Community-Canonical Relationships – The honeymoon might be over, but the love is still there.

When I got home yesterday I had a few messages asking about whether or not I had seen yesterday’s CC (Community Council) Meeting.  I was away from my computer for most of the day yesterday so I didn’t get a chance to read the log of the meeting until late last night.  This is one CC meeting I wish I had been able to attend.

Yesterday, there were a couple of things that stood out to me about this meeting.

There was no planned agenda – not that meetings have to have an agenda but it makes the purpose of the meeting a little more defined now doesn’t it.

Despite having no planned agenda members of CC showed up anyway (dedication) and the conversation that took place after the announcements was indeed one of the most important conversations I think I have had the chance to read. (It’s important to me for a lot of reasons – Four weeks into my time into the community I wrote a post about Community V. “Community” and last week I blogged about Banners and Table Covers – What I See in a effort to help point out various undercurrents as I saw them.)

Before I go any farther I want to stop and mention this blog post is in NO WAY a personal affront or attack on Jono Bacon or the members of his Team (Canonical Community Team); however, since he and now they are the Community Team much of this will be point in that direction because I don’t know where else to direct this.

What I saw yesterday was the CC having a responsibility to the community and sticking to that responsibility, but without a purpose.  You can’t have responsibility without purpose or purpose without a responsibility.  Those two go hand it hand; however, once the meeting started the purpose became clear.  The CC (via popey) had the courage to say (and this is my paraphrasing not the exact wording) – “Hey something is wrong in the community, I am not exactly sure how to identify it, but I know it’s not good, and I don’t know how we fix it (yet), but I know we need to do something.”

To me this is like when in a relationship the honeymoon phase is over and now comes the real work, staying together and making it work after the spark that flares the initial flames of desire have settled into those warm embers waiting for moments to roar again.  Okay, so the fun part is over now comes the real work to make sure it all continues to work. No relationship (Marriage, Friendship, etc)  just happens it takes WORK and PURPOSE! To end it someone has to leave.

I’ve had people over the last 2 years talk to me about them leaving, thinking about leaving, pondering why they left, should they come back etc.  The CC meeting yesterday brought up a few of those feelings throughout the community yesterday in an effort address these issues.

The responses that were given from Jono to the CC didn’t seem good either.  Instead of just listening then stepping away with a thanks for bringing this up let me look into this some more.  He jumped in and wanted examples, wanted to know who should be fixing the problem, suggested that the CC and TB be the examples and drive leadership (which there may be something too), and basically said, “I have a team of 5 people now I can’t manage the community who doesn’t fall  into my areas of responsibility.” (my words not his, but you can read the logs and see what you think).  I wish he would have just listened. I don’t think the problems in the community are 100% his fault, but Jono is the community manager and has been the liaison for the community to Canonical (or to those things that needed a Canonical answer), but to all the sudden say, “I can’t help you now – sorry too bad”, is not cool either. (Maybe I am reading it wrong please let me know if I did.)

I have to say thank you to the whole CC and those who chimed in on the issues.  For me personally I am glad to see it’s not just me who is noticing this undercurrent.

If the CC and the community can’t turn to its community manger and their team who can they turn too?  Most people wait 7 years before seeking professional help, I think the CC should be commended for speaking up and asking for help before it gets to late.

UPDATE: After the meeting Jono and members of CC worked tirelessly to come up with a plan to address the issues. I followed up with Elizabeth Krumbach of the CC who said, “Since the meeting Jono has followed up directly with several Community Council members to work on a poll to the community to make the first steps in gauging the problem, so we can have a better handle on how to move forward. We’re also making plans to discuss it at the upcoming UDS”

See the honeymoon may be over, but like I said the love is still there! :-)

7 thoughts on “Community-Canonical Relationships – The honeymoon might be over, but the love is still there.

  1. Ubuntu isn’t about “humanity to others” anymore. Now it’s just about a “sustainable business model.”

    Canonical / community relations exist only as far as is needed to get free labor from idealists. Once that stops being worth it financially, it’s over.


  2. I think the major problem, the one skirted about in that discussion, is that input from the community feels marginalized. I personally feel I don’t have a say in the direction of Ubuntu anymore (not that I had much say to begin with). I understand that ideas are cheap, and code talks louder than comments, but if the general feeling is that there’s no point in bringing up any dissent because it’s either a design decision (get over it) or a pet bug (get over it), then what is there to get excited over?

    I also feel there’s a lot of bureaucracy that has sprung up to manage the community. And by manage, I mean contain, like sheep. Getting folks to remain engaged gives way to ensuring folks are compliant with some ideal of what engagement should look, sound, and feel like. It may pass for engagement, but to me it sounds like the motivational crap that passes for leadership in big companies.

