Yesterday my buddies over at the excellent Ubuntu UK Podcast did a segment on 5-A-Day where they were debating the merits of the initiative. I just wanted to weigh in with some comments.

The debate spawned into a few areas which I want to address separately.

Firstly, in terms of the success of 5-A-Day, it has been a roaring success so far. I have a graph that measures the workflow of the 5-A-Day team and the curve is constantly growing with over 14000 bugs being touched in 7 months; that is over 2000 bugs on average a month. That is touched bugs, but in terms of actual bona-fide closed bugs, that is over 8000 in 7 months. Daviey mentioned the number of members contributing to 5-A-Day seeming small; interestingly the number of people who are involved in the team fluctuates a lot – this is common with most community teams and groups, and auto-expiration of people from the team also contributes to fluctuating figures. Despite the team adjusting in size, the number of bugs touched with 5-A-Day has remained consistent, which suggests that people are doing more and more bugs each day and not limiting themselves to the suggested five. This quells any worries that five is an unobtainable figure – if it was, our stats would say otherwise.

It is also important to get the purpose of 5-A-Day in perspective. 5-A-Day is not intended for everyone. It does require a certain level of technical know-how. It does require someone to know the bug-tracking facilities in Launchpad. It does require someone to run the development version of Ubuntu. The purpose of 5-A-Day is to put a manageable figure on daily bug contributions. It sounds overly simplistic, but it works. When encouraging any kind of adoption or mass direction, it is essential to set fair expectations – this is what governments have done with the fruit and vegetable 5-A-Day – if you set a base-level of expectation, it provides a simple metric for people to strive for in their daily lives. Just think about all of the places this happens – counting calories in a diet, working out for a certain amount of time, running a certain distance three times a week, carbon offset expectations. Admittedly these are all measurements for a healthier and more balanced life, but that is the point of 5-A-Day in the Ubuntu world; getting our contributor community comfortable with a reasonable daily contribution so we can manage the bug list that we have. Not everyone will be able to do 5 bugs a day, some may only do one a day. Not everyone will be suitable for getting involved, but there are a large number of people who are suitable…between 140 and 200 who can make use of the initiative.

So, in a nutshell, 5-A-Day is not for everyone, but it is a great contribution for a good number of people, and with 5-A-Day we are 14000+ triaged bugs better off.

Another element of the discussion was the suitability of our resources in getting people skilled to contribute to 5-A-Day. Again, I want to set fair expectations here – to do 5-A-Day from no development or triaging experience will require quite a bit of perseverance, but it can be done. I think we have a pretty good set of resources in what we offer to help people get involved:

  • Extensive documentation covering how to join the scheme, how to triage, different types of bugs and scenarios, and recently we have been working hard to get our general bugs documentation fixed up.
  • For those who don’t like to read documentation, a stack of videos on packaging and other developer resources at the Ubuntu Developer Channel.
  • A bunch of general IRC tuition sessions at not only Ubuntu Open Week but also Ubuntu Developer Week which happen every cycle. In addition to these two solid weeks of tuition we have weekly MOTU Q+A sessions, general help channels and mailing lists.
  • We also appreciate the value of face-to-face time so we are encourage individual Bug Jams as well as the Ubuntu Global Bug Jam which happens on every cycle.
  • We also have a panel applet and 5-A-Day client to make reporting easier about bugs tended to as part of 5-A-Day and share these achievements on blog entries and elsewhere.
  • Oh, and 170+ LoCo Teams to offer local help, support and in many cases…pub visits.

Without sounding arrogant, I think this is a pretty compelling roster of help and support for budding Ubuntu contributors. Again, this will not convert every potential contributor into a super mad-skilled Ubuntu rockstar developer, but it gives people a good start to get involved.

Finally, Daviey mentioned the sponsorship queue. Admittedly, the sponsorship queue has seen some tough times with items languishing there for a while. To help resolve this, I sat down with Daniel Holbach and we fleshed out some plans to resolve these issues, and part of this is that Canonical is requiring that every paid developer spends at least one hour a week tending to items on the sponsorship queue – this time commitment alone (around 25 hours a week) will be a significant contribution in getting the queue in shape. We still need the community to look after the queue too, and we have plans to help encourage this in the coming months.

Hope this helps clarify the situation a little.

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