[Ubuntu-US-CA] Our Shared LoCo Team Identity

Grant Bowman grantbow at ubuntu.com
Wed Dec 22 02:36:44 UTC 2010

I think we are at a turning point regarding how we handle our team's
identity and I wanted to provide some context for making an informed,
conscious choice. I look forward to understanding the viewpoints of
team members. The naming of resources like the website and other team
items has come up again and again without very much stepping back and
understanding the significant conflicts each member works to resolve
when representing "us".

Every team member who has taken on the mantle of representing the team
and spoken with less informed computer users has probably encountered
a lack (in at least some areas) of a clear understanding of what our
team is about.  Misunderstandings range from the most rudimentary to
the most refined details.  Please indulge me for just a moment as I
try to outline these.  While I can only really share my own
experiences I look forward to hearing other team members' experiences.
I'll work from the most broad to most specific concepts in fully
describing the identity of our team as we represent ourselves to the
public at large. We would be wise to work toward common understandings
of these. Disagreements have stemmed from some of these items.

A. Sometimes when speaking to the public I have to describe the
different ways in which the term "Linux" is used. Technical
communities know it means just the kernel code but the general public
often uses it to identify distributions or the sum of all
distributions when making a comparison to other common operating
systems. This makes sense from their perspective and is a key
distinction for end users.  This also requires the understanding of
the role of an operating system vs. the applications or programs
running on a computer. Now with many services being provided with web
browsers and "the cloud" (don't get me started) it's important to keep
in mind the fundamentals like this.

B. Of course there's the FSF's take on what Free Software is vs. Open
Source that I think in it's most important aspect boils down to lists
of licenses that are approved or not approved by the FSF, OSI and
     1. http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html
     2. http://www.opensource.org/licenses/index.html
     3. http://wiki.debian.org/DFSGLicenses

C. Ubuntu is the next term that I can get questions about. Canonical
is doing a good job in "branding" their Linux distribution and an
increasing number of people have heard of this already, though the
Ubuntu community is often confused with Canonical employees - more on
this later.  Among technical communities the relationship with Debian
is important, making sure to call it Debian GNU/Linux. Fewer people
even know about Software in the Public Interest, however it's an
important legal entity.

D. Next we come to where things get interesting for us:
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LoCoTeams which describes the template our
team fits into. No other Linux distribution has consciously reached
out to so many people in such a formalized way.
     1. I need to say that naming yourself (at least in Spanish) crazy
doesn't help provide confidence in people that are new to
understanding who you are. Of course as an abbreviation for Local
Community it serves a purpose.
http://www.google.com/search?q=define%3Aloco does bring up our
definition second, but the first one is "informal or slang terms for
mentally irregular".
     2. While https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LoCoTeams says regional, the
meaning for this has often come to mean national teams, one per
country. Perhaps the council can help clarify this if we have specific
questions to bring to them. As Ubuntu is an international project,
recognizing national identities is an important administrative
necessity and an acknowledgement of the scope of the project we
participate in.
     3. Of course the US is a special case in the world, or so we
think. Others challenge this assumption. In the case of LoCos most
teams have generally come to agree that one team per state is a
reasonable way to organize things. I don't know how much traffic
http://ubuntu-us.org/ gets but I haven't seen as much direct activity
focused on this level as many other state teams for the sheer size and
complexity of what this might entail. City and regional teams have
been almost all phased out now. Chicago seems like the last one.
     4. As has had some discussion on this list, our state is big. Our
state can not easily call in-person team meetings without requiring
some or all active team members to drive many hours to accomodate such
a thing. We focus on virtual activity in part because of the distances
punctuated by events where some people are able to travel and meet,
similar to the Debian and Ubuntu projects in some ways.

E. Within our team I think it's been widely agreed that team
membership means specifically a member of the Launchpad team.
Specifically our team uses many different resources with real,
meaningful names used to access technical communication.  There is no
pattern to these identifiers which has been a problem for many teams
including ours. Here's a decent list.
     1. https://launchpad.net/~ubuntu-california
     2. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/CaliforniaTeam for our own activities
     3. ubuntu-us-ca at lists.ubuntu.com
     4. #ubuntu-us-ca
     5. http://identi.ca/ubuntucalifornia
     6. http://twitter.com/ubuntu_us_ca
     7. California Team - US http://ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=188
     8. http://www.facebook.com/ubuntu.california
     9. http://ubuntu-california.org & several additional DNS pointers
for public viewing

Does identity matter?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_%28philosophy%29 "An entity can
only be fully identical with itself. Any difference gives rise to a
separate identity. Thus identity is whatever makes an entity definable
and recognizable, in terms of possessing a set of qualities or
characteristics that distinguish it from other entities. In layman's
terms, identity is whatever makes something the same or different."
This points us to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entity and of course
our LoCo Team does exist, yet this is a fragile entity made up of
unpaid volunteers. This fact can get lost when talking with the
general public. We work toward common goals such as presentations and
exhibit presences. We give away CDs and provide help and information
to people and groups.

Going back to some conversations I have had with newcomers to
understanding our team, sometimes I have tried to say I am with
"Ubuntu California." What some newcomers hear when I say something
like this (I have tried several ways of stating it) is that I am a
Canonical employee. When I try to correct the assumptions they make I
often get looks of suspicion as if I have tried to intentionally
mislead them.  My intentions were not to mislead. This is why I
believe using the term "Ubuntu California" has been harmful in
representing our team.

By far the most commonly used resources of our team are the mail list
and IRC channel, both of which are (now) named ubuntu-us-ca.  I
recommend the use of this name for all online presences with whatever
additional pointers may also be used to direct traffic to our team
resources.  Consistently using the same identifiers for our team
resources will reduce errors and confusion.

I look forward to understanding alternative reasoning.

Grant Bowman

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