Request for Ubuntu Doc Leadership
Elizabeth K. Joseph
lyz at ubuntu.com
Thu Mar 3 23:03:28 UTC 2016
Hello community team,
We are approaching you on behalf of the Ubuntu Documentation team to
ask for assistance with the issues the team is undergoing.
The Ubuntu Documentation team maintains the following documentation:
– The desktop documentation at https://help.ubuntu.com/
– The serverguide at https://help.ubuntu.com/
– The community help wiki at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/
We maintain documentation for how this documentation is maintained at
The team is loosely organized in three subteams, each team taking care
of one of the components mentioned above. In each team we have only a
few people that can be considered active; some of those only barely.
The state of all of the components can be described to be more or less
stalled and in desperate the need of more contributors. With the
string freeze for Documentation just a couple weeks away (March 17),
at this point we risk not having updated documentation for 16.04,
particularly for the Desktop.
In the case of the community help wiki, the situation is even worse;
not only has it encountered spam attacks lately (which only mean more
work for the admins, who have been manually applying documentation
"patches" that contributors send to the ubuntu-doc mailing list), it
also has a lot of content that is completely outdated, useless and
unstructured. Due to the spam attacks, most community members can't
currently take any action to improve the situation.
Following a meeting with the Community Council, we have begun to
identify what we feel the team needs, both in the short and long term.
We believe one of the major underlying issues to this situation is the
teams inability to make decisions. The active and not so active team
members all have their own opinion on which tasks are sensible to take
on a certain component. This is especially problematic as sometimes we
have had volunteers signed up to do the work, but the team has wanted
to consider the issue further, ultimately stalling the process. When
most efforts to improve the situation seem to be in vain, it is no
wonder the team is not attracting new contributors either.
As the Documentation team does not have a leader to steer the overall
direction, there is no way to easily resolve the problem.
Additionally, for various reasons, nobody from the current
contributors is willing to step up and take the leadership position.
Our request and recommendation for the community team at Canonical is
to bring some leadership to the team from outside of the team.
Ideally, the person would be a Canonical employee who would have part
of their paid work assigned to working with the Documentation team. We
think the request is fair considering the documentation is important
and useful to many Ubuntu users and thus valuable to Canonical.
We believe that a stable, fresh and adequately objective leadership
could help the team resolve the underlying issues and ultimately,
start growing the contributor base again. As part of and in addition
to leading and guiding the team, the leader could take on the
– Work as a mediator with the members to resolve disagreements, be
able to reach a consensus and get along with the work
– Work with other Canonical employees, encouraging them to take part
more in writing documentation, especially with the components they are
working with themself
– Work with the Canonical IS team to resolve technical difficulties
the community help wiki is experiencing
We feel their role as a leader on this team would not be because they
work for Canonical, but because they are able to do the organizational
work that is needed. Anyone able and willing to do this would be
welcomed by us and the rest of the Documentation team. It's simply
come to a point on the team today where we are not able to fill this
role with a volunteer contributor.
We do not think that the recommended arrangement has to be permanent
unconditionally. Building up a team and getting it working by itself
sometimes takes only time. We hope that with the leadership, the team
can build up the contributor base and ultimately, find a new leader
from within. If a leader is nominated, we will happily schedule a
checkup meeting to see how things are going, if there are other
actions that should be taken to grow and build up the team and if the
outside leadership is required any more.
Finally, we'd be happy to chat with anyone wishing to take on this
role about the history of the team to give them some context for how
we got to where we are. The Documentation team has always been quite
small and has struggled to get contributors, but it was with this LTS
release that we have finally hit a breaking point.
Elizabeth K. Joseph (pleia2) and Pasi Lallinaho (knome)
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