Ubuntu’s life as a project, so the mindset of “App developers? Why don’t they just set up an open source project and get it packaged?” or “Apps? We have packages.” is what I have heard a couple of times already and is what I would probably have answered some years ago myself.

The power of the Open Source community and having open projects is immense. We all have seen it many times: a thought, a great idea, some dedicated contributors, good communication and a friendly community can achieve amazing things. This happens every single day.

We are well aware of how things work in the Open Source world and we have recently seen the success of our great work: millions of users, who have never dabbled in Open Source before, today enjoy Ubuntu (or other pieces of Free Software) and rely on it. We have managed to reach out to an entirely new demographic and continue to grow our user base.

With new demographics there are new expectations and new responsibilities. Consider my father for example. He follows what’s going on in the Ubuntu world, but will occasionally point out to me that an app he’s interested in buying does not exist for Ubuntu. The last I remember him talking about was a good language learning course.

With new form factors and devices running Ubuntu (you know, TVs, tablets, phones, watches, cars, coffee machines, hoverboards and the like), there are going to be thousands of useful helper tools out there which might not be available for Ubuntu yet. Add to that the growing number of content providers (magazines, books, maps, music, etc.) which users yet can’t easily get “for Ubuntu”.

This is the world we are looking at today and it becomes obvious that apps should be a first-class citizen in Ubuntu. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making everyone who shows the slightest interest in working on Ubuntu itself an Ubuntu developer and member of our community, also because I feel that everyone who is part of this has a lot to gain, personally and for their particular project. It just shouldn’t be a strict requirement because it won’t scale.

A number of teams have been working very hard on making seamless apps in Ubuntu a reality and that’s just great to see. It’s a hard problem to solve because it involves so many different important pieces. Keep up the good work everyone!

At UDS I’m definitely going to (among other sessions, I’ll blog about later on) attend these sessions to see what we can do about making apps in Ubuntu more exciting and something that just works:

Hope to see you there!

What new development contributors have to say

One class of new contributors has always been successful: self-starters who knew what they wanted to do, where to get involved, with possibly some already existing experience or knowledge. For others it’s been a tougher ride.

To remedy some of this, we set up the Developer Advisory Team. We figured that (among other things) reaching out to new contributors who just got their first fix into Ubuntu to thank them, encourage them and ask for their feedback would help us a lot in terms of bringing them into the fold and finding out what current stumbling blocks are.

The team consists of Andrea Colangelo, Andrew Starr-Bochcchio, Bhavani Shankar, Christophe Sauthier, Evan Broder and myself. We’ve been working together for a few weeks now and been reaching out to many contributors to Ubuntu development.

We collected the feedback and put together a report which summarises the experience of new contributors. If you’re in the thick of process definitions, documentations, backlog of review queues and the like it’s very easy to only concentrate on things which are broken or could be improved.

I’d like to take the time to quote a few of the super positive responses we received:

  • “Developers always respond very friendly.”
  • “I’m also very much impressed by the smoothness of online collaboration through launchpad and bzr (wow, would not have thought I’d be praising bzr at some point ). Branching a project to fix a bug and getting that visible to the project’s developers is effortless and lets me concentrate on the actual work.”
  • “Had heard about reviews taking a long time, but didn’t find it to be the case.”
  • “I really enjoyed getting to see my contributions go through the whole cycle from inclusion to available update. Seeing the process was interesting, as I had not known the different stages previously, and it was exciting to realize that a bug fix (simple, but there nonetheless) could go from a proposed fix to being available for installation in just over 24 hrs.”
  • “Much easier than I had expected. I had always assumed that one had to be an official packager to apply a patch to a package and submit it. Overall, it was a surprisingly painless process.”
  • “I think the most positive part of the experience to date has been the realization that the Ubuntu community cares enough to engage in this kind of feedback solicitation. That is simply unparalleled in other projects, and a testament to the many solid reasons so many prefer Ubuntu.”
  • “Overall, the entire was quite enriching and engaging. To be frank, I was desperately waiting for an opportunity to fix an easy bug for quite some time. And, so when I eventually found one, I was overly joyed. Given another opportunity, I will surely contribute again to Ubuntu development.”
  • “The people. Good response from other people, great impression about the whole community.”
  • “Contributing to free and open source projects makes me excited. It is great that I can paticipate and improve Ubuntu. I feel awesome when my work is released. Also I was glad when people found out their problem doesn’t exist in new release.”

