“in addition to”

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Nothing in yesterday’s post about inviting members of the community into some of the projects we work on in confidence implied that the Ubuntu development process is becoming less open.

Ubuntu set the standard for transparency as a company producing a distribution a long time ago, when we invited anybody who showed a passion and competence to have commit and upload rights, a strong contrast with the Fedora policy of the time, which required you to be a Red Hat employee. We continue that tradition with a leadership Community Council that has no requirement of Canonical employment, unlike our competitors. And we invite everyone to participate in the design and development of Ubuntu, which happens in public at UDS (week after next, as it happens) and online on IRC and Launchpad.

Every member of a community works on personal projects. Our competitors do so too. There are any number of changes thrust upon Gnome by Red Hat for example, that then get whitewashed as “maintainers discretion” or “designers design”. There are any number of reveals, prototypes, patents and other decisions that are taken in private, by all members of all communities. Even amongst volunteers its normal to see someone saying “I’ve been hacking on this for a while, now I want some feedback”.

What I offered to do, yesterday, spontaneously, is to invite members of the community in to the things we are working on as personal projects, before we are ready to share them. This would mean that there was even less of Ubuntu that was NOT shaped and polished by folk other than Canonical – a move that one would think would be well received. This would make Canonical even more transparent.

So please disregard the commentary by folk who assumed that the public discussion of Ubuntu development would somehow change. Instead, I hope you will welcome the idea that even Canonical’s most exciting initiatives will now be open to participation by members of the community. And I challenge you to find another place where you can participate at EVERY level in the design and construction of a free platform that is used by millions of people.

31 Responses to ““in addition to””

  1. Michael Says:

    You seem to have forgot your roots, Debian people were the one that set the standard for transparency, not Ubuntu. Heck, even mandriva was transparent at that time, with people from the outside ( me ) being able to manage the build cluster ( something that Canonical still doesn’t provides, while Fedora, Mageia, Debian does ).

  2. Michael Says:

    And to answer to your last question, I would say “challenge accepted” and answer “mozilla”. ( I can also say “mediawiki” but maybe we cannot count it as a platform )

  3. bobcat Says:

    what i’m waiting for this coming RR : a better bootchar experience. There is already a sourceforge project named e4rat to organize the most used files (system & data) to get load faster.

    Hope you consider that idea, and make ubuntu using it. Thanks.

    E4RAT – Improving Startup Times by Physical Block Reallocation

    AS a smart utility, e4rat package should be part of ubuntu-minimal, and available from ubuntu archive to apply on ext4 filesystem

    e4rat (“Ext4 – Reducing Access Times”) is a toolset to accelerate the boot process as well as application startups. Through physical file realloction e4rat eliminates both seek times and rotational delays.

  4. Martin Owens Says:

    I understood what you meant and appreciate the opportunity.

  5. Lulzim Says:

    I think with this move Ubuntu actually is going to be more open that it was at least last 1 or 2 years where a lot of development was done in house (at Canonical) and than made public only a couple of days before the features freeze.
    In this way community (the ones that have shown commitment) will be involved.

    My concerns (if I can call them concerns) here are:
    Who decides which members of community have shown commitment enough to participate on this projects.
    And how community members can apply to work in this “secret projects” if they don’t know what projects are there. (If they will know than the projects are not any more “secret”)

    Any how as I sad it is a good move. At least better than it was last years.
    In the end of the day I don’t mind how does the development of the feature but more I care for the feature itself.

  6. Stefan Says:

    Does this actually mean no more Release Candidates, Alpha or Beta Versions?

  7. Marcus Says:

    Fedora is managed in a very open development model for a long time now. Contributions are possible and transparent in every area. So the Fedorproject used the time of being to transform itself to a project where everyone is invited to contribute, no matter if it’s related to core system components, additional packages, artwork, releasenames or whatever.

    GNOME itself is a standalone project, which is also developed in an open manner. Of course GNOME has it’s own strategy and directions, and a lot of full-time contributors are paid by Red Hat, but still everyone can contribute (to compromise is often harder, than to call the shots).

    Both can clearly be seen as popular examples how open development can be handled (of course there are several other projects I could have mentioned).

    I personally welcome the discussions that happened concerning the ‘Shopping Lense’ because these have lead to an option to switch them off (which wouldn’t be the case if you would just have released it, I guess). I think for Ubuntu as a project, this is definitely a step back, for Ubuntu as a product this might be a step in a new direction.

    For me as a long term Community contributor, it’s clear that I am not willed to build a product without getting paid for. I am of course willed to contribute to a project, which is developed together and where every member can vote on core decisions that have to be made. I am not sure if that’s still possible with Ubuntu on such a basis.

