Confessions of a community member.

I am concerned with the current status of Ubuntu, not because of the tension on the community or the new software being put out. I am concerned because I feel my time and contributions might go to waste and fall on deaf ears. As leader of a LoCo, how do I know if the work I am putting in is even going to matter in two months when 13.04 comes out? Is my work still relevant because it has nothing to do with a cell phone, nothing to do with a display server, and nothing that in any way is a direct profit source for the Canonical.

I just spent the past two days at the online UDS, and though I feel this allowed for greater community participation  I am blatantly aware that the items the community are allowed to work on are not the same that we could work on in 2008 when I first joined the Ubuntu community. We have no say in any core decisions, and I find this unexceptionable.  This is not community, this is hierarchical class system with an almost direct juxtaposition to the Ubuntu I used to know. We are made to be people who are used and abused  and uninformed of the inner workings of the actual Ubuntu system until every other Ubuntu user finds out. How can I go from working at UDS on how to spread Ubuntu when I am just as unaware as any other Ubuntu user out there as to what this Ubuntu is that I have volunteered to spread. Am I still valued?

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26 thoughts on “Confessions of a community member.

  1. Pingback: My responses to dozen of posts | smartboyhw's Ubuntu blog

  2. What are you not allowed to work on? I realise that some of the projects might be a bit harder to get into and that some teams might work a bit more separate from our “normal work-flows” (which might be something which should be improved), but which projects did you try to get involved with and were rejected?

    • Well I haven’t been around for a while but it is pretty obvious for a long time even when I was at Canonical that there is a definite separation between the community and Canonical when it comes to contributions. Its just priorities, people not being available for instance when a community member asks even during work hours for instance.

      It is a lot of the in house Canonical projects that are the worst for external contributors IMO. Like if you want to submit patches you need to sign the contributor agreement and you need to adhere to the internal structures of the code like TDD and code style. Which is fine if you are asking an employee but if you are someone looking to submit a fast fix to a small problem you have to ask is it worth the effort of doing all that because its all red tape.

      Then you have to look at are the contributions being in any way appreciated at all, like if I take on an entire feature of lets say the software center I spend 2 weeks working on it and do my best. It gets knocked back for style or I had a small bug that I didn’t notice but it eventually gets merged. If it was an employee they get paid so it doesn’t matter that they don’t get thanks for it. If you are a community member not even getting thanks for jumping through all those hoops in any way just seems like a bit of a kick to the teeth in a way.

      Like I know everyone can do better but some changes need to be made to streamline what goes on from community to canonical.

      • “Like if you want to submit patches you need to sign the contributor agreement and you need to adhere to the internal structures of the code like TDD and code style. Which is fine if you are asking an employee but if you are someone looking to submit a fast fix to a small problem you have to ask is it worth the effort of doing all that because its all red tape.”

        Well, IMO this is fine, because “we” (I take that to represent Canonical and the broader community) want to raise the bar for the entire codebase that is being shipped. There’s nothing wrong with having a high standard of contribution, in fact, this is a challenge that I think people are capable of living up to (see WebKit). Where the breakdown begins to happen I think is where there is a lack of mentorship, or the reviewer is overly hostile about the requirements of their codebase. That just pisses people off. But I think if the reviewer is supportive and willing to mentor the community member then everyone wins. Or at least, that’s how I handled this back when I worked there.

        What’s really disappointed me is the level of uncertainty the community as a whole is currently facing. For example, the entire story around what actually happens to 13.04 at the moment has been incredibly vague and opaque, and quite recently I was told that I was basically going to throw away 4 months of hard work because Ubuntu wasn’t going to take my patches because they don’t want to take community patches on compiz anymore. So I’ve just stopped working on compiz because I don’t even know how things are going to be handled at canonical. Which is a shame, because my patches vastly improve performance on nvidia hardware, are fully tested, developed using TDD, user tested, peer reviewed, what more could you ask for?

        Ubuntu for me is now a waste of time, and I’m just focusing on my study instead. Canonical lost me as an employee by pulling these stunts on me, and now they’ve lost me as a maintainer of their legacy stack too.

      • Like if you want to submit patches you need to sign the contributor agreement and you need to adhere to the internal structures of the code like TDD and code style. Which is fine if you are asking an employee but if you are someone looking to submit a fast fix to a small problem you have to ask is it worth the effort of doing all that because its all red tape.

