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Learning from Ubuntu

About this page

In the CommerceAndCommunity (C&C) topic I suggested that we look at other C&C examples. This topic describes the Ubuntu/Canonical relationship so that we can discuss it and work out what we can learn from it. Ubuntu is an African concept and means 'humanity towards others'. (This made me think it might be a nice place to start! wink )

Ubuntu Overview

  • All info from Alan Pope (who is the UK point of contact for the Ubuntu localization team) and the Ubuntu website.
  • Ubuntu is a Linux distro as I am sure everyone here knows!
  • The Commerce attached to the Ubuntu Community is Canonical (see website)
  • Ubuntu is different to TDO in that Canonical has been there for as long as Ubuntu. What happened was that Ubuntu/Canonical came along, scooped up the Debian source and reworked it into the Ubuntu version
  • Canonical are the biggest employer of Debian developers

Community

  • Alan Pope says that there is a good community spirit. There are occasional ructions but nothing major
  • Canonical are well regarded by the Ubuntu community
  • Alan thinks that there are two main things that make the community work well:
  1. Code of conduct (Alan says “Basically it says, don’t be an ass”)
  2. – A community council that consists of members from both Community and the Commerce.

The Council

  • The council meets every 2 weeks via IRC
  • Anything that needs to be discussed is posted on the CommunityCouncilAgenda page before the meeting
  • Mark Shuttleworth (main man at Canonical) gets to over rule council if he feels necessary
  • Things the council discuss are:
    • Arbritation of disputes
    • Team creation
    • Appointment of team members
    • Creation of new structures and processes

Ubuntu Compared to TWiki

Differences

  • In our case the Community came before the Commerce
  • In Ubuntu case the Commerce does an awful lot for the Community. They have a full time member of staff to handle relationship with community. They sponsor people to attend developer conferences etc.
  • It’s a bigger project: more people in community, more end users of software therefore more potential for Commerce to monetize the OSS.
  • Hence the Commerce sinks more money into the community; hence Mark Shuttleworth gets overall veto!

Similarities

  • It’s a C&C model
  • Can anyone think of any more!

Possible Learning Points

  • We should investigate having a council. NB council does NOT look at bugs, feature requests etc. They are at a higher level than that.
  • We should investigate having a code of conduct (Note: Ubuntu code of conduct is available for other OSS projects under a (I think) standard GPL.)
  • As noted above, the council approves new structures and processes. Even if we decide not to have a council we need to work out what additional structures and processes we need.
  • The GetInvolved page is surely a great example to copy!

-- Contributors: MichaelCorbett - 21 Jan 2008

Discussion

Very useful summary, thanks Michael. I think we have to be cautious about direct comparison with Ubuntu; it is a very much more active community, and Canonical is unarguably at the centre of their activities. TWiki is (currently) a community-led development, and PostgreSQL might be a more applicable model.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 21 Jan 2008

Excellent comparison. And I agree with Crawford in his view

-- KennethLavrsen - 21 Jan 2008

Thanks for the input, both. What I was trying to get at with my C&C topic was to say that we have been a community only project but it seems like we are inevitably moving towards a dual Community AND Commerce model. So PostgreSQL may be more similar to our community in terms of size and traffic/activity but it doesn't seem to be an example of C&C.

Do others here share my view that we should be trying to learn from other C&C projects in terms of our community understanding how it should relate to the Commerce?

-- MichaelCorbett - 21 Jan 2008

Ubuntu is created as a Debian-fork. They built on existing systems, customised to what they know that the market needs. At the moment, TWiki is not forked, but attempts to complement with TWiki.NET. Two different scenarios.

There is a commercial company that supports PostgreSQL, i.e. EnterpriseDB.

A much better comparison would be Zope. There's a corporation behind the Zope.org community. And much were contributed to the wiki.zope.org by the community! The release manager is not from the corporation, but core developers have very close relationship with the corporation. They live in a harmonic manner. Both parties survive separately by themselves from the open source codes. There is no marketing done on the zope.org front.

-- KwangErnLiew - 22 Jan 2008

The big difference here is that there was an established entity, wikiring (which is not a company) and now there is a new kid on the block, twiki.net, claiming to be 'the twiki company'. That creates friction. My point being, that the comparison goes limp on the fact that with TWiki the number of commercial entities is >1. As is the nature of commercial entities in a capitalist world, they compete for the same market. I'm not saying whether that is good or bad, i'm saying that the project should be shielded from that competition.

