Community Appreciation Day

When things are moving fast and there’s still a lot of work to do, it’s sometimes easy to forget to stop and take the time to say “thank you” to the people that are helping you and the rest of the community. So every November 20th we in Ubuntu have a Community Appreciation Day, to remind us all of the importance of those two little words. We should of course all be saying it every day, but having a reminder like this helps when things get busy.

Like so many who have already posted their appreciation have said, it would be impossible for me to thank everybody I want to thank. Even if I spent all day on this post, I wouldn’t be able to mention even half of them.  So instead I’m going to highlight two people specifically.

First I want to thank Scarlett Clark from the Kubuntu community. In the lead up to this last Ubuntu Online Summit we didn’t have enough track leads on the Users track, which is one that I really wanted to see more active this time around. The track leads from the previous UOS couldn’t do it because of personal or work schedules, and as time was getting scarce I was really in a bind to find someone. I put out a general call for help in one of the Kubuntu IRC channels, and Scarlett was quick to volunteer. I really appreciated her enthusiasm then, and even more the work that she put in as a first-time track lead to help make the Users track a success. So thank you Scarlett.

Next, I really really want to say thank you to Svetlana Belkin, who seems to be contributing in almost every part of Ubuntu these days (including ones I barely know about, like Ubuntu Scientists). She was also a repeat track lead last UOS for the Community track, and has been contributing a lot of great feedback and ideas on ways to make our amazing community even better. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that she’s trying to re-start the Ubuntu Leadership team, which I think is needed now more than ever, and which I really want to become more active in once I get through with some deadline-bound work. I would encourage anybody else who is a leader in the community, or who wants to be one, to join her in that. And thank you, Svetlana, for everything that you do.

It is both a joy and a privilege to be able to work with people like Scarlett and Svetlana, and everybody else in the Ubuntu community. Today more than ever I am reminded about how lucky I am to be a part of it.

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Economic warfare in FOSS

Or, How to destroy a project rather than compete with it.

Whether they are conscious of it or not, many parts of our community have engaged in it, and it’s hurting us all. When a project comes along that some people don’t like, but they can’t (or won’t) compete with it, they will too often revert into a series of attacks that systematically tear that project down.

Those steps, as I have observed them, are recorded below. I do this not to instruct people on how to do it (nobody ever needed it described to them in detail in order to participate in it) but rather in the hope that it will help the rest of us identify it when it starts to happen, and call it our for what it is.

Step 1: Demonize the project

These things always start with an attack on the character of the project itself. The groups that strongly oppose it are, at this point, always too small for their opinion to change anything. But they are almost always vocal enough to be heard, and that’s all that is needed. As post after post, comment after comment, starts to saturate communication channels, they setup the meme that this project is not just technically bad, but morally bad. It shouldn’t exist, the people who built it shouldn’t have built it, and people that use it shouldn’t be using it. They will use emotionally charged language, hyperbole or outright lies to turn people against the very idea of the project existing. They won’t turn everybody, in fact they won’t even turn a majority, but if they can convince enough people that they are right, they can direct this new following towards the next step.

Step 2: Intimidate their supporters

Having raised their quasi-army of opponents through persistent attacks on the project, they will turn them loose on the supporters of that project. They can’t attack them directly, at this point they’re still a relatively small movement and dependent on the acquiescence of the rest of the community to continue in this behavior. Instead they will playfully mock those supporters, making a point to embarrass them or question their intelligence because of their support. The point of this isn’t to change anybody’s mind, it’s to drive those supporters underground, make them hesitant to show their support, and make it look like the project is losing support even if it isn’t. Without a tangible community of users and supporters, the project’s contributors become entirely dependent on each other for the support and recognition that is essential in motivating volunteer contributions.

Step 3: Undermine their contributors

With the loss of a protective support community, and an increasingly emboldened number of attackers, they will at this point begin to attack the people actually contributing to the project itself. By now those involved in the project will have begun to close themselves off from the community, a reaction to try and insulate themselves from what is happening to them. Because of this, there isn’t much the opponents can do to them directly, so instead they begin to corner them in that project by cutting them off from any other project. Calls for boycotts will go out, project contributors will become persona-non-grata in other communities, and it will be at least strongly implied (if not explicitly declared) that any project or community that collaborates with them will suffer the same fate. With no supporters giving them recognition for work on the project, and being increasingly unable to have any of their work recognized and accepted by other projects, contributors will start to drop out, both of the targeted project itself and quite often the entire FOSS community as well.

