How I’ve learnt Canonical isn’t the wrong :)

An open letter to Mark Shuttleworth.

Hi Mark!
This is the very first time I’m writing to you, and I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about Ubuntu and Canonical’s future.

As spokeswoman of Italian LoCo team Community Council, I had interesting experiences about Ubuntu and Ubuntu users, and I suppose that Ubuntu and Canonical have many challenges to face, in the next months, inside and outside our community.

Ubuntu is growing and Ubuntu-related world is growing faster and faster: needs, dialogues, ideas that was very easy to exchange and to spread when we all were a few hundred of people, seem today find obstacles to free running.

I know that Canonical has always point as an honour the openness to dialogue, the sense of participation that has built in years, but now I feel there is the need of something more.

As Ubuntu member, sometimes I found very difficult to explain what is happening and where Canonical is leading.

Of course I’m not judging Canonical plans, but only the way Canonical explains its choices, both to Community and people.

Let me tell you, for example, what has been my very own experience.

I was disappointed by Unity shipped with 11.04, so I tried GNOME Shell, checking if it would be better for my personal habits.  I spent the past months very close to GNOME Community, giving my little help testing GNOME Shell and providing feedback.

Meanwhile I was wondering why Canonical hadn’t dedicated some more resources directly in GNOME 3 development, instead of forking in Unity. But reading discussions on desktop-devel mailing list and staying in touch  on IRC with some people from GNOME upstream, I realized it’s not so  simple for Canonical or any other individuals to be helpful to upstream  and in mean time try to follow a personal path or point of view. There  are strong ideas, other leading companies and, sometimes, a lack of collaboration wish.

Now I agree with political, marketing and technological reasons that lie under the choice of Unity, it’s a legitimate and appropriate change offered by Canonical (and Ubuntu), but it was an hard job 🙂
Maybe these choices has been discussed at UDS, maybe there are some wiki pages or some blueprints, but even an Ubuntu member like me has to have a direct experience before comprehend.

I’m not suggesting Canonical reveal its strategies, technical or political, but only giving a correct and complete information about its roadmap, to preserve the imagine Canonical would like to offer about itself avoiding misunderstanding.

During last months I have often heard Canonical be addressed as the worst company whithin opensource ecosystem, while everyone else is the good, and the motivations were very odd, something like “Canonical is not-ethical, ’cause Ubuntu is a mix and match of our product (i.e. GNOME) and their ugly patches”. I’m sure we can try to disprove this habit, expecially considering the “mix and match” is GPL approved, and there isn’t any ethical or not-ethical purposes  in patches. I believe it could be done with a better communication marketing.

Canonical has brought a deep renovation in the very idea of open source, a revolution built upon rocks and breaks, upon dreams and concrete. But now I believe we all need a bit more. Reading the rants and the questions across the web, I strictly believe Ubuntu users want to exercise their critical judgement, and sometimes new for the new’s sake isn’t enough.

It seems to me we are in the dawn of a  new course of Ubuntu. I realize there isn’t still a mascot nor a name for -P cycle and I’m quite sure that is a symptom of some deep changing, landing with LTS. (Maybe a rolling distro? I don’t know…) I feel there is the need to build a new trust between Canonical and Ubuntu community.

And what will happen in case of decision as dual licensing that deeply touch the sense of the Ubuntu promises…?

I believe it’s time for Canonical to define some issues about what she wants to appear to the rest of the world, elaborate a strong communication strategy: Ubuntu is the third OS in the world. Isn’t it?

Here the second issue. Ubuntu communities aren’t fan-boys communities. I’ve always intended my role as a bridge, especially when I’ve talked about Ubuntu in tech-fairs or in Universities. I strictly believe we do need a line, a channel between Canonical and LoCos. We are in the same part of the barricade, and I deeply believe community needs to get more trust in Canonical: I believe every member of Ubuntu Community, as well as anyone in Canonical, has to feel that she/he is working for Ubuntu, and not to feel that our community is working for Canonical through Ubuntu, even if nobody can or wants deny the work that Canonical daily makes for Ubuntu.

I’d have many other things to say, to tell, and I’d have like very much talking face by face, but I’m very glad to have wrote you and to have exchanged some of my thoughts with you.