Water Cooler?

Jorge Castro’s recent post Let’s Reinvigorate the Water Cooler about what is ‘wrong’ with the forums started me thinking about the ‘social’ part of the Ubuntu Community. I think the issue that is being discussed is larger than any issues with the forums. Focusing on the products people are using Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, mailing lists, or forums is not the right focus. The issue we are discussing is communication and community. The last year and a half as been a difficult and bumpy one for the community in regards to communication; there is a communication problem. The problem is not that the forums are broken or that developers do not like forums; the issue is improving communication in the community.

groups of colourful stick men 400x200

When I look at the Ubuntu Community I see several sub-groups:

  • Users
  • Sys Admins / Dev-Ops
  • Core Developers / App Developers
  • Marketing / Evangilists
  • Artists / Design

There may very well be other groups, but this small sample is good enough to illustrate what I feel the issue is; the groups do not cross-communicate naturally. Each group has a ‘style’ of communication that works for them. There are people who cross between the groups and when the project was smaller that was enough to ensure ‘good’ communication. The project is larger now and that is not working well at this point.

The Question Becomes:
Is there a communication platform or tool that will naturally encourage these sub-groups of the community to communicate with one another.


A Different View:
Jorge has put in to focus one very clear point:

In Ubuntu we mostly run our own infrastructure. Mailing lists, forums, launchpad, and so on. We also participate in places where we don’t really control the platform. These include Facebook, Google Plus, reddit, and Ask Ubuntu. Anyone of these services could go away today and we’d be pretty much left out in the cold.

I took something a bit different than Jorge intended from this point; there has been a great deal of growth in the tools used to communicate. This is something has caused me issues with my own communications; I do not like to post items to Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Ubuntu forums, and my blog. What ends up happening is that I post to the one I like the most and that fits the style of communication desired. (example: I am posting this on my blog because it is longer that 140 characters and it is more suited to a blog than Google+). I know that I have a different audience for each service and there are times I would really like everyone in all audiences to see my posts, but it is a pain to post on multiple services.

The Same Desired Outcome:
Even though I view the problem differently I think the desired outcome is the same. What the Ubuntu Community needs is a reliable communication platform that naturally encourages the various sub-groups in the community to communicate with one another. In order to do this I believe we have to cast aside our preconceived ideas based on the current forms of communication and be open to different options.

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5 Responses to Water Cooler?

  1. s.fox says:

    I agree with your idea about a reliable communication platform. I commented on Jorge’s blog post but I’ll repeat part of it here:

    To me the main problem is watered down effort. Just where do people go for a sense of community or help? The forums, launchpad, irc, google+, ask ubuntu etc? For me it should be a single all encompassing platform. At the moment it seems we’re not on the same side, which makes me think: Why Not ?

    • Charles Profitt says:


      I agree the issue is that we are all spread out… I do not think it is an issue of all being on the same side, but one of what ‘style’ fit a sub-groups needs. It would be great to have a single ‘place’ that met everyone’s needs; the question is does that exist? In order to answer that question we need to keep an open mind and explore. From my perspective that is what Jorge is prompting us to do. I certainly think we are all on the Ubuntu team together; though, at times, it seems like we are on different sides because we bring different experience and view points to the team.

  2. Ian Weisser says:

    Great observations. I think fragmentation into like-minded groups is normal, even if we all used a (hypothetical) single platform. It’s not a platform’s fault that it cannot be everything to everybody – that’s a red herring. The fragmentation is human psychology and happens in all large groups regardless of platforms.

    Is there a role for better design of platforms? Sure.
    Is there a role for a strategy for how to use various platforms more effetively? Sure.
    But don’t expect big changes in fragmentation from those (quite worthy) improvements alone.

  3. mace says:

    One thing to keep in mind, is SOA. Ubuntu forums are pretty well represented among search results when googling… i mean “searching on the web”. The same cannot be said of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or others like that.

    This is subject to change too though, the Ubuntu community has no control over how searching works, except the Unity Dash.

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