Ubuntu Membership Next Steps

Recently I blogged about the Ubuntu Membership survey report and that we were planning to have a meeting with the Community Council to review the findings and outline some next steps. I just wanted to provide a quick update on this.

We had the meeting yesterday, and you can read the meeting log here and we had some great outcomes and next steps.

In the report I provided the findings, and the feedback was generally very positive about how our membership process works. I did though outline the primary themes for areas in which we can drive some improvements. They are:

  • Setting Expectations – there was a lot of feedback that suggests that the expectations around membership are unclear. This survey has outlined primary areas of participation (e.g. LoCo Teams and Translations) so we could explore methods of clearly defining expectations in those specific areas more.
  • How The Process Works – some feedback suggested that elements of how the process works were unclear. A documentation review could be useful
  • Mentoring and Support – attitudes to mentoring was divided in the feedback. The feedback did suggest that some find mentoring useful and the best support comes from other members – we could explore ways of better connecting prospective members to existing members (maybe rotated meetings, AskUbuntu or something else).
  • Meeting Improvements – feedback suggested concerns about the timeliness of getting to applications (e.g. prospective members are sitting around for hours before the board gets to their application) and meetings not going ahead due to lack of quorum. We could explore finer grained timing of application reviews and possibly expanding the boards to prevent the quorum issue.

We first discussed the Setting Expectations topic in the meeting and identified that we could provide more examples of what is considered good work. I took an action to put together some wiki pages and to ask each of the Regional Membership Boards to provide input (this has been completed and we are awaiting feedback):

  • jono to set up the pages and then mail the RMBs for input

Mako also offered input that we could encourage those who provide testimonials to also provide input and guidance on if the wiki application page from the member could benefit from some improvements. Mako is going to add this clarification to the documentation:

  • mako to add clarification to docs to encourage reviewing apps from testimonials

popey pointed out the the Ubuntu Membership page doesn’t really provide a crisp and concise description of the benefits and purpose of member. He took an action to add this:

  • popey add elevator pitch to Membership page summarizing the purpose and function of membership

Daniel also outlined that many prospective members don’t realize there is a mailing list where you can ask questions. He is going to raise the visibility of this list in the documentation:

  • dholbach raise awareness of the list as a place for support

We also talked a lot about the feedback in the report about meetings. One point that popey made was that if a given board does not have quorum a good last resort is to look for other governors empowered to provide membership and ask them to step in to help make quorum. As an example, if the EMEA board is missing one person for quorum, they could ask a member of one of the other boards to step in to make quorum so the meeting can go ahead. This last resort is approved by the Community Council but not necessarily known as an option to all boards, so popey volunteered to communicate this out, and this should reduce quorum issues:

  • popey mail RMBs about lack of quorum workflow

Finally, it was identified that there is no current documentation for how new board members perform approvals. Lyz has started work on such a document and will publish it:

  • pleia2 to publish “welcome” document for new board members with policy for approvals

Overall I am really pleased with how this process has developed. The report provided some solid data and the meeting reviewed that data to drive improvements and next steps. I am confident this will make the Ubuntu Membership process even smoother and more efficient. Thanks to everyone who participated in the meeting, and thanks to the Community Council and all the Regional Membership Boards for all their contributions!

  • Craig Maloney

    I can’t quite put my finger on the exact reason why, but this doesn’t make me more encouraged to try for membership. I’m glad to see the changes taking place, but it feels like there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved just for something as simple as membership. I’m getting the sense that Ubuntu is moving from community to committee, and where the grand scheme is to encourage participation, the end result is bookkeeping, metrics, and disenfranchisement. 

    I’m looking for more meritocracy, and a lot less bureaucracy, and the above doesn’t make me hopeful that we’ll see that anytime soon.

  • Anonymous

    It’s pretty simple – if you want to be a member you create a wiki page outlining your contributions and attend an IRC meeting where the board vote on your approval or not. That’s it.

    If you have ideas for a less process orientated way of reviewing contributions from community members with the scale of the Ubuntu community, I would love to hear your ideas.

  • Craig Maloney

    …”attend an IRC meeting where the board vote on your approval or not.” – Bingo. That’s the problem that I have. It’s the sense that your contributions are put on a scale and deemed worthy enough to afford a pass. What happens if the board, for whatever reason, denies an application? Has that happened in the past?

    I mean, certainly we couldn’t just give folks who ask for membership the rights and privileges of being members. That would be foolish. We might get people who haven’t contributed at all in that way. Then we’d have to suffer them on Planet Ubuntu, and come up with some super membership to really recognize the contributions of those in the community.

    I guess my problem is that contributions, no matter how big or small, if done in the name of, and for the community are something special in themselves. When you make it so folks can somehow deem which contributions are more worthy than others, it cheapens the efforts of those who might not be the rockstars of the community, but still do good work.

    I don’t have answers, just the feeling that we’re going about this in a way that is not going to help us long-term.

  • Anonymous

    the key is “significant and sustained”. Ideally nobody should ever go before the board unless they are a valued long standing member of the community with a significant and sustained record of contribution. The problem as I see it is that some people think it is an entrance exam asking for permission to be part of the Ubuntu community. There is in fact no barrier to entry for that at all. The membership thing is the way we recognise people who are already part of the community.

  • Craig Maloney

    I get sustained; it’s the significant part that irks me. It’s as if one can put some numerical value to the significance of a contribution.

    And yes, it does feel like an entrance exam for the community.

  • Craig Maloney

    I get sustained; it’s the significant part that irks me. It’s as if one can put some numerical value to the significance of a contribution.

    And yes, it does feel like an entrance exam for the community.

  • Anonymous

    Remember though that you don’t have to be an Ubuntu Member to contribute to Ubuntu. Many people contribute to Ubuntu every day who are not members.

    The goal of Ubuntu Membership is simply to provide a means to identify those who are doing much of the heavy lifting in the project when it comes to contributions.

    We have assessed this with significant and sustained contributions, which are both good indicators of the kind of folks who are part of our core contributor base.

    It might feel like an entrance exam, but it shouldn’t…as I say, you don’t have to be an Ubuntu Member to contribute, but maybe we should fix and clarify this messaging.

    Thanks, Craig, for the interesting feedback.

  • Arthur Moore

    I just attempted to apply for membership and was turned down. They said I hadn’t contributed enough but was on the right path. Considering I have been using Ubuntu since 6.06, converted many people, have a dedicated Ubuntu blog and trying to help whenever I have the chance. From what I gather it was all about the fact I was not involved enough with the local community and that I couldn’t prove my contributions enough. But then again how can I prove that people physically around me have been helped by me, but don’t want to come to the meeting. I was kinda disappointed to be fair. I think there should be loyalty taken into account and not be so reliant on how often you have a chat with another Ubuntu member.