Welcoming the new Community Council

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Congratulations to those elected to the 2011-2013 CC, and thanks both to those who were willing to serve and all of those who participated in the poll. We’ll use the results of the poll should we need to fill in for any members who cannot for any reason complete their two year term.

This is an important CC, as I think there is an opportunity to develop a response to the challenge thrown down recently, which is to give *purpose* to community leadership in the project.

Every role has purpose in its own context; those who set out to achieve a goal, like producing complete server documentation, or moderating a difficult mailing list (you know who you are ;-)) or translating a work into a new language, have no trouble identifying their purpose. And there are essentially no limits on the goals one can set for oneself in the project; we have community members engaged in pretty much everything we do.

Nevertheless, there has been a shift in the nature of the project, and that shift is not yet fully reflected in community leadership. Specifically, our mission has shifted from being defined by integration-and-delivery, to one that includes design and development as well as integration and delivery.

When we started, we said we would deliver the world’s free software, on a tightly integrated and free basis, on a cadence. We made some choices about defaults, but broadly left it up to others to define what ‘the software’ would do.

After doing that for several years, it became clear to me that limiting ourselves to that pattern meant we were leaving it to others to decide if we could really deliver an alternative to proprietary platforms for modern computing. We were doing a lot of work, which was not recognised by some of the projects we were supporting heavily, and still treading water when it came to the real fight for hearts and minds, against Windows, against MacOS, and against Android. So, even though it was clearly going to be a difficult choice, we set out to grow the contribution Canonical makes directly to the body of open source. We said we’d be design-led, and we’d focus on the areas that matter most to pioneer adopters; the free software desktop, mobile computing, and the cloud.

The result is work like Unity, uTouch, and Juju. I’m proud of all three, I think they are worthy bannermen in our effort to bring free software to a much wider audience, and I think without them we would have no chance of fixing bug #1.

At the same time, we’ve now created a whole new dimension to Ubuntu: the design and definition of products, essentially. And that begs the question: what’s the community role in defining and designing those products.

We haven’t taken a step backwards. It’s not as though there are responsibilities that have been taken away from anybody. It’s just that we’ve taken on some bolder, bigger challenges, and community folk rightly say “how can we be part of that?” And that’s an interesting question, which the new CC will be in a good position to discuss with me and Jono.

It’s not healthy to offer the ability to vote for money. Nobody should feel they have a right to decide how someone else spends their time or money. But I do think the relationship between Canonical and community is as important now as ever, and there is an opportunity to break new ground. Ubuntu represents the best chance GNU/Linux has to bring free software to the foreground of everyday computing. I have no doubt of that. After us, it’s Android, and that’s not quite the same. So our interests are all very aligned; there is a huge opportunity, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to use what we know and love in a way that changes millions of lives for the better.

23 Responses to “Welcoming the new Community Council”

  1. Martin Owens Says:

    Design is an interesting problem. I think perhaps that before the Renaissance in design culture in Ubuntu there was always a sense that design decisions were made by programmers and users in a very diffuse manner. Despite how disorganised and poorly the results came out, the control over the design was generally in the hands of programmers who had proven their ability to be good programmers.

    Then a team of Canonical designers nee outsiders came along, started making changes without having any community reputation points, contact to existing community designers, without having any stake in the Free Software culture or motivation to self-assemble into a free culture equivalent for design… and of course there was going to be a whole bunch of disgruntled and unhappy people who all have a general sense that Canonical paid handsomely to not only tell the community that it was rubbish at design, but also that you had to be employed by Canonical in order to be involved in it at all. The desktop look and feel was no longer in the hands of anyone in the community.

    Of course that’s how it looked at the start, and we’ve moved on a little somewhat from there.

  2. Thosten Wilms Says:

    While it is not my perspective, Martin’s description does resonate with me and I guess it does catch what some people might have or still do feel (with lots of variations).

    The funny thing is that I think the community just *is*, all-in-all, rubbish at design. It’s a bit like having lots of interior decorators but no architect in sight.

    Meanwhile, Unity changes lots of things without touching any deeper issue I as a freak or my mother as a very much non-technical user may have.

    Cooperation and reaching higher levels by building on the work of others / past work seems to work out for code sometimes, less so in design.

  3. Interesting Linux News for the Day โ€“ October 16, 2011 « Linux Rants Says:

    […] Welcoming the new Community Council […]

  4. Rene Dudfield Says:


  5. Ethan Says:

    Mark, you know we love you, but if this means more Unity type choice restrictions, then no thanks. There is a reason I don’t use OSX, so I was shocked with the latest release. God damn why can’t we tell unity to auto-hide the top status bar? And what’s this nonsense about binary configuration files?! We expected more freedom using ubuntu, not less, and if that’s what design decision means to you, I’m now searching for an alternative.

  6. Aleks Says:

    >Ubuntu represents the best chance GNU/Linux has to bring free software to the foreground of everyday computing.

    It’s hard to take this seriously when Ubuntu hosts, and *promotes* non-free software in its repositories.

