Standing in the street trying to hear yourself think

Martin Owens doctormo at
Fri Jul 3 00:45:56 UTC 2009

Hello Onno,

Your post is very well written and some of the projects beeing worked on
in the community space are set up to deal with some of the issues you

 * Education, the ubuntu-learning project is kicking off a structured
mechanism for teaching and educating users, sys-admins, contributors and
advocates in all arts. All the materials, how to teach the subjects,
lesson plans and so forth will be built over time (completely depends on
if we can shift people from support to education efforts)
 * Support, community support tools, better bug tracking, more bugs
being fixed and a host of issue resolution improvements should increase
the scalability. The alternative is to use commercial support, but the
community should be able to resource it's self better than it currently
does with IRC and Forums, I advocate shifting support away from both
options and developing dedicated tools for the job.
 * Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn - A concept where by instead of
passing off all problems to a narrow band of experience hackers, each
ubuntero should be encouraged to learn the solution, the technology and
how to teaching themselves. All gurus should focus on teaching ubunteros
who are trying to help none technical users. Currently no distinction is
made between none technical and ubuntero support and we have gurus
helping small numbers of none technical users and ubunteros slowly
learning or not at all.

Jono? Your best placed to deal with community scaling issues.

Best Regards, Martin Owens

On Fri, 2009-07-03 at 07:45 +0800, Onno Benschop wrote:
> As Ubuntu becomes more and more popular, the resources we use to
> communicate within our community become saturated with the sounds made
> by new and learning users. This is not a new thing, nor is it
> undesirable, but unless we find ways to deal with the increasing
> background noise, we have a real chance of drowning.
> To be clear, I'm not saying that we need to hide from users, nor that we
> should build islands that isolate us from their efforts, but that the
> systems we use today do not appear to scale well. Spend a few moments in
> #ubuntu and you'll be surrounded by many users with questions and few
> with answers. The same is true in the Ubuntu forums, the mailing lists,
> launchpad, etc. Searching for issues that need resolution will often
> result in many hits that are people adding "me too" messages, or adding
> incorrect advice, which then in turn results in more posts. This is
> getting worse. That is, the noise is increasing.
> The power of our community is that we provide access to all comers, but
> that's also our weakness. Not everyone is an expert and not everyone
> will ever be an expert. Some who think they're experts are not, despite
> their well meaning attempts at providing pages that show users how to
> "fix" something by doing something in a "non-Ubuntu way" causing bug
> reports that don't exist from users who followed the advice.
> Should we find ways of distinguishing expert advice? Who decides what
> constitutes an expert?
> What I've written thus far scratches the surface of what I'm attempting
> to convey. I've been trying to write this email for six months, and I
> can only provide two anecdotes to attempt to describe in another way
> what I'm getting at.
>     * In 1990 I was a participant and contributor to the usenet group
>       Alt.Best.Of.Internet, or ABOI. When AOL joined us online, ABOI was
>       swamped with users posting anything and everything to the group.
>       Despite our best and sustained efforts, the group died in the
>       onslaught of excited new Internet users who overwhelmed us.
>     * Today it was suggested that what I'm getting at is the phenomenon
>       that standing in the middle of a noisy street is a very hard place
>       to concentrate on anything. You really need to find a place where
>       you can close the door and think. While closing the door is simple
>       enough, it defeats the purpose of sharing our efforts in a
>       combined effort with the user community.
> I'm not attempting to proscribe how to resolve this, what I'm attempting
> to do with this email is start the discussion about how we might go
> about planning for success.
> What are we going to do about the exponential growth in Ubuntu success
> and exposure?
> How are we going to continue to flourish and grow while "the masses"
> arrive with their questions and bug-reports?
> Perhaps I'm seeing something that isn't there. Perhaps others are
> already thinking about this and I've just come along to add more noise
> to that discussion - if so, I'm sorry.
> -- 
> Onno Benschop
> Connected via Bigpond NextG at S31°54'06" - E115°50'39" (Yokine, WA)
> --
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