Improving Community Health: Community Concerns

Long time no post for me but I started to think about the health of the Community again. Over the last few years, I think we all have noticed that the health of our Community is slipping where we have no UOS’s (or whatever they were called), non-EU LoCo’s are dead, and now no Community and LoCo councils.

I’m aware that it’s a small world out there and most of us are volunteers, but that doesn’t mean our Community suffers from that.

What has happened and why? What have we done wrong? What we have done right? How to fix this?

Thank you.

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As part of the previous LoCo Council, the only thing I can say is that we noticed our memberships were ending but we have not found substitutes and as time went by I guess we started foreseeing issues with the CC.

I believe the overall health of Ubuntu’s Community is decaying as there are few incentives to contribute to the community. Its just not rewarding. Sorry and don’t get me wrong: I love Ubuntu as much as most of you, but it’s not rewarding.
When I decided to volunteer, I wanted to do technical stuff but then I realised most of the projects are not fully maintained by the community and the entry barriers are huge. Sooner or later you conclude that it’s that way because people are kind of alone in the projects and they either work on easing contributions or making things happen.

I have no solutions. I like open source software and I’ll keep working on OSS. But I don’t think the Ubuntu Community offers me the kind of challenges I’m looking for.

I will keep an eye on this post. Hope it helps to trigger changes and for the better.

Thanks for bringing this up, @belkinsa

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I agree with you. The barrier to entry and working solo is what is in all of the communities that I try to get involved in, including coming back to the Ubuntu Community. In my case, it’s the community engagement side of the Community.

Like you, I’m just not challenged enough.

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So what would you think would work as an incentive to you?

What barriers have you found?

For me, the main barrier is jumping into a already dying or dead group, such as Ubuntu Women or my LoCo. I also want to condenser working knowing that you will work solo as barrier also.

Edit to Add: Just as an afterthought here. I haven’t looked deep into this but I know there is ways for our coding side to find low hanging fruits and good for new people but is there something for the the non-coding side? The engagement side? I know that GNOME does have this.

This is a rather subjective discussion and I can only give you my opinion for what’s worth.

When people contribute, considering this is the same as volunteering, recognition is missing. I’m not saying I want a statue or something exaggerated like that. People are devoting more often than not a lot of their free time for a cause. And, again, people hav have no time for helping to integrate and facilitate new comers.
Ideally, people would start to become more and more involved in given projects. From my experience, people who weren’t in boards, chairs and what-not, are typically those who do more and important stuff. This drives people away from open source projects, IMO.
Then we need to talk about involvement and diversity. Yes, diversity is a good thing and I’m not suggesting to kill that, but this many distributions, this many packages that do the same thing, it’s all good until you realise how disperse the community is and that you cannot do something properly organised because exactly of the two terms I said. Projects lack contributors, only a one or two do all the heavy lifting (this isn’t even healthy, btw) and with this, they lack time to help integrate, to help grow and to allow others to get involved. And projects lack contributors, IMO due to poor involvement and excessive diversity.

But hey, it’s my opinion and I am a nobody in this community. Although we are trying, we need to call out the major players from the community and they should provide feedback. Perhaps we’re wrong and they have it all covered.

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I really don’t understand what kind of recognition you miss, it’s hard if you can’t put it into words.

I really don’t see a problem with having this much, or even more diversity.
We can’t force people to use/work on what they don’t want to work, and those that work on some different things also can be cooperating on other common things.

If we reduce diversity will those contributors still be around, or will they leave and do whatever they want somewhere else!?
I do believe it’s latter that will happen more often.
What will we loose with a reduction on that?

How are we harmed having people working on different/alternative things?
Would people still be around if they couldn’t do that?

I do believe we are net benefited from having this much diversity.
That doesn’t mean I think that everybody and their dog should get their software on the Debain and Ubuntu archives, or that publishing your own distro that did created to learn how to do a distro is a good idea. But those are entirely different issues. The packages get into the Debian (and therefore Ubuntu) archive because people cared enough to do the work of creating the packages and of maintaining them, and to have an officially recognized Ubuntu flavour there’s also a threshold of expertise and proven commitment that has to be demonstrated ahead.

I don’t say you don’t have a point on what you say, maybe it makes sense to distinguish between packages that are actually actively maintained, and that the majority of the community would rather contributors to work on, from others that are not that maintained or seen as less important. Maybe dividing universe a bit further to signal those things would be a good idea.

Lack of contributors and active involvement in general is something I agree, we need to do more and better to get more active contributors, but for that, we need to be able to identify objectively and not just subjectively what are those barriers, to then plan ways to tear them down.
With the i386 crisis, we have seen how messy things can get when there’s a gap on communication and involvement from the users with the much smaller group of people that actually actively contributes, so we really need to bridge this gap and increase the number of contributors.

