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The Official Ubuntu Book: The Ubuntu Community

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This chapter provides a bird's-eye view of the venues and processes in which the Ubuntu community is active. First, it takes a tour through the venues through which the Ubuntu community communicates. It continues by looking at the way that the community is organized and the processes by which that organization works. Finally, it walks readers through the ways that they can participate in the Ubuntu community and contribute to its success.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

  • Venues
  • Ubuntu Mailing Lists
  • IRC Channel List
  • Teams, Processes, and Community Governance
  • Getting Involved
  • Summary

COMMUNITY IS A WORD often used in discussions of Ubuntu. Early articles about Ubuntu bore subtitles asking, "Would you like some community with that?" The earliest press releases and communiqués from the project emphasized a "community-driven approach" to operating system development and distribution. Additionally, the highest level governance board in Ubuntu is called the Community Council. The authors of this book made a very conscious decision to dedicate an entire chapter to describing the Ubuntu community. In fact, the book itself is dedicated to the Ubuntu community!

Still, while the Ubuntu community is important, it is not always easy to succinctly describe it. Ubuntu is, in large part, developed and funded by Canonical Ltd. The community, almost by definition, extends far beyond Canonical Ltd. The Ubuntu project has members and self-declared activists (Ubunteros, formerly Ubuntites) but the Ubuntu community is more than even those with such explicitly declared relationships. The project contains a wide variety of different venues for participation. But while the community is active in each of these areas, its scope is even wider.

The Ubuntu community is the collection of individuals who build, promote, distribute, support, document, translate, and advocate Ubuntu—in myriad ways and in myriad venues. Most people in the Ubuntu community have never met, talked with, or heard of each other. Members of the community are linked together by their contributions, both technical and nontechnical, and by Ubuntu itself. These contributions have built Ubuntu as a distribution, as a social movement, as a set of support infrastructures, and as a project. In short, they have built Ubuntu as a community. However, while any active software development project has a number of people making contributions, not every project has a community.

Community is also a term that represents a promise by the Ubuntu project to remain inclusive. Community means that volunteers are not only welcome, but essential. It means that Ubuntu is a "place" where individuals can come together to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The word "community" gives a nod to the fact that while much development work is paid for by Canonical Ltd., and while some people contribute more hours, more effort, more code, more translations, more documentation, or more advocacy work to Ubuntu than others, no individual or subgroup can take credit for everything that Ubuntu has become. In Ubuntu, no contribution is expendable. Community also reflects Ubuntu's goal to provide a low barrier for entry for these contributions. Anyone who cares about Ubuntu can contribute to the project and can, in whatever ways are most appropriate, become a participant in the Ubuntu community.

This chapter will provide a bird's-eye view of the venues and processes in which the Ubuntu community is active. First, it takes a tour through the venues through which the Ubuntu community communicates. It continues by looking at the way that the community is organized and the processes by which that organization works. Finally, it walks readers through the ways that they can participate in the Ubuntu community and contribute to its success.

Venues

As was described in the introduction, transparent and public communication was an early goal of the Ubuntu project. Technical and community decisions are made publicly and are accessible to all interested parties. When this is impossible (e.g., when there is a face-to-face meeting and it's simply not possible for everyone interested to attend), the community attempts to publish summaries and minutes and to provide avenues for feedback. Ubuntu contains no "member only," "developer only," or "decision-maker only" back channels except to preserve individual privacy or security—and the Ubuntu community refuses to create them. All work in Ubuntu occurs in places where everyone can view the work and anyone who agrees to engage constructively and respectfully can participate.

Of course, this activity is only public to those who know where to find it. This section tries to document the venues for communication in Ubuntu as completely as possible. It describes the places where discussions of development, support, and advocacy take place. While nobody can engage in communication in all of the venues described, knowledge of what exists allows participants to be more informed when they need to choose the right place to ask a question or to make a suggestion.

Mailing Lists

The single most important venue for communication in Ubuntu is the Ubuntu mailing lists. These lists provide the space where all important announcements are made and where more development discussions take place. There are, at the time of this writing, 75 public e-mail lists, although this number is constantly growing. A full list of mailing lists (excluding Local Community teams) is included below.

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