    Maybe it’s the course of all communities to require more formalized rules, but frankly I (and others that I’ve talked to) don’t feel as engaged with the community as we used to. Maybe our dopamine and adrenaline finally caught up with us, but I suspect our current engagement is a force of habit and a desire to keep our meeting space in the community. I count Ubuntu as the catalyst for many lasting friendships, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Unfortunately, I feel like part of the clean-up crew for a party than an actual community member.

    It’s not burn-out. It’s shut-out.


  3. Craig:
    TBH, you just described why I ended up switching to Kubuntu. At this point, the Ubuntu channels I’m normally logged into on IRC has been reduced to those related to:
    - Kubuntu
    - Ubuntu Women
    - Accessibility
    - IRC ops

    There are a few people who I think are absolutely wonderful at listening to feedback about design decisions (sladen, for example, will argue with other designers if a user says they see usability issues with some aspect of a design).

    A while back, I reached the conclusion I’d rather spend my time knitting than tiptoeing around bureaucracy.


  4. Amber, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I am not denying that we have some challenges to face in our community, but I think you misinterpreted some of my points in the discussion.

    Firstly, the reason I was asking for examples was because a vague set of concerns and complaints were raised in the meeting, and I wanted to help drive to heart of the causes so we could then architect some solutions. There are clearly some problems that we need to resolve, but I believe the first step is for us to understand the causes so we can move forward. I asked so many questions because I get that I probably don’t see or understand some of the challenges from the perspective of a community volunteer and I wanted to get plenty of input from those raising concerns to help me understand better.

    To this end, after the meeting finished I put together a survey with consultation from Elizabeth and Alan to go out to all Ubuntu Members to provide a means for people to give their input on their participation in the community. I am also working with Elizabeth and Alan on a mini leadership summit as UDS that we can use to review the survey results and put together some solutions for how we make Ubuntu a better environment for participation.

    Secondly, I am not saying the community can’t reach out to me or my team, of course that is what we are here for. I have always made it clear to the community that the door is *always* open to share concerns, but maybe I need to re-enforce that point.

    My point there was that we don’t have the bandwidth on my team to provide leadership to all parts of the community; the community is too big, and we instead have the team focusing on key groups (developers, translators, cloud, QA, app devs etc). With Canonical paying everyone’s paychecks, new roles on the team are created by Canonical that serve a particular focus (e.g. hiring Eric to help our QA community). I would love to hire a team member to be assigned to every team, a focused set of teams, or even just some general community managers, but I don’t think that is going to happen as many parts of the company are crying out for headcount.

    As such, I believe that for us to help lead our community and handle topics such as this, we need to ensure our leaders (such as the CC and TB) feel empowered and motivated to lead. I get the impression that the CC as an example currently don’t feel empowered, and feel more like they provide an administrative function in the community. We should not expect or demote the CC to simply provide a rubber-stamping function; we should help and encourage the CC to provide strong leadership and feel satisfied in what they do.

    I appreciate though that there are likely to be reasons why the CC (as just an example, this could affect other leadership boards too) are feeling de-motivated or are not equipped to lead, and I want identify these challenges and resolve them.

    I am not expecting the CC or TB to solve our community’s challenges, and I am not saying my team are not here to help; I am just saying that for us to help keep our community motivated and inspired to participate in Ubuntu, we need to empower our leaders to feel motivated to lead.

    I am committed to resolving these issues, and I do think they are resolvable, and I expect the survey to help provide great data for us to move forward with. I would also like to encourage everyone to mail their feedback and input directly to me at jono AT ubuntu DOT com – I am keen to hear everyone’s views on this.

    Thanks,

    Jono


  5. HI amber,

    I think you inspired me. because I just put ubuntu and xubuntu on mine and moms computer. :) I still got windows on here but moms is stickly Xubuntu :) I got a VM if we need to print and all that :)

    Mackenzie:

    I was going to use KUBUNTU But I never found how to set my wireless up. Like as soon as I installed it… I never got the wireless icon… Yet I installed ubuntu 10.4 and boom instantly connected to our router I am a KDE person I like it better but it looks like im stuck with Gnome :X

    I went to a few websites and punched up how to set up wireless on kubuntu but I got a bunch of confusing commands but I did get to the point where it recalled on my system what is installed

    I got the:

    00 blahblahblah USB
    02 SDFSDFSDFSDF offline
    03 sdfsdfsdfsdf USB

    I guess it was telling me what was on my computer I guess……….

    — Christopher


  6. O_o Is plasma-widget-networkmanagement installed? In the systray’s settings (right click on it) you should be able to hit a checkbox to insert the network widget into the systray.



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