On Trust

You know, trust is pretty important to me. I put a lot of faith in the people I trust. Much of the ethos and structure behind free software is based upon trusting people. This has always been important to me, and part of the fabric of my life, long before I ever joined our community.

As such, I take being a trustable person very seriously, firstly because it defines me as a human being, and secondly because it is a quality I look for in people and I expect to reciprocate it.

So, why am I writing about trust? Well, I have been thinking about the importance of trust in my line of work. As someone who works with people every day and deals with a number of public and private matters with our community, trust is absolutely essential. When I used to work at OpenAdvantage, we were a vendor neutral, government funded organisation, and this neutrality made establishing trust easier. There was no suspicion that my ethics, excitement and ambition was driven by the mighty buck – we made no money, so trust could not bought and sold.

Of course, I no longer work there now, I work for a vendor. Namely, Canonical, a company that does seek to make money. This begs an interesting question about where trust fits in, particularly as I work with our community. Where is the line drawn between the company and the community? Can my trust be bought and sold as part of my work with Canonical?

Well, no. Of course not. To me, trust is intrinsic to a person, no matter where they work, and with that trust comes a responsibility to the people he or she works with. I work with the free software community, and specifically the Ubuntu community, and my responsibility lies with them. It is important to remember that although I have a responsibility to work in the interests of Canonical, I also critically have a responsibility to work in the interests of the community. To be an effective community manager, the community needs to have the confidence that not only will I help pro-actively help the community and move it forward, but that I will also have the courage of my convictions, and if those convictions were ever tested, that I would stand up for what I believe in. Since I have worked at Canonical, I have been hugely impressed with the sheer prioritisation of community in the company, more so than I ever expected, so this is largely a moot point, but it is important to me that I make it clear that if a point of contention did occur where I felt the company were not making a decision in the interests of the community, I would stand up and oppose it. That is part of my responsibility to the community.

Now, I have to be 100% clear here. If such a bone of contention did occur, it would be something that would not fit with my own personal opinion of the ethics and direction of our community. This is not a free invitation for anyone with any disagreement with Canonical to claim that I should agree with them in their discontent as part of my responsibilities. Although I feel my community barometer lines up with the general ethos and direction of the community, there are always going to be disagreements about technology, ethics and politics, and this is par for the course with any community. We are only human, and we all share different views and priorities.

My main point here is that for someone in a role such as mine, it could be easy for a cynic to suggest that I am being paid to have an opinion, being paid to be motivated and excited about our community and being paid to prioritise my employer over my community. No one has insinuated any of these things, and there is nothing to prompt me to make this clarification, but over the last month or so I felt it is important that I outline my position absolutely at the start of my work so everyone knows where I stand. Trust is something intrinsic to me, and I can assure everyone that wherever I go, my trust and integrity goes with me. Part of that trust and integrity is being clear and transparent in my views and opinions.

I love our community, and I love the doors, opportunities and possibilities it opens. I am determined to help our community grow and prosper, and every day I wake up proud to be a member of that community. Exciting times are ahead for all of us.

  • http://macslow.thepimp.net MacSlow

    Jono, even without this “essay” on your point of view – regarding your position in the community – I pretty quickly gained the impression that you’re a righteous person (in general and in terms of the FOSS-bunch). We may only have met three times sofar in real life, but this quality of yours is very hard not be recognized.

    Best regards…


  • http://www.happyassassin.net AdamW

    Excellent post.

  • http://markvdb.be Mark Van den Borre

    Thank you for this post.

  • jono

    Thanks folks – I just wanted to be clear about this – I am pleased it is coming across clearly. :)

  • Matt

    Why aren’t binary drivers in the default install, just such an issue for you?

    The hurt the community in that they discourage free alternatives to be made.

  • Chris Leader

    Trust is a funny thing … not many people see it this way but trust is too often seen as someting given whereas it should in all cases be something earned. It only seems sensible that in trusting a bank teller that you actually count the money yourself every now and then. Folk hanging out a ‘trust me’ shingles should not be surprised when their trustworthiness is tested from time to time … au contraire if they really are trustworthy they should be proud to pass verifications of trust. Sign number one of UNtrustworthyness? The question “Don’t you trust me?” Everyone should manage the risks inherent in trust.

  • jono

    Chris – I don’t think clarifying a position on trust, when you work in a job that depends on it makes you inherently untrustworthy.

  • http://none Eion MacDonald

    How does Canonical make its money?

  • jono

    Eion – Canonical makes money from support contracts and other business services.