  7. Jose Says:


    Maybe you are right, and Ubuntu could serve millions of users, but you had infuriated all the geeks removing what used to work just fine.

    Just look at that:
    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3822 (Eric Raymond wrote “The Cathedral and the Bazar”)

    I really hate to have lost the ability to see my workspace when I change it to another,in the past I used compiz cube, now when I give tech talks people don’t know what I did when I change from a workspace to another because compiz hangs my machine when it used to work really well for something like 6 different Ubuntu versions. In MacOS or enlightenment at least the screen displays an animation so they see it without effort(mac designers know animation is important for human beings, if you study the brain, we need a big part of it for understanding animation).

    The question is “What are you going to get BETTER than Android, Windows and MacOSX iOS?”
    If you don’t wring something WAY better, you are not going to get people, even if it is cheaper.

    Iphone did not just copied palm or windows ce they got the an amazing Internet on a phone experience with multitouch.

    Android not only copied iOS for a smaller price, they offered something better, google earth(and maps with viewfinder) that was way better than anything Apple has, they got gmail email experience(so important for mobile), they got speech recognition. They have google docs and Chrome and of course search.

    What makes Ubuntu so great? It gives you the linux power, but this is something my aunt do not appreciate, only geeks do, and they are not very happy with Unity and gnome decisions.

  8. czajkowski Says:

    Aloha, I’m looking forward to moving forward in a new direction with the newly elected CC. I hope it can improved on what has been done in the past to help Ubuntu grow in the future.

  9. th Says:

    Hopefully you come to senses about autohiding Unity panel though.

    I myself was experienced enough to figure out how to disable panel window dodging, but many of “normal” friends who I’ve recommended Ubuntu to, weren’t, and hated it with passion. To the point almost everyone just installed Windows back. Also panel on the left side is senseless. Even OS X allows placing the dock wherever I want. GNOME3 and Unity together are just killing Linux desktop.

  10. Matt Says:

    “Design-led” not “design-lead”.

  11. Alex Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I am a big fan of yours. Even though I am a chemical engineer, I always have this fantasy of working for canonical as I really enjoy programming (at least the bit I manage to do in chem eng.)

    I just want to offer words of encouragement because I think there are too many harsh critiques of Unity and Canonical on the internet. I have been using Ubuntu for a few years now and I think the direction it is heading in with respect to design is the mostly correct direction. I think you are correct in recognizing that great design is a very important goal. This focus has worked well for many other companies – no reason for it not to work in the foss world.

    I have two areas of concern regarding the future of Ubuntu though. First, how will Canonical manage the growing divide between gnome and unity? I imagine that work required to adapt unity to Gnome will increase over the years? Second, I am a bit concerned with LibreOffice. I don’t think Canonical can hit 200 million users without a realistic alternative to MSOffice. I don’t know how long Canonical can run away from that one ๐Ÿ˜›

    Anyways, deepest respect for your effort in foss and Ubuntu Mark


  12. Joe Says:

    Good article, as long as you follow the paths stated and not repeat previous fallacies.

    Unfortunately, Unity is dead and Gnome Shell is on life support at the moment. Gnome Shell is on life support for the same reason KDE was when 4.0 hit the shelf’s; They were both THE defacto desktop standards and were around from the beginning.

    I have no doubt that Gnome Shell will survive based wholly on these facts; but Unity is DOA and I feel the Ubuntu team should realize this before Ubuntu falls lower and lower down the Distrowatch list into oblivion.

    Support Gnome or KDE; you cant go wrong with what is already loved by millions – why do you think Microsoft is still over 98% of the market – people like consistency.

    Good luck!

  13. kushi purac Says:

    >To the point almost everyone just installed Windows back.

    You didnt bother with GNOME?
    Or Kubuntu?
    Or Xubuntu?

    The great thing about free software desktops is that we have choice.
    I always offer two choices in distro/desktop and XCFE when its old hardware.

    I reaaaally dont like Unity but I find it weak that you didnt bother with KDE since Windows users feels very confortable with it.

    Too many Linux advocates can only promote ‘their’ desktop or ‘their’ distro and having a newb use something else often feels like a failure. FLOSSers are very possessive in that way.
    The only way you help FLOSS succeed is by making the newbie as confortable as THEY can be and if that means your spouse is using a different deskopt than yours, so be it.
    Mine tried Ubuntu 8.04 on her laptop and said it was the ugliest thing she ever saw. She has been using Kubuntu ever since.
    I still love my wife, I still love GNOME and I can live with the fact that she is using another desktop.
    Let go of your ego when switching someone over from Windows and do whats best for THEM.

  14. mark Says:


    Thanks, now lead-free ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. mark Says:


    Yes, playing nicely with non-free software is essential to getting free software into the mainstream. Fundamentalism achieves much less than pragmatism. If free software is the best way, you should have confidence in its ability to grow and take over once it has a foothold, and encouraging people to try it means accepting they will live in a mixed world for a while.

