For over four years now, the Ubuntu Community Portal has been the ‘welcome mat’ for new people seeking to get involved in Ubuntu. In that time the site had seen some valuable but minor incremental changes; no major updates have occurred recently. I’d like us to fix this. We can also use this as an opportunity to improve our whole onboarding process.
I’ve spent a chunk of time recently chatting with active members of the Ubuntu Community about the community itself. A few themes came up in these conversations which can be summarised as:-
- Our onboarding process for new contributors is not straightforward or easy to find
- Contributors find it hard to see what’s going on in the project
- There is valuable documentation out there, but no launch pad to find it
To try address these concerns we have looked at each area to try improve the situation.
A prospective contributor has a limited amount of their spare time to get involved, and with a poorly documented or hard-to-find on-boarding process, they will likely give up and walk away. They won’t know where to go for the ’latest news’ of what’s happening in this development cycle, or how they can contribute their limited time to the project most effectively and it is important that get access to the community straight away
Ubuntu has been around a long time with teams using a range of different communication tools. Despite happening in the open, the quick moving and scattered conversations lose transparency. So finding out what’s ‘current’ is hard for new (and existing) contributors. Surfacing the gems of what’s needed and the current strategic direction more obviously would help here and having a place where all contributors can discuss topics is important.
The wiki has served Ubuntu well but it suffers from many of the problems wikis have over time, namely out-of-date information, stale references, and bloat. We could undertake an effort to tidy up the wiki but today we have other tools that could serve better. Sites such as http://tutorials.ubuntu.com and http://docs.ubuntu.com which are much richer and easier to navigate and form the basis of our other official documentation and ways of working. Using these in conjunction with any new proposal makes much more sense.
So, what could we do to improve things?
Community Hub Proposal
I propose we replace the Community Portal with a dynamic and collaboratively maintained site. The site would raise the profile of conversations and content, to improve our onboarding and communication issues.
We could migrate existing high-value content over from the existing site to the new one, and encourage all contributors to Ubuntu, both within and outside Canonical to post to the site. We will work with teams to bring announcements and conversations to the site, to ensure content is fresh and useful.
In common with many other projects, we could use discourse for this. I don’t expect this site to replace all existing tools used by the teams, but it could help to improve visibility of some.
The new Hub would contain pointers to the most relevant information for on-boarding, calls for participation (in translation, documentation, testing), event announcements, feature polls and other dynamic conversations. New & existing contributors alike should feel they can get up to date with what’s going on in Ubuntu by visiting the site regularly. We should expect respectful and inclusive conversation as with any Ubuntu resource.
The Community Hub isn’t intended to replace all our other sites, but add to them. So this wouldn’t replace our existing well established Ask Ubuntu and Ubuntu Forums support sites, but would supplement them. The Community Hub could indeed link to interesting or trending content on the forums or unanswered Ask Ubuntu questions.
So ultimately the Community Hub would become a modern, welcoming environment for the community to learn about and join in with the Ubuntu project, talk directly with the people working on Ubuntu, and hopefully become contributors themselves.
We’ll initially need to take a snapshot of the pages on the current site, and stand up an instance of discourse for the new site. We will need to migrate over the content which is most appropriate to keep, and archive anything which is no longer accurate or useful. I’d like us to have some well defined but flexible structure to the site categories. We can take inspiration from other community discourse sites, but I’d be interested in hearing feedback from the community on this.
While the site is being set-up, we’ll start planning a schedule of content, pulling from all teams in the Ubuntu project. We will reach out to Ubuntu project teams to get content lined up for the coming months. If you’re active in any team within the project, please contact me so we can talk about getting your teams work highlighted.
If you have any suggestions or want to get involved, feel free to leave a comment on this post or get in touch with me.