Give Jono a Break, Grow the Community

Posted in Multimedia Entry, Sociology, Ubuntu on January 24th, 2013 by doctormo

From today’s Q&A with Jono Bacon. I need to use Jono to make a point, so apologies in advance. At 53:00 in the video Jono says is spending 14 hours a day working on Ubuntu. This despite having a brand new baby boy and a awesome meat smoker to contend with.

I say this isn’t fair on Jono. There is no reason why someone should be giving 175%. 14 hours a day is 70 hours a week; That’s more than the 40 hour week enshrined in the European working time directive for office workers; more than the 48 hour maximum safe working week for junior doctors; even more than the 60 hours a week that the Tory government want to change that to.

To put this into perspective, a balanced week would typically or ideally include 56 hours sleep, 40 hours work, 72 hours recreation, responsibility and relationships. But Jono does 70 hours, how can anyone be a good positive cheerleader with that sort of workload?

Responsible Indigestion

I think there is some blockage with the vast array of responsibilities that the Canonical Community Team have to do. A great deal of these responsibilities are likely only held by members of the team because we are unable to find volunteer or non-canonical business people to take them over.

Thinking about the people in the community team (who I love with all my heart), I see a ton of projects, lots of talk and quite a bit of regret at not being able to do everything. And I don’t think it’s right that they should be asked to do everything. Outside of the team, lots of aspects of the community are quiet indeed.

Not the Center

I’ve had some really good chats in the past with Jono about the nature of the community team and how it’s often perceived as being the center of the universe for quite a lot of the Ubuntu community’s activities. There is a misconception that the “Canonical” community team is the authoritative organiser and sanctifier of activities. It’s not.

The Canonical community team are employed to look after Canonical’s interests in the community. So of _course_ they’re going to spend all their time focused on their business objectives, that’s what the team is for. Of course Canonical’s objectives might be over-stretching too, but I think the team also helps out in places for the good of the community which is leading to stress.

Our true centre, if we have one at all, is the Community Council. But it has never really taken on the responsibility of being a co-ordinating power. It deals with problems and that’s what it was made for. So I guess one waits for the project to explode before taking the charred remains to the Community Council for autopsy. This isn’t good enough.

What to do

What we need is a new centre of the Ubuntu Community universe. It’s no good having a company act as the sol centre of activity; volunteers hate working for free for mega-corp big bucks and move away over time as co-ordination is often innocuously prescribed along business objectives. A community needs a strong central point, or central set of core ideas that we can all dance to without fear we’re being abused by a large player using cheat codes.

“Ubuntu for everyone” used to be enough. A rallying cry from a thousand frustrated Linux users to come together, creating a gravity1 all of their own, pulling more people in until we had such a strong and healthy community.

That isn’t enough any more. We’ve been too successful. We have an awesome Linux desktop which we can install on anyone’s computer without very many problems. You can get it for free if you ignore the skull, download an iso good for a million installs of the same fully working operating system.

What we need is a new centre of the Ubuntu Community universe. A new point of gravity. A new co-ordination body who can sanction every hair brained scheme2, listen endlessly to every kid on irc who has an exciting new idea, comment on things, and act as a great mixing bowl for people and ideas. Such a body would need a reason and a goal, something resonant that goes beyond just technical aims, or marketing PR.

I seriously propose that we found an identity for Ubuntu which lies outside of Canonical. A gravitational body of such stability and neutral authority that the massive Jovian mass of Canonical will happily find it’s lagrange point while smaller congregations will find more comfortable points in their own orbits.

I hate to say it, but Catch 22, Canonical MUST be committed to such an idea. There is NO point in a bunch of community folk wandering off into the brush to build this. We would need everyone to recognise the problem we have here and help fix it with some radical rethinking about the community. And that includes helping Jono3.

Are you onboard? What do you think? Let me know below in the comments.

1 Gravity, the reason we all come together. Each Canonical PR blunder acting like stellar wind pushing more people away.
2 Every hair-brained scheme in Ubuntu is already sanctioned, but most of the time someone with a fancy hat and an official looking title just has to listen to it and say that it’s a good idea to give the kids confidence.
3 Save the Cheerleader, save the world.

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Don’t Rationalise

Posted in Sociology, Ubuntu on June 18th, 2010 by doctormo

Continuing at a tangent from yesterday’s blog post about design I wanted to quickly address a problem with non-material contributions (i.e. vocal and political contributions) as opposed to programming, design, support, education or any of the other thousands of material contributions in the community ecosystem.

The default seems to be that between weakly relational members of the community we organise ourselves with three tactics: knowing the best people, shouting the loudest and have the most convincing argument.

If your voice isn’t being heard then perhaps it’s because we have far to many rambling personalities posting huge emails to mailing lists or huge posts using complex words like ‘polemic’ several times.

But if all your trying to do is communicate what you want from the computer, what you really aspire to have in the design of the software then it’s best to keep it short and sweet. I don’t think we always need to rationalise our desires and make essays out of them.

Some people do this: “I’d like to see the window buttons on the right again because it would make my life easier.”

Your aspirations?

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LoCo: Keep Things Open

Posted in Events, Local Community, Ubuntu on February 1st, 2010 by doctormo

Recently I learned that an event we’d tentatively been expecting to attend as a group, didn’t happen. But all was quiet and as leader I’d assumed that the organisers has decided that the event couldn’t be run properly so had dropped the idea. but the problem was that we didn’t know.

The problem it turned out was a series of private emails between the two principle organisers who had managed to cross wires and misunderstand each other. Add in complexities of personal histories and the fact that they’ve never met in person and we ended up will a killed event.

So my thoughts were, should the organisation communication have been held in public, on the mailing list? Should that be a standard part of the procedure?

At least if it’s going on in the light of the list’s mailing list we can identify potential conflicts and attempt to defuse problems. If things do explode, then we’d be on hand to help pick up the pieces and salave what we could.

Thoughts?

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