On Erasing Ubuntu's Artificial Borders: The vUDS Discussion (Part2)

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


I summarized the first half in an earlier blog post. (See http://randall.executiv.es/noborders_part1)

Here's a detailed (but rough) summary of the second half of the discussion. It's still 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.

Rochester (which is not nearly as big as Vancouver), has two Linux User groups, one is a community-based group focussed on end-users and showing them how to use Gimp and showing them how to replace proprietary office suites, and there is a group based around R.I.T. (a technical college) and they are into developing projects and software , some people are kernel hackers, some people want to work on file-systems, and the two groups exist, we know of each other, sometimes people from one group present at the other group, when we do install-fests or hackathons, we do them together, but the meetings are at different times and different places and serve two different groups but we really don't compete because the developers don't want to go and see a presentation on Gimp typically and the people that are using Gimp and repalcing proprietary OS'es with Ubuntu as an end-user have no interest in going and learning what BTRFS is bringing to the table for Linux so that's a good example where it could even exist in a smaller city such as Rochester.

Good points.
I'd like to play out some ideas to get the discussion going a little more. Let's do a thought experiment: Let's all try to imagine the absolute worst thing that could happen in the next three months. So say, tomorrow Jono (or someone like Jono) says: "Ok! Any teams, anywhere, any reason... Go for it!" Can we think about what might happen?

Worst-case scenario would be over-fragmentation, new people coming into the community not knowing exactly where to go to have a team, and then a little bit on what Josee has said, all of a sudden people try to contact the first three teams on the list and those teams have become inactive in a short period of time because there was a burst of "I'm really interested in this" and then it faded and new people looking to find an active team can't find one so they assume the whole project is dead.

Over-fragmentation and people try to contact ones that are dead. Maybe lack of resources in terms of conference packs or materials that we would want to have for events , or perhaps people starting to leave because they don't know what's happening around the community or where the organization is, if they can find it...

The problem would be for the local people that live in the cities trying to find which of their local teams are actually active at that moment. For example, a metro that has 5 teams with 4 of them inactive, that's a lot of time trying to figure out which one of these teams are actually doing things.

More factions... LCC often deals with Loco teams needing to mediate situations between loco leaders. A number of teams have had two locos in one city and it's not gone on well, the LCC has had to spend a lot of time trying to work with that. She can think of three locos that it's happened to in the last year. It gets quite bitter and nasty and people get so annoyed at the situation that they walk away.
If there are more and more locos, not too sure that the LCC could handle it. They get quite busy sometimes, providing help to people and answering queries... she enjoys it and has been on the LCC for three and a half years and doesn't give up her time just by choice, she really enjoys it and wants to stick around and increasing teams may make it less enjoyable. If it's not fun and not enjoyable to stay around the loco community then why would people stay around?
If there are multiple local events or locos in an area it may reduce the quality of an event, or the quality of participation - people don't know how to get involved.
Do you dilute the value of the Ubuntu loco and just call it a LUG? The big difference between a Loco and a LUG is that we specifically try to promote Ubuntu, rather than just diluting the Linux feel about things

One other thing we should consider:
What is the worst-case scenario if we keep it status quo:

If we keep things status quo we will not be able to grow our community as quickly as it needs to grow to support and to nurture all of the people that are going to soon be exposed to Ubuntu (because of Ubuntu's consumerization that is right around the corner.) I see that when phones and tablets and touch devices hit there will be a ground swell of recognition and awareness around Ubuntu and people will start looking for community help and/or just other people who are knowledgeable about it, and having more groups around that can potentially catch and help these people will build bigger and stronger communities and will serve the Ubuntu project better than if we don't have those communities in place and the only contact that these new Ubuntu users have with Ubuntu is through a Verizon store or a T-Mobile store or a Best Buy. I would not like to see that be the Ubuntu experience where people have to walk into a store to get any information about Ubuntu. I'd love the community to be out in front of the retail channel and consumerization.

A secondary fear would be that the current teams seem to be losing energy and I don't know if that's just my perception or if that is real, but I can recall a few years back there seemed to be a lot more energy around things like Jams and global events and more activity in general. I'm not sure what we need to do to re-invigorate the community but perhaps if we generate some more noise and get more people joining groups and talking about joining groups thant maybe it'll have a catalyst effect and some of the national teams will start to re-energize based on that.

