Edubuntu 7.10 - A Released Debacle and a Practice in Failure - Response

R. Scott Belford scott at
Wed Dec 12 19:02:18 GMT 2007

Richard Weideman wrote:
> Hi Scott and others,
> I note the points you raise, and offer the following comments with
> respect:
> Foremost, please realise how small the full-time Education team is -
> essentially 2 full time people; Oliver as lead developer, and myself on
> relationships. The rest of the effort is purely volunteer.
> Also, we have reached a point after 2-3 years where many of the original
> core founding community members are moving on to real-world jobs,
> families, babies - people who previously devoted a lot of their daily
> time to Edubuntu.
> We do have "new blood" volunteering in the #edubuntu channel, and are
> trying to get a process going to get them up engaged and up to speed.
> This relates to your "how can you help" comments and is a start in
> addressing them.

Aloha and Thank-you, Richard, for your thoughtful and reassuring reply. 
  I have wondered about the size of the team.  I was of the impression 
that the Muekow collaboration with Jim, Eric, and the Edubuntu people 
had resulted in a greater developer braintrust.  I certainly understand 
and empathize with the volunteer attrition issue.  It is the curse and 
the blessing of all FOSS projects.

> #1 The education groups in launchpad have become fragmented.
> The good news about launchpad is that anyone can create a group. The bad
> news is that often groups are created that do not really have a distinct
> purpose.
> Also a lot of the time there is an initial burst of enthusiasm from the
> creator of a new group, and when there is little activity, the group
> becomes a dead limb, which does not make for a coordinated effort, or
> help a new person looking to get involved.
> At UDS last month, we formalised a spec to tidy and prune. We are
> currently discussing this in the weekly meetings.
> See:
> And:
> #2 People pop up in #edubuntu, say they would be keen to help, but do
> not get engaged.
> We recognise that a better volunteer structure and uptake / introduction
> process would make a difference here.

I recognize this as a critical problem for *any* volunteer driven 
organization.  You are not alone, and I don't have any magical 
suggestions.  I have learned, after running a volunteer driven labor 
intensive charity for five years, that 9 out of 10 you come across have 
good intentions, but they usually get what they want and get on their 
way.  You just have to keep trolling for good volunteers, and let the 
others go back to the sea.  I catch about 5 good new ones a year.

> What also happens is that the person who offers to help is usually in
> the channel to get a solution to a particular problem. Often they get
> back to their daily issues once they resolve their issue, and do not
> "come back" to carry thought their offer of help.
> We ourselves are busy (with work or travel) and usually do not get the
> time to hold their hand and lead them to the right place.
> We are sorting out a process which will allow us to easily kick an intro
> email to them for later response, and have also come up with the
> volunteer position of "Edubuntu Ambassador" ... who will be an
> individual with the role of performing introductions and giving guidance
> to match volunteer skill and time availability to a decent work effort.
> Jonathan Carter is the first "Edubuntu Ambassador", who will help to
> shape the role so it can easily be transferred to successors.

It sounds like this is beginning to be addressed. Might I ask if someone 
like Gavin could be considered, if he is interested?  I have watched 
Gavin's productive contributions all the way back to skolelinux.  I 
still have one of his more brilliant exchanges with Knut in my folder.

> #3 Oliver was essentially the bottom line for all Edubuntu tech as well
> as LTSP core development and integration.
> He was a single individual as a side branch to the distro team, fitting
> loosely on top of Ubuntu.
> In reality, this a high workload and responsibility for any one person,
> and things did fall off the back of the bus so to speak. This was a
> matter of time and resource availability.
> In the past month, Canonical have restructured the development of
> Edubuntu as follows:
> Oliver moves into the Ubuntu distro team, with the role of Education
> Lead Developer. The management of Edubuntu Technical will now fall to
> the usual development team structure, with Colin Watson as the overall
> manager.
> Technical Requirements that are directly education related, will be
> designated to Oliver. Other technical elements that are pure Ubuntu will
> be designated to and handled by the relevant teams within Distro. This
> gives us access to a much larger and broader team, and frees up a huge
> amount of Oliver's time and concentration, by reducing essentially
> duplicated effort he had to devote to what are core issues.