Everybody who helps make this happen on a daily basis: give yourself a pat on the back. I’m proud of what we achieve together, and so should you! 🙂

Check out the full report if you want to get into the details of the feedback.

If you have comments yourself or suggestions for improvements, leave your comment below.

Mixtape: Live Set with MC Massiv La Gaza in Trickster, Berlin

A live set I recorded on a Cargo Cult Crew Berlin event in Berlin’s Trickster. Some technical difficulties, some mixing mistakes still couldn’t stop us from having a great time. Half-way through the set MC Massiv La Gaza joined in, plugged in his mic and got everybody to rock out. It was an awesome night – thanks everyone!

  1. Liquid V 002 – Calibre – Drowning In You
  2. Jungle Cakes 008 – Ed Solo & Ghostline – Ghost Town feat. DJ Concept
  3. Congo Natty 020DG – Top Cat & Rebel MC – Police In Helicopter (Serial Killaz VIP Mix)
  4. Digital Soundboy 024R – Breakage ft. Roots Manuva – Run ‘Em Out (Benny Page Remix)
  5. Mad Decent 143 – Zeds Dead – Undah Yuh Skirt Feat. Mavado
  6. RAM 091 – Mind Vortex – Onslaught
  7. OWSLA 001 – Porter Robinson – Spitfire (Kill The Noise Remix)
  8. Bad Taste 015DD – Blokhe4d – Gutter Queen
  9. MTA 009 – Nero – Crush On You (Knife Party Remix)
  10. Red Light 004 – Neonlight & Hedj – Hammerhead
  11. Hospital 194DDS – Camo & Krooked – Funk You
  12. Maximum Boost 027 – Doctor P – Sweet Shop  (Friction vs Camo & Krooked DnB Mix)
  13. Critical 057EP – Enei – Movin Fast
  14. Digital Soundboy 037 – Breakage ft. Jess Mills – Fighting Fire (Loadstar Remix)
  15. MTA CS001 – Chase And Status & Sub Focus – Flashing Lights (S.P.Y Remix)
  16. Hospital 112CD – Logistics – Shooting Star
  17. Innerground 038 – DJ Marky & Makoto – Aquarius feat. Deeizm

If only I had known what needs to be done…

I just went over the soon-to-be-released report of the Developer Advisory Team, where we sum up feedback from first-time contributors to Ubuntu Development and many noted that they found developer documentation easily and things generally worked out for them, but they struggled finding stuff to work on.

The Ubuntu Development team has always been good at creating new TODO lists (merges, Debian RC bugs, build failures, heaps of different bug lists and much much more), but you need to know what you are looking for.

Enter Harvest. We created it so it merely aggregates opportunities for Ubuntu developers in a simple web interface. You can select opportunity types and specific sets of packages to narrow down opportunities based on your interests.

If you got some spare time, are interested in Ubuntu development and would like to help, you would do the Ubuntu world a great favour by doing one of the following:

If you are an Ubuntu developer or would like to become one: trying it out and commenting below with your experience. (Bugs can be filed here.)

If you have a great idea on how it could be further simplified, extended or improved, write up your idea and link to it in the comments.

If you are a web developer: please get in touch. Harvest is written using Django and Python and it’s super-easy to extend, improve and fix it – so if you are looking for something to help out with, this might be a great opportunity for you.

Please consider helping out, your contributions will not only help you make better use of Harvest, but many other developers and new contributors as well. 🙂

(If you tried it out and it works perfectly for you, let us know too. :-))