Amplifying topics that matter in a world filled with noise.

Wither Brainstorm?

Ubuntu Brainstorm. What comes to mind? For me, it's a wealth of new ideas for Ubuntu from a lively and diverse group of people who really want to see Ubuntu become even more incredible. It's more amazing than unicorns!

Have you been to Ubuntu Brainstorm lately? Are you on your way to UDS-N (or there already)? Now would be a great time to review the most popular ideas and perhaps include some of them in your discussions. Maybe pick the top 5 and see what it would take to implement them.

According to the site, there are currently zero ideas in development. That doesn't seem right.

Does Hardware Certification Matter?

People might know me for coining the term "U-WOE". I've presented my detailed findings (ranted) about it a few times now, both on the Planet and in the "real world". You can read about it here, and here. Go ahead, it's oddly therapeutic.

Why do I write about (and present) U-WOE? Hmmm. I guess the best answer I can think of is that I care about Ubuntu's success. And, I include the certification of equipment as a critical success factor in customer satisfaction. I theorize that a certified system "just works" and that a user of a "certified system" just smiles as s/he works :)

How about you? Do you care if your hardware has been tested with Ubuntu? Or, is "maybe it will work, maybe not" good enough? And, what would you do if your computer stopped working from one release to the next? (It's hypothetical of course.)

Before you answer me (and please do), please take little glance at the list of desktop systems that are Ubuntu-certified for 10.10.

Yes, it is zero thirteen (updated 10/18).

(Planet Ubuntu readers: Click the link to this story to comment.)

U-WOE. That Myth That Just Won't Die

10.10 is here. And for most of us, it's working quite splendidly. Unfortunately for one Ubuntu contributor (and quite a good one I might add) it's not.

Take a peek over at Martin's blog and read about how U-WOE has unfortunately become his "woe".

But "Ubuntu Works On Everything." His case must surely be a corner case.

Before you jump all over Martin (or I) and say some variant of "my OS rulez more than yours" or "RTFM" (believe it or not, some abusive types do lurk in these spaces), please remember we're in Ubuntu-land where the Code of Conduct applies. Please also remember that U-WOE is a mythical land filled with unicorns and now meerkats too.

Still confused about what I'm talking about? Here's my introduction to U-WOE:

Ok. So what?

Martin's experience suggests a few things to me. More like questions really:
1) System76. Where are you? Is 10.10 certified on your hardware? Why not?
2) Canonical. Where are you? The certification messaging around what *really* works with Ubuntu needs a lot more amplification. Shout it from the rooftops please. Hire more QA folks too ;)
3) OEM's. Where are you? Only 10 systems on the 10.10 certified list? Geez!

My thesis: U-WOE is potentially costing Canonical (and Ubuntu) customers. I hate that. When word on the street becomes “Ya I tried that Ubuntu and my driver this didn’t kernel that so I gave up”, it’s a losing proposition. More so when it's an Ubuntu developer who's stuck. Martin's a great guy. Please don't torture him this way. And read the punchline...

A Perfect 10!

Congratulations and thank you to all my friends in the Ubuntu world for an amazing release! Meerkats are everywhere, and that can only mean one thing:

It's time to celebrate!

1010 Meerkats: Adapted from "Meerkats at the Fourth Plinth", Swamibu's Flickr photostream. (cc-by-nc 2.0)1010 Meerkats: Adapted from "Meerkats at the Fourth Plinth", Swamibu's Flickr photostream. (cc-by-nc 2.0)

The Case for More Community on Your Ubuntu Desktop (Part 1)

The modern computer desktop lacks a focus on community. As a result from the instant their computer is connected to the net "users" are swept away into an endless sea of of data, trivia, and distractive content. One might argue that the net has become a solvent for true community, flooding us instead with entertainment, loose affiliations, and data smog.

I don't blame the net though. Where does our desktop lead us? Or, to replay a nauseating ad campaign from eons ago, "Where do you want to go today?" (Hint: Someone else decided that already for most people. Think monopoly.)

I've seen some of this first-hand. Perhaps you have too. An experiment: Walk into a major public library and observe what most users of public computers are doing. Based on my data it's Facebook, YouTube, Farmville, some free web mail, and maybe a few other "amusements". Is this the net sum of all the work that we've done to build the internet and its associated infrastructure? (Yes, we built it.) Is our legacy a fancy TV? An advertising delivery mechanism?

