Interview #1: Elliot Murphy talks about how remote participation works
I'm Elliot Murphy. I'm an Ubuntu developer and I also work for Canonical. I've been involved in the Ubuntu community for 4 years now, and I'm here at the UDS for Natty Narwhal. One of the things I find interesting about UDS...one of the core values of Ubuntu is accessibility. So even though it's really cool that a bunch of us get together in person every six months to work on Ubuntu, and plan out the next release, we also put a fair amount of effort, expense and planning into enabling remote participation. So even people who aren't able to fly across the ocean and be here in person can participate in the sessions that are interesting to them. This is something that we've tried over and over again and it's gotten better each time. And now it's gotten to the point where it works really, really well; so I think other conferences should do this as well. It's been surprising to me personally for some of the projects that I've worked on just how useful the remote links are, and how successfully they've worked. So what we do... we've got about eight parallel tracks in sessions going on in each of them; they're an hour each. In each room, we have two projectors. One projector shows an IRC channel that the public can dial into and there's a bot that keeps time, how long is left in the session, what the current topic is and so on. So everyone in the room can see that (whether they have they're laptop out or not) as well as those people participating remotely. The other projector shows Gobby, which is a collaborative document editor, sort of real-time editing...multiple people can edit at the same time and see each others changes. So everyone in the room can see the minutes being kept, like the notes and action items from the discussion, but people remotely can participate as well. And then the third step is that we have a live audio feed right out of the room. So the way that works is everybody in the room is talking and discussing the blueprint, but people participating remotely can ask questions and provide feedback in IRC. Then people in that room will notice that feedback, read it out loud to the room, and that sort of completes for the remote participants. I think this is something that we've kind of taken for granted, but I think it's a really cool feature of the Ubuntu Developer Summit...that it's accessible to even those people who aren't here in person.
Interview #2: Jono Bacon talks about making community building and music personal
Jason: So we're at UDS-N and I'm talking to Jono Bacon. So Jono I think a while back you said, "I need a job and so I'm going to make up a word to describe this job and I'm going to call it 'community manager'." And it's really taken off as an interesting discipline in open-source and it's kind of spilling out into the rest of world. Ubuntu started out very community focused...what's your take on how this role as community manager has helped steer this evolution?
Jono: I think it has changed over the years as people have understood it. I think community management...it's really a black art. There's no rule book to it.
Jason: Except the one that you wrote.
Jono: The Art of Community is an attempt to distill one person's approach, which can maybe help people come to their own decisions about how to do it. But one of the things that I like about it is that it's not a logic oriented job; it's not like you sit there and say I want to do this thing in my community and I'm going to follow these five steps. It's about feel and reaction to what's going on around you, which means it's a risky job. It has happened to me plenty of times where I made bad decisions; it's human nature. But I think it's evolved over the years; different people have different perspectives on it. There's a common divide between...an engineer oriented community manager or a market oriented community manager (particularly in the area of open-source). Some people see the role as waving your hand around conferences, and doing talks, and getting people psyched about stuff. And Some people see it as lowering the bar in terms of helping people collaborate around code...it all depends on the project..
Jason: What's in store for things on the community side for the new cycle?
Jono: It's going to be busy cycle for us...the move to Unity is something we're all embracing. There's a technical change to bring Unity into Ubuntu...onto the desktop. We're wrapping our arms around it as the community. I'll be working with the accessibility team this week to help them make the accessibility in Unity Rock. If it's not accessible, we're not shipping it. So there's a lot of work there. We really want to continue the growth in making Ubuntu really accessible for developers as well. It should be really easy to write an Ubuntu application, write something that runs really well on Ubuntu, something that's really easy to get into the software center. So improving developer awareness - things like that. We also want to...one thing that I talked about in my plenary on Wednesday is that I want to make Ubuntu personal. Ubuntu should be a personal experience, a personal timeline that people go through, not a process experience. Ubuntu has grown into a pretty big community these days; the way that you deal with scale is you put a set of processes in place, so when all of this chaos is happening you can bring order to it...but processes are less personal. I'm really trying to bring that personal spirit back so you join Ubuntu...you have a set of people that you trust, a set of people that help you learn the ropes and be involved. So people feel like they're not only helping a really awesome OS develop but also have great friends while doing that.
Jason: So more mentorships, less process.
Jono: Yeah there's a guy...I wish I knew his name who was in a session the other day and he said (he's involved in Debian, good friends of Ubuntu), "Debian is what got me interested in the community, but I met one person and I had a 20 minute conversation. And it's that one 20 minute conversation that convinced me to stay. I felt inspired and encouraged." This one person really sold the experience for him. Everyone should have that 20 minute conversation - that one person who says this is why it's cool (as opposed to a Wiki page that says why it's cool).
