Of the three major Linux companies, Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE, two have separate community Linux distros: Red Hat with Fedora, and SUSE with openSUSE. While in both cases these distros are closely tied with their corporate releases, their community of fans and developers have a say in their direction. With Canonical, though, and Ubuntu Linux, there’s only the one distribution.
Of course, there is an Ubuntu community. Historically, the community, led by community expert Jono Bacon, helped direct Ubuntu’s path forward. Bacon left Ubuntu six years ago, and since then, the community’s role has diminished. While there was still an Ubuntu Community Council, it gradually became more irrelevant. Recently, some Ubuntu developers decided that wasn’t good enough.
A former Ubuntu developer, bkerensa, kicked things off by writing on the Ubuntu Community Discourse that Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical’s CEO and Ubuntu’s founder, had “abandoned the community and been silent on the collapse of governance.”
Specifically, that it seems to him “Mark no longer sees much benefit in the community so ultimately he doesn’t feel the community is a partner and doesn’t need to solicit feedback or engage.” He suggests that Shuttleworth should “establish a proper Ubuntu Foundation that owns the trademarks and a board with majority Canonical staff as members and some seats for the community.”
He has a point. The Ubuntu Community Council had, for all practical purposes, stopped operating. In the past, it would meet bi-weekly on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to talk about where Ubuntu was going and how to improve it.
Shuttleworth initially responded that while he recognized ” the frustrations being expressed,” he’d not been absent. Instead, he had “set aside all other interests and concerns to help Ubuntu get into a position of long-term sustainability.”
And, it’s true, that Shuttleworth has been the face of Ubuntu and has been working hard to make Ubuntu a success both on the Linux desktop. He’s also been pushing hard to make Ubuntu a major player on the far more profitable cloud, Internet of Things, and Kubernetes. Indeed, Shuttleworth recently said Canonical is now “self-sustaining.” That is, Canonical no longer needs his personal money for the company to keep going.
Shuttleworth also pointed out that the Community Council had gradually withered away because of a lack of interest. He was “unsure how to restructure a community leadership function that can perform real, satisfying work that requires dedication and judgment, but also generates a reward for those who put in the effort.”
At this point, Walter Lapchynski, an Ubuntu developer, volunteered to help reset the Community Council and to run its first election.
Shuttleworth took him up on his offer. “Having considered it over the weekend, with @wxl’s offer to help run the process, let’s go ahead and call for nominations to the CC.” He concluded, “Apologies again for having dropped the ball.”
Lapchynski has picked up that ball. He announced, “We will be filling all seven seats this term, with terms lasting two years. To be eligible, a nominee must be an Ubuntu Member. Ideally, they should have a vast understanding of the Ubuntu community, be well-organized, and be a natural leader.”
Interested in helping shape Ubuntu’s future? To nominate someone (including yourself), send your or your nominee’s name and Launchpad ID to the email@example.com email address. Nominations will be accepted for a period of two weeks until Sept. 29, 2020 at 11:59 UTC.
Once the nominations are in, Shuttleworth will shortlist them and an actual election will take place, using the Condorcet Internet Voting Service. All Ubuntu Members are eligible to vote in this election.