Helping Ubuntu devices users

In a recent conversation we thought it’d be a good idea to share tips and tricks, suggestions and ideas with users of Ubuntu devices. Because it’d help to have it available immediately on the phone, an app could be a good idea.

I had a quick look at it and after some discussion with Rouven in my office space, it looked like hyde could fit the bill nicely. To edit the content, just write a bit of Markdown, generate the HTML (nice and readable templates – great!) and done.

Unfortunately I’m not a CSS or HTML wizard, so if you could help out making it more Ubuntu-y, that’d be great! Also: if you’re interested in adding content, that’d be great.

I pushed the code for it up on Launchpad, there are also the first bugs open already. Let’s make it look pretty and let’s share our knowledge with new Ubuntu devices users. 🙂

Oh, and let’s see that we translate the content as well! 🙂

Always something new…

What do Kinshasa, Omsk, Paris, Mexico City, Eugene, Denver, Tempe, Catonsville, Fairfax, Dania Beach, San Francisco and various places on the internet have in common?

Right, they’re all participating in the Ubuntu Global Jam on the weekend of 6-8 February! See the full list of teams that are part of the event here. (Please add yours if you haven’t already.)

What’s great about the event is that there are just two basic aims:

  1. do something with Ubuntu
  2. get together and have fun!

What I also like a lot is that there’s always something new to do. Here are just 3 quick examples of that:

App Development Schools

We have put quite a bit of work into putting training materials together, now, you can take them out to your team and start writing Ubuntu apps easily.

Snappy

As one tech news article said “Robots embrace Ubuntu as it invades the internet of things“. Ubuntu’s newest foray, making it possible to bring a stable and secure OS to small devices where you can focus on apps and functionality, is attracting a number of folks on the mailing lists (snappy-devel, snappy-app-devel)  and elsewhere. Check out the mailing lists and the snappy site to find out more and have a play with it.

Unity8 on Desktop

Convergence is happening and what’s working great on the phone is making its way onto the desktop. You can help making this happen, by installing and testing it. Your feedback will be much appreciated.

Unity-8-Is-Starting-to-Look-More-Like-a-Desktop-for-Ubuntu-Video-465329-5

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Building a great community

Xubuntu
In last night’s Community Council meeting, we met up with the Xubuntu team. They have done a great job inviting new members into their part of the community. Just read this:

<pleia2> elfy notes all contributors in his announcements
<dholbach> that's really really nice
<pleia2> we do blog posts, emails directly to all the testing members and to -devel list
<dholbach> wow
<pleia2> this cycle we're giving out stickers to some of our top testers
<elfy> if we get that sorted
<pleia2> share on social media too

This is just fantastic. I’m very happy with what the Xubuntu folks are doing and I’m glad to be part of such an open and welcoming community as well.

If you think that’s great too and want to get involved, have a look at their “Get involved” page. They particularly need testers for the new release.

Xubuntu team: keep up the great work! 🙂

Scope training materials

For some time we have had training materials available for learning how to write Ubuntu apps.  We’ve had a number of folks organising App Dev School events in their LoCo team. That’s brilliant!

What’s new now are training materials for developing scopes!

It’s actually not that hard. If you have a look at the workshop, you can prepare yourself quite easily for giving the session at a local event.

As we are working on an updated developer site, right now, for now take a look at the following pages if you’re interested in running such a session yourself:

I would love to get feedback, so please let me know how the materials work out for you!

Summarising the last CC meeting

I’m very happy that folks took notes during and after the meeting to bring up their ideas, thoughts, concerns and plans. It got a bit unwieldy, so Elfy put up a pad which summarises it and is meant to discuss actions and proposals.

Today we are going to have a meeting to discuss what’s on the “actions” pad. That’s why I thought it’d be handy to put together a bit of a summary of what people generally brought up. They’re not my thoughts, I’m just putting them up for further discussion.

Problem statements

  • Feeling that people innovate *with* Ubuntu, not *in* Ubuntu.
  • Perception of contributor drop in “older” parts of the community.
    • Less activity at UDS/vUDS/UOS events (was discussed at UOS too, maybe we need a committee which finds a new vision for Ubuntu Community Planning)?
    • Less activity in LoCos (lacking a sense of purpose?)
    • No drop in members/developers.
  • Less activity in Canonical-led projects.
  • We don’t spend marketing money on social media. Build a pavement online.
  • Downloading a CD image is too much of a barrier for many.
  • Our “community infrastructure” did not scale with the amount of users.
  • Some discussion about it being hard becoming a LoCo team. Bureaucracy from the LoCo Council.
  • We don’t have enough time to train newcomers.
  • Language barriers make it hard for some to get involved.
  • Canonical does a bad job announcing their presence at events.