  16. Chauncellor Says:

    ^I agree. I think that proving the value of free software will be far more beneficial than the refusal outright. The more viable an option it is the more people will use it. Google has certainly been dabbling and although I’m unhappy with how they do it it’s a huge step forward from previous years.

    Also, Raymond may have done great things but he’s a bit of a jerk. The way towards mainstream adoption use and popularity is focusing the vision of the desktop, not carrying on the tired tradition of customization all over every nook and cranny. For that appetite exists the derivatives. He says XFCE is what he’s using. Great! Xubuntu is an official derivative. No need to get your panties in a bunch.

  17. Stefanie Says:


    I loved to use and work with Ubuntu. Currently I’m using Lucid, because I can stay with Gnome2. Also I’ve installed and recommended Ubuntu for years now, exactly since Hoary.

    But with Unity I’ve a lot of problems, I can’t recommend Unity, because I don’t use it and I wouldn’t use it. In fact I’m testing other desktops and distributions to get around Unity and Gnome3. They are designed for 10″ monitors, but I’m using 24″ to 32″ monitors, and it is unusable.

    Some of the users that are currently using Ubuntu are not able to use Unity, because they are elder people and it was not possible for them to work with Unity. Others are visually handicapped, they have no choice to see small line, that indicates, how many instances of program are in use. They also can’t see it correctly by the preview of the open windows. This is the result of some tests, that I’ve done with them.

    In my opinion Ubuntu is loosing supporters and power users, because they don’t like to work the way, as Mac users like it. Unity and Gnome2 are going in this direction, and I’ve always had problems, using Mac. Though why should I spend my spare time or my work time using an environment, that is not usable for me?
    For me it is I don’t like, I don’t use it, I don’t support it.

    And it is not the first time, that I’ve left a distribution and a desktop behind, that happened before with SUSE and KDE, because of KDE 4.

  18. delusional deckard Says:

    “… After us, itโ€™s Android…”


  19. Jef Spaleta Says:

    delusional deckard,

    The unfortunately reality is, at the moment its the other way around. After Android, its Ubuntu. Android is by far and away the more popular consumer option at the moment having filled the role of commodity OS in the growing,evolving ARM based mobile device space. Canonical placed its early bets on the netbook as the companion formfactor to the traditional computer. But for all intensive purposes the netbook as a device is dead. Touched based tablets have supplanted them in the market where it matters most because they are much much better at infotainment consumption in an always connected world. And Android is there providing what OEMs need way ahead of anything Canonical can reasonably field as a services offering, especially for ARM devices. Android is the only _linux_ based OS that is showing growth in the wikimedia stats from month to month. Even Ubuntu has been trending downward in those stats for several months now. Unless Canonical can find a way to make itself relevant on consumer grade ARM devices tied to the LTS release and score a solid long term OEM win to put Ubuntu on the map in the tablet space and stick with Ubuntu for 3 product generations Canonical might as well just walk off the field gracefully and let Android 4.x+ be the commodity OS in the consumer space.


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  21. Arthur Grenald Says:

    This is all very interesting to me. I’ve been a Ubuntu user for some time now, and I love it. I’m still on 10.10, though, and since 11.04 brought Unity into the picture, I’ve been following the debates and discussions all across the web. My thoughts:

    Traditionally, Linux has been the geek OS. A friend of mine says, “Linux is not an OS. It’s a religion.” I would agree that it’s much more than just an operating system, but I think that for some it’s a religion, for some a hobby. It’s a great conversation starter, and when you find another Linux user, you know you found a kindred spirit. I have a feeling many geeks actually like using an obscure OS. It’s kinda fun (in a perverse way, perhaps) that almost no one can sit down in front of my computer and use it, even if they tried. “Can I borrow your computer for a minute? Just need to check my mail.” “Sure…here.” (20 seconds pass) ” !@#! Where’s internet explorer? And where the **** is start?”

    Mark is probably right. If he wants to fix bug #1, a certain amount of control needs to be taken away from the community and put in the hands of Canonical. Design is important if you want the market, and the kind of design that geeks like is not what average users want. So if he wants to compete with the big boys on the block, he needs to play the way they play. Make strong decisions you feel are right, make changes, and forge ahead. Sometimes Canonical will make mistakes, that’s inevitable. But it’s the way it goes.

    If it were up to me, I wouldn’t bother trying to compete with Microsoft and Apple. In fact, I don’t consider bug #1 a bug at all. There’s a reason I don’t use their operating systems–because I don’t like them. I like using Linux because of the way it’s different from the mainstream systems, and I see no reason that I should care if my neighbor isn’t cool enough to be using the same OS as me ๐Ÿ™‚ .

    Bottom line: for what Mark wants to accomplish, he’s probably doing the right thing. But in the process of doing so, he’ll probably lose a bunch of old-time users. Those people will switch to other distros (to distros that are more “Linux-style”), instead of following the Windows/Apple/Android/Ubuntu crowd.

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