Following the Community Leadership Summit (CLS), which I wrote about wrote about here, I spent a couple of days at OSCON.
Monday kicked off by attending Jono Bacon’s Community leadership workshop. I attended one of these a couple years ago, so it was really interesting to see how his advice has evolved with the change in tooling and progress that communities in tech and beyond has changed. I took a lot of notes, but everything I wanted to say here has been summarized by others in a series of great posts on opensource.com:
- 10 top-notch community tools by Jono Bacon
- A guide for community management from Jono Bacon by Nicole C. Engard
- 7 books every community manager should read by Nicole C. Engard
…hopefully no one else went to Powell’s to pick up the recommended books, I cleared them out of a couple of them.
That afternoon Jono joined David Planella of the Community Team at Canonical and Michael Hall, Laura Czajkowski and I of the Ubuntu Community Council to look through our CLS notes and come up with some talking points to discuss with the rest of the Ubuntu community regarding everything from in person events (stronger centralized support of regional Ubucons needed?) to learning what inspires people about the active Ubuntu phone community and how we can make them feel more included in the broader community (and helping them become leaders!). There was also some interesting discussion around the Open Source projects managed by Canonical and expectations for community members with regard to where they can get involved. There are some projects where part time, community contributors are wanted and welcome, and others where it’s simply not realistic due to a variety of factors, from the desire for in-person collaboration (a lot of design and UI stuff) to the new projects with an exceptionally fast pace of development that makes it harder for part time contributors (right now I’m thinking anything related to Snappy). There are improvements that Canonical can make so that even these projects are more welcoming, but adjusting expectations about where contributions are most needed and wanted would be valuable to me. I’m looking forward to discussing these topics and more with the broader Ubuntu community.
Monday night we invited members of the Oregon LoCo out and had an Out of Towners Dinner at Altabira City Tavern, the restaurant on top of the Hotel Eastlund where several of us were staying. Unfortunately the local Kubuntu folks had already cleared out of town for Akademy in Spain, but we were able to meet up with long-time Ubuntu member Dan Trevino, who used to be part of the Florida LoCo with Michael, and who I last saw at Google I/O last year. I enjoyed great food and company.
I wasn’t speaking at OSCON this year, so I attended with an Expo pass and after an amazing breakfast at Mother’s Bistro in downtown Portland with Laura, David and Michael (…and another quick stop at Powell’s), I spent Tuesday afternoon hanging out with various friends who were also attending OSCON. When 5PM rolled around the actual expo hall itself opened, and surprised me with how massive and expensive some of the company booths had become. My last OSCON was in 2013 and I don’t remember the expo hall being quite so extravagant. We’ve sure come a long way.
Still, my favorite part of the expo hall is always the non-profit/open source project/organization area where the more grass-roots tables are. I was able to chat with several people who are really passionate about what they do. As a former Linux Users Group organizer and someone who still does a lot of open source work for free as a hobby, these are my people.
Wednesday was my last morning at OSCON. I did another walk around the expo hall and chatted with several people. I also went by the HP booth and got a picture of myself… with myself. I remain very happy that HP continues to support my career in a way that allows me to work on really interesting open source infrastructure stuff and to travel the world to tell people about it.
My flight took me home Wednesday afternoon and with that my OSCON adventure for 2015 came to a close!
More OSCON and general Portland photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/set
My Saturday kicked off with the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) here in Portland, Oregon.
Jono Bacon opened the event by talking about the growth of communities in the past several years as internet-connected communities of all kinds are springing up worldwide. Though this near-OSCON CLS is open source project heavy, he talked about communities that range from the Maker movement to political revolutions. While we work to develop best practices for all kinds of communities, it was nice to hear one of his key thoughts as we move forward in community building: “Community is not an extension of the Marketing department.”
The day continued with a series of plenaries, which were 15 minutes long and touched upon topics like empathy, authenticity and vulnerability in community management roles. The talks wrapped up with a Facilitation 101 talk to give tips on how to run the unconference sessions. We then did the session proposals and scheduling that would pick up after lunch.
As mentioned in my earlier post we had some discussion points from our experiences in the Ubuntu community that we wanted to get feedback on from the broader leadership community so we proposed 4 sessions that lasted the afternoon.
