Open Source Communities: Canonical, Ubuntu and Jono Bacon

Recently MuleSource partnered with Canonical to improve Tomcat packaging for Ubuntu and Debian. The Tomcat’s expert Jason Britain, newly hired at MuleSource,  made clear what are MuleSource’s contributions to Tomcat and I asked to Matt Asay more about what Canonical brings to this partnership, and to Jono Bacon more about Ubuntu’s community.

“We are dedicated  to ensuring Ubuntu is available to everyone by supporting its continued growth in the open source community,” said Matt Asay, COO of Canonical. “Part of that commitment also means making sure it includes the latest updates and improvements. Our partnership with Mulesoft has brought us another step closer to that goal.”

To learn more about Ubuntu I managed to pose few questions to Jono, Ubuntu’s community manager (note: he is in hiring mode now, look at this open position) and author of  “The Art of Community”.

Recently I read that Ubuntu devs are were debating about desktop color scheme, and someone was arguing that in the meantime Fedora devs are debating about update policy. I’d like to get your opinion about what is important at Ubuntu, and why.

Jono, what are key issues at Ubuntu nowadays?

Ubuntu as project invests it’s time and effort in a wide and diverse range of area including documentation, translations, development, testing, advocacy and more. In each of these areas we have sought to build a strong a vibrant community to help volunteers be productive and have fun at the same time.

One particular focus we have been growing has been in the area of design. We are keen to apply the same ethos to the design community as the rest of the community: rewarding good work with great reputation, and looking to our top contributors to help guide and contribute to Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is getting a tremendous attention, and Ubuntu’s approach to design is – somehow new in the Linux distro environment – is probably part of this success. Debating about color scheme or similar things, is important too.
How does Ubuntu work to get its code upstream?

As part of our development process we generate a lot of patches and improvements, and all of these are made publicly available. Traditionally we have made these available on, but as we continue to move towards distributed version control with Bazaar, it means that patched branches can be easily merged into other branches. We are really optimizing our development process around distributed version control and hooking many elements of our infrastructure into that ethos.

Working with upstreams is not just about code, but bugs and builds too. We have spent a lot of time building bug linking into Launchpad so that a given distribution bug can point to an upstream bug too, thus helping keep all appropriate bug reports synced up and connected. In addition to this we have produced a package building service (Personal Package Archives) that helps upstreams and packagers easily deploy and test packages as part of the development and release process.

Can you tell some numbers about external contributions?

I am hesitant to summarize contributions with numbers: numbers don’t really mean anything when it comes to community growth or quality of experience. What I am more interested in is the quality and aliveness of the community and how the core product has developed as a part of this investment.

I believe that Ubuntu has never had such a vibrant community as it does now, and we are continuing to understand and refine our workflow to better support our contributors. With this in mind and this focus of our work, we have seen our contributor numbers continue to grow with more and more developers, testers, translators, advocates and more getting involved.

Contributions by the numbers matter too, but I agree that a vibrant community – either that it writes code or advocates Linux – is a very important asset. Canonical spending time and effort to create a momentum around its Ubuntu distro is providing causes for effects.