Now, ln order to be positive I’ll leave two proposals:

1.I do believe @popey is doing something valuable by publishing those videos, and we have also discussed doing something like this within our own LoCo, many times. We all need to start doing more things like that.
2. We need to review Contribute to Ubuntu Wiki Page, it’s apparently not that up to date. And we need to incorporate new content such as Alan’s videos, into the wiki.

I like this idea but how would this list be generated and maintained? Will be be through statics or will someone have to manually do it?

I hate to say that I agree with @gsilvapt, there is too much diversity and that turn dilutes the Community to only having one or two people working on a project. One suggestion that I would like to give on top of your idea above is to have the projects listed by if there are core to Ubuntu or not. Organizing this way may cut down on the barriers.

Download statistics could be used, but it should be way more than that, it should be a list curated by the people that contribute to Ubuntu, based on the history of the packages and of the people that maintain them, also maybe by getting feedback from users whiling to give such feedback on several ways.

Diversity exists because people don’t want to work on the same things, the idea that these people would work on the same things if we didn’t allowed them to, is mislead and totally ignores contributors motivations. Contributors will go away if we prevent them to work on their passions.

Diversity also allows that the Ubuntu universe can serve more people with different needs and preferences, and allows us to see and test more ideas, and people that come driven by these different things may end up doing also other things that serve a bigger audience to. We gain from this diversity it grows us bigger and stronger!

I told you: Regular contributors should be appreciated with responsibility (if they want to) and have an opportunity to work closer with core members.

Diversity is needed and good but can also split communities apart when we would appreciate to have a bigger group working together.

I have found a way to contribute which works well for me.

  1. Pick an area which you are interested in and would like to improve through your contributions.

  2. Do it.

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How is that not already the case? If you start to contribute with something, you start with making proposals that need to be reviewed and approved by others. Along the road, if your proposals add value and you show an ability and willingness to learn how things work, you can apply for edit access to various repos and web pages as well as upload rights for packages.

As regards working with core members (do you mean core developers?) I’d say that it will happen automatically whether you like it or not. :wink:

I’m sorry, I didn’t understood that before.
Can you give us some examples on what working closer with the core members would you mean/like?
I just want to make sure we all understand what you mean, communication is not always easy.

The problem is that it’s not splitting. The idea that people would just work on the same thing otherwise is I believe wrong. You may advise them, invite them to work on the same thing, but if you try to force, they will just go away.

The smart thing is to create incentives, methods, resources and advantages to work on common goals not to drive diversity away, because even different packages can share something and benefit from each other, even if just by brainstorming together.

People usually feel very strongly about wanting to do things that work on different ways, or just look differently. Ubuntu MATE does this cross project cooperation very well, so maybe the entire Ubuntu Community can learn from that.

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I will try to give some ideas.
I think the main problem is resource deterioration.
Examples:

  1. We don’t have a Community Council.
  2. The Wiki is out dated.
  3. The Ubuntu Forums seems really old and need organization. The Spanish community it’s divided into many LoCos and only Argentina it’s active.
  4. You keep using IRC instead of Telegram channels.
  5. Launchpad it’s really old. We need statistics on activity and indicators on what projects are from Ubuntu and what projects are just imported or patched.
  6. The Ubuntu merch store is gone.
  7. Ubuntu lost part of his identity/uniqueness with the change from Unity to Gnome. Customization and Ubuntu only apps are welcome.
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I agree the Community Council disappearing has created many issues that are rippling through the community, many teams are expiring, like the Ubuntu Membership Board, four of us expired three months ago because the CC did not call for nominations and no one is around to renew our memberships, we have been told the issue is being worked on so hopefully the CC will be reinstated soon or new elections will be held so this will allow other teams and boards to continue to to do the work they do to help improve the community.

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Some considerations:

Having talked with the people from the several communities in Spain, I don’t see what’s the problem of having many LoCo’s, Spain is a big country and LoCo has Lo because it means Local. I’ve personally proposed the adoption of the same type of structure that we have adopted for the Ubuntu Europe Federation, which is an organization created to serve the European LoCo, and has no authority over them, while allowing them to cooperate. But this can also be done at the Ubuntu Europe Federation.

Many of the LoCo use Telegram. IRC is however a more broadly accepted platform.

You can buy Ubuntu branded merch from LoCo, both the Portuguese and French LoCo have it regularly, the French have really really good merch.

I agree. I was talking about the Ubuntu Forums. If someone it’s looking for help in his language we told them to ask in the Ubuntu Forums. So they go there just to discover it’s been years since someone has posted. They have to keep trying until they find out Argentina LoCo it’s active.
The last time I talked with the Spain’s LoCo they were selling his web page domain. @costales

For programmers I agree it’s still a good platform. I personally believe Telegram it’s more inclusive and has more features.

