Ubuntu Community Survey Results

Earlier this month some concerns were expressed in a Community Council meeting about some aspects of the Ubuntu community experience. Based on this feedback I released a survey that went out to all Ubuntu Members to gather some data about views on motivation, pride, leadership, and more. I also invited feedback via other means such as email and I was keen to reach out to many community members on the phone to continue to explore these concerns further.

This weekend I closed the survey off and started collating the results into a report I could share with our wider community. I deliberately made a lot of the questions in the survey open ended to provide as much feedback to the respondents as possible. As such, when collating this data over the last few days I wanted to go through and identify the patterns and themes in the feedback so you folks don’t have to read all the individual responses. This took a little longer to prepare than I expected, but it provides a useful overview of the common themes expressed in the data. For the curious, I have also included the full list of open ended responses in the appendix in the survey.

You can download the survey here and you only really need to read the first 28 pages; the rest of the document is the full collection of open ended responses included for completeness.

I will be blogging throughout the next week to discuss many of the core themes highlighted in the report and I am keen to hear your thoughts and views on how we can make improvements. I am also going to be registering a series of Ubuntu Developer Summit sessions to cover these themes in more detail when many of us are together in Orlando in a week. If you can’t attend UDS in person, remember you can remotely participate.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the survey and now we together have a firmer idea of some of the core themes, we can start driving some improvements forward. I am looking forward to working with you folks in doing this. :-)

  • https://launchpad.net/~garydean Gary Dean

    i’m disappointed that the word ‘dysfunctional” only appeared once …

  • https://launchpad.net/~garydean Gary Dean

    i’m disappointed that the word ‘dysfunctional” only appeared once …

  • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com Benjamin Kerensa

    The survey results were interesting to read and although I had not participated in the survey I did agree with quite a bit of the majority consensus on questions. I think without any doubt it would be good to have someone at Canonical act as Liaison to LoCo Teams and Regional Canonical Employees to get them more involved in LoCo’s.

    Surveys are good… I hope to participate in your next one ;)

  • Maria

    I am Really Happy that the word ‘dysfunctional” only appeared once …

  • Dkc

    Question 15: I notice my own feeling reflected in a drop off in enthusiasm for releases after 10.10

    Deliberately dropping support for existing user setups is “dysfunctional” and indicative of a we-know-best attitude best left with Microsoft and Apple.

  • Anonymous

    I VERY much agree. I like how Canonical are trying to built a “brand” with Unity and being distinctly different while still being high quality. But have you noticed how things are missing from 11.10? And this being just since 11.04.

    No screensaver at all,

    The start-up applications menu is empty (until you add things) meaning if you want to disable some processes to gave an extra second or so of boot time YOU CAN’T.

    When viewing the properties of an audio or video file, it no longer has the “Audio/Video” tab that would normally show the length, resolution, bitrate, and alot of other info that comes in very handy. Making it VERY hard to find out if a video is actually full 1080 HD, or just 720. Its possible to find this out by playing it in VLC and looking at “Codec information” But that is very round about and not intuitive at all.

    There is no way to change the system fonts at all unless you install the Alpha version of Ubuntu tweak for 11.10.

    Themes no longer look right unless they’ve been writen specifically for Unity, and even then in 11.10 different UI changes makes it look bad in many places.  And there is no way to customize Colors, mix Window borders with different Control themes. To make the desktop really yours.

    I understand that Canonical want to make Ubuntu very polished and try to impress long time Windows and Mac Users, and catch the eyes of corporations wanting to cut costs. But why the heck do they have to practically stab long time fans and users like us in the back to do it??

  • Mike

    It’s interesting that you try to give the IMO most interesting results, question 14 and 15, a positive spin when the stats themselves “sound” different to me…

    There is a strong decline in pride with regard to the direction Ubuntu is moving in and also a strong decline in happiness with the releases since Lucid.

    When you say that this is “not particularly surprising” and nonetheless consider the results as “generally very positive”, I feel that you are kind of sidestepping an inconvenient conclusion. It feels like saying “obviously people did not like that, but hey, that’s in the past and everything is fine now again”. Not sure it is for many people…

    Don’t get me wrong – I think Canonical has every right to make every decision they deem appropriate for their business. But to me, the “Community” credo seems to less and less align with that…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=650032853 Fábio Nogueira

    Good work!

  • http://jamesrgifford.com James Gifford

    With respect, 90% of the things you mentioned are actually GNOME’s “fault” (I prefer “desicions”), not Canonicals/Ubuntus.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that it shows the foisting of Unity on the community has had a detrimental effect.

  • http://jamesrgifford.com James Gifford

    After reading it, I was a little disappointed that I only spotted one comment about how Joe Shmoe doesn’t know IRC, can’t figure out mailing lists and such.