Step 4: Attack the person

Quite often the previous steps are enough to destroy a project. With supporters not showing support, and contributors stopping their contribution, it would take a very strongly-willed person to carry on. If the project manages to continue with any measure of success, the attacks on the people at the core of it will become intense. Not many projects have survived to this point, so it’s difficult to give general descriptions of what will happen, but things will start to get very ugly, even to threats of violence. If the opposition group hasn’t begun to experience their own negative blow-back from what they’ve been doing, they will be able to continue these attacks until the people driving the project either give up, or are driven completely away from working in the community.

Prevention

All of this happens only when it’s allowed to happen. It isn’t inevitable, nor is it unstoppable.  It can be stopped at any point along this path, if enough of us decide that it ought to be stopped. I hope I don’t have to write another post convincing anybody that is ought to be stopped.

Prevention starts with identifying that this is happening, which is the reason I detailed it’s progress above. Once we know that it is happening, and how far along it has gotten, we can start to roll it back and undo some of the damage already done.

Defend the person

If it has gotten all the way to the final attack on the head of the project we must, as a community, be outspoken in our defence of them as people and as members of our community. You don’t have to like their project, or even support it, to honestly give support to the person. Ugly attacks, threats of violence, and any other attack on a person or their character should never be tolerated, and we need to make sure everybody knows that it won’t be tolerated.

Support the contributors

When the project’s contributors are under attack, and people are trying to isolate them from the rest of the community, it is important for them to be welcomed by other groups and projects, to continue to give recognition and value to the contributions they make elsewhere. At this point we are in danger of losing them as FOSS contributors, not just to one project but to any project, current of future. Even if you don’t see value in their current work, the lost potential for future contributions should be enough to motivate you to give them your support.

Speak up

If you support a project, don’t be afraid or ashamed to let people know it. When the supporters are being mocked or insulted, they need to hear from each other, or else feel alone in their support. Let them know they are not alone, let them know that you are not afraid to be seen supporting that project. It only takes a few voices, a few brave voices who refuse to be quieted, to make the others feel confident enough to do likewise.

Don’t be afraid

The best, and easiest, time to prevent this from happening is at the very start, when that initial opposition tries to turn you against a project. Whenever somebody starts to tell you that a project shouldn’t exist, or that it’s existence is going to be bad for you, be immediately skeptical. When they want to you be angry or afraid of it you should be questioning their intention. Especially when the code is open, it’s nearly impossible that it’s going to be able to cause you any real or lasting harm. Don’t let your emotions be hijacked by those who want to use you for their own purposes. Keep calm, use what works for you, make something better if you don’t like what’s available.

Posted in Community, Economics, OpenSource | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

The Ubuntu Online Summit: A Community Success

Last week was our second ever Ubuntu Online Summit, and it couldn’t have gone better. Not only was it a great chance for us in Canonical to talk about what we’re working on and get community members involved in the ongoing work, it was also an opportunity for the community to show us what they have been working on and give us an opportunity to get involved with them.

Community Track leads

This was also the second time we’ve recruited track leads from among the community. Traditionally leading a track was a responsibility given to one of the engineering managers within Canonical, and it was up to them to decide what sessions to put on the UDS schedule. We kept the same basic approach when we went to online vUDS. But starting with UOS 14.06, we asked leaders in the community to help us with that, and they’ve done a phenomenal job. This time we had Nekhelesh RamananthanJosé Antonio ReySvetlana BelkinRohan GargElfy, and Scarlett Clark take up that call, and they were instrumental in getting even more of the community involved

Community Session Hosts

uos_creatorsMore than a third of those who created sessions for this UOS were from the community, not Canonical. For comparison, in the last in-person UDS, less than a quarter of session creators were non-Canonical. The shift online has been disruptive, and we’ve tried many variations to try and find what works, but this metric shows that those efforts are starting to pay off. Community involvement, indeed community direction, is higher in these Online Summits than it was in UDS. This is becoming a true community event: community focused, community organized, and community run.

