New Ubuntu Patch Pilot Scheme

When someone is new to Ubuntu and they want to get started helping to package bug fixes and software, they engage in the Sponsorship Process. In a nutshell, you get the source code for the package, apply the fix (or create the fix yourself), and then because you don’t have upload access, you ask another Ubuntu developer to review your work. This act of reviewing work is known as sponsoring, and it is something we have sometimes struggled as a project to keep up with – there are often many contributions that need sponsoring, but not enough volunteers in the existing developer community to review these contributions.

This is something we have wanted to fix for a while. Any contribution to Ubuntu is a gift and we should treat it as such and review it in a timely and encouraging manner. Sponship is an incredibly important function in our community — it is an investment in a new generation of Ubuntu contributors. We can do all the outreach and advocacy for joining Ubuntu in the world, but if folks contribute content and it is not reviewed, they will grow bored and move on to something else. We believe that new contributors should feel the buzz and excitement of working with existing Ubuntu developers and getting their work uploaded when it meets our quality needs.

When new contributors want something reviewed, they subscribe the bug with the fix attached to the sponsorship queue and existing developers review that queue. Unfortunately, the queue has sometimes been slow in getting reviewed as existing developers have been busy with there own work, or uninterested in reviewing new contributions. Our goal at UDS was to find a solution to getting the queue in shape and ensuring new contributors get their work reviewed preferably within a few days.

So this is what we are doing. Inspired by the Bazaar team, we are asking all Canonical Ubuntu Platform Team engineering staff who have the skills to review contributions to spend at least one day a month reviewing content. These folks will be called patch pilots and we have drafted a schedule which outlines which Canonical staff will be available in #ubuntu-devel on freenode and available to review contributions. The responsibility of these staff is to:

  • make the contributor feel welcome and express that we really value their work.
  • help to ensure the contributor knows who the right people are regarding the work that they are doing (e.g. if they are working on GStreamer patches, making sure they know the folks who also work on GStreamer).
  • review the patch and offer input; if the patch pilot doesn’t have the skills to review the patch, they should ensure that the contributor is connected to another person who can help.
  • answer any questions about the process or anything related to their contirbutions to Ubuntu.

To track this work we have some graphs that we will be using to assess progress. I am particularly interested in the following two:

These graphs snapshotted today.

I would like to see the number of items in the queue stay as close to the bottom part of the graph to indicate that items enter and leave the queue quickly. I would also really like to see the hours in the queue graph reduce to indicate the short response time.

We are going to be regularly reviewing the progress and performance of this new program, and if you have any questions feel free to pop into #ubuntu-devel on freenode and ask. :-)

Thanks to everyone who is participating at a patch pilot, and if you would like to be a patch pilot, just pick some items from the sponsorship queue and rock on them. :-)

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  • http://daniel.holba.ch/blog Daniel Holbach

    Please change the link in “items in the sponsoring queue” to http://reports.qa.ubuntu.com/reports/sponsoring/ – it also mentions merge proposals. Thanks.

  • jono

    Done! Thanks, Daniel! :-)

  • Bryce Harrington

    Jono, it’s great to hear how incredibly important this is; when will you be signing up on the schedule to help pitch in?

  • jono

    Hah, only people who have the skills to review the patches are patch pilots – not everyone on the platform team is doing it. I don’t have the skills or experience to be a patch pilot – I would need to start by asking someone else to review a patch first. :-)

  • http://blog.serversadmins.com/jono-bacon-natty-off-to-a-great-start/ Servers Admins » Blog Archive » Jono Bacon: Natty: Off To a Great Start!

    [...] this cycle we are determined to get the Ubuntu Sponsorship Queue fixed up, and I blogged recently about the new Patch Pilot scheme. I am delighted to report that the first week of the new programme has already seen fantastic [...]