Lack of new generation of leaders
The root of this session came from our current struggle in the Ubuntu community to find leaders, from those who wish to sit on councils and boards to leaders for the LoCo teams. In addition to several people who expressed similar problems in their own communities, there was some fantastic feedback from folks who attended, including:
- Some folks don’t see themselves as “Leaders” so using that work can be intimidating, if you find this is the case, shift to using different types of titles that do more to describe the role they are taking.
- Document tasks that you do as a leader and slowly hand them off to people in your community to build a supportive group of people who know the ins and outs and can take a leadership role in the future.
- Evaluate your community every few years to determine whether your leadership structure still makes sense, and make changes with every generation of community leaders if needed (and it often is!).
- If you’re seeking to get more contributions from people who are employed to do open source, you may need to engage their managers to prioritize appropriately. Also, make sure credit is given to companies who are paying employees to contribute.
- Set a clear set of responsibilities and expectations for leadership positions so people understand the role, commitment level and expectations of them.
- Actively promote people who are doing good work, whether by expressing thanks on social media, in blog posts and whatever other communications methods you employ, as well as inviting them to speak at other events, fund them to attend events and directly engage them. This will all serve to build satisfaction and their social capital in the community.
- Casual mentorship of aspiring leaders who you can hand over projects for them to take over once they’ve begun to grow and understand the steps required.
Making lasting friendships that are bigger than the project
This was an interesting session that was proposed as many of us found that we built strong relationships with people early on in Ubuntu, but have noticed fewer of those developing in the past few years. Many of us have these friendships which have lasted even as people leave the project, and even leave the tech industry entirely, for us Ubuntu wasn’t just an open source project, we were all building lasting relationships.
- In person events are hugely valuable to this (what we used to get from Ubuntu Developer Summits). Empower local communities to host major events.
- Find a way to have discussions that are not directly related to the project with your fellow project members, including creating a space where there’s a weekly topic, giving a space to share accomplishments, and perhaps not lumping it all together (some new off-topic threads on Discourse?)
- Provide a space to have check-ins with members of and teams in your community, how is life going? Do you have the resources you need?
- Remember that tangential interests are what bring people together on a personal level and seek to facilitate that
There was also some interesting discussion around handling contributors whose behavior has become disruptive (often due to personal things that have come up in their life), from making sure a Code of Conduct is in place to set expectations for behavior to approaching people directly to check in to make sure they’re doing all right and to discuss the change in their behavior.
Declining Community Participation
We proposed this session because we’ve seen a decline in community participation since before the Ubuntu Developer Summits ceased. We spent some time framing this problem in the space it’s in, with many Linux distributions and “core” components seeing similar decline and disinterest in involvement. It was also noted that when a project works well, people are less inclined to help because they don’t need to fix things, which may certainly be the case with a product like the Ubuntu server. In this vein, it was noted that 10 years ago the contributor to user ratio was much higher, since many people who used it got involved in order to file bugs and collaborate to fix things.
Some of the recommendations that came out of this session:
- Host contests and special events to showcase new technologies to get people excited about involvement (made me think of Xubuntu testing with XMir, we had a lot of people testing it because it was an interesting new thing!)
- In one company, the co-founder set a community expectation for companies who were making money from the product to give back 5% in development (or community management, or community support).
- Put a new spin on having your code reviewed: it’s constructive criticism from programmers with a high level of expertise, you’re getting training while they chime in on reviews. Note that the community must have a solid code review community that knows how to help people and be kind to them in reviews.
- Look at bright spots in your community and recreate them: Where has the community grown? (Ubuntu Phone) How can you bring excitement there to other parts of your project? Who are your existing contributors in the areas where you’ve seen a decline and how can you find more contributors like them?
- Share stories about how your existing members got involved so that new contributors see a solid on-ramp for themselves, and know that everyone started somewhere.
- Make sure you have clear, well-defined on-ramps for various parts of your project, it was noted that Mozilla does a very good job with this (Ubuntu does use Mozilla’s Asknot, but it’s hard to find!).
