[Discussion] Role(s) of the Ubuntu Community

“Other than free tech support, what else should it [the Ubuntu community] be doing?”

There is a group of Canonical employees who meet each week to discuss and implement plans to be better members of the Community. Recently, we asked a small group of active contributors about their priorities for the community in the near future and long term.

As expected, there were comments about the Wiki, improving documentation in general, and having better incentives and recognition for contributors. The statement above really made us pause, and we think it’s one only the community can answer.

While we know the tech support the Ubuntu community provides is invaluable, and one of the major reasons new Linux users choose Ubuntu, we know this isn’t the community’s only role. So, what do you think the community is doing now? What do you want it to do in the future? We’re excited to learn what everyone thinks and to start this important conversation!


In May I got an email from a Canonical employee & Ubuntu community member

I’ve seen you commenting on some … bug reports. Would you like to learn how to better triage them?

That was unexpected, and greatly appreciated.

The reaching out & touching both made me & my efforts feel appreciated, and allowed me to hopefully improve my own efforts (at bug triage, at least on that type). :slight_smile:


“Community” has two definitions: Folks who share a common characteristic (like Ubuntu), and a feeling of fellowship as a result of sharing common interests/goals (like Ubuntu).

I think we already try to capture both of those.

My perspective is that the Ubuntu community provides three basic functions:

  1. Provides a sense of fellowship and enthusiasm to users and contributors.
  2. Is the starting point for direct contribution to Ubuntu: Support, remixes, testing, bug triage, documentation, etc.
  3. Is the starting point for more complex learning (How Ubuntu Works, How Free Software Works, How Debian Works, How Snaps Work), skill development, and contributions to upstreams and the wider Free Software ecosystem (Debian, MATE, Snapcraft, etc).

In the future, I think the community can improve all three functions.

Example: I think we can re-grow Ubucon and similar regional events after the Pandemic subsides, and build enthusiasm. It would be nice to see some folks in-person.

Example: I think the community can improve recruiting new volunteers onto projects that need them. (Gosh, what projects don’t need more hands?) We have tried a few different methods in the past, but none have really worked as well as I would like.

Example: I think that the community can do much, much more with non-technical volunteers. I was once in a club run by a nice person who knew almost nothing about the subject, but everything about running a great club. Best club ever. The most fun events. Meetings were productive. Fundraising was magically easy. We were enthusiastic about the subject. Everyone felt welcome. Just great.


That question implies there is a limit. But is there?

I recently was accepted as a Debian member. Debian is a community driven project which created and maintains a complete OS including the related infrastructure. And as regards Ubuntu, all the packages in universe (and multiverse) are assumed to be maintained by the community. Just to mention a couple of examples.

So the simple answer to my own question ought to be: No.

Well, I know what I am doing (at least usually). In connection with my application to become a Debian member I summarized the profile of my contributions in a bio, which is attached to this page. If you sum up what all the members of the Ubuntu community do, you’ll know what “the community” is doing. :smile:

So I assume that the community is involved in a variety of things, and I think it’s important that it remains so. The mere thought that the community members only do some docs and translations and so, and that The Engineers take care of everything else, is kind of dangerous.


Chris, that is so heartening and encouraging, and thank you so much to that fellow employee/community member for both appreciating your efforts and helping you build your skills. Whatever roles people take, we definitely want to have more stories like this! :heart_eyes:


Ian, this was an extremely thoughtful answer, and the last point reminds me of a conversation I had with the gentleman who wrote his anthropology thesis on the very early Ubuntu community. We were chatting about how the community has grown and changed, and he mentioned that one of the roles he imagined it had now was as a ‘university’ of sorts where people new to Linux and free and open source software could learn and be mentored, and then become teachers and mentors in turn.

That absolutely resonates with the what you’ve said, and building on the learning processes we have and definitely building our mentorship program (with an eye towards baking sustainability into the process) seem like key steps.

What were some of the recruitment ways that didn’t work (especially the ones you thought would work)? What do you think we haven’t tried that could be more effective, or we didn’t try in the right way?

Fun, productive, easy, enthusiastic, welcoming. Those are definitely traits of a community we all want to be in, and that is a great way to boil things down.

I definitely didn’t want to imply any sorts of limits on what the community can/should do! If anything, I think the assumption behind the original question was 'this one role has come to define the community, for better or worse, but how do we we encourage a broader view that reflects on what members are doing AND want to do?"

I completely agree with you that seeing the community as an appendage, especially in non-technical roles, is dangerous. My goal in making this discussion public (besides working in the open!) was to promote that sense of open opportunity, while also trying to capture the community’s current and future goals (in a broad way). I am sorry if any of my wording/phrasing obscured that!


Thanks for that clarification, @madhens. That’s what I wanted to hear. And you have certainly no reason to apologize . :slight_smile:

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