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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

IRC Channel List

Table 8-2 presents a list of IRC channels. A complete and up-to-date list can be found at http://wiki.ubuntu.com/InternetRelayChat.

Table 8-2. Ubuntu IRC Channels on Freenode


Support and Talk Channels


Ubuntu help channel


Help channel for development versions


Kubuntu help channel


Edubuntu channel


Xubuntu channel


The off-topic channel where everything is on topic


The off-topic channel where everything is on topic


Team Channels


Kubuntu development coordination


The Accessibility Team channel


Boot/Init team


Channel for Bugdays


The Ubuntu desktop team


Ubuntu development coordination


Ubuntu documentation team coordination


Discussions on the Ubuntu hardened project


Ubuntu java development coordination


Ubuntu kernel team coordination


Ubuntu laptop development


Coordination of all local coordination teams


About getting involved with Ubuntu


All meetings are held here


Coordination of the Ubuntu MOTU team


Ubuntu MOTU team schooling channel


Ubuntu server help and discussions


Coordination of the Ubuntu toolchain team


Coordination and discussions about Ubuntu translations


For Ubuntu women


Yes, we all love gooey guis!


Localized Channels

























Spanish speakers —Latin America


























The Netherlands


















United Kingdom




Unofficial Channels


The Ubuntu forums team

All official Ubuntu IRC channels are located on the Freenode IRC network which also hosts a range of other free and open source software projects. Users can connect to IRC using several pieces of software in Ubuntu including GAIM, XChat, or IRSSI. Like the ubuntu-users e-mail list, #ubuntu is designed for help and support. When joining any channel, users should carefully read the topic as many frequently asked questions are answered in this topic and moderators of the channel can be annoyed by users who ask questions which they have already taken the time to answer in the channels topic.


Figure 8-1 Xchat is an IRC client included in Ubuntu that allows Ubuntu users to connect to the Ubuntu IRC channels.

Currently the #ubuntu channel is the third biggest channel on the Freenode network and is growing quickly. In the nine months preceding this writing, the population of the channel has almost doubled. Another important channel is #ubuntu-devel, which is reserved for discussion of Ubuntu development. Similarly, Kubuntu developers hang out in #kubuntu. To keep #ubuntu focused on support all general chatter has been moved to #ubuntu-offtopic. Similarly, support for development releases has moved to #ubuntu+1. Maintaining channels with specific foci has allowed the support community to stay focused and help as many people as possible.

Web Forums

The official Ubuntu Forums are other frequently used venues for communication in Ubuntu. For a number of reasons, many users prefer to communicate through a Web-based forum or bulletin board. The Ubuntu forums were created to satisfy this group and have done so with amazing success. Figure 8-2 shows an example of forum use.


Figure 8-2 Example of an open "thread" in the Ubuntu Forums.

The forums are accessible online at www.ubuntuforums.org/ and have shown an impressive amount of utilization. Statistics as of the time of writing show activity of more than 860,000 messages on more than 150,000 topics. The forums also boast more than 80,000 users with more than 1,000 active at a given point. The topics that these groups cover run the gamut. These are roughly broken down into the following categories:

  • Support forums for the latest release of Ubuntu that includes:
    • User support for Ubuntu
    • User support for Kubuntu
    • Help with hardware support for Ubuntu
    • Installation and upgrade help
    • A collection of how-to articles, tips, and tricks
    • Information for people attempting to run the latest games on Ubuntu
  • A wide variety of other discussion areas provide resources including:
    • Discussion areas outside of the normal support areas (e.g., artwork, server support)
    • Support for third-party Ubuntu projects and products
    • Support for previous releases of Ubuntu
    • Support venues for developers and programmers
  • Several other resources that include:
    • A community chat area for general discussion
    • Web-based version of all official announcements that go out on the ubuntu-announce and ubuntu-devel-announce mailing lists.

Each of the areas mentioned above includes between one and nine different subforums, each of these containing many threads. By covering such ground, the Ubuntu forums provide an impressive support resource. They provide both an excellent venue for asking questions and receiving support as well as for answering questions and making important contributions to the health of the Ubuntu community. If you are interested in either, or both, the forums are a good place to begin.

The only caveat regarding the forums worth mentioning is that they are not frequently used by those developing Ubuntu—although there are exceptions to that rule. If users want to send messages directly to the Ubuntu developers, the forums may not provide the most effective tool. If users want to get involved in technical contributions to the project, they will, in all likelihood, have to augment their forums patronage with use of mailing lists. To help mediate this issue, the forums staff has created several forums that act as two-way gateways between the forums and the mailing list. The ubuntu-users mailing list is one such list. This means that users can read and participate in the ubuntu-users mailing list using the Web by simply participating in the associated Web forum—software makes sure that messages go between the two venues. Similarly, there are one-way forums for the ubuntu-announce and ubuntu-devel-announce mailing lists.