  8. da_ravioli Says:

    Right move. It’s annoying that every developing idea gets already torpedoed at Alpha status, followed by some “That’s it, I’m moving to [insert distro here]” statement by folks who would probably NEVER use Ubuntu. I understand Mark’s arguments, also from a marketing point of view. Developing some key features “in secret” will help creating buzz around future releases. Publicity that Ubuntu definitely helps. Apple is successful in this since years… Go, Mark! 🙂

  9. LedBass Says:

    Well, if something is secret, then it is not free…

    that’s all I have to say, keep something in secret and say that this thing could be changed FREELY by anyone is a litle bit contradictory, isn’t it?

  10. joey-elijah Sneddon Says:

    As Lulzim touched on, the logistics of keeping projects secret when inviting contributions will be interesting to see.

    But fantastic move. I’m sure it’ll make my day job harder (heh) but more opportunity for those passionate about Ubuntu to help shape it is always a good thing.

    It’s been interesting for me to see over the years how as Ubuntu development has become more ‘open’, the accusations of it being ‘closed’ have increased.

    Some people just enjoy clutching at straws, I guess…

  11. mark Says:

    There is confidential work that happens in every company-sponsored distro. There is personal work that is revealed when its ready in non-company-sponsored distros. All I’ve offered to do is invite members of the community to participate in that. There’s no shift to make development MORE secret, rather, this is a shift to make it more open.

  12. mark Says:

    @Marcus, the ability to control the home lens of the Dash has always been on the roadmap.

  13. Marcus Says:

    Ah, ok. Thanks to making that clear @Marc. I still would prefer transparent and open communication and community involvement in decision processes.

    If you want to offer a ‘limited number of contributors’ to take part in the process, please describe the process clearly, of what is needed to become a member of this community.

  14. mark Says:

    No, this means we continue to do all the open stuff we do, and in addition, we invite trusted members of the community to consult and participate on stuff we are prototyping.

  15. IdleOne Says:

    Would there be anything a non-developer could help with? I would be interested in being a part of a team that helps “guide” Ubuntu.

  16. Richard Yao Says:

    Mr. Shuttleworth, how can you claim that Ubuntu set the standard for transparency when it is derived from Debian? Debian permits anyone to contribute and develops improvements entirely in the open in contrast to Canonical projects such as Ubuntu for Android. Gentoo is the same way.

    If you are serious about transparency, why not develop Ubuntu for Android and any other projects that Canonical announces in a public repository? I think that the Cyanogenmod project would appreciate it.

  17. moij Says:

    This variation of open source is called “over-the-fence source”. Open source developers usually hate this attitude, and some of the guilty companies are Oracle (Solaris), Apple (Darwin) and Google (Android).

    [Ed.] And Red Hat (Spacewalk), Novell/SUSE (YaST), and Canonical (Unity).

  18. mark Says:

    @Richard Yao, you’re correct, and I’ve updated the blog to say “set the standard for transparency for a company producing a Linux distribution”.

  19. Jef Spaleta Says:


    It is “over the fence” production. And let’s be honest Canonical has been doing development this way for a while now on all the projects they deem important. Over-the-fence and out-of-the-sky to make the most of the press clippings when they do the big reveal. It’s a perception based release model, which is fine I guess and maybe necessary in the consumer device market where your primary customers are the OEMs.

    Even though Mark throws Red Hat and Fedora out for you to contrast against and alludes to them as “competitors” I can’t really help feel that in reality, the competitor he really needs the readership to keep in mind is Google. Google with its Android and its ChromeOS…Google with its Nexus 7 tablet that he wants to do some sort of Ubuntu reveal on at the next UDS. Google, is Canonical’s “open” competitor in the consumer device space. And if anyone does “over the fence” development, its Google.

    And compared to Google, what Mark has offered up in terms of access going forward, is a very significant contrast. Who, outside of OEM partners under NDA, gets access to Android or ChromeOS feature development?

    But, put aside all the misdirected strategic messaging babble that Mark is throwing at you to position Canonical on a higher moral ground relative to “competitors.” Forget all that crap for a second.

    Only thing that matters is, compared to the last year or two of Canonical’s track record with regard to how they are doing in-house development…is inviting select externals into what has been up to this point closed door processes, progress for Canonical and the Ubuntu community relationship? It could be. I can’t see how it could be worse than the closed-door development that has come prior.


  20. mark Says:


    Did you get to see the Mozilla Firefox OS while it was still a skunkworks project? I did, but only because I knew someone who wanted feedback. But the point is – Mozilla’s biggest project in years WAS done as skunkworks until they were ready. Try again 😉

  21. Adam Williamson Says:

    “We continue that tradition with a leadership Community Council that has no requirement of Canonical employment, unlike our competitors.”

