Stack Exchange at Ubuntu Developer Summit

by Robert Cartaino

on November 3, 2010

Last week, I was graciously invited to spend a few days at the Ubuntu Developer Summit held in Orlando, Florida. Twice a year, Canonical engineers, partners, and community members get together to discuss and plan the next release of their operating system. I was invited to talk about Ask Ubuntu to help in the planning of how the Ubuntu community can better integrate with the Stack Exchange site.

We started with a video interview and gave a high-paced "Lightning Talk" about the Ask Ubuntu site. Honestly, I thought I would spend the week "selling" the merits of the Stack Exchange to a wary group of open source advocates. But surprisingly, the Ubuntu community was already well-informed and very enthusiastic about the Ask Ubuntu site. That's high praise considering that the Canonical site has not officially announced nor linked to the Ubuntu Stack Exchange site. I was hoping to change that.

After the information-pack sessions, the interviews, the meetings and lots of hallway discussions, The event organizers generously arranged for us to host our own session -- a round table discussion to examine the needs of Ubuntu community with regard to Ask Ubuntu. We met with the key project teams to discuss how to integrate the Ubuntu community workflow with Ask Ubuntu.

We started by discussing the increasing need for localization and accessibility compliance. The remainder of the session dealt with ways we could bring the integration of Ask Ubuntu to the next level. We discussed adding Ask Ubuntu to their browsers' default Ubuntu start page. They were even surprisingly receptive to replacing their own Launchpad Answers solution (Ubuntu's community support Network) with Ask Ubuntu. The developers are looking for better ways to encourage users to ask questions rather than file bugs, and Ask Ubuntu fits that bill with a 94% answer rate!

It was a very productive and fun week. That is one fired up group. All the hallway discussions and brainstorming left me with a bit of information overload. I don't know how deep the integration and partnerships with Ubuntu will go, but the proposals are documented and work items are assigned. The enthusiasm for our ideas were palpable. All we need is a bit of follow-up.

Ubuntu is an amazing organization. Events like this give me a glimpse into what can be accomplished with a group of volunteers. If you're looking for a way to get started in open source, Ubuntu is a wonderful place to participate. Thanks to the Ubuntu team for their generous invitation and helping this newcomer find a place in their community.