Ubuntu’s Contributions

I’m not going to try and re-fight the old battles about who contributes and who doesn’t, or who contributes more or should contribute more.  I just wanted to show one area where I think Ubuntu is a top contributor: putting the “community” in open source.

This map shows some of the 81 events planned by the Ubuntu Local Community (LoCo) Teams that are coming up in the next two months.  LoCo teams comprise only a part of the total number of teams that have organized in and around the Ubuntu project, and these events represent only a portion of the number of events that Ubuntu users and members participate in.

(Disclaimer: As of March 14th, I am an employee of Canonical, the maker of Ubuntu.)

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6 Responses to Ubuntu’s Contributions

  1. David (FSF Supporter) says:

    Were these events to have been LUG groups not Ubuntu specific events then I would accept them as being a real contribution to GNU/Linux but as is they only seem to seek to contribute to Canonical distributions…hardly the same thing. In having such events I would suggest that Canonical serves to divide the GNU/Linux community not support it.

    • Michael Hall says:

      LoCo events are not Canonical events, they usually bring together users of multiple distributions, are often held in coordination with local LUGs, and promote Linux and open source in general.

      But even if that wasn’t the case, think about what you’re suggesting, that contributing to the most widely used Linux distribution could somehow not be considered as contributing to the larger open source community. Is contributing to Fedora, or Suse, or Debian also not to be considered a contribution to the wider community, because you are only contributing to one distro? Would you say that planting trees in New York isn’t a contribution to the global environment, because it’s only done in New York?

      Or are you going to suggest that the contributions made by Ubuntu users shouldn’t be counted, simply because they are Ubuntu users? That the rest of the Linux community should excommunicate anybody who uses this particular disto, they should not appreciate them, they should not accept their work, they should not treat them like kindred spirits?

      You can’t on the one hand say that Ubuntu users should be excluded from the community, and then accuse Canonical of dividing the same community along the same lines.

  2. David (FSF Supporter) says:

    I’m not at all saying that Canonical’s distributions users should be excluded (I would wish for the exact opposite) and where events are held with other distributions I applaud that effort but by having a structure that sets itself apart from the structure used by all the other major distributions (LoCo rather that LUG) it is Canonical that is separating its users from other user of GNU/Linux distributions. Were Canonical to have used the LUG structure from the outset that would not be the case and however efforts may be made to cement ties between LoCo and LUG they are separate systems.

    Canonical could have chosen to embrace and strengthen LUGs but by having its own structure it doesn’t do so.

    As for promoting GNU/Linux Canonical doesn’t even promote itself as a GNU/Linux distribution provider (you have to work hard to find GNU/Linux mentioned on Canonical’s site) and it is quite possible that new users don’t know that it is one, likewise with commercial groups, new to the field, who may view canonical’s site in isolation from the rest. If ones users might not know that they are contributing to a wider group is that as great a contribution as if they have this fact made clear to them from the outset and the user groups are those for all GNU/Linux distributions…I would suggest not.

    Obviously contributing to any distribution of GNU/Linux that then develops in conjunction with the wider GNU/Linux community (consider the Gnome/Canonical dispute of recent days to see if the development done by Canonical was with Gnome or apart from it.)

    As you’ve mentioned them let’s consider the sites of those distributions in turn…it is clear from the outset on Fedora’s site that it is a GNU/Linux distribution (also clearly I’d far rather they used the term GNU/Linux than Linux on its own but it is very prominent all the same)…consider openSUSE, it even calls itself “Linux for open minds”…Debian is good enough to prominently certify itself as a GNU/Linux distribution…each of the distributions you mention is prominently linking itself to the GNU/Linux source from which it draws and by doing so it furthers a collective cause whereas by not offering this information “up front” and promoting all GNU/Linux distributions by so doing is not Canonical doing less than the others in the list you chose…I would clearly say so!

    If by contributing you also refer to code then by Canonical asking for copyright assignments which may well disbar that code from being considered by other projects (it might not be acceptable to Gnome for instance see http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.comp.gnome.foundation.announce/432) is that not less of a contribution, potentially at least, than offered by other distributions? Again I would contend that it is. The real code contributions that benefit GNU/Linux as a whole are, surely, those that make it upstream from any distribution and, most often, those that are conducted in unison with other people from outside of ones own distribution. if we again consider the list of distributions you chose (and note that they were of your choosing not mine) each one would seem to have a better record in this regard than Canonical. If code doesn’t make it upstream and is only single distribution specific is it really a contribution to the wider ecosystem? Consider the situation regarding Unity for instance…developed in house and in isolation from Gnome and with copyright assignment to deal with too and then presented as a finished item with the added effect that Gnome developers were not integral to its planning making the chances of it being accepted upstream appear, at least at this time, a rather unlikely possibility.