-- KoenMartens - 15 Feb 2008

I see quite a lot of similarities actually with Ubuntu (except for the size), if you put Debian back in the picture. It seems to me that TDO could be Debian, and TDN Ubuntu, with Rod being Mark. And Wikiring could be one of the many Debian consultants while TDN will build its marketplace like the Ubuntu marketplace. So you see 2 communities, related, maybe competing in places - but with different market approaches, with some occasional flame wars, and many commercial entities. And I personally use Ubuntu and Debian on my various machines at home and at work, depending on the context.

-- ColasNahaboo - 20 Feb 2008

Ubuntu is not really a Debian fork, because it tries hard to sync to Debian as its upstream, and to push relevant Ubuntu changes upstream to Debian. It's more accurate to say that it's a Debian derivative, like Knoppix but with different goals. Over time, it's fair to say that the differences from Debian may increase, but as long as Ubuntu keeps on syncing to Debian it should be manageable.

One of the key things about Ubuntu is how well they manage the community and particularly forums - they put a lot of effort into ensuring the forums are helpful and friendly, and as a result it's almost beneficial if users have some support issues that need help from the forums.

Incidentally, TWikiOnUbuntu is very nice, and IMO we should be doing a lot more to promote Ubuntu to TWiki users - Ubuntu is by far the biggest thing to happen in the desktop Linux world for years, and growing very fast, and it is beginning to have an impact on servers as well. Supporting Ubuntu in TWikiInstaller would be a great way to get TWiki 4.2 in use by what is probably the largest pool of Linux users (estimated as 6 million).

-- RichardDonkin - 27 Feb 2008

One of the reasons why Ubuntu manage the community and forums particularly well is that Canonical employ a full-time person to do just that. His name is Jono Bacon and the fact that Canonical employ some one full time just shows the importance that they place on having a well-oiled, smoothly functioning community.

I think our community is in need of some oil - but in our case it will need to come from inside rather than out.

-- MichaelCorbett - 27 Feb 2008

Yup, but didn't TWIKI.NET employ some full time individuals to work on twiki? That is/was my impression from the start.

-- KwangErnLiew - 28 Feb 2008

TWiki.net (TDN) do employ full time individuals working on TWiki - but that wasn't my point. Jono Bacon is a full time community facilitator - and that's completely different to being a code cutter or support engineer or whatever.

Not that I am saying that TDN should employ such a person. TWiki doesn't have the same economies of scale that Ubuntu has. But what I am saying is that ensuring the community is harmonious and works efficiently is a very important task. In fact, I think that a Community Facilitator should be a CoreTeam role.

-- MichaelCorbett - 28 Feb 2008

Before putting oil into the motor (not the fire) we should first clean it up a bit to make it work smoothly. A good motor doesn't waste much oil.

-- MichaelDaum - 29 Feb 2008

We both have problem with oil, fuel and engine to be able to use the Ubuntu model.

  • Our active community is small. At the moment we cannot even mobilize resources to fix our urgent bugs for our customers
  • TWIKI.NET needs to grow to a healthy business before we can expect them to hire full time resources on community. Before we get there I would rather appreciate that they would hire programmers to help with the development. It is not realistic to hope for this the next 1-2 years. Building a business is hard work and it takes years to become profitable.

It is good to cherry pick the best practices we can find from different OSS projects but we will have a hard time finding an OSS that is exactly like ours and adopt their entire processes. One thing that is worth noticing is that those many OSS projects are very different in the way they are governed. And also notice that most of them have gone through different phases as they have evolved and they have started from very different starting points. In the case of Ubuntu I think both the starting point, the type of project, the size of community, the number of customers etc etc is very different from our beloved TWiki project. I think we can learn more from looking at much smaller projects and remember that all the commercial entities in and around the project are small start up businesses with very limited funding that need our help more then they can help us the next 1-2 years.

They (the different businesses) need us, and we (the community - the OSS project TWiki) need them - to meet our mission being the open source wiki for the enterprise.

-- KennethLavrsen - 29 Feb 2008

I believe we need more developers than any other roles for TWiki. TWiki has a very large user base, deployed worldwide from individuals to MNCs. In very minute way, we need to ensure the production plant is big and strong enough to sustain the demand. Currently, it doesn't; simple economics.

Ubuntu on the other hand, has the capital and human resources. The first thing they went for is developers. The grabbed hold of as many developers as they can get, and build the product. Naturally voices spread out as they have built a good product. Just as how Google kicked off.

TWiki reached that point somewhere back before Wikipedia has gained their fame, and still TWiki sustain the role as being the forefront of wiki solutions. Yet, it doesn't have the propeller as strong and big as Wikipedia (I think) due to the lack of developers.

TWiki needs a Steve Balmer, not a Bill Gates.

-- KwangErnLiew - 29 Feb 2008

Outch.

-- MichaelDaum - 01 Mar 2008

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Topic revision: r15 - 2008-03-01 - MichaelDaum
 
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