For many years now we have been building a comprehensive Ubuntu contributor community. Across our many different sub-communities such as Packagers, Translators, LoCo Teams, Forums, AskUbuntu, Documentation Writers, Ubuntu Women, QA, Accessability, and elsewhere, we have worked hard to help everyone put their brick in the wall to help Ubuntu be the best it can for everyone and within our core values of the platform being Free Software, in your language, and available for everyone irrespective of disability.
I am proud of this work and the many people who have contributed to it. Importantly, I think Ubuntu has made great inroads in fostering a community that empowers all contributors, whether you are technical or not, wherever you may live, and welcoming everyone to the Ubuntu family.
There is however a new type of community that we need to build and this is quite different to what we have done before; a community of application developers.
In recent months various teams have been working to make the Ubuntu application developer experience smooth and effective. This has included the creation of developer.ubuntu.com, creating the MyApps submission process that enables an app developer to submit their app for review, improvements to the Ubuntu Software Center, application reviews from the App Review Board, and various outreach campaigns.
Some of you may be wondering why this community is so different; surely it is just another collection of mailing lists, blog posts, excitable tweets, and infrastructure? Well it is different in one very distinctive way.
Traditionally each of the different sub-communities I mentioned at the beginning of this post have contributed to Ubuntu itself as a platform. This defines a simple relationship between Ubuntu and our contributors: if there is a problem in Ubuntu, we encourage these contributors to help resolve the issue in whatever way they can. This includes reporting bugs, testing PPAs with fixes, running the development release of Ubuntu etc. The relationship presumes that our contributors are interested in the internals of the platform and community, how they fit together, and how they can be improved. With such a presumption we make a set of determinations: you are familiar with Launchpad, you read Planet Ubuntu, you know how to file a bug, you read some of the mailing lists etc.
With this app developer community we should not make those assumptions: we need to assume that application developers are only interested in Ubuntu as a platform. They don’t care how it is built or the politics involved, they just want to deliver their apps quickly and easily on Ubuntu. We need to view these folks as true consumers of our platform: they want to use our platform to do interesting things and not get embroiled in how the platform was created. More specifically, we should not presume an interest or intention to improve the platform, but to merely consume it and deliver their value…their apps.
With this in mind we need to adjust our focus and thinking a little bit in how we grow this community. We can’t presume application developers have the skills or interest that would be commonplace to our existing contributor community. As an example, I don’t believe it would be reasonable to recommend an application developer runs a development version of Ubuntu, or recommend he or she becomes a member of MOTU or core-dev. These functions are valuable in our contributor community, but we need to work from an assumption that an application developer is uninterested in those functions and just wants to consume our platform and deliver their app.
Of course, our existing contributor community is still as critically important as it was before; we would be nothing without our community. The difference is in setting expectations for this new community; we need to not assume the same experience, knowledge, interests, or values.
I want to build an incredible community of application developers who feel truly empowered by Ubuntu. We have an awesome Free Software platform, wonderful collaboration tools in Launchpad, an enthusiastic community of users, and bags of potential.
With these goals in mind, David Planella and Michael Hall on my team will be performing a lot of work in the next Ubuntu cycle to actively grow and build this new community. We will be reaching out to find application developers in new places, identifying the holes in our application developer processes, and seeking to ensure that not only is Ubuntu a fantastic platform for application authors, but the fruits of their work are available to Ubuntu users around the world in the Ubuntu Software Center.
You can expect to read more and more about this over the coming months and your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions are most welcome.