The Ubuntu Forums are representative of the Ubuntu community in another notable way: They were created, and for a long period were wholly funded, by the community itself. The forums founder, Ryan Troy, had no association with Canonical Ltd. when he created the forums. He did so without help or suggestion from Canonical Ltd. or others in the Ubuntu community. Canonical Ltd. and others in the Ubuntu project recognized the extremely valuable contribution that the forums were making and the important niche it was filling, so they invited the project to become an "official" part of the Ubuntu community. To this day, the forums are moderated and maintained entirely by volunteers and supported in large part through financial assistance outside of what is provided by Canonical Ltd.


Since nearly day one, a large chunk of Ubuntu documentation and support has taken place in the official Ubuntu "wiki" (see Figure 8-3). For those who don't already know, a wiki—pronounced "wik-ee"—is a Web site where any viewer can add, remove, or edit content. The first wiki was created by Ward Cunningham in 1995, and wikis have shown themselves to be an extremely effective tool for collaborative writing in recent years. The term is shortened from "wiki wiki"—Hawaiian for "quick." Many wikis have been created. Most famous among these wikis is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which now contains more than a million articles in the English version alone.


Figure 8-3 Front page of the Ubuntu wiki.

The primary Ubuntu wiki is at http://wiki.ubuntu.com. It can be edited, added to, or reorganized by anyone in the Ubuntu community. Edits are unrestricted. By requiring registration, each change can be traced to a particular user. The wiki has, over time, grown to include a variety of information useful in support, development, and documentation. Currently, the wiki contains more than 6,000 documents and pages.

Unlike other documentation that ships with Ubuntu, anyone can fix an error, inaccuracy, or out-of-date fact in the wiki. As a result, there is no good way to determine if information in the wiki is correct. It cannot be subjected to the same type of quality assurance workflow that a document such as this book might be. However, it is also much more likely to be upto-date in the quickly changing world of Ubuntu development, where there is a new release every six months. The wiki provides a venue for this level of upto-date information with a low barrier to entry and, as a result, acts as an invaluable resource for the community.

To use the wiki, one can either search or browse it. Searching is the most commonly used way to get information from the wiki, and users can easily search either titles or the full text of the wiki. To achieve the best results, it is usually best to search titles and then the text to ensure that you look for more relevant information first. For people who prefer to browse, the wiki is explicitly divided into a number of categories that include:

  • Documentation
  • Community
  • Events
  • Resources
  • Releases
  • Non-English Information
  • Policies

Most of these categories are relatively self-explanatory. The "policies" section consists primarily of largely technical information that, for the most part, describes the processes by which the Ubuntu archive is divided up. Also worth noting is the section that includes non-English information. While the front page of the Ubuntu wiki is in English, there are also many pages in other languages. The wiki page on language support (http://wiki.ubuntu.com/LocalSupport) provides both links to pages within the wiki that include documentation and information in languages other than English and links to more than a dozen other wikis that are in another language entirely. Users looking for wiki pages in a language other than English are advised to visit this page.

The Fridge

The Fridge (http://fridge.ubuntu.com/) is the young, quirky, community portal for Ubuntu. In many Western cultures, refrigerators provide a central sort of "bulletin board" in a family's home. Because refrigerators are magnetic, children and parents can use magnets to hang pieces of paper that they want to share with the community of people who come in contact with that fridge. For children, this often includes good grades, news reports, or other information that someone is proud of or wants to share. The Fridge, bearing the tag line, "It's fresh. It's cool. Stick it on The Fridge!" tries to create such a shared resource within the Ubuntu community. The Fridge home page is shown in Figure 8-4.


Figure 8-4 Example of The Fridge home page.

The Fridge is perhaps best described as the community portal for Ubuntu. It is part news site, part grassroots marketing and advocacy site. It hosts developer interviews, news, a picture gallery, a calendar with a list of upcoming events, polls, a list of Ubuntu-in-the-press citations, and much more. The core content on the site is arranged as a Web log. Users frequently set The Fridge as their homepage or subscribe to the site via its RSS feed. The Fridge is unique in the community in that it appeals to a wide variety of different Ubuntu participants—developers, advocates, translators, users—and provides a venue where each group can share information with others. There is a story every two to three days on The Fridge, although this may increase to up to several stories a day with time. Users can comment and discuss each story on The Fridge in an associated forum in the Ubuntu Forums.

Anyone can contribute content to The Fridge. If you would like to contribute, you can do so by sending your suggestion for features, articles, or even a piece of original work (such as an article, photo, or event review) to The Fridge Editors at fridge-devel@lists.ubuntu.com.