    …right after a reference to Red Hat…

    others have covered other distros, but come on, Mark, I thought we weren’t taking cheap shots at each other any more. The Fedora Board has a Chair with the power of veto, who is appointed by Red Hat (this person does not in fact have to be an RH employee, though in practice so far they always have been). Ubuntu’s Community Council doesn’t have to have any Canonical staff on it, sure, but it’s just an advisory council which advises the person who has ultimate control over Ubuntu, which is…you. The SABDFL. Who owns Canonical.

    So how is ‘Mark ultimately has power over everything’ better than ‘a Red Hat appointee chairs the Fedora Board and has power of veto’, exactly? I’m not seeing much of a distinction there. There’s no need for this kind of trash-talking, which appears to be present only to try and distract attention from something which might be controversial within the world of Ubuntu.

  22. Benjamin Kerensa Says:

    I understood what Mark said from the original post and it is really sad there are people who are so critical of everything Canonical and the Ubuntu Community do that it has impaired their ability to understand a very straightforward blog post.

  23. Benjamin Kerensa Says:

    As a member of the Ubuntu Community and someone heavily involved in Mozilla I would like to point out that like Mark said Boot2Gecko (Mozilla OS) was done behind the scenes for quite awhile and still there are lots of private discussions that occur that the entire Mozilla Community does not see until were ready for them to.

  24. shane Says:

    With all due respect, using the term skunkworks was bound to lead to misunderstanding.
    Such a term would indicate a special group working on secret projects away from main development and certainly not suggest transparency or openness, even if transparency IS the intention.

  25. shane Says:

    Also, I don’t think “by invitation” equals open?

  26. Mark Fernandes Says:

    Jef and Mark:

    Balanced, and well put counter-point.

    Mark seems to take Ubuntu continuously on this edge of OSS v proprietary, community v closed. As long as he has detractors and protractors on both sides I figure he thinks they are doing things right as long as people are willing to continue to follow him in Ubuntu development and Ubuntu usage.

    Every distro I tried and left in the past (for reasons that were relevant to me at that time) I never went back to (Fedora was one of them) I am looking for an opportunity to break free from Ubuntu (I am on Ubuntu’s LTS cycle at the moment with no plans to upgrade till the next LTS) but so far Ubuntu hasn’t given me enough reason to dump it entirely (yet?).

    I suppose the nastier (and raving) comments (mine included) on this blog are more directed to Mark than to Ubuntu. I respect Mark for being open enough to discuss what’s on his mind and to then take follow-up comments. Are we (the Ubuntu users/devs) getting slowly cooked as the water around us heats up or is this the natural evolution of another mainstream OSS project – time will tell.

    So far Ubuntu, and Mark, has more users/devs on their side so they seem to be doing it right 🙂


  27. Jef Spaleta Says:

    Mark Fernandes,

    I think the underlying problem here that set off unexpected negative reaction to the first post is that in Mark’s original announcement he didn’t really stress that he was talking primarily about Canonical’s in-house projects. In fact he didn’t say Canonical at all. Which is an interesting oversight. And I should add I didn’t really see a problem with his original post. This post, I have some issues with, but I’m letting them slide because there is no upside in beating him up about the inherent tribalism in his response. I recognize it as being a perfectly human emotional reaction to the unexpected reaction to his first post. My emotional reaction, to his reaction, to others reactions, is just a downward spiral. So I choose not to let my emotions get the the better of me…this time.

    I also see how it is easy for people to accidentally infer that he was speaking about “Ubuntu the project” processes as Mark is the head of “Ubuntu the project.” when in fact he was talking about “Canonical, the company.” Though it is a bit unclear what is actual job title in the Canonical management structure is at this point in time, perhaps GodFather is currently the best fit for his role. Or one of the Darth’s.. Darth Fantabulous? Just throwing it out there for consideration.

    There have been multiple posts now from multiple people who have had to re-explain what Mark meant, this is unfortunate, as the problem is and never was strictly the in-house nature of how Canonical does it works. The real problem is, the different expectations surrounding what happens after the projects are made public. Whether that be integration to a pre-existing upstream project not managed by Canonical or even in the process to integrate Canonical’s project into an Ubuntu release.

    Speaking just of the Ubuntu release process. It should never, ever be necessary for Canonical to have to use an exceptional process to get a late landing project into Ubuntu. And double so for Mark specifically, as the project lead for Ubuntu.. should never, ever push for inclusion of an in-house Canonical project into an exceptional Ubuntu release integration process. His veto power as project lead is nullified when he doesn’t have the perspective necessary to use it. Everyone working on an in-house Canonical project should know what the timeframes are for Ubuntu and how the processes work and should be able to get features in by the stated deadlines with no excuses. If Canonical can’t land features in by the deadlines… features punt to the next release…that is the point of a time based release model. When things land late, the necessary feedback process is short-circuited.

