Hiring Edubuntu Staff

Jordan Mantha laserjock at ubuntu.com
Fri Jul 24 00:54:21 BST 2009

On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 3:05 PM, R. Scott Belford<scott at hosef.org> wrote:
> For what it is worth, it is now nearly a year since I tracked down
> every key Canonical employee I could find at Linuxworld 2008, both at
> the conference and at after-hours events, to communicate two messages:
> the state of Edubuntu and its User community was having an *adverse*
> *impact* on the adoption of gnu/linux in education, particularly in
> thin-client environments,and that two people should be hired - Gavin
> and Asmo.  As Ace observed, he actually thought Gavin worked for
> Canonical.  I used to think so, too.  Asmo has been instrumental at
> greeting and inspiring new users and help-seekers on this list, and he
> likes Frank Zappa.

Gavin and Asmo are both great guys and I would love to see people like
them employed to work on Edubuntu. However, Mark Shuttleworth has
indicated to me that Canonical will not be employing anybody to work
on Edubuntu for the foreseeable future so I think any paid developers
are going to have to come from some other source. Edubuntu hasn't had
a paid developer in over a year and it has shown.

The state of Edubuntu for the last year or so hasn't been that great.
I don't think anybody involved with the project would disagree. The
problem has been that every attempt to get development rebooted has
not gone so well. I don't expect every Edubuntu user to be a bug
filer, doc writer, packager, etc. but *some* people in the community
needs to step up to make things happen. There are way more good ideas
than hands to implement them.

There seems to be this eternal struggle between Edubuntu users and
developers. Edubuntu users are frustrated with how slow development
goes and how bugs/issues critical to them are not being addressed.
They feel like their voices are not being heard and that perhaps
developers just don't understand their situation. Perhaps they feel
that Edubuntu's full potential is not being realized, especially if
they've invested a lot of time, effort, and reputation in Edubuntu.

In contrast, Edubuntu developers see day after day where Edubuntu
could be improved, where cracks are showing, and where new features
could be developed but feel powerless to actually do anything about
it. They are frustrated to see the same complaints time and time
again. They are demotivated when 19 out of 20 times when a user comes
to them it is to report a problem, complain about Edubuntu, or even
attack the quality of their work. They may feel that users
misunderstand that resources are the limiting factor, not a lack of
recognition of problem or the desire to fix them. And when they try to
inspire the user community to contribute towards fixing those problems
that they are bringing they are met with a lackluster response.

So the question that has been racking my mind for the last two years
or so is, how do we take these two populations of people who have a
lot of negative perceptions towards each other and towards Edubuntu
and turn them into a fun, functional, and productive community that is
well-placed to be a dominate force for bringing the best open source
has to offer to the world-wide educational community?

Obviously I don't have a good answer to this as I've spent countless
hours working on and in the Edubuntu community of the last few years
and it has not really improved. I do have a few thoughts about what
possible solutions might look like though. I think there are both
technical and social solutions that could be involved:

  * evaluation of the current state of Edubuntu, what are its current
strengths and weaknesses?
  * finish the Edubuntu Strategy Document, but maybe trying to involve
the user community more.
  * perhaps going further and develop a roadmap that outlines
specific, actionable steps for the next couple releases that
emphasizes regaining ground in terms of quality and community
  * analysis of the current development processes and especially the
barriers to entry for contribution. Some barrier will always exist but
we should try to remove unnecessary ones
  * assess the user < -- > developer communication channels to see if
a big disconnect exists
  * encourage a positive, respectful, and constructive community.
Basically, if all you say is negative you end up just being a grumpy
negative person. If users can learn to trust that developers do indeed
want to do the best by their users and if developers can take a step
back and put themselves in the user's shoes for a bit I think we'd all
be better off. It's not like we're all running around yelling at each
other 24x7 but I think we could maybe try to improve the tone on the
mailing lists and IRC.
  * encourage leadership and taking ownership of Edubuntu tasks
  * develop decent documentation and procedures for handling drive-by

I'm sure there are many others but that's what came from the top of my mind.

> Some of the Canonical staff who received my message last year are on
> this list.  I hope that someone is listening.

They might be, but there's not a lot Canonical staff can really do at
this point.

> Oh, and for the record, Most Schools Block IRC Making it an Impossible
> Communication Venue for Teachers Needing Support.
> With Aloha and Respect and an Undying Passion for the Adoption of FOSS
> in the the K12 Environment
> --scott
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