Let's imagine something more interesting.

Ubuntu is a human-centric project and system. Its desktop should provide a richer experience than that offered by the competition. And, true to its ethos, it should endeavor to strengthen the ties between a user, her family, her close friends, and her true community.

Ubuntu's desktop should not only be a means to get more data and entertainment. It should also be expression of self ("Me"). (Through hard work, we've made some progress there). Now, the Ubuntu desktop should also be extended to be an expression of our connectedness and our humanity ("We"). It should allow us to find and connect with others nearby in meaningful, useful, and sustainable ways. It should do this simply. It should lead us.

In short, Ubuntu should be finely tuned to help ensure that local community flourishes again. Let's figure out an elegant way to do that before someone else does.

Ubuntu and Community Marketing in Vancouver (Part 1)

One thing that has always amazed me is the energy, ideas, and new opportunities that new members inject into our Ubuntu community. Not too long ago, we (Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo) were very fortunate that Charlene Tessier found us.

Charlene brought a "game-changing" marketing idea into the group: Getting ourselves out to real community events that are filled with people from all walks of life.

So, this past summer, Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo representatives hit (four of) the Vancouver Farmer's Market locations to spread awareness about Ubuntu.

"It’s a beautiful sunny day at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market, (R) and I are trying to figure out should we put the banner up on the umbrella or should it be on the front of the table?" Read all about it here:

My own perceptions and take-aways from our summer market days will appear in a future post. But, until then, please join me in thanking Charlene for a job well done!

Ubuntu = Real Parties

Dear Ubuntu World,

It's soon 10.10.10 and that can only mean one thing... PARTIES!

Now before we all go out and plan events that are called "parties" but really are something else in disguise (install-fests, seminars, conversations, etc.) let's consider another possibility: having REAL parties!

uvlc party!Ubuntu Vancouver Party!
Parties are great opportunities to help Ubuntu "cross the chasm" provided that they appeal to everyone. So, show everyone in your village, town, or city what a really good time looks like and make them say "Wow! This Ubuntu thing isn't just for geeks after all." Make them want to be a part of the Ubuntu community and make them want to party with you. Have music. Dance. Socialize! When you show everyone a great time, you attract more people.

Whatever you do: Make your party lively. Make it big. Make it REAL!

Fun is contagious.

But don't take my word for it. See for yourself!

Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo "Buzz Generator"

The "Ubuntu Pig Thesis"

google insight for ubuntu

Ubuntu friends and colleagues, please consider this fable:

"A young-ish Ubuntu friend was driving happily around a corner on a narrow country road, when he suddenly had to brake sharply and swerve to avoid an oncoming car.

As the car windows passed each other, the driver in the other car yelled out, "PIG!" Not to be unfairly accused, and in a rare lapse of humanity, our Ubuntu friend yelled back, "SOW!" and sped away in disgust.

Unfortunately, as our same Ubuntu friend rounded the next sharp bend in the road, he slammed into the largest pig he had ever seen."

I'd now like to propose a thought experiment. Try to imagine the following:

What if your favourite, freedom-respecting, complete operating system with "community-awesomeness" was in clear and present danger of losing mindshare? (hint: I am talking about Ubuntu.)

What if this event were happening at exactly the same time when Ubuntu was at the highest level of polish and technical brilliance in its history? That would surely be tragic, right? Guess what?


(Yes, that was me shouting it!)

The image below is from "Google Insights for Search", a tool that measures the popularity of search terms that people enter in their Google search queries. In this case, I checked the search term "Ubuntu" to get an estimation of whether the world was curious about it, and whether that curiosity was growing (as it should.)

google insight for ubuntu
Figure A: Search Volume Over Time
(Click the graph above to see the whole history, back to 2004. The vertical axis represents the relative number of searches.)

The graph shows us that up to and including 2008, Ubuntu searches were wildly popular, and growing more so. Then, in 2009 the market gave us our first year where Ubuntu searches dropped year-over-year, ever.

If this trend continues, 2010 could prove to be the year where search popularity drops even further. The red zone above already suggests we're in that phase of decline, and that presents a scary picture.