Community Initiatives

The Ubuntu Online Summit wasn’t just about the projects driven by Canonical, such as the Ubuntu desktop and phone, there were many sessions about projects started and driven by members of the community. Last week we were shown the latest development on Ubuntu MATE and KDE Plasma 5 from non-Canonical lead flavors. We saw a whole set of planning sessions for community developed Core Apps and an exciting new Component Store for app developers to share bits of code with each other. For outreach there were sessions for providing localized ISOs for loco teams and expanding the scope of the community-lead Start Ubuntu project. Finally we had someone from the community kick off a serious discussion about getting Ubuntu running on cars. Cars! All of these exciting sessions were thought up by, proposed by, and run by members of the community.

Community Improvements

This was a great Ubuntu Online Summit, and I was certainly happy with the increased level of community involvement in it, but we still have room to make it better. And we are going to make it better with help from the community. We will be sending out a survey to everyone who registered as attending for this UOS to gather feedback and ideas, please take the time to fill it out when you get the link. If you attended but didn’t register there’s still time, go to the link above, log in and save your attendance record. Finally, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next UOS and what sessions you might want to lead for it, so that you’re prepared when those track leads come knocking at your door.

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My Scopes Showdown Wishlist

A couple of weeks ago we announced the start of a contest to write new Unity Scopes. These are the Dash plugins that let you search for different kinds of content from different sources. Last week Alan Pope posted his Scopes Wishlist detailing the ones he would like to see. And while I think they’re all great ideas, they didn’t particularly resonate with my personal use cases. So I’ve decided to put together a wishlist of my own:

Ubuntu Community

I’ve started on one of these in the past, more to test-drive the Scope API and documentation (both of which have changed somewhat since then), but our community has a rather large amount of content available via open APIs or feeds, that could be combined into making one really great scope. My attempt used the LoCo Team Portal API, but there is also the Planet Ubuntu RSS feed (also feeds from a number of other websites), iCal feeds from Summit, a Google calendar for UbuntuOnAir, etc. There’s a lot of community data out there just waiting to be surfaced to Ubuntu users.

Open States

My friend Paul Tagliamante works for the Sunlight Foundation, which provides access to a huge amount of local law and political data (open culture + government, how cool is that?), including the Open States website which provides more local information for those of us in the USA. Now only could a scope use these APIs to make it easy for us citizens to keep up with that’s going on in our governments, it’s a great candidate to use the Location information to default you to local data no matter where you are.

Desktop

This really only has a purpose on Unity 8 on the desktop, and even then only for a short term until a normal desktop is implemented. But for now it would be a nice way to view your desktop files and such. I think that a Scope’s categories and departments might provide a unique opportunity to re-think how we use the desktop too, with the different files organized by type, sorted by date, and displayed in a way that suits it’s content.

There’s potential here to do some really interesting things, I’m just not sure what they are. If one of you intrepid developers has some good ideas, though, give it a shot.

Comics

Let’s be honest, I love web comics, you love web comics, we all love web comic. Wouldn’t it be super awesome if you got the newest, best webcomics on your Dash? Think about it, get your XKCD, SMBC or The Oatmeal delivered every day. Okay, it might be a productivity killer, but still, I’d install it.

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Joining the Ubuntu Online Summit

Next week we will be kicking off the November 2014 Ubuntu Online Summit where people from the Ubuntu community and Canonical will be hosting live video sessions talking about what is being worked on, what is currently available, and what the future holds across all of the Ubuntu ecosystem.

uos_scheduleWe are in the process of recruiting sessions and filling out the Summit Schedule for this event, which should be finalized at the start of next week. You can register that you are attending on the Summit website, where you can also mark specific sessions that you are interested in and get a personalized view of your schedule (and an available iCal feed too!) UOS is designed for participation, not just consumption. Every session will have active IRC channel that goes along with it where you can speak directly to the people on video. For discussion sessions, you’re encouraged to join the video yourself when you want to join the conversation.