Questions

  • Why are less people innovating in Ubuntu? Is Canonical driving too much of Ubuntu?
  • Why aren’t more folks stepping up into leadership positions? Mentoring? Lack of opportunities? More delegation? Do leaders just come in and lead because they’re interested?
  • Lack of planning? Do we re-plan things at UOS events, because some stuff never gets done? Need more follow-through? More assessment?

Proposals

  • community.ubuntu.com: More clearly indicate Canonical-led projects? Detail active projects, with point of contact, etc? Clean up moribund projects.
  • Make Ubuntu events more about “doing things with Ubuntu”?
  • Ubuntu Leadership Mentoring programme.
  • Form more of an Ubuntu ecosystem, allowing to earn money with Ubuntu.

Join the hangout on ubuntuonair.com on Friday, 12th December 2014, 16 UTC.

Ubuntu Community Discussions distilled, in a hangout, in work items

It’s fantastic that a we have more discussion about where we want our community to go. We get ideas out of it, people communicate and get a common understanding of issues. Jono’s blog post and the ubuntu-community-team mailing list generated a lot of good stuff already. Last week we had an IRC meeting with the CC and discussed governance and leadership in there.

We took quite a bit of notes, and Elfy set up a doc where we note down actions. I would like to suggest we have

Please

  • use Elfy’s action’s doc for submitting agenda items,
  • your agenda item is a concrete proposal or something which could be turned into work items,
  • make sure you’re there,
  • add your name to it!

Looking forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Foundation or no foundation

The call for an Ubuntu Foundation has come up again. It has been discussed many times before, ever since an announcement was made many years ago which left a number of people confused about the state of things.

The way I understood the initial announcement was that a trust had been set up, so that if aliens ever kidnapped our fearless leader, or if he decided that beekeeping was more interesting than Ubuntu, we could still go on and bring the best flavour of linux to the world.

Ok, now back to the current discussion. An Ubuntu Foundation seems to have quite an appeal to some. The question to me is: which problems would it solve?

Looking at it from a very theoretical point of view, an Ubuntu foundation could be a place where you separate “commercial” from “public” interests, but how would this separation work? Who would work for which of the entities? Would people working for the Ubuntu foundation have to review Canonical’s paperwork before they can close deals? Would there be a board where decisions have to be pre-approved? Which separation would generally happen?

Right now, Ubuntu’s success is closely tied to Canonical’s success. I consider this a good thing. With every business win of Canonical, Ubuntu gets more exposure in the world. Canonical’s great work in the support team, in the OEM sector or when closing deals with governments benefits Ubuntu to a huge degree. It’s like two sides of a coin right now. Also: Canonical pays the bills for Ubuntu’s operations. Data centers, engineers, designers and others have to be paid.

In theory it all sounds fine: “you get to have a say”, “more transparency”, etc. I don’t think many realise though, that this will mean that additional people will have to sift through legal and other documents, that more people will be busy writing reports, summarising discussions, that there will be more need for admin , that customers will have to wait longer, that this will in general have to cost more time and money.

I believe that bringing in a new layer will bring incredible amounts of work and open up endless possibilities for politics and easily bring things to a stand-still.

Will this fix Ubuntu’s problems? I absolutely don’t think so. Could we be more open, more inspiring and more inviting? Sure, but demanding more transparency and more separation is not going to bring that.

Mailing list woes

Despite being an “old” technology and having its problems, we still use mailing lists… a lot.  Some of the lists have been cleaned up by the Community Council some time ago, especially if they were created and then forgotten some time later.

We do have a number of mailing lists though which are still active, but have the problem of not having enough (or enough active) moderators on board. What then happens is this:

List moderation

… which sucks.

It’s not very nice if you have lots and lots of good discussion not happening just because you had no time to tend to the moderation queue.

Some mailing lists receive quite a bit of spam, others get a lot of mails from folks who are not subscribed yet, but this really shouldn’t be a problem. If you run a popular mailing list and moderation gets too much of a hassle, please consider adding more moderators – if you ask nicely a bunch of folks will be happy to help out.