Jason: You just made an album release. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Jono: Severed Fifth is my Creative Commons music project. The idea is twofold. One is I've always been into music; I've been playing in metal bands since I was 16...it's to make what I think is good music. To be blunt I want to change the music industry; it's a big lofty goal but I think it's broken. It's wrong how it works. There's too many bands out there (doing such good work) working their socks off at gigs, pouring their heart and soul into it, and they're not get the recognition they deserve. So severed fifth is a project in which we give all the music out for free. You can download it, you can do what you want with it. We're building a community around it; it's like an open-source approach to music. We've got a community doing all kinds of great stuff. Someone's made a fanzine, someone's making an Android app; there's a frets on fire game that's being made. People contributing photography and video. People contribute all kinds of stuff because the music's free (just like people participate in Ubuntu because they've got free access to the tools, so we're trying to do that around music). We've just released Nightmare by Design, which is our first, real proper release. We did one before hand but that one was just me and that one was a full on death metal album. But this one's more accessible, much more fun. I think people can really get into it. We're doing some shows in the Bay area.
Jason: You also have a pay what you want option that's on the page; have you gotten much response around that yet?
Jono: There's a series of experiments (when I was thinking about how Severed Fifth was going to work)...ideas that are coming out one by one. For example, if you record an album and give it away for free, first of all will anyone download it? And then if people start to dig it, will a community form around it? There's been a couple of experiments; one of them was around how to you fund a band. Because a band is expensive...we have a rehearsal space in Oakland that we pay $400 a month just to be in there and rehearse...so what we did was Severed Fifth fair pay. I want the term fair pay to be something that all bands use; the idea is simple you go there and pay what you think is fair and affordable. For example, there's a guy (Monte) that pays $25 a month and he's like, "That's one pizza; I get thinner and you get a band (I don't know how big this guy is)." Another friend of mine pays $1; he's fallen on tough times recently. I think it's the right thing to do. The response has been surprisingly good; we've gotten in total $6-800 in a month. We won't get rich off of it...but we don't want to do that. We just want to cover some of these costs; it's useful for that.
Jason: You should track OS used vs. amount donated. Have you looked at the Humble Indie Bundle stats? 20% of those participated were Linux users; they were 20% more likely to donate...
Jono: There's such a huge disconnect. People think that kids these days don't want to pay for music; they just want to download it. They don't care about the artists. There's so much propaganda nonsense that's being pushed out there by people like the RIIA; it's untrue. There's been so many people with Severed Fifth who've donated because they want to support the band...they've volunteered (I haven't pressured people into it). To me it shows that people who believe in a project will support it financially. But everyone has to have equal access to downloading it and using it; people can use it in YouTube videos. Hopefully people will use Novacut to make some videos with it. I think that's why people do it. If the music were just an album, they wouldn't do it. They'd be like, "I just paid $10 for the CD what are you talking about?"
Jason: I think that fans want to support the artist, but you know that the artist gets 2 cents on the dollar. But if you give them a convenient way to support you directly, you can get a surprising response.
Jono: I had a conceptualized idea around Severed Fifth. One of the guys who's a real idol to me when I was getting into metal (who played in a band called Machine Head) - he's really helped severed fifth. I bumped into him at an airport. He's connected me with bunch of musicians; some of the stories that they've told me about the industry...really matched with my experiences as an unsigned artist. You put your heart and soul into an album and then you sign it to record label and the label controls the distribution. It's hard because all musicians want is to go out and do shows...an album is just a means to spread awareness so you can go out and play shows. Usually you sell enough albums and then you get tour support, but a lot of these labels don't do much marketing, so a lot of times you don't sell enough albums to get tour support. Whereas when you're in control of the content, you can say, "Just download it; grab as much as you want!" So you don't limit the amount of awareness that you can build; I believe you can get tour support in other ways. It's a big experiment but I think it has the potential to reap significant rewards.
Interview #3: Matt Zimmerman talks about UDS History and culture, plus Linaro
Jason: Matt you told me that you've to every UDS so far. Can you tell us how the summits have changed over time and what you'd like to see happen in the future with them?
