As you may know, I recently became an Ubuntu member. I have had many surprised reactions to this, as I have been active in the Ubuntu community for 10+ years, so many assumed I was already a member. However, whenever I looked at the process to apply, I was put off and decided I would come back to it later. In this discussion I hope to show why the current process discouraged me from applying, and offer some proposals to improve the process for others.
In theory the process is:
- Document your contributions on the wiki, optionally gathering testimonials from the community.
- Agree to the code of conduct.
- Present your application to the membership board.
However, in practice, you must also complete one or more of these additional steps:
- Apply to join the Ubuntu Wiki Editors group on launchpad, and possibly bug Alan Pope until he approves you.
- Correctly generate and install a gpg keypair.
- Upload your public key to launchpad.
- Set up your mail client to receive encrypted email to verify your key.
- Digitally sign and upload a copy of the code of conduct.
- Set up an IRC client to connect to #ubuntu-meeting.
- Ensure the IRC nick you plan to use is available and register it with NickServ.
- Make sure you are connected to the right channel at the right time.
Proposal 1: Modernise the wiki
@popey has already detailed this better than I can on his blog. From my point of view, either providing an automated way of verifying new users (much like discobot does on this site), or giving new users editing rights in a limited area of the wiki to let them create their page, would be a major step forwards.
Proposal 2: Do away with GPG signing
No human has verified the key I have used to sign the code of conduct. The only reason you know its my key is because I uploaded it to my launchpad account. You are not trusting the key, you are trusting the account. The same level of trust would be achieved if there was a checkbox on my launchpad profile that said “I have read & accept the code of conduct”. I believe something like that should replace the current process.
Proposal 3a: Make IRC info more prominent
Currently the #ubuntu-meeting link on the Membership Boards page takes the user to the Kiwi IRC web client and will connect them to the correct channel. This is great, but it’s easy to miss. This link could be added the NewMember page with some basic information about what IRC is, how to use it and how to register your nickname ahead of the meeting.
Proposal 3b: Make membership boards asyncronous
IRC is a great example of an open, federated chat system. However, its not a great example of a modern communication tool. I’m not going to use this proposal to suggest Ubuntu adopts Matrix, Mattermost or some alternative for its meetings. However perhaps membership applications don’t need take place in a synchronous meeting at all. Perhaps an asynchronous medium like a discourse thread would serve the purpose just as well.
These proposals are by no means complete, and I’m not pretending to be able to solve all the problems myself, but I hope that these sow the seeds for some positive discussion and improvements to the current process.