Moreover, we want you to host sessions! Anybody who has an idea for a good topic for conversation, presentation, or planning and is willing to host the video (meaning you need to run a Google On-Air Hangout) can propose a session. You don’t need to be a Canonical employee, project leader, or even an Ubuntu member to run a session, all you need is a topic and a willingness to be the person to drive it. And don’t worry, we have track leads who have volunteered to help you get it setup.

These sessions will be split into tracks, so you can follow along with the topics that interest you. Or you can jump from track to track to see what everybody else in the community is doing. And if you want to host a session yourself, you can contact any one of the friendly Track Leads, who will help you get it registered and on the schedule.

Ubuntu Development

Those who have participated in the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) in the past will find the same kind of platform-focused topics and discussions in the Ubuntu Development track. This track covers everything from the kernel to packaging, desktops and all of the Ubuntu flavors.

The track leads are: Will CookeŁukasz ZemczakSteve LangasekAntonio Rosales, and Rohan Garg

App & Scope Development

For developers who are targeting the Ubuntu platform, for both apps and Unity scopes, we will be featuring a number of presentations on the current state of the tools, APIs and documentation, as well as gathering feedback from those who have been using them to help us improve upon them in Ubuntu 15.04. You will also see a lot of planning for the Ubuntu Core Apps, and some showcases of other apps or technologies that developers are creating.

The track leads are: Tim PeetersMichael HallAlan Pope, and Nekhelesh Ramananthan

Cloud & DevOps

Going beyond the core and client side, Ubuntu is making a lot of waves in the cloud and server market these days, and there’s no better place to learn about what we’re building (and help us build it) that the Cloud & Devops track. Whether you want to roll out your own OpenStack cloud, or make your web service easy to deploy and scale out, you will find topics here that interest you.

The track leads are: Antonio RosalesMarco CeppiPatricia Gaughen, and José Antonio Rey

Community

The Ubuntu Online Summit is itself a community coordinated event, and we’ve got a track dedicated to helping us improve and grow the whole community. You can use this to showcase the amazing work that your team has been doing, or plan out new events and projects for the coming cycle. The Community Team from canonical will be there, as well as members of the various councils, flavors and boards that provide governance for the Ubuntu project.

The track leads are: David PlanellaDaniel HolbachSvetlana Belkin, and José Antonio Rey

Users

And of course we can’t forget about our millions or users, we have a whole track setup just to provide them with resources and presentations that will help them make the most out Ubuntu. If you have been working on a project for Ubuntu, you should think about hosting a session on this track to show it off. We’ll also be hosting several feedback session to hear directly from users about what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve.

The track leads are: Nicholas SkaggsElfy, and Scarlett Clark

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Unity 8 Desktop

Will CookeThis is a guest post from Will Cooke, the new Desktop Team manager at Canonical. It’s being posted here while we work to get a blog setup on unity.ubuntu.com, which is where you can find out more about Unity 8 and how to get involved with it.

Intro

Understandably, most of the Ubuntu news recently has focused around phones. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation building around the imminent release of the first devices.  However, the Ubuntu Desktop has not been dormant during this time.  A lot of thought and planning has been given to what the desktop will become in the future; who will use it and what will they use it for.  All the work which is going in to the phone will be directly applicable to the desktop as well, since they will use the same code.  All the apps, the UI tweaks, everything which makes applications secure and stable will all directly apply to the desktop as well.  The plan is to have the single converged operating system ready for use on the desktop by 16.04.

The plan

We learned some lessons during the early development of Unity 7. Here’s what happened:

  • 11.04: New Unity as default
  • 11.10: New Unity version
  • 12.04: Unity in First LTS

What we’ve decided to do this time is to keep the same, stable Unity 7 desktop as the default while we offer users who want to opt-in to Unity8 an option to use that desktop. As development continues the Unity 8 desktop will get better and better.  It will benefit from a lot of the advances which have come about through the development of the phone OS and will benefit from continual improvements as the releases happen.

  • 14.04 LTS: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 option for the first time
  • 14.10: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.04: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.10: Potentially Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option
  • 16.04 LTS: Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option

As you can see, this gives us a full 2 cycles (in addition to the one we’ve already done) to really nail Unity 8 with the level of quality that people expect. So what do we have?