Similar to what you're saying, we'd end up with (and I don't want to say we'd lose steam or have lost steam) but that we wouldn't capture potential new users... that's the thing I'd be nervous about. There may be people that are not being served by the current structure and feel frustrated by the limits currently put on them and therefore they are going off and doing other things instead of becoming a part of the Ubuntu community.

YoBoy mentioned on IRC: Each one has his own point of view depending on how we lead our advocacy and promoting experience

In his (Josee's) experience. things will just continue as normal

Minnesota has 4 areas: west metro, east metro, Duluth and Morehead. We currently have just a Minnesota loco and the problem is that if we stay how we were, everyone will continue looking to their local LUGs instead of the local team to go for events, such as east metro: the only events that happen are provided by the local LUG and the problem with that is that with loco teams there's a "You're a new user, come join us! We're here for anyone who's new or the experienced." With a LUG it's like "You haven't been using Linux for 5 years, then what are you doing here?" At least thats how it is with our local LUG teams, they seem to be a bit more xenophobic,and that would actually tend to push people away from wanting to get into Linux

I've thought about this a lot. I'm not too sure there are massive amounts of risks. If you look at the loco team portal or even doing a search for loco and Ubuntu events you see so many images of events that are happening and that is the benefit of being able to see this from the review process of looking at teams -- you see the massive amounts of work that teams do. Some teams are really small and unique and I don't see anything wrong with that. If they have 12 people in their team, kudos to them, because those 12 people are spreading Ubuntu in that community and if they meet up once a month, or once every 6 months to have a release party then I think that's brilliant. Other teams are more fortunate. They have larger teams and that could be just down to that area where they are and it's nothing to do with how much people promote it - it's the area you live in has more technical kinds of companies in the area or people tha have more interest. you can't always govern that.
If you search.. I found the other day that the Iranian loco did a release party and had 30-40 people on stage. it looks amazing. And if you look at somebody else's like Mexico and Columbia who have done fantastic release parties as well... they are all active . Sure there are going to be times when teams go through quiet periods but if they're still active or are just chatting away on IRC or on a mailing list, I don't see that as a bad thing. Now whether that's going to be the crux of Loco teams not promoting or going forward as such but I don't know... I do know that I love being in a Loco more than a LUG because I enjoy the Ubuntu community and I know full well that had I not got involved in the Ubuntu community more so than my LUG then I probably would not have been where I am today. And that is just that I found it a more welcoming environment and each loco caters to different levels so some locos like the Italian loco does the iso testing, which is fantastic and is needed. Other locos might just meet up and go for a drink or just chat on IRC... they both really provide a different service from one another and I think that's a good thing.

Without naming names and getting into specifics can you talk about situations where you've seen teams in conflict that have split into two teams and what the dynamics are? I'm thinking that if we said "Ok any team can start up" we may see that happening. What happens when a team splits generally in your experience?

It has fighting, a lot of animosity ... people will say things like that person's not doing things in the Ubuntu way: they're using it for their business (We have seen that a lot actually). We see people say that person won't let me organize events in my area . We see people spreading not always the best comments about one-another. Equally I have other teams that don't speak to one another but they could be in the same country and they just don't see eye-to-eye. Not everyone's going to get on together. That's the fact of the matter, but if you have two locos within a small distance of one another then you'd hope that they'd work together and that isn't always possible. More often we get called in when there's already two loco teams in an area and they realize this when one group possibly wants to become more official and one group wants to possibly get the domain, use the wiki pages and realizes that another person's using it on Facebook, on Meetup etc and that's where we get more involved. Some groups don't see eye-to-eye and we've had two leaders from the two different groups step aside and just walk away and then those two locos are dead... and that's happened, which is rather unfortunate.

Yes that's definitely unfortunate. When the groups get to that state, there's a collision there's a conflict and then both leaders walk away have you seen any examples where someone comes in and tries to pick up the pieces and tries to re-form? Does that ever happen or often happen? I'm thinking maybe a new team comes in and says "Ok we're going to ignore the other teams and start new".