    Moving things elsewhere (think: chat rooms that don’t have confusing joins/parts, “freenode IRC” (particularly since IRC is seen as “the hackers chat system”) would be good, because then we can allow people who don’t know technical stuff like IRC to contribute to the leadership meetings and such.

    Just my two cents.

  • Anonymous

    No offense, but Ubuntu is the single most widely used distro, and with a development base as wide as Canonical’s, they have the man power to both see these changes happening in Gnome, and then fix the ones they don’t agree with. Choosing not Unity has been polished and is nicer. But sacrificing over all usability is absolutely not acceptable. I would  have rather had a slightly buggy Unity

    No, I am not a developer do not know nearly enough to submit actual code. But does that mean that my (or other like me) opinion doesn’t matter to developers and code submitters?

    p.s. I didn’t say it was anyone’s fault. Just they are making very bad, and conscious, decisions on what to release. Including Gnome in Gnome 3. Love the UI of Gnome 3. But no better in usability. Though it is still Beta, while supposedly Unity isn’t at all beta from the way people talk about it.

    not arguing, Just passing opinions :-)

  • Anonymous

    I barely know how to use IRC lol and the more that the little and less experienced guys get the chance to contribute, the bigger the pride with grow. :-)

  • Anonymous

    i think ubuntu sucks nowadays im going to install linux mint i miss the old stuff

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1067926626 Larry Ganschow

    Unity still sucks. Gnome is the way to go.

  • https://launchpad.net/~cprofitt cprofitt

    I am still working my way through the open ended question responses, but I am starting to pick out some themes that I believe I can assist with. Thanks for putting the survey out and providing raw results so I could pick through them myself.

  • Anonymous

    Not excited about Ubuntu anymore. I didn’t even download this last release and uninstalled the last one. It’s boring to me and uninspired.

  • Seeker`

    Does the fact that 71% of the community view themselves as leaders at least part of the time, yet only 59% of the community would actually consider applying for a leadership position not imply that ~14% of the people in leadership positions aren’t actually happy doing so?

    Also, why was there a ‘not really’ option for Q19? You either feel empowered to apply for a leadership position or you don’t – ‘not really’ feeling empowered means you aren’t. Was this extra option added in the hope that ‘Yes’ would make up the majority of the responses, as the ‘no’ vote would be split between ‘not really’ and ‘no’?

  • Seeker`

    Does the fact that 71% of the community view themselves as leaders at least part of the time, yet only 59% of the community would actually consider applying for a leadership position not imply that ~14% of the people in leadership positions aren’t actually happy doing so?

    Also, why was there a ‘not really’ option for Q19? You either feel empowered to apply for a leadership position or you don’t – ‘not really’ feeling empowered means you aren’t. Was this extra option added in the hope that ‘Yes’ would make up the majority of the responses, as the ‘no’ vote would be split between ‘not really’ and ‘no’?

  • http://jeremy.bicha.net/ Jeremy Bicha

    GNOME Shell is definitely not “beta”; the second stable release was recently released. Unity is now on its 3rd stable release (but the first was Mutter-based instead of Compiz and was targeted just for netbooks, not the desktop).

    By the way, you can use gnome-tweak-tool to adjust the system fonts & other “advanced settings”; it works well and is also not alpha.

  • http://jamesrgifford.com James Gifford

    GNOME shell isn’t “beta”, it’s been out for awhile. 

    Also, Ubuntu doesn’t have the manpower or interest in replacing the GNOME stack – the GNOME desktop shell, yes, because they feel (and I feel this way as well) that gnome-shell isn’t a direction Ubuntu wants to go in.

    So, it’s better just to use the GNOME 3 stack, and then have a power users tweak tool that gives users access to things like that.

  • http://jeremy.bicha.net/ Jeremy Bicha

    I think the open ended responses are a lot more interesting than the summary 28 pages.

    The survey is also very interesting as a Ubuntu Member Census. What are the views of those who actually have contributed enough & gone through the effort of applying and being accepted as a Ubuntu Member? As such, it’s much closer to Ubuntu’s core contributing userbase than the Forums are.

    I don’t know how much work it is to produce this survey, but perhaps this should be an annual exercise so that we can judge progress and direction.

  • http://maco.myopenid.com/ maco

    “No offense, but Ubuntu is the single most widely used distro, and with a development base as wide as Canonical’s, they have the man power to both see these changes happening in Gnome, and then fix the ones they don’t agree with. “

    Eh, not really. Fewer than 200 people can upload fixes to things in Ubuntu. Of those, only about 70-80 can upload fixes to main, which is what’s needed for the things you’re talking about. Of course, others can submit patches, but those 70-80 are busy enough with trying to do their features, that time spent on code-review can’t keep up.  The patch pilot scheme has been great for keeping up with the current inflow of patches, but there are still a couple thousand in the queue. 