Conferences and Sprints

While the vast majority of the work of the Ubuntu community takes place online, Ubuntu developers do, from time to time, meet face to face. Since Ubuntu has released, there have been three public conferences organized and funded by Canonical Ltd.:

  • The Mataró Sessions in Mataró, Catalonia, Spain, in December 2004
  • Ubuntu Down Under in Sydney, Australia, in April 2005
  • Ubuntu Below Zero in Montreal, Canada, in November 2005

With Canonical Ltd., Ubuntu tries to organize these conferences so that they occur once per release, usually toward the very beginning of a release cycle, so that the specifications and goals for the forthcoming release can be discussed, thrashed out, and decided upon. A glance at the previous conferences shows how these conferences move around the globe geographically so that, over a several-year period, a large percentage of the Ubuntu community will be able to attend at least one conference and meet with other developers.

While the format changes slightly each time, these conferences have been between one and two weeks in length. Frequently, a given attendee stays for only one week. At Ubuntu Below Zero, the second week was devoted almost entirely to discussing, implementing, and developing infrastructure related to Launchpad—discussed in detail in Chapter 9. The format of these conferences has changed as the attendees have experimented with different methods for structuring the events and maximizing efficiency of these short periods. One common theme, though, is a process of writing specifications.

At conferences, attendees describe features that they would like to see out in the next Ubuntu release. At an arranged time or in a series of meetings, a small set of interested users and developers work to draft a written specification. This process of drafting involves brainstorming and ends up with a formal, approved "spec" that describes a problem or need and provides a detailed description of how it will be fixed or implemented. While these specifications are often technical in nature, they are also used to describe goals that may pertain to localization, documentation, or community building. For example, both The Fridge and the planning of each conference began as a specification. With time, these specifications are categorized in terms of their priority for the upcoming release. Later, individuals will claim or be assigned some set of these specs. Paid developers at Canonical Ltd. frequently take responsibility for the highest priority technical specs. Each specification is written up and improved on the wiki so that Ubuntu hackers who cannot attend the conference are still able to participate.

These conferences have, so far, occurred in hotels with conference centers and have been attended by up to several hundred people. The conferences have been wholly organized and funded by Canonical Ltd., which ensures that its employees attend and also distributes funds for other active volunteers to travel. This funding tends to be divided up based on the contributions of volunteers over the last release cycle and their geographic proximity to the conference location. This is done to minimize travel expenditure and to ensure that users around the world get a chance to attend a conference when it comes near them.

In addition to the biannual conferences, Canonical Ltd. organizes a number of "sprints" each year. These sprints tend to be one- to three-week long intense collocated work sessions that involve a team or subteam tasked with a well-defined goal. They provide a time where team members can write code, write documentation, make plans, or do whatever else is necessary to fulfill that goal. The sprints attempt to squeeze large amounts of work into a short period of time and have earned a reputation for being exhausting, fulfilling, amazingly productive, fun experiences. These sprints are work sessions and are often limited to a small group of Canonical Ltd. employees. In many situations, they also include volunteer attendees as well.

While conferences act as a site for major technical advances in brainstorming and development, they are also fun and enjoyable experiences. They provide a venue for users to put faces to names, IRC "nicks," and e-mail addresses, and they provide for enjoyable, humorous, and productive interaction. In addition to work, there are frequent card-playing, eating, drinking, and athletic activities. Many Ubuntu users from the local area who've attended because they were curious have gone on to become some of the community's most important contributors. Attending a conference is like taking a drink from an Ubuntu fire hose. It is frequently overwhelming but can ultimately be a useful, productive, and rewarding experience as well.


It is hardly surprising that most of the Ubuntu community is highly geared toward gathering and distributing information and communication about Ubuntu. Of course, before the Ubuntu community is a group of people working on the project of building, supporting, and spreading a GNU/Linux distribution, it is a first a group of people. For the Ubuntu community to really feel like a community, its members should have some idea of what other members are up to—both in their Ubuntu work and in their life that extends beyond Ubuntu.

Planet Ubuntu (http://planet.ubuntu.com) tries to capture this element of the Ubuntu community (see Figure 8-5). Planet is Web log aggregator and can be thought of as a blog of blogs. Planet retrieves the latest journal or Web log entries from Ubuntu members who have chosen to add their content to the system and then publishes a single Web log that includes, in reverse chronological order, all of the latest entries. Much of the content in Planet Ubuntu is about Ubuntu. Sometimes this is because members choose to include only those entries that directly pertain to Ubuntu. Others publish everything from their life, including things that may not directly pertain to the project. Often, it also includes information from the personal lives of community members so that the community knows what its members are up to. In this way, Planet provides a good way for participants to put their stamp on the Ubuntu community—both technically and nontechnically.


Figure 8-5 Example of Planet Ubuntu.

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