I hope that we wouldn't have three teams to deal with. I hope that the two teams would find a way to work together and find a new person (I try to look on the bright side of things). I think in the past people have just been so put off by the fighting at that point that people just want a time out and hopefully in a few months' time they'll actually come back together and
get the group back on its feet but I do know that some people have been frustrated. I've seen certain locos just lose interest because of it which is again unfortunate. They just want to use Ubuntu at that point and that's great: they still want to use Ubuntu, they still want to spread the Ubuntu word, that's good. They just don't want to be in involved in the Loco, the ground events.

That's really good perspective. One of the things I've noticed through some of the groups that I've interaacted with and to some extent with the group in Vancouver is that people sometimes come into Ubuntu groups for the wrong reasons (though everyone has their reasons) but when I say the "worng" reasons what I mean is that some people come into Ubuntu groups expecting LUG's, some people come into Ubuntu groups expecting people that talk about free software in general, some people come into an Ubuntu group because they want to further a business goal... Would it be helpful if we had some kind of guidance for people who want to start an Ubuntu group? Something crisp that could help them steer clear of some of these traps down the road? For example, "Here are some great reasons to start an Ubuntu group" and "here are some not-so-great reasons to start and Ubuntu group that we've seen may create problems down the road. Anyone want to jump in on whether or not that would be useful, or whether we've tried it?

It's not a bad idea. We have the best practices which are basically how you set up a Loco but maybe that's something we could look at updtaing that page and reasons for setting up a loco and possibly pitfalls to avoid. So, that's something we could look at updating the wiki page. So I'll take that down as an ation item if you want and look at updating the wiki page.

Thank you. That would be awesome.
Charles, Josee, Paul... any thoughts on that? People coming in for the wrong reasons? How to make it more crisp to the people who would think of starting a group?

Not so much on the wrong reasons aspect but definitely telling people how to go about building a team would be good. In my state the team that originally formed before I was there was overly formal, and actually adopted a constitution for a group, had officer's positionsand was way too formal for an actual loco team. I know where it stemmed from, they thought they were going to be a 403.1c which is a not-for-profit group which requires a board of directors and officers, etc.
I think reviewing how to structure a team and make it successful to grow and I think the other thing that we experienced as well as a problem with my short stint on the LCC was teams that are in transition. Teams should set up a process internally so that if a leader does become inactive due to family issue, personal issues, job issues, moving away etc. that it's easy for the other team members to pick up the pieces as opposed to having to jump through a lot of hoops that aren't well documented and that way one person losing interest that was the leading person at first doesn't kill a team due to their own inactivity.

We have about 4 minutes left... I'm not inclined to put this matter to a vote of any kind. What I am inclined to do is to let this session be an input to the Community Council and to the LoCo council so that they can go onward and discuss further how to move forward. I'd also invite anyone who is not on this hangout to write about it, blog about it so that we have everybody's perspective on this and hopefully we can move forward at some point and see what we can do...

On that note if anybody does have any ideas and you want to drop the Loco council an email please let us know. We've just had an election and are getting new members up to speed so this is something that we can dig into this cycle. It's like everything though.. there are pros and cons for doing what we've just heard but if you'd like to drop a note to the Loco council we'd love to hear from people that way and we'll take it up from there.

Thank you Laura for reaching out and for taking that on. And thanks everyone for joining the session today... there's 2 mins to go I'll break a little early so we can get back to the CTR or back to work or wherever we need to go. Thanks Charles for joining us from the Community Council and thank Laura for joining us from the loco council. It's great to have your leadership and your insight on this call.

I'm looking forward to growing and making the Ubuntu community bigger and faster and stronger...


Let's do an idea experiment: Let's all try and imagine absolutely the worst factor that might happen within the next 3 months

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I did not know that a metro that has 5 teams with 4 of them inactive, that's a lot of time trying to figure out which one of these teams are actually doing things.

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Hi Randall
I really love the suggestion about having some guidance on good reasons for starting a loco team, in my own experience its not only team leaders but users sometimes come into a LoCo team with bad expectations (commercial, talking about free software) and then they are hit with the concept of actually " doing something" they can sometimes hesitate especially if that was not they expectation, so i believe it can apply to the entire LoCo and not just the leadership. Maybe the new community page can help with that (like a url to the reasons). That way we can make sure everyone is on the same page at the beginning, so these issues wont have to sorted out by the LCC later on.



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