    Canonical’s got a few hundred employees, yes, but only a fraction of them work on Ubuntu development directly. The others do tech support for commercial customers, build Launchpad & bzr, focus on specific commercial products from Canonical such as Ubuntu One, etc.  The Ubuntu part of Canonical isn’t as big as I think you’re guessing it is, and the non-Canonical part of the Ubuntu development teams is pretty small too. IMO, Ubuntu is really hurting for lack of developers.

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

     How is this useful to the discussion?

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

     Unity is GNOME – it’s a shell for GNOME.

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

     While you’re at it, buy me a cookie :)

  • http://twitter.com/takluyver Thomas Kluyver

    There are web interfaces to IRC that can be used without having to understand the technical details – just click a link, enter a nickname, and start typing.

  • http://stoian.myopenid.com/ woolie

    it is useful, because it shows how a lot of users are put off by this crazy push for “unity” and “gnome 3″. there was nothing wrong with gnome 2.

  • http://stoian.myopenid.com/ woolie

    still, unity sucks just as well!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cohensam Samuel Cohen

    3 points: 1) I have found that some releases of Ubuntu have been Better than others. Easier to install on Low end Workstations or Notebooks. 2) Same with LinuxMint that is based on Ubuntu. 3) The recent changes in IT Ubuntu should be more Open, For example that Google Prefers Chrome to Firefox , Ubuntu should be Open to both including Touch Pads, Screens etc…  ps. 10.04 LTS and Linuxmint 10 are very good but Ubuntu 9.04 and Kubuntu 9.04 were better than 9.10 that seem to be very buggy. 8.04 LTS was also Good. Ubuntu 11.10 I am still getting used too.

  • http://maco.myopenid.com/ maco

    I had trouble answering some questions on the survey because I gave up on the Ubuntu side of things nearly 3 years ago, for many of the not-terribly-happy reasons given in the open response questions on this survey. I use and work on Kubuntu, where as far as I’m concerned, everything is milk & honey. Hard to answer questions where my feelings are so vastly different between Ubuntu & Kubuntu, while they’re both technically part of the overarching Ubuntu project. 

  • http://jamesrgifford.com James Gifford

    While that is true, it’s still not easy to do for a new user. And actually the webchat.freenode.net web interface is almost as bad (for a new user) as irssi/weechat – it’s ugly, and isn’t really on how to go about using it.

  • http://jamesrgifford.com James Gifford

    While that is true, it’s still not easy to do for a new user. And actually the webchat.freenode.net web interface is almost as bad (for a new user) as irssi/weechat – it’s ugly, and isn’t really on how to go about using it.

  • http://twitter.com/moshpet Moshpet

    Seems there are some heavy weight issues in answers to Questions #8,#9,#13 that may need to be examined by the Canonical crew. Though it looks like from the report things are going largely in the right direction. :)

  • Calum Tait

    Exactly how I feel. I’ve stuck with 10.10 as I can’t get on at all with the approaches of Unity or for that matter Gnome Shell. They got Gnome 2 working just about ideally then decided to rip it up and replace it with a phone interface. Mad or stupid!

  • Weylin

    I really hope all the issues with 11.10 are fixed for the new LTS 12.04, needs more customization.

  • Santiago Borrazás

    Here is my two cents (sorry if is not very concerned about the comunity, but with the last Ubuntu release):

    I think that users will prefer an stable system than a fancy interface. Just think about what happened with Windows XP when Windows Vista was released. Windows Vista has a fancy interface, but bad performance. So most users preferred stability than fanciness  Unity is cool, but, at least in my case, has serious performance issues, also GNOME3. I will prefer something more humble but functional (like Elementary OS using Docky). Again, I think that Ubuntu should bet in stability than being fancy. And its fun, because the Unity promise is that you will be more productive with a good interface, but if the system gets slow, you loose that “productivity” approach.

    Hope that the version 12 will be like Windows 7, with the interface of Windows Vista and stability of Windows XP. Sorry for compare you with Windows, but is just as an example of decisions and results in software products.

  • Jef Spaleta

    Jono, Please consider running this survey as part of every release cycle. Not on release week, obviously, but say a couple of weeks after.  You’ll want to try to get a survey out with the same questions every release (and maybe rotate a couple of questions in), and use the common questions from release to release to measure improvement from the baseline depicted in this one.  The same survey over and over again, through a full development meta cycle from an LTS to the next LTS (assuming there will be a next LTS of course).

    It’s unfortunate there isn’t an existing baseline survey from the 10.10 release period to put some of the responses in the correct historical context.  Its a tough thing to ask people how they feel about a release just out the door relative to two year old release and get a reliable answer or even one that is easily interpreted. Today’s emotions color perceptions of the past.  It’s much cleaner to continually ask people how they feel now and trend that response. 

    If you do decide to make this a repeated survey, I have some further suggestions on how to write additional questions with an eye towards long term trending value. But I’ll hold off on that for now and wait for your to request feedback on a release survey..

    -jef