Alan Bell of The Open Learning Centre has set up an Ubuntu-UK Community Member Profile Roulette . This stemmed from the Ubuntu Irish Teams Profile of the Day, which is part of a masters project by a Dublin student to get people within the Irish community to get to know each other better. Both of these projects are fantastic ideas, and will hopefully help get more people to create Lanchpad profiles and wiki pages!
Oh, also, todays entry of the profile roulette was me!
For a little while now I’ve noticed that the community based support for Ubuntu is a little patchy. Admittedly, this is largely in reference to IRC, but I think there are some simple things that could be done to improve this situation. In consultation with the Ubuntu-UK Loco and a few other groups, an etherpad session was started and some discussion has gone on around that. What has come from this exercise is a general set of guidelines for supporting new users. At the last Loco meeting I was actioned to create this into a wiki page to see if some more discussion can be formed, and then a vote will be taken at the next meeting to see if the Loco should adopt them.
Now, to me these seem fairly sensible guidelines, but what would be better is if people took just a few minutes to read over them and comment on whether or not they think they are feasible. The more eyeballs that see this document, the better it can be and the more consistent support we can offer new users. Having something like this would also help set users expectations of community support, which should help us to get users expecting an instant solution from volunteers.
So, please just spend a few minutes looking these over and let me know what you think.
For the past few weeks life has been busy, and when I say busy I mean hectic beyond belief. In that time I’ve had a few OSS revelations I’d like to share.
As an experiment at work I thought I’d try using eclipse as an IDE instead of my normal vim+terminator job. Scary as it is, I find myself actually quite liking eclipse. It may be that my work machine has 4GB of RAM, and so copes better than the machines I’ve used in the past, or it may be that I’m starting to lose my qualms about what tools I use to do a job, as long as a job gets done. The PHP and Python tools inside eclipse have made my life a lot easier, and I really do find little things, like it reading out the docstring I’d put in a function when I hover over that function when it’s called, useful. Has eclipse evolved to where it’s useable or has affordable technology caught up with eclipse? A bit of a quandry for me that one.
The other small revelation I’ve had recently is that KDE4 is now inherently useable, and quite shiny to boot. when I’ve tried it in the past I quickly got fed up with things that didn’t quite fit or where missing completely, but now time has passed, and like KDE4 I believe I’ve changed a bit, and actually quite like it. I won’t be using it at home for a while, as the 7″ screen on this tiny little netbook certainly won’t make it very use-able compared to the 20″ odd monitor I have at work. The one big thing annoying me with it at the moment though is that konquerer doesn’t seem to fit with the default theme. Niggly annoyance I know, but surely that should be a papercut?
The last revelation I’ve had, though it’s not really a revelation, is a pang of guilt. I’m inherently a consumer in the whole Linux ecosphere. I consume by far more than I give back, and at the moment I simply don’t have the time to give back as much as I’d like. So this is my decree, and a proclamation that as of next year (with certain exceptions) I intend to deem one night a week free software night. On that night I will help to squish bugs, I’ll sit on IRC and be patient with people trying to help them through problems, I shall try and get involved in the various mailing list debates I sit and read, and I shall attempt to stop consuming quite so much and start giving back as much as I can.
In order to do this I will need a little help. The whole software workflow thing is a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve had little formal training in such things and as such tend to wing it more than I’d like. Can people point me in the direction of some good literature to help mend this? I’m quite willing to get my hands dirty if people are willing to be patient with me as I learn how the OSS developer crowd works so I can learn and adjust. In a way I’m hoping that this will flow back and help me at work as much as it’ll help me contribute back to the community in general.
If anyone also has a project they might want a hand with one evening a week from the of the month, feel free to drop me a line by your favourite communications method
Last night I listened to the excellent Ubuntu-UK Podcast and something mentioned pipped my interest and sent the dusty cogs in my head whirring. Someone wrote in and asked about how to get involved with the community.
This is something that has intrigued me before and I think I’d like to put fingers to keyboard and etch out a few ideas as to how I see a possible solution. This is a bit of a mind dump so you may have to bear with me.
Becoming part of any community can be difficult initially. Everyone feels a little bit of an outsider when they start and it can take a little while to fully integrate with a community. This is what I see as Problem #1.
Problem #2 is trying to find your place. Some technical people feel happy commiting patches and so on to various OSS projects, these people I think just need to find their itch that needs scratching. The large problem is people who are not necessarily technical and want to get involved but don’t know their way around the community yet, or are uncertain where they want to sit.
Problem #1 is a very personal thing. There is no solution, as far as I can see, that doesn’t come from the individual themselves. In order to integrate yourself with a community you sometimes just have to throw yourself into it. Certainly the other members of the community can help by being inclusive in discussions, not being purposely obtuse and by being aware of that unsettling feeling of finding your place, but without the original individual just getting involved a bit, I’m not sure what else could be done.
Problem #2 is where other community members can be more helpful. There are some people, such as popey and a few others, who have been around a little while such that they are in a very good place to be helpful, and try to be so. Maybe what’s needed here is a list of people who can be contacted, either individually or as part of a forum (irc chatrooms, the ubuntu forums, mailing lists, etc) who might be able to point people in the correct direction. Yesterday when I brought this up on IRC I think I used the phrase “Community Ambassadors” but I think in many ways that’s wrong. What’s needed (from my point of view, I’m open to discussion on this) is essentially just an easy way for people who want to get involved to be able to contact these people to get some pointers. The thing that makes the community is the people and a website with ideas on is a bit impersonal sometimes can’t answer peoples questions or just bring the overwhelming scale of what’s available to get involved in down to a manageable viewpoint.
As I can see it, I don’t think this problem has an instant solution, but may need to be pecked at repeatedly until a best fit solution is found. Hopefully this will generate some discussion! Feel free to contact me here, find me on jabber at firstname.lastname@example.org or blog your viewpoint too. Hopefully we can generate some common ground and generate an action plan to go forward.