    “Or are you going to suggest that the contributions made by Ubuntu users shouldn’t be counted, simply because they are Ubuntu users?…” You entire paragraph is a straw man argument given that I made no such suggestion an would not do so in any event. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man .

    “You can’t on the one hand say that Ubuntu users should be excluded from the community…” Another straw man argument…the reality is that I would wish to see them embrace and be embraced by the rest of the GNU/Linux community and believe that this would have been furthered had their user groups not been given an artificial separation, by Canonical, from the rest of the community.

    Frankly the majority of your reply appears to be straw man in type as you are putting claims I did not make, and would not make, as being representations of my views which they are, patently, not. You then show the absurdity of these views as is typical in such straw man cases…but they don’t refer to my views so the points you appear to win aren’t more than an illusion. Please let’s stick to what we each have actually said and avoid the straw man arguments!

    • Manish Sinha says:

      After reading the whole extremely long comment, all I could find was
      * first 1/2 of the comment : Conspiracy theory about Canonical and how Ubuntu/Canonical is not helping the wider audience just because they don’t call themselves GNU/Linux

      * second 1/2 of the comment: All your comments were strawman comments. I did not say anything. I am innocent. You are taking words out of context.

  3. Michael Hall says:

    It seems that you are under a misconception regarding the nature of LoCo teams. LoCos are not LUGs, they are not replacements or alternatives to LUGs. They serve different purposes. Many LoCo members are also LUG members, even leading LUG members. Many non-Ubuntu LUG members participate in LoCo teams. Many non-Ubuntu non-LUG members participate in LoCo teams.

    LoCos are run by the Ubuntu community, approved and supported by the Ubuntu community, they are not an extension of Canonical. To say that Canonical should use LUGs makes no sense at all given these facts Furthermore, when you say that you don’t accept a LoCo’s participation, you are saying that you don’t accept the Ubuntu community’s participation[1]. That is not a strawman, that is precisely what you are saying. Maybe it’s not what you wanted to say, but it is none the less what you are saying.

    Another misconception is your association of GNU/Linux with the open source community. You implied rather strongly that if Ubuntu wasn’t promoting GNU/Linux specifically, then it wasn’t contributing to Open Source generally[2]. Now I’m sure that you know as well as anybody that it is indeed possible to contribute to the greater ecosystem without specifically promoting any one part of it, so the only reason I give to your implication to the contrary is that you hold a very narrow view of what is worth promoting in that ecosystem.

    Likewise your proposal that one entity’s level contribution should be predicated by another entity’s acceptance of it[3]. If Canonical releases Unity under and open source license, why should it be left to the Gnome Foundation do decide whether that act can be considered a contribution to the community? If you were to donate money to a school, and the school refused it, does that make your act less charitable? Surely not. Nor should we judge anybody’s contribution of open source code on whether or not it is accepted by upstream or any other part of the community.

    I won’t even attempt to address your suggestion that Canonical’s copyright assignment (which isn’t required for the vast majority of contributions to Ubuntu) is a problem until you can explain how it is substantially different from the FSF’s own copyright assignment requirement[4], and how the former makes contributions incompatible with any other project while the latter does not.

    You end your comment with an accusation, that I was putting up a strawman of claims you didn’t make, and yet those claims are plainly implied in both your original and followup comments. You equate the Ubuntu community with Canonical, you explicitly do not accept Canonical’s (and therefore the Ubuntu community’s, by your own association) contributions, either in code or in participation. Then you accuse Canonical (and again the Ubuntu Community, by your own association) with creating that separation you so proudly make yourself. If you think I am being unfair, then please publicly state that you accept and appreciate the contributions made to the open source community as a whole by the Ubuntu community, because based on your comments alone I don’t believe that is the case.

    There seems to be a concerted effort by some factions within the community to establish an “Us vs. Them” mentality with respect to Ubuntu users and contributors, and you are just furthering that narrative. It boggles my mind that while Linux and Open Source is still such a small percentage of the overall software market, that people who claim to support it would go to such lengths to try and tear down any part of it.

    [1] “Were these events to have been LUG groups not Ubuntu specific events then I would accept them as being a real contribution”

    [2] “by not offering this information “up front” and promoting all GNU/Linux distributions by so doing is not Canonical doing less than the others”

    [3] “If code doesn’t make it upstream and is only single distribution specific is it really a contribution to the wider ecosystem?”

    [4] http://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-assign.html

  4. Vadim P. says:

    a) Ubuntu’s CoC differs from many other Linux distros. Ubuntu takes a very big stance on respect, something that other Linux communities aren’t known for. Forcing Ubuntu’s CoC onto Linux LUGs would simply be wrong.

    b) A lot of non-Canonical distros are based on Ubuntu. Contributing to Ubuntu does not only contribute to Canonical.

    c) Ubuntu is the largest Linux’ desktop userbase :)

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