On Erasing Ubuntu's Artificial Borders: The vUDS Discussion

Last week at vUDS we had the discussion about erasing the current national-(and sometimes state)-border-centric organization of Ubuntu (loco) teams.


Here's a detailed (but rough) summary of the first half of the discussion. It's faster than watching.

Proposal Summary:
Enabling teams that are not in the current geography that one would associate with loco teams
There has been talk on Planet Ubuntu and Community Roundtables about the notion of creating teams for any geography, to form freely and to potentially remove barriers on team formation based on that.

Participant's thoughts:

Wants to create a team for his part of Minnesota, because the state is divided - two major cities right next to each other - Minneapolis and St. Paul - would be easier for him if he could lead a west metro team instead of having a whole big Minnesota thing becuase most likely all the people over in St. Paul aren't going to attend his events and vice-versa

This situation likely applies to a lot of places, in the US, in Canada, and other countries

Extremely large geographic regions could benefit from having multiple team e.g. Texas, Alaska - there's huge spaces between cities. Another example is his state of NY where they have the 8th most populous city in the world and they probably would be a good location to have a focussed team just on NYC. Speaking with them has revealed they have far different challenges than does Rochester NY, so Charles feels out of his element in helping them finding places to meet, and other details that are different due to them being so large. He understands there are concerns with wanting to control things but feels that we shouldn't inhibit people from growing teams in places like that. There is currently no Community Council opinion at this point -each member probably has their own thoughts and in general the CC would want to work with the LoCo council on those kinds of things.

Good and bad both
Good: may help some teams like the Russian team - super big and many cities far apart
in Peru - many events during the year, people can easily reach out for support from existing team
long term- doesn't want to see a lot of inactive teams on the Loco directory - e/g. in Peru if there were 20 teams, some big teams working, other small ones not, but all listed and no one willing to revive the inactive teams - this will get people confused and many people just want to join, and not lead

India is very large, with very big cities, let's have city-based teams like Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai where pop's are huge 10M, so users can get local support as quickly as possible

Loco Council has been brainstorming and trying to come up with best practices on this for three months - they were looking at larger countries and breaking them into a similar situation to what the United States has done and also what Brazil has done on their own (breaking themselves into smaller provinces or states) which seems to have worked pretty well
Comes with advantages and disadvantages - there will be states that are so large that they are the size of a small country, but if you break down a large state into smaller pieces what you might find is that you have a very small loco in one town and then the next city is where all the activity is, making people feel disheartened
If you break it down even further like they are thinking of doing with India then it can come down to being even language-specific as well within certain cities and provinces so where do you draw the line?

Acknowledges the issue. Every place has its own language. There is no common colloquial language

We can't use the same criteria for every country but can come up with a set of guidelines and best practices and India's more unique than others
They (LCC) do get requests, even this week for a sub-loco team, currently don't have a process so have been telling them to join the main (parent) loco and work with that - events can still be added to the LoCo team portal - it's not like we're saying "Just because you don't exist as a sub team you cant add your event on the loco team portal" there's nothing like that happening, events still get added and promoted

We cannot have the same criteria, at the comm roundtable we were also thinking of dropping the term "Approved" from loco teams. What would be the effect of this on teams that request materials - is the material going to be enough for the sub teams? probably yes but we need to remember that the materials are costing money (not free)
If people want to set up sub teams they should have to go to the loco council to see if it is right, otherwise people may do their own thing and it wont be good it will be too random

Recounted Steve Kellat (Ohio) blog - Ohio used to have smaller active teams, more active than state level team. Over time those teams became less active as people moved on to other projects. Now it appears Ohio is fairly dormant both on a state level and a more local level and possibly could benefit from a super-state. Steven mentioned regions that are close to Ohio (across state borders) that have activity and would be useful to partner with them. Though we tend to talk about dividing countries we may also want to talk about consolidating where necessary.
Another thought that was raised yesterday (from Ben Kerensa) was around the Portland team, or Oregon team, at one point in time there was a PNW team that was proposed as a super-state perhaps consisting of Washington, Oregon and parts of Northern California. He can envision highly dense areas like NYC (as Charles pointed out) that might be candidates for a team, where in more rural (sparsely populated) areas might be great candidates for super-state teams or regional teams that span several states or provinces or perhaps even a collection of cities e.g. NYC and NJ where they are right up against each other, there may be cities that are adjacent to one another that could form a super-city team which could potentially create a lot more activity than a city alone.