How will we deliver Unity 8 with better quality than 7?

Continuous Integration is the best way for us to achieve and maintain the highest quality possible.  We have put a lot of effort in to automating as much of the testing as we can, the best testing is that which is performed easily.  Before every commit the changes get reviewed and approved – this is the first line of defense against bugs.  Every merge request triggers a run of the tests, the second line of defense against bugs and regressions – if a change broke something we find out about it before it gets in to the build.

The CI process builds everything in a “silo”, a self contained & controlled environment where we find out if everything works together before finally landing in the image.

And finally, we have a large number of tests which run against those images. This really is a “belt and braces” approach to software quality and it all happens automatically.  You can see, we are taking the quality of our software very seriously.

What about Unity 7?

Unity 7 and Compiz have a team dedicated to maintenance and bug fixes and so the quality of it continues to improve with every release.  For example; windows switching workspaces when a monitor gets unplugged is fixed, if you have a mouse with 6 buttons it works, support for the new version of Metacity (incase you want to use the Gnome2 desktop) – added (and incidentally, a lot of that work was done by a community contributor – thanks Alberts!)

Unity 7 is the desktop environment for a lot of software developers, devops gurus, cloud platform managers and millions of users who rely on it to help them with their everyday computing.  We don’t want to stop you being able to get work done.  This is why we continue to maintain Unity 7 while we develop Unity 8.  If you want to take Unity 8 for a spin and see how its coming along then you can; if you want to get your work done, we’re making that experience better for you every day.  Best of all, both of these options are available to you with no detriment to the other.

Things that we’re getting in the new Ubuntu Desktop

  1. Applications decoupled from the OS updates.  Traditionally a given release of Ubuntu has shipped with the versions of the applications available at the time of release.  Important updates and security fixes are back-ported to older releases where required, but generally you had to wait for the next release to get the latest and greatest set of applications.  The new desktop packaging system means that application developers can push updates out when they are ready and the user can benefit right away.
  2. Application isolation.  Traditionally applications can access anything the user can access; photos, documents, hardware devices, etc.  On other platforms this has led to data being stolen or rendered otherwise unusable.  Isolation means that without explicit permission any Click packaged application is prevented from accessing data you don’t want it to access.
  3. A full SDK for writing Ubuntu apps.  The SDK which many people are already using to write apps for the phone will allow you to write apps for the desktop as well.  In fact, your apps will be write once run anywhere – you don’t need to write a “desktop” app or a “phone” app, just an Ubuntu app.

What we have now

The easiest way to try out the Unity 8 Desktop Preview is to use the daily Ubuntu Desktop Next live image:   http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/   This will allow you to boot into a Unity 8 session without touching your current installation.  An easy 10 step way to write this image to a USB stick is:

  1. Download the ISO
  2. Insert your USB stick in the knowledge that it’s going to get wiped
  3. Open the “Disks” application
  4. Choose your USB stick and click on the cog icon on the righthand side
  5. Choose “Restore Disk Image”
  6. Browse to and select the ISO you downloaded in #1
  7. Click “Start restoring”
  8. Wait
  9. Boot and select “Try Ubuntu….”
  10. Done *

* Please note – there is currently a bug affecting the Unity 8 greeter which means you are not automatically logged in when you boot the live image.  To log in you need to:

  1. Switch to vt1 (ctrl-alt-f1)
  2. type “passwd” and press enter
  3. press enter again to set the current password to blank
  4. enter a new password twice
  5. Check that the password has been successfully changed
  6. Switch back to vt7 (ctrl-alt-f7)
  7. Enter the new password to login

 

Here are some screenshots showing what Unity 8 currently looks like on the desktop:

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The team

The people working on the new desktop are made up of a few different disciplines.  We have a team dedicated to Unity 7 maintenance and bug fixes who are also responsible for Unity 8 on the desktop and feed in a lot of support to the main Unity 8 & Mir teams. We have the Ubuntu Desktop team who are responsible for many aspects of the underlying technologies used such as GNOME libraries, settings, printing etc as well as the key desktop applications such as Libreoffice and Chromium.  The Ubuntu desktop team has some of the longest serving members of the Ubuntu family, with some people having been here for the best part of ten years.