Matt: We're much more organized now than we used to be (as you can imagine). The first proto UDS (before we were calling it that) was just people working on the project getting together face to face for a few days or a week; it was more like an agile development sprint where we'd get together and actually work on the project and talk about what we wanted to do. Over time as we wanted to do more projects, and more people got involved, we had to make it more structured. We never wanted it to be like a tech conference where people just give talks; we wanted it to be very action oriented (like we'd come out of it with a plan and a direction for the next release) more of a workshop than a conference. I think that gives it a different character from a lot of other software events. Even though people do come here just to see what's going on and participate; it's very open to people getting involved and influencing what's going on as well, which is something I like about it.
Jason: The remote participation stuff is entirely unique (maybe) to this type of summit; I've remotely participated a couple of times and it's definitely a cool thing.
Matt: Yeah, we've tried that a couple of years now. We've tried a couple of iterations; we tried people participating with head-sets and microphones and having cameras with shotgun mics picking up audio in the room; the way that things are set up now are the latest refinement of that. I think the IRC angle is interesting; it's a very flexible way for people to insert themselves into the conversation without interrupting people. We actually had two-way voice in a teleconference where people could dial in and ask a question; it was really neat but difficult in practice. When there are a lot of people talking in the room, it's difficult to interject and when you did it was disruptive (or you ended up with feedback). We've had to make a lot of adjustments over the years.
Jason: IRC is nice too because people can paste in a link. It seems to work really well.
Matt: People didn't always pay attention to it, and then having it on the projector was an improvement.
Jason: So people were all watching it on their laptops in theory.
Matt: And all in one channel because there weren't very many of us.
Jason: Can you tell us about where you see Ubuntu going in this next cycle...especially Ubuntu on ARM hardware. I think this is a huge opportunity for Ubuntu to move onto more consumer electronic devices, but also on a new class of servers...
Matt: Have you talked to people with Linaro yet?
Jason: No we haven't yet.
Matt: Those folks are at the center of what's happening there. It's an interesting shift for us, as ARM hardware becomes more powerful and capable for the kinds of devices that people want to run Ubuntu on and the breadth of devices and the relatively low cost. There's a few people here carrying around ARM based laptops that weigh about as much as that microphone you're holding and have a battery that lasts most of the day. So I think between ARM laptops, tablets, and everything else that people want to build, it's great to have Ubnutu as a platform that works on all of those devices. It remains to be seen exactly which device categories will become dominant and what the best fit for Ubuntu will be. But right now a world of possibility is opening up.
Jason: Can you tell us about the Linaro project?
Matt: So they launched early this year. It's a meeting place, a common ground, for different companies who are making ARM hardware to collaborate on making Linux work better for ARM and ARM devices. Here at UDS there's quite a lot of people representing and participating in the Linaro project, who maybe don't normally work together on some of these problems they're facing separately. Linaro's giving them a forum to talk about things like power management, graphics, getting the tool chain right, getting their kernel patches upstream, and all of these things that need to happen to help them get to the next level and enable the next generation of tech development on mobile devices. This is the second time that UDS and Linaro have happened together, and this time it is much bigger. I'm really happy about the turn out of different vendors.
Jason: Part of the goal of the ARM project is also standardization within ARM itself in terms of boot sequence and firmware. Have vendors been pretty receptive of that?
Matt: There are people coming from different places and priorities, but where it adds up to less work (it takes less time to make a device and you can leverage common code), I think it's a win for everybody. You do see progress on getting some of those problems solved. Do you want to talk about the culture at UDS? You can ask me about what happens outside of sessions.
Jason: All of us have said over and over that people here are so nice here, and it's fun. I'm sure there was a very deliberate process to cultivate that kind of feel.
Matt: Similar to other free software conferences this is a gathering of people who work together and communicate with one another throughout the year but they don't see each other very often. There's familiarity but there's also so much that's unknown and people are getting to know each other a lot better and building relationships here. We have tried to cultivate that in terms of choice of venue to the sorts of activities that we organize. Something that I really enjoy that has grown up over the past few years...we have quite a few talented musicians in the community...we started out with informal jam sessions with acoustic instruments and now we have equipment, amplifiers, microphones, sound boards...everything...it sounds great and it's a lot of fun. It's something that people don't get to do with their friends very often. So it's part of the event that I really look forward to.
Jason: There's a costume party tonight right?
Matt: There is. I didn't come with a costume but I'm sure I won't be the only one who didn't come prepared for that. There will be a great concert and people unwinding after working very hard for a week. That's another thing about UDS - it's not something that you can lay back and enjoy. There's a lot of energy output during the week. In the past, we sometimes did it for two weeks and that was extremely exhausting. We've actually scaled it back (in part) because people get burned out after doing this for too long.
Jason: Thank you.
Link to the video that goes with this transcript: http://vimeo.com/22080713