Sure, search query volume data is only an approximation of popularity and it's only one metric but let's assume for now that it does correlate.

So, what happened? No one can say for sure but my thoughts are as follows:

1) The Innovators and the early segment of the Early Adopters (those on this side of the chasm) already know about Ubuntu. They know it exists and where to find information about it. They've formed their opinions, and they've stopped searching for it.

2) Those on the other side of the chasm, the rest of the Early Adopters, and the Early Majority have little or no curiosity about Ubuntu. They don't encounter it in their day-to-day life. They don't see it. They don't know they need it.

Ubuntu TargetsFigure B: Where Will Future Search Volume Come From?

What? How is that possible? We have the world's best system. They will have to see that someday.

Unfortunately, as history is our guide, the best systems often fail. In fact, one might argue that a prerequisite for a market failure is technical and even aesthetic brilliance. (Insert your favourite great operating system from the past here, free or not.)

So where does that leave us? Are we entering a death spiral? I don't think so. To quote someone famous, "We are about to enter a whole new era." This era will not be defined by the technical and engineering brilliance of Ubuntu. It will be defined by its ability to capture mind-share, by how many people hear about it, see it, read about it... in a word: marketing.

Before 2010 ends, and even before our upcoming 10.10.10 release, let's put our heads, our hearts, and our voices together as a community and give Ubuntu the marketing brilliance it deserves. Let's make the world notice us. The whole world, including those fine people on the other side of the chasm.

We've come so far. Let's not drop the ball. Are you in?

(For those who would like to examine the data, I have embedded the original chart below.)

Update Aug. 12/2010: Changed article name from "Pig!" to the "Ubuntu Pig Thesis"

It Works on Everything. U-WOE!

Steampunk Ubuntu Handset

I've noticed a recurring theme that I'd like to address. The FLOSS world (and therefore by inclusion the Ubuntu world) has this notion (or hope) that their stuff runs on all hardware: it works on everything.

And, since everything it the world needs a catchy acronymn, I am going to name this notion: U-WOE! Ubuntu works on everything. Catchy and exciting!

There's only one problem: It doesn't (yet).

Aptly, the web tells me that "woe" can be defined as "grief; sorrow; misery; heavy calamity". In my experience, this definition captures the net result of one's blind belief in U-WOE.

If my engineering and IT background has taught me anything it is this: Design is not accidental. The connection of a collection of random hardware and software components without rigorous design, integration, and testing *might* work as a functional system. But that's pure luck. More likely it will get only part way there. Maybe up to 80%. But, just try to get the last 20%. And, measure the effort required ;)

Anecdote! In Vancouver BC (home of my favourite Ubuntu Local Community), I see this frequently. Fresh new Ubuntu people come into one of our amazing Ubuntu technical support events with strange and interesting collections of components. They're eager. They love Ubuntu. They want it. Sadly, we can't always get them there though, at least not all the way. And if we can, it's not without some major heroics, hacks, and hours from our support team. That's time (energy, labour) lost on making Ubuntu better. Time taken away from marketing and spreading the word...

Dropping the "L" Word

linux and ubuntu

Recently on Planet Ubuntu, Ben Collins blogged about a topic near and dear to my heart. The implied comparison of a kernel to an operating system.

His thesis: "Why Linux will (has?) hit a wall in popularity with normal users..." is worth a read.

The popular belief that "Linux" = {your favourite GNU/Linux distro} is limiting, problematic, and mythological. Unlike Ben though, I don't think "Linux" fails due to "too many choices". That's a problem, but it's not the biggest one.

The root cause is branding. "Linux" (the brand) is muddy, confusing, and unfriendly to the mainstream computer user: those on the other side of the chasm. They are the exact people that we need to embrace Ubuntu and they don't *get* "Linux". They don't know what it is. They get a negative connotation when they hear the word. Don't believe me? Ask your non-techie friend or loved one. (I just asked the person beside me and the response I got was less than flattering.)

The co-joining of the words Ubuntu and Linux early on has unfortunately stuck in people's minds. This despite the fact that and official Ubuntu marketing materials have long since dropped the term "Linux". And even more disappointingly, some advocates continue to staple the words together as if they are synonymous.

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