How you can help

We need to log all the bugs which need to be fixed in order to make Unity 8 the best desktop there is.  Firstly, we need people to test the images and log bugs.  If developers want to help fix those bugs, so much the better.  Right now we are focusing on identifying where the work done for the phone doesn’t work as expected on the desktop.  Once those bugs are logged and fixed we can rely on the CI system described above to make sure that they stay fixed.

Link to daily ISOs:  http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/

Bugs:  https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity8-desktop-session

IRC:  #ubuntu-desktop on Freenode

Posted in Community, OpenSource, Programming, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

1.0: The deadliest milestone

screenshot_1.0So it’s finally happened, one of my first Ubuntu SDK apps has reached an official 1.0 release. And I think we all know what that means. Yup, it’s time to scrap the code and start over.

It’s a well established mantra, codified by Fred Brooks, in software development that you will end up throwing away the first attempt at a new project. The releases between 0.1 and 0.9 are a written history of your education about the problem, the tools, or the language you are learning. And learn I did, I wrote a whole series of posts about my adventures in writing uReadIt. Now it’s time to put all of that learning to good use.

Often times projects still spend an extremely long time in this 0.x stage, getting ever closer but never reaching that 1.0 release.  This isn’t because they think 1.0 should wait until the codebase is perfect, I don’t think anybody expects 1.0 to be perfect. 1.0 isn’t the milestone of success, it’s the crossing of the Rubicon, the point where drastic change becomes inevitable. It’s the milestone where the old code, with all it’s faults, dies, and out of it is born a new codebase.

So now I’m going to start on uReadIt 2.0, starting fresh, with the latest Ubuntu UI Toolkit and platform APIs. It won’t be just a feature-for-feature rewrite either, I plan to make this a great Reddit client for both the phone and desktop user. To that end, I plan to add the following:

  • A full Javascript library for interacting with the Reddit API
  • User account support, which additionally will allow:
    • Posting articles & comments
    • Reading messages in your inbox
    • Upvoting and downvoting articles and comments
  • Convergence from the start, so it’s usable on the desktop as well
  • Re-introduce link sharing via Content-Hub
  • Take advantage of new features in the UITK such as UbuntuListView filtering & pull-to-refresh, and left/right swipe gestures on ListItems

Another change, which I talked about in a previous post, will be to the license of the application. Where uReadIt 1.0 is GPLv3, the next release will be under a BSD license.

Posted in OpenSource, Programming | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Open Source community is wonderful

Ubuntu Mauritius CommunityBut it isn’t perfect.  And that, in my opinion, is okay.  I’m not perfect, and neither are you, but you are still wonderful too.

I was asked, not too long ago, what I hated about the community. The truth, then and now, is that I don’t hate anything about it. There is a lot I don’t like about what happens, of course, but nothing that I hate. I make an effort to understand people, to “grok” them if I may borrow the word from Heinlein. When you understand somebody, or in this case a community of somebodies, you understand the whole of them, the good and the bad. Now understanding the bad parts doesn’t make them any less bad, but it does provide opportunities for correcting or removing them that you don’t get otherwise.

You reap what you sow

People will usually respond in kind with the way they are treated. I try to treat everybody I interact with respectfully, kindly, and rationally, and I’ve found that I am treated that way back. But, if somebody is prone to arrogance or cruelty or passion, they will find far more of that treatment given back and them than the positive ones. They are quite often shocked when this happens. But when you are a source of negativity you drive away people who are looking for something positive, and attract people who are looking for something negative. It’s not absolute, nice people will have some unhappy followers, and crumpy people will have some delightful ones, but on average you will be surrounded by people who behave like you.

Don’t get even, get better

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, as the old saying goes. When somebody is rude or disrespectful to us, it’s easy to give in to the desire to be rude and disrespectful back. When somebody calls us out on something, especially in public, we want to call them out on their own problems to show everybody that they are just as bad. This might feel good in the short term, but it causes long term harm to both the person who does it and the community they are a part of. This ties into what I wrote above, because even if you aren’t naturally a negative person, if you respond to negativity with more of the same, you’ll ultimately share the same fate. Instead use that negativity as fuel to drive you forward in a positive way, respond with coolness, thoughtfulness and introspection and not only will you disarm the person who started it, you’ll attract far more of the kind of people and interactions that you want.