I think of San Francisco where there are three major cities within a 1 hour bus ride: Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose , with silicon valley in between - this is a very large region with an unfortunately small team - so I am looking at both directions, we can go small geography, we can go big geography, what I would like to see is a situation where we expand and contract the geography in any manner that gets the teams as active and as large as possible, so we wouldn't necessarily be ruling out any level of team. Country teams are useful in some places and less useful in other places

In other words, remove any specific requirements of geography or population density. He still thinks we need to have a minimum to use some word to acknowledge them as a team and not having a situation where we get a one-person team that stays one person and declares itself a team versus to have them grow an actual community and that would have to be worked out: when do we actually say they're a team and then there's another level when do we extend the privilege of letting them have a mailing list? perhaps the mailing list exists at a state level and then multiple teams can share the mailing list . From one perspective it's great to have organic growth and do think that that's the way to go whether it be two cities that are close to each other or in a case like Cincinnati that is in two states (Ohio and Kentucky) , but what do we do on the back end and how do we deal with that as far as getting them resources like a forum and a mailing list etc? Jono has said that there are multiple ways for people to do that themselves now and it's not quite as strong a requirement for the Canonical Ubuntu community team to provide that because they can make their own Google plus - these things need to be worked out

There is a threshold where a team becomes a team. That threshold is bigger than one person. We could arbitrarily set a threshold for resources saying that if your team is more than 50 people then you have eligibility for something - whatever that something is - maybe we go orders of magnitude 50, 500, 5000, then you have eligibility for the next tier, whatever the next tier is - that's one way to slice it

That would be very hard/unfair on smaller countries no? e.g. Ireland has just under 4 million (essentially population of London), and is not possible/feasible to break it down further

A small country small population would have to catch a larger area. threshold would be reached at some geography e.g. Iceland. There would be workarounds, we wouldn't be penalizing a country for a small population, we'd be acknowledging that their geographical catch area would need to be largerr to catch enough people to get whatever resources they need

Need to keep in mind: Canonical and Loco council have mentioned that if we keep increasing the loco teams (which is brilliant to see happening) but if you break into sub teams that puts an increase on any kind of gift you get from Canonical so that's the reason we've kept to a structure. If we say anyone can go off and create a loco team and then tomorrow you have 400 new loco teams you might think it's great to see that happening as a growth perspective then that means there's an extra burden on finding conference packs. It's not an issue now, but it could be an issue 6 months or two years from now and if we don't have structures in place then we can't deal with that .

Also, the Loco council has informed the CC last week they intend to get rid of the terms "Approved" and "Unapproved" and replace it with one word: verified, then everyone will be a loco team. the LCC does work on issues in the background but it can be a slow process at times

I have blogged about the notion of conducting an experiment and think that we are in a spot right now where there are valid concerns about letting people form teams in any geography for any reason. There are resource concerns, process concerns and labour concerns, but we've never tried it and if we've never tried it I think those concerns are fears that are out there but they don't have any data to help make decisions or to build process around, so what I was advocating is we run it as an experiment for one UDS cycle as an experiment then we do a checkpoint to see what has happened, what processes need to be changed, or whether we scrap the whole idea or revert.

I think that unless we are willing to assume a little bit of risk to the project and the people that participate in it we are caught in this spot where we're afraid to move. That was my proposal- I'm big on data and I'm big on making decisions based on data so if three months down the road we saw 6000 teams and Canonical people were screaming at us because they can't send out conference packs fast enough then that would trigger a set of decisions that would fix the problem either through process or additional money or some other means or a threshold or an increase in the barrier in becoming a team that gets goodies.

Another scenario - Vancouver - someone tomorrow that feels they are unhappy with Ubuntu Vancouver decides they're going to create "Ubuntu Vancouver Prime", so now there's two teams in Vancouver,what would that mean for a team like Vancouver? I've thought about that quite a lot and I think what it might mean is that there's a team in Vancouver that is an alternative for people who aren't getting what they need from the existing team . For example the Vancouver team is very heavy on marketing and advocacy and social events and very light on development, programming and technical events, so I could see a second team in a city like Vancouver or somewhere else being heavily technically-oriented and thriving in that context and having two city teams that thrive for different reasons because they are meeting a different need. Vancouver's a fairly large and dense city so this may not work in smaller towns and villages .

I mention that because some cities countries or states may have a fear of duplication, but I also look at it as a useful thing because it could also mean segmentation and serving a community better than a single team could serve... so I'll throw that out there as a thought experiment....

... to be continued.

Are you a person that wants to start a block, village, town, city, super-city, super-state or super-national team? How about a planetary team? Have you been discouraged?


Word to the wise: Sometimes storms that seem small enough to fit in vessels that some would use to brew tea are symptoms of larger issues that need to be examined and changed lest the vessel crack. And sometimes when one is not in the vessel, one cannot see the importance of a tiny swirl that begins the tornado... There's a funny story and quote from some English politician about a tea thing that happened in America a while ago, but I'll leave that for another post. ;) Stated non-cryptically, I'm glad we've begun this discussion even if some may not understand why.

Ubuntu knows no borders.


You have realized the exact fact! India is very large, with very big cities, let's have city-based teams like Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai where pop's are huge 10M,

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This is an interest part of the project because not many people would even think that it could change. This progress shows that the project is flexible and open to input, and that it's not just about software.

It also is very important because the teams are one of the cornerstones in the foundation of the entire project. Sometimes we overlook the fact that some thing as "small" as what you call something (or how you say something) can affect the entire project.

No one is too small to be part of Ubuntu, and no issue is too insignificant for discussion.


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