Reflections on being an Ubuntu Universe Contributor

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Last week I made the big leap from “contributor” to “developer.” At the most recent MOTU-Council meeting, my application to become a Master of the Universe was approved!

Now, I want to take a minute and think about the Ubuntu Universe Contributor (aka Ubuntu Contributing Developers) program, how we can better utilize it, and ultimately encourage more people to get involved in Ubuntu development. But first of all, what is the UUC program anyway?

On thewiki page, Ubuntu Contributing Developers and their roles are described as:

  • Are members of the universe-contributors team in Launchpad
  • Are collectively responsible for the maintenance of most of the packages in Ubuntu (the universe and multiverse components)
  • Merge new versions from Debian, work on bugfixes and new packages
  • Continue with sponsored uploads
  • Participate in technical discussions with other Ubuntu developers, providing ideas and feedback

That’s pretty vague. A lot of people who aren’t UUCs do merges, work on bug fixes, and get uploads sponsored. The qualifications for joining are even more so. You have to meet the requirements to be an Ubuntu Member and submit an application to the the MOTU-Council.

We need to be more clear on both the goals of the team and what it takes to join. But this becomes a bit of a sticky issue. We shouldn’t be placing hard metrics on the requirements for joining. Joining should be about the quality not quantity of uploads and connecting contributors to the development community not quizzing them on technical aspects. Becoming an UUC doesn’t give you upload rights, but it does make you an Ubuntu Member. So while it is a development centered path to Ubuntu Membership, its really a community designation not a technical one.

So how about who is an UUC? Looking at the UUCmembers list, you see that there are 16 individuals on the team. Including Chow Loong Jin (hyperair), who just joined, congrats! Of those, nine of us have gone on to make MOTU. So there are only seven proper Ubuntu Universe Contributors. So, it seems that becoming a UUC is a good step to becoming a MOTU, but still not all that many people are using the program. In fact, more people have become MOTUs this year so far than have become UUCs.

According to Ubuntu Top Uploaders list, 395 people uploaded at least one package in Jaunty (although it’s not a completely accurate count as some people have more than one listing due to using more than one email address). Of those, only about 100 people uploaded more than 10 packages. The top 25 all have over a hundred uploads. The level of involement is amazing, but it is also extremely top heavy. We need to shift that curve down.

For me, the main goals of the UUC program should be to draw reoccurring contributors further into the community and acknowledging them for the work they have already done. It’s about both retaining contributors and increasing their involvement. The more connections someone has with a project the more likely they will continue to contribute and increase their level of commitment. Someone who gets a few patches sponsored into Ubuntu but doesen’t get involved in the community may well switch distributions when they have an issue and take their contributions with them. Someone who becomes engaed in the community will stick around and help solve the issue.

We also need to be making it easier for contributors to navigate the sometime bureaucratic processes involved with getting patches sponsored into Ubuntu. Dan Chen has already talkedabout some of the plans coming out of UDS Barcelona, including a new Launchpad group to take on this issue, ubuntu-reviewers.

As every one who went to UDS is now home, I expect we’ll hear alot more about the discussions that went on there. I’m looking forward to it, and hope to find ways that I can help make the plans made there a reality.

So, if you’ve read this far, what are you’re thoughts? Have you contributed to Ubuntu? What was the most annoying part? Have you considered joining the Ubuntu Universe Contributor team? What’s stopped you?

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