Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon opened the "most important event
of the Ubuntu cycle", Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), which was held
May 9-13 in Budapest, Hungary. In addition to Ubuntu, though, there was a
large Linaro presence because the Linaro Development Summit (LDS) was going
on at the same time. The close relationship between the distribution and
the consortium of ARM companies was clearly in evidence. Both summits
not only shared conference facilities, but were also closely aligned in terms
of how their sessions were run and
recorded. Along the way in the first morning's talks, attendees also
learned the proper pronunciation
Ubuntu and Linaro developers were there to plan out their respective
development cycles; Ubuntu for 11.10 (aka Oneiric Ocelot) and Linaro more
generally for the next six months to a year. Up until now, Linaro has been
doing releases in six-month cycles, each just a month after the Ubuntu
release that was being tracked. But, as Linaro CEO George Grey announced
later in the morning, there would be no Linaro 11.11 release as the
organization was moving to a monthly release cycle.
Bacon on the UDS format
Bacon noted that 11.04 ("Natty Narwhal") was a "tremendously
adventurous cycle" that took Ubuntu "to the next
level". But UDS is the time to look ahead to the next release and
it is a "critical event" for the distribution. It is, he
said, not a conference, but rather an interactive event where developers
and other members of the community come together to "design, debate,
and discuss" the shape of the next release.
Each session at UDS is an hour-long focused discussion, which is based on a
blueprint that is in Launchpad. It is an "incredibly dynamic
schedule" that is updated with changes to session times and rooms,
as well as having new sessions added based on the outcomes of the meetings
or additional blueprints being added. There are often fifteen simultaneous
meetings taking place, with roughly two-thirds of those being UDS, and the
remaining meetings being for Linaro.
In addition, the meetings are well set up for external participation as
there is audio streamed from each room, as well as an IRC channel
established and displayed on a screen so that those not present can
participate in the discussion. Notes are taken in Etherpad for
each meeting so that anyone can follow along or review them later.
There is an established structure for the meetings as well, which starts
with a goal for the meeting, Bacon said. That goal is discussed,
conclusions are drawn, and the outcome and action items are recorded. Each
meeting has a leader who is tasked with setting the goal, moderating the
discussion, and ensuring that all participants, even those who tend to not
say much, get a chance to talk, he said.
But the end result of the meeting is action items. People are "here
to do real work", he said, and part of that is identifying the
actions that need to be taken in the next six (five really) months to
achieve the goal. In addition to action items, though, there need to be
people assigned to accomplish them. If people are reluctant to sign up for
those action items, "start nominating people", as that works
well to flesh out who should be doing what, he said.
The UDS meetings serve as a "valuable
piece of face time" that should be used to satisfy the overarching
goal, which is to "deliver the most incredible Ubuntu
experience we can", he said. Bacon then turned the stage over to
Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth.
Shuttleworth on Natty and Ubuntu values
Shuttleworth congratulated the assembled Ubuntu community on its work on
Natty Narwhal, which was a "profoundly challenging" cycle for
many reasons, he said. Ubuntu is in the middle of a transition, which
makes it normal for there to be questioning and challenging debate around
that transition. But the organization achieved "many of the things we
set out to do", he said.
Several specific accomplishments from Natty were called out, including work
by the documentation team that made major contributions to both GNOME and
Unity documentation during the cycle. That team was successful in
"spanning that divide [between GNOME and Unity] with grace and
eloquence", he said. There were also major strides made on
accessibility, which is one of the core values of the Ubuntu community.
There is more accessibility work to do, he said, but it will get finished
during the Oneiric Ocelot cycle.
With Unity, "we've set a new bar for disciplined design in free
software", Shuttleworth said, by testing the assumptions of the
design team with real user testing. He noted that the "mission"
for the distribution is to have 200 million Ubuntu users within four
years. Ubuntu is not targeting "developers' hearts and
minds", but rather the "world's hearts and minds". But
that shouldn't leave developers behind because they "need all the
things that consumers do, and more", he said.
