Archive for July, 2006

Artwork progress for Edgy

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

The artwork team has been making some very good progress with their new methodology. I’ve always been slightly in awe of people who can produce visual art – it’s that feeling of watching something magical happen that I could never do myself. First they collected a variety of inspirational elements that had interesting artistic qualities – pictures of shells, glass items, various stock images with different palettes and effects. Now the focus is to draw those themes together and identify some stylistic techniques that will define “the look of Edgy”.

One very cool thing is that we now have all three main flavours (Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu) getting attention. Jmak is doing amazing things with the XFCE themes.
You can see a snapshot summary of the state-of-the-art or hop onto the ubuntu-art mailing list to provide feedback. The list is still a bit chaotic – we need to separate out the “cool new idea” traffic from the “one step further along our agreed line of work” contributions, but in general I think the process is working well. I’m sure there will be rough edges in Edgy – that’s the point – but I’m really impressed with the leadership of Troy Sobotka and I think the team is going to do wonderful work over the next series of releases.

Thanks guys and well done!

There are a couple more job postings up on the Ubuntu employment page, and I thought I would blog about some of them in particular because they demonstrate what I hope will be a role model for the synthesis of paid, professional work and the best of free software volunteerism.

Today I’ll focus on just the one position:

The Ubuntu Community Manager opening is “uniquely Ubuntu” in that it brings together professional management with community integration. This job has been created to help the huge Ubuntu community gain traction, creating structure where appropriate, identifying the folks who are making the best and most consistent contributions and empowering them to get more of their visions, ideas and aspirations delivered as part of Ubuntu – release by release.

It’s unusual in that it’s a community position that is not an advocacy position. It’s a management position. Our community in Ubuntu is amazingly professional in its aspirations – folks want to participate in every aspect of the distribution, from marketing to artwork to sounds to governance and beyond. And we welcome that because it means we share the ownership of the project with a remarkably diverse and mature team. In the past six months I’ve noticed a number of people joining and having an impact who are mature professionals with great day jobs and a limited ability to contribute in terms of time – but a strong desire to be part of “this phenomenon called Ubuntu”. The job of the community manager will be to make it possible for these folks to have an amplified impact despite having time constraints on their ability to participate.

Partly that means bringing the principles, practices and real world experience of traditional management to community initiatives. Making sure that teams meet regularly if there is stuff on the boil, that they communicate to the rest of the project where needed, that the right people are empowered to take decisions in the team and that great work which is done by that team is recognised and incorporated in appropriate ways elsewhere. It’s a management position in that it will involve meetings, oversight, guidance, coordination, judgement, sensitivity and awareness of everything that is going on. It requires the extra gift of knowing how to work effectively with enthusiastic volunteers, and how to translate that energy into a real outcome that expresses what the community wants to do in a way that is consistent with the broader goals of the project.

I’m really pleased at how many of the informal Ubuntu teams are starting to get formalised and professionalised. In the art team, for example, we are in the process of appointing an Art Council, which will report to the Ubuntu Community Council. And we have appointed “artists in chief” for Edgy for both Ubuntu and Kubuntu, so everybody knows where the buck stops for the default artwork in those releases. As a result we have real professional experience signing up and contributing, and I’m excited to see what that turns into for Edgy artwork. The “artist in chief” appointments are for Edgy only so the idea is to give other community contributors a chance to hold those reins with each subsequent release.

This effort is already paying off, with clear plans, deadlines and processes in place for the Edgy artwork which are consistent with how the rest of the distro is run, and which give everyone a clear idea of what to focus on at each stage of the process. It’s looking very cool.

We can’t provide active management and guidance for every community initiative (and as Jane Silber pointed out to me today, we don’t have to – in many cases the Ubuntu community has done a superb job of “getting real and getting professional”, which is better than having someone external to the team create structure and process). But for a couple of our largest community areas, having a great person to lead, provide consistency and an interface to the core team will be a big help.

I’d love to think that someone with a job at a top law firm could feel they could devote some volunteer time to the project – similarly for marketing professionals, translators, artists, engineers and others. They will only do so if they feel that the project is very smoothly run, that they can be productive and make a real impact very quickly. They need to know where to go, what to focus on, and how to deliver their contribution in a way that can be integrated with a minimum of fuss. The job of the community manager is to ensure that the WHOLE community is well governed, well structured, and running effectively with a good idea of how it fits into the rest of the project. It’s a really unique job.