        That’s not specific to Canonical at all. If projects want to maintain high code quanlity, they often put up contribution barriers, such as requiring unit tests and a specific code style. The motivation is fairly straightforward. If you want to get your feature in, you should do the work to make it acceptable.

        Of course, it’s also going to make it harder to contribute, and the project will lose some drive-by contributions. As a project maintainer, you need to decide how high you make that barrier.

      • Well that is another huge issue Sam, a lot of what people are having issues with is the internalness of what is going on currently. Announcing when things are dead earlier might help but then they have to think about when is too early to announce new things. I can see why they would keep things like Mir, uPhone…etc secret while you are prototyping and all that but when you commit to a set of technologies they should let people know I think.

        Like you for instance probably wouldn’t have wasted your time on Compiz if you knew that Unity was dead in its current form because it is being replaced right? And you were even internal for a part of when it was decided that they would replace the current Unity it was just lack of communications and community outreach I think.

        Im not saying Jono is slacking or anything I think he is doing his best but its the company policy as a whole which is the issue here I think. Its need to know basis on a lot of things but as a community if we are to be engaged and excited about things we have to be informed about them. Like I said in a few different places, the uPhone/Tab plan was around for at least 2 years and we only found out about it recently as a community even if they talked about it a few times before now. The code base is pretty far along so it means that they kept the community in the dark for that entire time about the technologies or design being used.

        Its things like this that make it hard to be a community member because how are you to know when something is going to die and if they do die soon after you contribute you feel like shit because the time spent meant nothing. And again this is something like the value of community contributions too. It costs nothing to warn us ahead of times when huge changes are going to happen.

  3. Do you contribute to, or have you thought about contributing to Debian? You’d still be helping Ubuntu (indirectly) and it’s more of a community-orientated effort.

  4. It took a lot of courage to even admit you’ve questions :) Now, of course you are going to be told community members are valued but you may still feel uneasy and that means there’s something still not fully understood. Understanding means being able to protect yourself.

    I’d strongly recommend reading the following books. If not read, then please at least stop by your local bookstore/ library and thumb through them. I think you’ll be surprised just how familiar the subject matter discussed will seem to you.

    Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

    “Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”-and how to apply these understandings.”

    Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan

    “Steven Hassan exposes the troubling facts about destructive cults (religious, political, psychotherapeutical, commercial, and educational)”

    // x-posted from reddit in case you were just dropping links

  5. This kind of disruption happens in large organizations. I remember you were around the last time it happened in 2011.

    I and many other community members certainly appreciate all your hard work. Keep it up!

    But remember, in 2011 we asked for pre-decision discussion on mailing lists and UDS. In 2013 that’s what we got. I think that’s a victory for all your efforts. Canonical engineers are releasing proposals and ideas, not polished, fully formed decisions.

    Don’t read ‘unpolished’ or ‘awkward’ to mean ‘uncaring’. That’s easy to do after all the slick, expensive CES and MWC bling. But we’re not customers – we’re participants and contributors.

    I *would* be upset if big decisions had been made in secret. But they weren’t. Our input has been solicited, and no decisions have been made yet.

    • > I *would* be upset if big decisions had been made in secret. But they weren’t. Our input has been solicited, and no decisions have been made yet.

      Sure? So how would you describe the Mir vs. Wayland thing for instance?

      • To me it looks like someone who has worked the issue pretty thorougly sending up a trial balloon: “Hey, I think we should go with Course of Action mir because of reasons A, B, C, and D. Here is my proposed plan that I predict my employer will fund. Let’s discuss this at UDS”

        So far nobody has put forward a better idea. Maybe someone will, maybe not.

        I saw a lot of enthusiasm by the developers familiar with it. I saw their hopes that mir is indeed the way of the future. But hope isn’t fact. Canonical will decide of they want to fund it, and the Ubuntu Technical Board will decide if they want to actually replace X. and there will be lots more discussion and testing first.

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  10. It is obvious that Canonical do not appreciate community/contributors… even if he verbally says it 1000 times over…. actions speak louder than words (propaganda)

    Debian is a REAL community effort whose fate does NOT rely on a Corporation chasing revenue and making decisions to adapt to a market place for success… your contributions would be welcomed and appreciated on the other side of the fence. Just my opinion….

    kaddy
    http://www.youtube.com/Linux4UnMe

  11. I would say, to writer of this excellent article, if you feel uneasy somewhere (and in this case i can imagine), there are many other, valuable community projects where your contributions are not just highly valued but also asked!

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