You Don't Need To Ask

Ubuntu - the Linux distribution - has been around for 17 years. Over that time many projects and initiatives have been started, some successful, others less so. Not everything we try can work out, but as a group, we should feel empowered to try.

The Ubuntu community isn’t quite the same as it was back in 2004-2010, and nobody I know argues that it is. People who were keen and active contributors may have had circumstantial changes which meant they moved on. Some took on new responsibilities, work, or started family. Some, sadly, have passed away.

Over time though, new people discover Linux in general, and Ubuntu specifically. There’s a lot of institutional knowledge in the heads of those of us who’ve been around a long time. There are also plenty of documents squirrelled away on the Ubuntu Wiki, the website and in mailing list archives and forums & discourse pages. New people can feel overwhelmed by the entrenched knowledge and processes. We should improve that onboarding process.

Over the last couple of years some fresh new faces have joined the Ubuntu community. Some have collaborated with existing developers, started new projects and built new Ubuntu Remixes. Whether I personally use them and whether they’re successfull (however you measure that) or not doesn’t matter. What matters is they played with the technology enough to build something on the shoulders of previous developers. I love this facet of Ubuntu.

Recently though, I have learned that some potential contributors hold back from contributing because they feel the need to seek permission. I feel we as a project may have lost a little creative spark due to this reticence to break existing protocols, gently step on toes, challenging the status-quo and trying new things.

I feel it’s important as a project that we remind ourselves that new people really don’t need to ask permission to get involved. We should welcome new, creative, and exuberant contributors with time on their hands and an appetite to get stuck in.

If we didn’t do that back in the early days, then a wide range of initiatives wouldn’t have started. People with vision and creativity wouldn’t have felt empowered to make Ubuntu better. We should remember that spirit, and encourage it again.

I’d like us to do what we can to inform and enable more contributors to build on Ubuntu, build for Ubuntu, and build Ubuntu itself, whatever their needs and where their skills fit. Of course, it goes without saying that new people should adhere to our Code of Conduct, work respectfully with the established contributors, and follow best practices and license compliance guidelines, and so on.

But if you have a good idea, some time and skill on your hands, get stuck in and start building. You don’t need to ask.