Know your audience

Your audience isn’t the person or people you are talking to. Your audience is the people who hear you. Many of the defenders of Linus’ beratement of kernel contributors is that he only does it to people he knows can take it. This defense is almost always countered, quite properly, by somebody pointing out that his actions are seen by far more than just their intended recipient. Whenever you interact with any member of your community in a public space, such as a forum or mailing list, treat it as if you were interacting with every member, because you are. Again, if you perpetuate negativity in your community, you will foster negativity in your community, either directly in response to you or indirectly by driving away those who are more positive in nature. Linus’ actions might be seen as a joke, or necessary “tough love” to get the job done, but the LKML has a reputation of being inhospitable to potential contributors in no small part because of them. You can gather a large number of negative, or negativity-accepting, people into a community and get a lot of work done, but it’s easier and in my opinion better to have a large number of positive people doing it.

Monoculture is dangerous

I think all of us in the open source community know this, and most of us have said it at least once to somebody else. As noted security researcher Bruce Schneier says, “monoculture is bad; embrace diversity or die along with everyone else.” But it’s not just dangerous for software and agriculture, it’s dangerous to communities too. Communities need, desperately need, diversity, and not just for the immediate benefits that various opinions and perspectives bring. Including minorities in your community will point out flaws you didn’t know existed, because they didn’t affect anyone else, but a distro-specific bug in upstream is still a bug, and a minority-specific flaw in your community is still a flaw. Communities that are almost all male, or white, or western, aren’t necessarily bad because of their monoculture, but they should certainly consider themselves vulnerable and deficient because of it. Bringing in diversity will strengthen it, and adding minority contributor will ultimately benefit a project more than adding another to the majority. When somebody from a minority tells you there is a problem in your community that you didn’t see, don’t try to defend it by pointing out that it doesn’t affect you, but instead treat it like you would a normal bug report from somebody on different hardware than you.

Good people are human too

The appendix is a funny organ. Most of the time it’s just there, innocuous or maybe even slightly helpful. But every so often one happens to, for whatever reason, explode and try to kill the rest of the body. People in a community do this too.  I’ve seen a number of people that were good or even great contributors who, for whatever reason, had to explode and they threatened to take down anything they were a part of when it happened. But these people were no more malevolent than your appendix is, they aren’t bad, even if they do need to be removed in order to avoid lasting harm to the rest of the body. Sometimes, once whatever caused their eruption has passed, these people can come back to being a constructive part of your community.

Love the whole, not the parts

When you look at it, all of it, the open source community is a marvel of collaboration, of friendship and family. Yes, family. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about people I may not have ever met in person. And just like family you love them during the good and the bad. There are some annoying, obnoxious people in our family. There are good people who are sometimes annoying and obnoxious. But neither of those truths changes the fact that we are still a part of an amazing, inspiring, wonderful community of open source contributors and enthusiasts.

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Public speaking for introverts

Last week I attended FOSSETCON, a new open source convention here in central Florida, and I had the opportunity to give a couple of presentations on Ubuntu phones and app development. Anybody who knows me knows that I love talking about these things, but a lot fewer people know that doing it in front of a room of people I don’t know still makes me extremely nervous. I’m an introvert, and even though I have a public-facing job and work with the wider community all the time, I’m still an introvert.

I know there are a lot of other introverts out there who might find the idea of giving presentations to be overwhelming, but they don’t have to be.  Here I’m going to give my personal experiences and advice, in the hope that it’ll encourage some of you to step out of your comfort zones and share your knowledge and talent with the rest of us at meetups and conferences.

You will be bad at it…

Public speaking is like learning how to ride a bicycle, everybody falls their first time. Everybody falls a second time, and a third. You will fidget and stutter, you will lose your train of thought, your voice will sound funny. It’s not just you, everybody starts off being bad at it. Don’t let that stop you though, accept that you’ll have bruises and scrapes and keep getting back on that bike. Coincidentally, accepting that you’re going to be bad at the first ones makes it much less frightening going into them.