So my advice:

  1. If you every registered a mailing list, please have a look at its moderation queue and see if you need help.
  2. If yes, please add more moderators.
  3. If you don’t do it yet, use listadmin – it’s the best thing since sliced bread and keeping up with moderation in the future will be no problem at all.

Long mailing list discussions

I’m very happy that the ubuntu-community-team mailing list is seeing lots of discussion right now. It shows how many people deeply care about the direction of Ubuntu’s community and have ideas for how to improve things.

Looking back through the discussion of the last weeks, I can’t help but notice a few issues we are running into – issues all to common on open source project mailing lists. Maybe you all have some ideas on how we could improve the discussion?

  • Bikeshedding
    The term bikeshedding has a negative connotation, but it’s a very natural phenomenon. Rouven, a good friend of mine, recently pointed out that the recent proposal to change the statutes of the association behind our coworking space (which took a long time to put together) received no comments on the internal mailing list, whereas a change of the coffee brand seemed to invite comments from everyone.
    It is quite natural for this to happen. In a bigger proposal it’s natural for us to comment on anything that is tangible. Discussions in our community of more technical people you will often see discussions about which technology to use, rather than an answer which tries to comment on all aspects.
  • Idea overload
    Being a creative community can sometimes be a bit of a curse. You end up with different proposals plus additional ideas and nobody or few to actually implement them.
  • Huge proposals
    Sometimes you see a mail on a list which lists a huge load of different things. Without somebody who tracks where the discussion is going, summing things up, making lists of work items, etc. it will be very hard to convert a discussion into an actual project.
  • Derailing the conversation
    You’ve all seen this happen: you start the conversation with a specific problem or proposal and end up discussing something entirely different.

All of the above are nothing new, but in a part of our project where discussions tend to be quite general and where we have contributors from many different parts of the community some of the above are even more true.

Personally I feel that all of the above are fine problems to have. We are creative and we have ideas on how to improve things – that’s great. In my mind I always treated the ubuntu-community-team mailing list as a place to kick around ideas, to chat and to hang out and see what others are doing.

As I care a lot about our community and I’d still like to figure out how we can avoid the risk of some of the better ideas falling through the cracks. What do you think would help?

Maybe a meeting, maybe every two weeks to pick up some of the recent discussion and see together as a group if we can convert some of the discussion into something which actually flies?

I Am Who I Am Because Of Who We All Are

I read the “We Are Not Loco” post  a few days ago. I could understand that Randall wanted to further liberate his team in terms of creativity and everything else, but to me it looks feels the wrong approach.

The post makes a simple promise: do away with bureaucracy, rename the team to use a less ambiguous name, JFDI! and things are going to be a lot better. This sounds compelling. We all like simplicity; in a faster and more complicated world we all would like things to be simpler again.

What I can also agree with is the general sense of empowerment. If you’re member of a team somewhere or want to become part of one: go ahead and do awesome things – your team will appreciate your hard work and your ideas.

So what was it in the post that made me sad? It took me a while to find out what specifically it was. The feeling set in when I realised somebody turned their back on a world-wide community and said “all right, we’re doing our own thing – what we used to do together to us is just old baggage”.

Sure, it’s always easier not having to discuss things in a big team. Especially if you want to agree on something like a name or any other small detail this might take ages. On the other hand: the world-wide LoCo community has achieved a lot of fantastic things together: there are lots of coordinated events around the world, there’s the LoCo team portal, and most importantly, there’s a common understanding of what teams can do and we all draw inspiration from each other’s teams. By making this a global initiative we created numerous avenues where new contributors find like-minded individuals (who all live in different places on the globe, but share the same love for Ubuntu and organising local events and activities). Here we can learn from each other, experiment and find out together what the best practices for local community awesomeness are.

Going away and equating the global LoCo community with bureaucracy to me is desolidarisation – it’s quite the opposite of “I Am Who I Am Because Of Who We All Are”.

Personally I would have preferred a set of targeted discussions which try to fix processes, improve communication channels and inspire a new round leaders of Ubuntu LoCo teams. Not everything you do in a LoCo team has to be approved by the entire set of other teams, actual reality in the LoCo world is quite different from that.

If you have ideas to discuss or suggestions, feel free to join our loco-contacts mailing list and bring it up there! It’s your chance to hang out with a lot of fun people from around the globe. 🙂