Community Council Statement: Jonathan Riddell

Charles Profitt ubuntu at
Fri May 29 13:59:11 UTC 2015

The Community Council is currently working on a communication to the Kubuntu Council with regard to their request for additional information. The Community Council will be providing a much more detailed list of incidents, with context, to the Kubuntu Council. The Community Council  wishes to respect the privacy of those involved so those details will not be made public by us.

The details below are meant to give the larger Ubuntu Community more information on the issue.

The Ubuntu Community Council (CC)  believes in making the Ubuntu community a wonderful place to participate. We strongly support people treating one another with respect regardless of their differences of opinion.

It is important that it is understood that we will not be reversing that decision.

We would like to better explain the framework the Community Council used to make this difficult decision.
Be Respectful

Disagreement is no excuse for poor manners.

Assume good intentions.

Value decisiveness, clarity and consensus

Disagreements, social and technical, are normal, but we do not allow them to persist and fester.

We value discussion, data and decisiveness

Ultimately, if a decision has been taken by the people responsible for it, and is supported by the project governance, it will stand.

Take responsibility for our words and our actions

If someone has been harmed or offended, we listen carefully and respectfully, and work to right the wrong.

Communications with Jonathan Riddell:
Starting in December of 2013 Jonathan Riddell started a series of communications with the Community Council with regards to IP policy and the community funding program. 

The Community Council in good faith believing that Jonathan was acting with good intentions took action items to work with Canonical to resolve the issues raised.

Over the course of the next two and a half years Jonathan became increasingly confrontational in his interactions with the Community Council over these two items. At times his wording caused offense and were potentially harmful to the community due to his making worst case assumptions. [1] One of the best examples of this behavior is the March 19th Community Council meetings. Jonathan was demanding that the Community Council make a statement that agreed with his position and was unwilling to accept the decision that the Community Council made with regard to waiting until Canonical had finished a review of the IP policy. In that same meeting Jonathan was insensitive to the requests that he be more respectful and that he was making the situation more difficult.[2]

To be clear, it is not the individual communications nor questions that were the issue. The questions are valid and important. It was the increasingly hostile tone of the communications coupled with untenable demands and assumptions of the worst possible behavior on the part of Canonical and the Community Council. Jonathan appeared unwilling to take a step back and evaluate how he was communicating with the Community Council nor was he willing to contemplate anything less than the worst possible motivation on the part of Canonical.

Based on the pattern of communications the Community Council decided to ask Jonathan to step back from leadership for a period of one year. We were careful to delineate that he would keep his membership and development rights so that he could continue his excellent work on Kubuntu. The purpose was to have Jonathan take a break from leadership so that he could reflect and we could work on rebuilding a collaborative relationship with the KDE Community in Ubuntu.

Private vs Public
The Ubuntu Community Council values transparency, but we also value personal privacy and public reputations. We also feel that some relationships can best be repaired in private.  Once we made the decision with regards to Jonathan we sent an email to him and the Kubuntu Council. Their first response requested an explanation which we were willing to give and wanted to do so in a meeting with them. However, the Kubuntu Council put a condition of the Community Council’s request to Jonathan be removed before they would agree to a meeting.[3, 4, 5] 

Moving Forward:
The examples we are citing here are not a full list, but serve to explain our decision.

If at any point in the last two and a half years Jonathan had paused and considered the assertions that he was being aggressive and making things more difficult, this situation could have been avoided. In the end we felt that Jonathan had become unreasonable and was making worst-case assumptions about the motivations of anyone who did not agree with his positions. For that reason we have determined that he cannot represent Ubuntu or parts of its community. We hope that, given a year, Jonathan will return as a more constructive force in the community.

Looking back, there has been a constant willingness on Jonathan’s behalf to portray Kubuntu as somehow at odds with Canonical or the rest of Ubuntu. The portrayal of the project as a ‘blue-headed stepchild’, for example, is in and of itself a divisive position. We very much want KDE to feel welcome and included and there are many other teams that are most happy to collaborate to enable the best possible expression of what the code has to offer our shared users. We are open and wish to encourage people passionate about both KDE and Ubuntu to lead that work.

Now is time to discuss how the Ubuntu Community moves forward with Kubuntu as part of that community. We hope that the Kubuntu Council will reach out to us in the near future and discuss a path forward as we continue to work together in the spirit of “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

[1] On the 23rd of February 2015 Jonathan made the following statement:
“If the funding from October 2012 really isn't included in the current community fund and it simply has been stolen by Canonical this is worse than I had thought.”

[2]On March 19th of 2015 Jonathan made the following statements:
“czajkowski: best stop giving in to their stalling and just make a statement”

“mhall119: make a public statement saying it is untrue and irrelevent”

“pleia2: so make a public statement that it is untrue”

“czajkowski: so time to give up on the canonical legal dept, they have been stalling for a year, enough already”

“I'm astonished that the CC doesn't understand the basics of free software or how it can be harmed by claims that our software is not Free”

On March 19th of 2015 the following statements were made to Jonathan which he ignored or derided:
“Riddell: you're really making this harder than needs be, you'd swear the CC sit around doing nothing”

“Riddell: In order to make a public statement on a legal matter the CC would have to have a legal expert familiar with international law and the laws of several countries. I do not feel qualified to make any such public statement. I also would like to say that public thrashing about on the topic does not help the situation either.”

“Riddell: I do not see it as an excuse Riddell, but I would like to ask you to be more respectful of the people trying to sort through the issue.”

[3] Charles P Thu May 21 12:43:41 UTC 2015
“I wanted to send you a quick email to let you know the CC has received your email and the one directly from Jonathan. We have a few members who are not on-line currently and have not read the email so I can not speak for them, but do you feel that a meeting with the Kubuntu Council and the Community Council would be a good step forward in this matter?”

[4] Myriam S Thu May 21 21:30:12 UTC 2015
“ I am sure a meeting would be useful to clarify the situation, but personally I am not happy with the threat issued to Jonathan, I think this would need to be resolved before we meet.”

[5] Scott K Thu May 21 23:39:36 UTC 2015
“If the CC wants to have a discussion about a non-catastrophic path forward, I think that would be wonderful, but I for one will not be involved in such discussions what Jonathon is under immediate threat.”

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