Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why Does "Just" So Easily Roll of My Tongue?

I've been thinking a lot about my Ubuntu Developer Summit experience as of late, and the one thing that keeps running through my mind is something Allison Randal said during a lightening chat that she gave: "Don't say that you're 'just' a community member."  Allison the super-star linguist and chief architect of the Parrot virtual machine - she thinks that little 'ol me, the non-technical end-user writing this blog-post, has something to offer Ubuntu?  Answering this question, my critical mind says, "No, she means community members who file bugs have something to contribute."  But when I allow myself to acknowledge all that I did during UDS-N (taking photos and making them available to the community on Flickr, or shooting an insane amount of video in order to make a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike documentary about UDS-N), I say to myself, "Hell yeah she thinks I have something to give!"  Duh Tara, she thinks EVERY Ubuntu end-user, active or not-so-active community member, and developer has talents, skills sets, and most importantly, the innate intelligence necessary to grow Ubuntu.

So why did it take me so long to take Allison's comment at face value?  Why does the word "just" so easily roll of my tongue when talking about the work I do?  Maybe my liberal use of this word has something to do with being conditioned to believe that credentials (e.g. a college degree, certification, stripes, etc.) reign supreme - that a person needs to jump through a ridiculous number of meaningless hoops before doing what he or she wants to do.  I can't teach until I'm teacher certified; I can't write code until I've gone through a computer science program; or I can't make movies until I finish film school.  Believing that listening to a bunch of lectures given by experts is more important than doing what interests me, I have spent most of my adult life in lecture halls instead of engaging in creative play.  I'm not saying that there's no value in learning by listening to others.  I'm simply saying that my myopic view of what constitutes a worthy contribution is rooted in my learned obsession with credentials.  In my mind, I'm not doing helpful, useful work if it isn't backed-up by a rubber-stamped piece of paper that says, "Yes Tara Oldfield is qualified to do this kind of work."

Listening to several people at UDS-N talk about their work in the Ubuntu communtiy, my fixation with credentials relaxed, and I began to see that what matters in the Ubuntu universe is doing, not talking about doing.  Ubuntu community members don't sit around waiting for the rubber-stamp!  No, they jump right in and problem-solve while learning new skills.  And to help community members tackle problems they feel passionate about solving, Ubuntu's architects have created a well-oiled infrastructure (e.g. bzr, Launchpad, loco teams, a Code of Conduct, etc.) that allows people to help one another develop skills and collaborate effectively.   With this kind of support, a person can learn from others while doing a whole hell of a lot!

This community model, learning by sharing while simultaneously going for whatever catches one's interest, is exactly what I want for the Novacut community.  I want people who can't afford New York University's film school to be able to access knowledgeable mentors while making their dream movie or TV series.  I want to see people who are fascinated with post-production video work, but can't afford Final Cut Pro, to be able to learn the skill of editing through Novacut's free video editor.  I want to see entertainment become a cottage industry - an economy accessible to anyone with the drive to go after what's in their mind's eye.  Ubuntu has paved a way to creative freedom, and Novacut hopes to do the same along a complimentary route.


  1. Great post Tara!

    Even though I have a Masters in Digital Film, to be honest the actual experiences getting it were worth far less than more experience making films would have been. It's nice for impressing people on a C.V. outside the industry (inside they'll just look at your showreel and what films you worked on).

    Anyway, despite all of this I find myself "just"ing myself a lot, too. It really is all about valuing your own work and contributions, and your post is a great reminder of this.


  2. I have just re-read this post, and realised that for the last few months I have been following your advice, not necessarily in relation to ubuntu, but generally in life - I have been resisting the urge to say 'just'. So thankyou :)