    As long as these skunkwork projects show up as ppas or optional tech previews before being submitted for default inclusion into the Ubuntu release, there really isn’t anything negative here.
    But if the skunkworks results are more often than not revealed late (after UDS for the target Ubuntu release) and the time for feedback is compressed into the last 3 weeks of the run up to the Ubuntu release, then there will be problems and those problems will blow up with otherwise avoidable heat levels.

    And whether or not that happens has nothing to do with how skunkworks is developed and everything to do with how Mark chooses to act as Ubuntu project leader and whether he is committed to the Ubuntu feature integration processes as they are laid out and is willing to let skunkwork projects have the time to be discussed to address the integration issues ahead of the Ubuntu release team decision to greenlight them.

    But its no fun for him to have to hear that. Just as its no fun for people to have to tell him that.
    But it is what it is.


  28. simon Says:

    “There’s no shift to make development MORE secret, rather, this is a shift to make it more open”

    So new “opensource” projects are kept secret to the community and only a select few “trusted” contributors are invited to “know” what it is… and to help out?
    This doesn’t seem so “transparent” to me and certainly isn’t what opensource development is about… If you are not in the big club you are left out…

    Seems to me that Mark cannot handle so much criticism on new projects/announcements on blogs and news articles and wants to filter it out with secrecy to the regular folks of the community because it is somewhat ruining the reputation of Ubuntu……. that’s what it looks like to me….

  29. Adam Williamson Says:

    Hey, I totally missed this part until the VAR Guy called it out!

    “There are any number of changes thrust upon Gnome by Red Hat for example, that then get whitewashed as “maintainers discretion” or “designers design”.”

    Sigh. This is just _not true_.

    I must have written this explanation a hundred times, but here it goes again.

    Red Hat, as a company taken in full, cares very little about GNOME. What does Red Hat sell? Subscriptions and support. To large corporations. For large deployments. Of servers, and suchlike things. Notably, and infamously, not desktops, generally speaking.

    I’m not in sales. I don’t even work on RHEL. But I don’t think I’d be very far wrong in saying that the vast majority of RH’s customers, measured any way you choose, don’t really give two figs about the desktop. They don’t care if it’s GNOME or KDE or Microsoft frickin’ Bob. Most of our deployments probably don’t even _have_ a desktop.

    Red Hat pays people to work on GNOME for the same reason it pays people to work on the 3D graphics drivers that Ubuntu needs and the sound drivers that Ubuntu needs (while we’re taking cheap shots): from RH’s commitment to driving the whole F/OSS ecosystem. You think our major corporate developments need the freakin’ sound to work? You think they need 3D-accelerated graphics? You can say this is great for all humankind or you can say it’s just long-term self-interest, whatever. But RH doesn’t pay people to work on GNOME because RH has direct corporate requirements for a desktop that it wants to submarine into GNOME. RH doesn’t. Do you *really* think there’s some secret committee in RH somewhere telling our GNOME developer puppets that a million-dollar client _really needs_ an overview in the next major GNOME release? Please.

    RH is the major sponsor of GNOME development these days more or less by default; there used to be Ximian, then there was Novell, there used to be Sun…all of those have more or less fallen by the wayside. If RH dropped its sponsorship of GNOME development to avoid the appearance of some sort of Evil Conspiracy it wouldn’t hurt RH much at all in the short or medium term. Hell, it’d save RH a few developer salaries. I doubt we’d lose any customers. I don’t think anyone else would be particularly pleased with the results, though. Including Ubuntu. It is famously the case that Canonical could have chosen to follow the RH path of giving existing GNOME contributors a paycheck to continue their self-directed work on GNOME, but it instead chose to hire engineers to create its own fork of (depending on your terms) the GNOME shell or GNOME itself. The direction of which is *very much* mandated in a top-down way by Canonical.

    It really kind of narks me off when people somehow manage to contort themselves into a mental position where RH sponsoring the development of F/OSS software by giving people a full time paycheck to work on it, with a very strong degree of freedom of action – as we’ve been doing for years – is a bad thing. Give your head a shake. This kind of discourse really is not warranted or useful.

  30. faycel Says:

    I agree with y mark . like this we can see professional product like osx software’s.

  31. celso Says:

    Mark, what do you think ubuntu should integrate (add it) ekiga by default? with more and more tablets these days, and even on tv’s, i think it would be a great idea to add it on the OS. With an improved Design, it would be awesome. But please, dont forget too about the libreoffice design. Look at the defauld document editor UI of lubuntu!
    Keep it up the good work!
    (Sorry for my bad english)
    Best regards,