Barriers related to single-vendor control and development of a project
This session came about because of the obvious control that Canonical has in the direction of the Ubuntu project. We sought to find advice from other communities where there was single-vendor control. Perhaps unfortunately the session trended heavily toward specifically Ubuntu, but we were able to get some feedback from other communities and how they handle decisions made in an ecosystem with both paid and volunteer contrbutors:
- Decisions should happen in a public, organized space (not just an IRC log, Google Hangout or in person discussion, even if these things are made public). Some communities have used: Github repo, mailing list threads, Request For Comment system to gather feedback and discuss it.
- Provide a space where community members can submit proposals that the development community can take seriously (we did used to have brainstorm.ubuntu.com for this, but it wound down over the years and became less valuable.
- Make sure the company counts contributions as real, tangible things that should be considered for monetary value (non-profits already do this for their volunteers).
- Make sure the company understands the motivation of community members so they don’t accidentally undermine this.
- Evaluate expectations in the community, are there some things the company won’t budge on? Are they honest about this and do they make this clear before community members make an investment? Ambiguity hurts the community.
I’m really excited to have further discussions in the Ubuntu community about how these insights can help us. Once I’m home I’ll be able to collect my thoughts and take thoughts and perhaps even action items to the ubuntu-community-team mailing list (which everyone is welcome to participate in).
This first day concluded with a feedback session for the summit itself, which brought up some great points. On to day two!
As with day one, we began the day with a series of plenaries. The first was presented by Richard Millington who talked about 10 “Social Psychology Hacks” that you can use to increase participation in your community. These included “priming” or using existing associations to encourage certain feelings, making sure you craft your story about your community, designing community rituals to make people feel included and use existing contributors to gain more through referrals. It was then time for Laura Czajkowski’s talk about “Making your the Marketing team happy”. My biggest take-away from this one was that not only has she learned to use the tools the marketing team uses, but she now attends their meetings so she can stay informed of their projects and chime in when a suggestion has been made that may cause disruption (or worse!) in the community. Henrik Ingo then gave a talk where he did an analysis of the governance types of many open source projects. He found that all the “extra large” projects developer/commit-wise were all run by a foundation, and that there seemed to be a limit as to how big single-vendor controlled projects could get. I had suspected this was the case, but it was wonderful to have his data to back up my suspicions. Finally, Gina Likins of Red Hat spoke about her work to get universities and open source projects working together. She began her talk by explaining how few college Computer Science majors are familiar with open source, and suggested that a kind of “dating site” be created to match up open source projects with professors looking to get their students involved. Brilliant! I attended her session related to it later in the afternoon.
My afternoon was spent first by joining Gina and others to talk about relationships between university professors and open source communities. Her team runs teachingopensource.org and it turns out I subscribed to their mailing list some time ago. She outlined several goals, from getting students familiar with open source tooling (IRC, mailing lists, revision control, bug trackers) all the way up to more active roles directly in open source projects where the students are submitting patches. I’m really excited to see where this goes and hope I can some day participate in working with some students beyond the direct mentoring through internships that I’m doing now.
Aside from substantial “hallway track” time where I got to catch up with some old friends and meet some people, I went to a session on having open and close-knit communities where people talked about various things, from reaching out to people when they disappear, the importance of conduct standards (and swift enforcement), and going out of your way to participate in discussions kicked off by newcomers in order to make them feel included. The last session I went to shared tips for organizing local communities, and drew from the off-line community organizing that has happened in the past. Suggestions for increasing participation for your group included cross-promotion of groups (either through sharing announcements or doing some joint meetups), not letting volunteers burn out/feel taken for granted and making sure you’re not tolerating poisonous people in your community.
The Community Leadership Summit concluded with a Question and Answer session. Many people really liked the format, keeping the morning pretty much confined to the set presentations and setting up the schedule, allowing us to take a 90 minute lunch (off-site) and come back to spend the whole afternoon in sessions. In all, I was really pleased with the event, kudos to all the organizers!
I wrote about Canonical's Ubuntu IP policy here, but primarily in terms of its broader impact, but I mentioned a few specific cases. People seem to have picked up on the case of container images (especially Docker ones), so here's an unambiguous statement:
If you generate a container image that is not a 100% unmodified version of Ubuntu (ie, you have not removed or added anything), Canonical insist that you must ask them for permission to distribute it. The only alternative is to rebuild every binary package you wish to ship, removing all trademarks in the process. As I mentioned in my original post, the IP policy does not merely require you to remove trademarks that would cause infringement, it requires you to remove all trademarks - a strict reading would require you to remove every instance of the word "ubuntu" from the packages.