… until you are good at it

I read a lot of things about how to be a good and confident public speaker, the advice was all over the map, and a lot of it felt like pure BS.  I think a lot of people try different things and when they finally feel confident in speaking, they attribute whatever their latest thing was with giving them that confidence. In reality, you just get more confident the more you do it.  You’ll be better the second time than the first, and better the third time than the second. So keep at it, you’ll keep getting better. No matter how good or bad you are now, you will keep getting better if you just keep doing it.

Don’t worry about your hands

You’ll find a lot of suggestions about how to use your hands (or not use them), how to walk around (or not walk around) or other suggestions about what to do with yourself while you’re giving your presentation. Ignore them all. It’s not that these things don’t affect your presentation, I’ll admit that they do, it’s that they don’t affect anything after your presentation. Think back about all of the presentations you’ve seen in your life, how much do you remember about how the presenter walked or waved their hands? Unless those movements were integral to the subject, you probably don’t remember much. The same will happen for you, nobody is going to remember whether you walked around or not, they’re going to remember the information you gave them.

It’s not about you

This is the one piece of advice I read that actually has helped me. The reason nobody remembers what you did with your hands is because they’re not there to watch you, they’re there for the information you’re giving them. Unless you’re an actual celebrity, people are there to get information for their own benefit, you’re just the medium which provides it to them.  So don’t make it about you (again, unless you’re an actual celebrity), focus on the topic and information you’re giving out and what it can do for the audience. If you do that, they’ll be thinking about what they’re going to do with it, not what you’re doing with your hands or how many times you’ve said “um”. Good information is a good distraction from the things you don’t want them paying attention to.

It’s all just practice

Practicing your presentation isn’t nearly as stressful as giving it, because you’re not worried about messing up. If you mess up during practice you just correct it, make a note to not make the same mistake next time, and carry on. Well if you plan on doing more public speaking there will always be a next time, which means this time is your practice for that one. Keep your eye on the presentation after this one, if you mess up now you can correct it for the next one.

 

All of the above are really just different ways of saying the same thing: just keep doing it and worry about the content not you. You will get better, your content will get better, and other people will benefit from it, for which they will be appreciative and will gladly overlook any faults in the presentation. I guarantee that you will not be more nervous about it than I was when I started.

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YAGNI, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the BSD

Memebook, available in the Ubuntu phone storeLast week I published a new app to the Ubuntu Store, which isn’t anything particularly new, but this time I didn’t use my normal license, instead I went permissive. This is something I’ve been wavering on for a while now, and is the result of some developer soul-searching about why I’ve been using the GPL and what it’s done for me.

Free as in mine

In the past I’ve always used the GPL or LGPL, not for philosophical reasons or because I thought software should be free (in the RMS sense), but because I was selfish. I used the GPL because I wanted to make sure nobody built something on top of my work without sharing it back to me. In my mind, using a strong copy-left license ensured I couldn’t be left out of someone else’s success with my project. And in a way it worked, I wasn’t left out, because most people never used, let alone built on, my projects. I was trying to solve a problem I didn’t actually have.

You aren’t gonna need it

YAGNI (You aren’t gonna need it) is a principle of extreme programming that says you shouldn’t add features to a project until you know that it’s actually necessary.  I don’t usually pay much mind to trendy programming methods, but I think this one might be applicable to the way I pick licenses. If my project aren’t being used and extended by others, why am I worried about it happening enough that I want to put restrictions on it? Maybe I don’t need the GPL’s protections afterall.

A new direction

So from now on I’m going to prefer the BSD for new projects, and I’ll work on converting old ones to this license when I’ve been the only contributor. The worst that can happen is that somebody benefits from my code more than me, but that wouldn’t be much different to me than having nobody benefit from it more than me. I won’t actually lose anything. Nor will I be restricting my future options, on the contrary I can always go from a BSD to a GPL, but going the other direction is quite a bit harder once you accept contributions.

Posted in OpenSource, Projects | Tagged , , | 3 Comments