Monday, February 17, 2014

The Sad State of the Ubuntu Community

The Ubuntu project has always been about community. Since the beginning, Canonical has tried to create a strong, vibrant, healthy, community around Ubuntu and the Ubuntu local teams (called "LoCo's") were a great way to do that. The idea was that support should be localized. There should be someone physically near you that you can turn to when you have a question or problem you need resolved. Sure, mailing lists, forums, and IRC, are great, but they don't come close to having someone right there with you.

Unfortunately, according to a recent LoCo Census, the local teams are in horrible shape. Some of the ones the census polled didn't even respond to their request while others did but are barely functional. My own LoCo in Oklahoma hasn't seen a mailing list post in almost a full year.

It's a horrible state and it's only getting worse.

We could sit and ask ourselves "what happened" as I'm sure Canonical is doing while they seek new ways to revitalize the community. But I think a better and much more relevant questions "what can we do to fix it"?  With the debacle around Windows 8, now seems to be the perfect time for Ubuntu to show a strong presence in local communities. I believe this is especially true in smaller, rural, and poor, communities, where modern computers and software are needed but the costs associate with moving from the soon-to-be-executed Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8 are simply too prohibitive. Those people are the perfect market for Ubuntu and its derritivites and the LoCo's should be the tip of the spear of any effort to reach out to them.

So how can we fix it? I don't have the answers. But I think we seriously need to begin having some open and frank discussions with our community members. We need to find why they stopped caring, where did their passion go, and how can we re-excite them about getting Ubuntu into the hands of their local community again. Maybe the answer is financial incentives from Canonical for good performing LoCo's, maybe it's swag, or something else. Whatever it is, we need to find it, implement it, and push hard to get things moving again.

We still love Ubuntu. We still believe it's the absolute best choice for users coming from the Windows or Mac worlds and it's dead simple for even the newest computer users. But we have to get people on the ground who are willing to get their hands dirty, get active, and push us forward.

What do you think the answer is? Ideas?

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