If you want to contact Canonical to request permission, you can do so here. Or you could just derive from Debian instead.
 Other than ones whose license explicitly grants permission to redistribute binaries and which do not permit any additional restrictions to be imposed upon the license grants - so any GPLed material is fine
I think I will do the paperwork and aim for next week out too rather than try to aim for wednesday or something.
my ankles still feel amazing and fabulous. getting out of the cab yesterday from therapy i looked to the end of the street and thought, I could walk that far, if my side didn't hurt. I wonder if I will be better from the shingles, but still under the good effect of the prednisone, for long enough to walk to the corner and back!
I wonder if I could agitate for a more frequent steroid burst experimentally.
Time at home in San Francisco came to an end this week with a flight to Portland, OR on Friday for some open source gatherings around OSCON. This ended my nearly 2 months without getting on a plane, the longest stretch I’ve gone in over 2 years. My initial intention with this time was to spend a lot of time on my book, which I have, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped because the work and creativity required isn’t something you can just turn on and off. It was nice getting to spend so much time with my husband though, and the kitties. The stretch at home also led me to join a gym again (I’d canceled my last month to month membership when a stretch of travel had me gone for over a month). Upon my return next week I have my first of four sessions with a trainer at the gym scheduled.
While I haven’t exactly had a full social calendar of late, I have been able to go to a few events. Last Wednesday I hosted an Ubuntu Hour and Bay Area Debian Dinner in San Francisco.
The day after, SwiftStack hosted probably the only OpenStack 5th birthday party I’ll be able to attend this year (leaving before the OSCON one, will be in Peru for the HP one!). I got to see some familiar faces, meet some Swift developers and eat some OpenStack cake.
MJ had a friend in town last week too, which meant I had a lot of time to myself. In the spirit of not having to worry about my own meals during this time, I cooked up a pot of beef stew to enjoy through the week and learned quickly that I should have frozen at least half of it. Even a modest pot of stew is much more than I can eat it all myself over the course of a week. I did enjoy it though, some day I’ll learn about spices so I can make one that’s not so bland.
I’ve also been running again, after a bit of a hiatus following the trip to Vancouver. Fortunately I didn’t lose much ground stamina-wise and was mostly able to pick up where I left off. It has been warmer than normal in San Francisco these past couple weeks though, so I’ve been playing around with the times of my runs, with early evenings as soon as the fog/coolness rolls in currently the winning time slot during the week. Sunday morning runs have been great too.
This week I made it out to a San Francisco DevOps meetup where Tom Limoncelli was giving a talk inspired by some of the less intuitive points in his book The Practice of Cloud Systems Administration. In addition to seeing Tom, it was nice to meet up with some of my local DevOps friends who I haven’t managed to connect with lately and meet some new people.
I had a busy week at home before my trip to Portland this week, upon settling in to the hotel I’m staying at I met up with my friend and fellow Ubuntu Community Council Member Laura Czajkowski. We took the metro over the bridge to downtown Portland and on the way she showed off her Ubuntu phone, and the photo taking app for a selfie together!
Since it was Laura’s first time in Portland, our first stop downtown was to Voodoo Doughnuts! I got my jelly-filled voodoo guy doughnut.
From there we made our way to Powell’s Books where we spent the rest of the afternoon, as you do with Powell’s. I picked up 3 books and learned that Powell’s Technical Books/Powell’s 2 has been absorbed into the big store, which was a little sad for me, it was fun to go to the store that just had science, transportation and engineering books. Still, it was a fun visit and I always enjoy introducing someone new to the store.
Then we headed back across the river to meet up with people for the Community Leadership Summit informal gathering event at the Double Tree. We had a really enjoyable time, I got to see Michael Hall of the Ubuntu Community Council and David Planella of the Community Team at Canonical to catch up with each other and chat about Ubuntu things. Plus, I ran into people I know from the broader open source community. As an introvert, it was one of the more energizing social events I’ve been to in a long time.
Today the Community Leadership Summit that I’m in town for kicks off! Looking forward to some great discussions.