Excellent.  I hold you in high regard, Oliver.  What you are able to 
accomplish, on top of a job that isn't in a school where you can R&D all 
of this, is nothing short of amazing.  I am glad, Richard, that the team 
is being organized to leverage his experience.

> #4 The LTSP experience has been good for some, not for others
> Much of this can be attributed to the broad range of hardware on which
> people deploy our software, which is almost impossible for the core team
> to test ourselves.
> The complexity of a server/desktop combination delivery means that there
> is more to "go wrong" than either server or desktop alone.
> If you join our Edubuntu meetings in #ubuntu-meeting on Wednesdays, or
> scan the previous logs, you will see that when I ask Oliver (our lead
> developer) what he needs most, his response is: testers, testers,
> testers.
> Stéphane Graber from our community assisted greatly with the 7.10
> testing management, but we really need as many people as possible who
> are willing to test on their own many and varied platforms.
> Your input, support and suggestions would be good here.

I mentioned this in another thread, but we can give people hardware if 
they need it, and we can host test servers in several University 

> Also, our LTSP could be seen perhaps as bleeding edge ... we
> synchronised our LTSP with the core LTSP group, and move with the latest
> release.
> Many other distros remained on the old LTSP 4 due to not having
> resources or time, which results in reliance on unsupported code that
> hasn't effectively been touched for two years, and is provided without
> ongoing security updates.

I would have to defer comment on this to Eric of the K12LTSP and someone 
from Debian-Edu.  I admire the integration of LTSP5 with Edubuntu 7.10. 
  It is *the* reason why I've switched 5 labs.  I would assert, though, 
that it is probably not right to disparage the security of the other 
distros still using the LTSP4.xx

> #5 Release Notes
> Point taken. Ideally, we would like to get problem responses from people
> up and onto a decent wiki page for easy and ready reference, and not
> just either:
>  * once off comments in #edubuntu which may be solved on the fly,
>    but which are not documented for others to benefit from

This is one of the things that Warren Togami noted as a problem with the 
development.  With all of it taking place on IRC, there is little 
documentation.  I for one don't type fast enough for IRC to be useful 
for me, unfortunately.  Whereas I once thought myself modern and 
contemporary for my mastery of email, I am now an old man out of step 
with the times.

> or
>  * buried in launchpad as a bug report, which a person intending
>   to deploy a new release will not usually find until they  have
>   installed  and experience the same issue
>   (which is too late as a delay in install is clearly better than
>    a regression)

Does launchpad supersede bugzilla in functionality for bug management?

> #6 Releases too often for Education
> * Comments welcome on this one. *

I see the comments have started.  This merits its own thread.

> #7 The wiki needs a tidy, consolidation and a better overview
> Agreed. We've been working on this, but again we need help from the
> community of users to get this all sorted.
> Even if some people could strip problems & solutions and outstanding
> issues from the mailing lists ... that would be a small effort that
> would assist in explanation and resolution, and a focus of effort.

I created a launchpad account and am setting my sites on this for 
January.  I need to tidy up my own mess of ab out-of-date and 
conflicting sute.

> ---
>>From the above, I hope you can see that we are working on improvements
> to address many of your issues, but we do desperately need as a start:
> * more testers with a range of equipment

Where can I start downloading 8.04 revisions for testing, and where 
should the bugs be submitted and tracked?  I can be most effective here.

> * more capable helpers to:
>   - assist people in the mailing lists
>   - assist people in the #edubuntu channel
>   - document issues (such as the release problems you mention) on
>     the edubuntu/ubuntu wiki
> If you are keen to assist, or any others reading this email would like
> to help, please send me a mail directly, and CC Jonathan - and join our
> weekly meetings.
> There is one tonight : Wednesday 20h00 UTC : which will have a focus on
> Community:
> * both the launchpad group tidy up
> * and the volunteer uptake process

I really wish that I could participate.  When I am not there today, 
please know that it is only because I have to go do some work.  I'll 
lurk in the future, but, I really don't type fast enough to be useful on 

> Note that our meetings usually have a handful active participants only.
> Surely there should be more people with a vested interest and enthusiasm
> who are prepared to join the discussions, and lend some elbow grease to
> the work effort ?
> We're coming up for a Long Term LTS release with 8.04 ... let's work
> together to make this one rock solid.

That, my friend, is what this is all about.  Rock on.

> Regards
> Richard

Aloha and Mahalo


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