Shuttleworth also spent some time to "restate and reaffirm our
values". People start using something new, like Ubuntu, because of
the buzz around it, but at some point they may reevaluate that decision,
asking themselves "why am I here?". It makes sense for people
to participate or to continue to participate in a project like Ubuntu if they share the mission and
values of the group.
The governance of Ubuntu is a meritocracy, he said, and not a democracy.
Where hard decisions need to be made, he wants to have the best person
making them, whether that person is a Canonical employee or not. But, once
a person has been given that responsibility, it doesn't make sense to
continually second guess them, he said, "that is how we will be both
free software and incredibly effective".
There needs to be accountability to members, contributors, and users, as
well. Shuttleworth said that he and other decision-makers should have no
problem being questioned or challenged about decisions they have made,
"but that can't get in the way" of progress. When you get
"stressed" about a particular decision, he said, ask yourself whether
the right people are making that decision.
Transparency is also important. There has be a sense of a lack of
transparency in some decisions made in the last few years where those
decisions were presented as having already been made. The community can
"expect and reasonably demand" discussion of those decisions,
he said. But Ubuntu brings together the community and multiple companies
to make a single platform, and many of the different groups that come
together in Ubuntu have different ideas of what (and how) things should be
done. Transparency is a "value that we hold", he said, but it
requires respect on all sides.
Making a case for the Canonical contributor
agreement is an area where Shuttleworth has "failed as a
leader", he said. He has "strong views" on what it
will take to build a collaboration between the community and various
companies, and contributor agreements will play a role. Each side has
different goals and different constraints. Those need to be respected by
all participants so that they can work together.
When all sides are closely aligned in their goals and constraints, they can
work together fairly easily, but that isn't really collaboration so much as
it is teamwork, he said. Ideological constraints put up barriers, and "free"
is not the only way that companies will produce software. There are
"second-class options in vast tracts of free software", he
said, and in order for that to change, working with various companies will
be important. He noted that Android and iOS have quickly created large
amounts of useful
software even in the face of the Microsoft monopoly.
Starting "today", Shuttleworth is going take on the job of
making the case for contributor agreements. It will be difficult to do,
but he is up to the challenge, because of the importance. He noted that at
one point Canonical had done some work on some software that had been
created by Novell, who "had done a lot of work that we benefited
from", while Canonical had done "some work that we were proud
of". He initially refused to sign a contributor agreement with
Novell for that code, but then couldn't sleep that night and changed his
mind in the morning because he realized that he was not being
Ownership of a project comes with responsibilities, and contributors should
be willing to give up some rights to their code if they aren't taking on
those responsibilities, he said. If someone gave you a plant for your
garden, but asked you to agree not to sell the house if you accepted it,
you likely wouldn't agree to that, he said. "It would not be generous
on their part". He recognizes that convincing the community about
contributor agreements is an uphill battle, but that the "upside in
this case is all on my side" because those agreements are not
popular in the community.
After a brief farewell (but not goodbye) message from Ubuntu CTO Matt Zimmerman, Shuttleworth noted
that this development cycle started with a challenge: how does one
pronounce "oneiric" (which means dreamy or dreamlike)? With the help of
some community members with improvisational skills, and a prop named "Rick"
director of Ubuntu engineering), several possibilities were demonstrated:
"annoy-rick", "one-eye-rick", "on-a-rick", and so on, before Shuttleworth
settled on the "winner", which was "o-near-rick", though, of course,
alternatives are being heard throughout the summit.
There are "hundreds of things being decided" during the week
of UDS, Shuttleworth said. Though there won't be any major shifts (a
la Unity) for this cycle, there are lots of choices being made. One
immediate decision point was whether to use Eucalyptus or OpenStack as the
default cloud platform, and that decision needed to be made on the first
day, he said. That was decided
in favor of OpenStack, though Eucalyptus will still be supported.
There are some other changes that may be afoot, including potentially switching to
Thunderbird as the default email client, as well as possibly changing from
Firefox to Chromium as the default web browser. Other, less visible changes
will be decided upon as well. After the week of UDS, it will be time to
"get stuff done" to make those decisions, and all the other
plans made, come together for Oneiric Ocelot, he said.
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