Thanks. But 2 questions arises. 1) Where goes the money? To support Ubuntu or the French LoCo? 2) Does this means, in order to promote Ubuntu merch, every LoCo should have his own merch or maybe link to other LoCos? Do I tell them: “yeah go check out Ubuntu t-shirts in the French LoCo”.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time to answer me. I really appreciate the work you all do and the effort you put into it. I really hope things will get better in the future. Ubuntu it’s still an amazing OS.

I seldom use the forums, I rather use AskUbuntu and other tools. I also think they’re a self-organized initiative from some community members. If it’s so that is an issue to be addressed with them directly

Me and @nhaines had that chat with @costales in 2018.
I personally don’t think @costales is commited to having a Spanish LoCo, for his own personal reasons, but he should be the one to clarify that.

I mus however say something: if you want a LoCo, you should be the first to come forward and work for that. However Spain is a special place where I do believe that having smaller more regional LoCo and to have a bigger platform such as an association, where all have equal word and say and no LoCo has authority over the other, will work much better for obvious political reasons.

If you want help, reach out to me, I can help you contact other LoCo, and indivuduals in Spain. Besides my good friend @Costales in Asturias, there’s also people from Madrid and from Catalunia that are very active, and I can try to put you in contact with them.

I’ve been using IRC since the 1990’s. There was a time where many hundred thousand persons, on my small country, mostly non-programers or technicians, used IRC. IRC was the social networking of late 90’s early 2000’s and everybody used it. People can still use it today, more people are more tech savy now. But I do agree that Telegram is easer, prettier, and more modern.
With something like bridges I don’t thing what particular platform people want to use is a huge problem.

  1. When you buy from the French Loco it goes to the French LoCo (which is actually a legal entity called Association Francophone Ubuntu-Fr).

  2. If LoCos want to have it’s own merch or not, to help support its own activities more autonomously , that is each LoCo decision. At the Ubuntu Europe Federation were are preparing to have merch too, to help support European wide activities of the LoCo’s to promote Ubuntu and foster community.

Thanks for your kind words, it’s mostly others that make things happen.

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I think it’s fair to say that a community is as strong as the people involved in it. Where formal leadership lacks, committed participation and passion can keep projects alive and vibrant. Though I do bemoan the unmaintained state of the Councils and Boards, I do not think this has to signify the state of the community itself. In fact, I can most certainly confirm we’ve got a whole global team of really motivated contributors that continue to care about making Ubuntu better. And there are no shortage of open doors to join in.

One thing I’ll say is that Ubuntu has always been in a weird state, being a open source project supported by a company. Where does one end and the other begin? I think it’s safe to say that Canonical’s had a history of moving onto the next thing. Whatever thing it is, Ubuntu will always be a part of it (many core roles are held by or assisted by Canonical employees) but it won’t be the thing. Ubuntu is honestly pretty darn mature and takes care of itself— even if there is something to be improved with participation— so why should Canonical worry themselves with it? It’s taken a while to get here, though, and in the process they have slowly pulled back: the Ubuntu Developer Summit went online and then faded away, the role of Community Manager sort of transformed into Developer Advocate (oh hai @popey), etc. That could be taken as a sign of dropping support of it, but in light of Canonical’s Ubuntu Advantage program alone, that’s just unlikely. But the fact of the matter is that the community does not need Canonical to be the guiding light.

As an example of this, I can relay recent experiences I have had with the Lubuntu flavor, which has been the primary source of my contributions since I really started being a member of the community a little under a decade ago. We’ve been through some major changes, both in terms of staffing as well as with the project itself, having transitioned to a completely different desktop environment which was originally a fork of our original one. This was certainly a time of much work to do. But by working to reduce barriers of entry, we came out ahead. We did a lot of work to encourage contributions and actively recruited and mentored many new contributors. We continued to stay in touch and follow up with them, looking for any opportunity to provide them with additional responsibilities or roles if they were willing to take them. We completely overhauled communications, bridging our IRC channels to Telegram and Matrix and setting up a Discourse instance. We set up a Phabricator instance to coordinate development and a Jenkins instance to further aid packagers. We made our own wiki and, if I may boast of the hard work of our team, put together an absolutely fantastic manual. After years of existence, we finally established a Lubuntu Council, set up a merchandise store, and created a way to take donations. Admittedly, we’ve had some help from Altispeed to host much of that infrastructure, but ultimately we did all this on our own.

That said, maybe the next stage of Ubuntu’s evolution is one where the involvement of neither Canonical nor @sabdfl is a requirement for our leadership, as it is with the nomination of candidates for the Community Council. I’m not suggesting they won’t have an instrumental, crucial role as administrator, but that perhaps it might not be better if they left the caretaking of the project to the community itself. Based on my experience, that could well be a very a great boon to the project.

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I was thinking exactly the same. The community it’s the people involved. As long as people still believe in a project and works together towards a common goal, the community will exist.
I was too shy to propose the creation of an unofficial community council but this time seems about right.