Very quietly, the Ubuntu community reached a major milestone today when we held a Community Council meeting, like it does fortnightly. The only thing different was that the council included five new members — Mike Basinger, Corey Burger, Matthew East, Jerome S. Gotangco and Daniel Holbach. These members are, with the exception of Holbach, not employed by Canonical and were each confirmed by a vote of the full Ubuntu membership. Before the recent elections, I was the only member who was not a Canonical employee — and I used to be one.
From a technical perspective, the founding Ubuntu team was able to benefit from everything that Debian had built — a running start if there ever was one. From a community perspective though, we had to start from scratch and had to deal with the very difficult situation that paid labor and closely entangled corporate interests. Working with the rest of the team, I drafted a set of community norms (the Code of Conduct) and governance structures designed to keep both the community and Canonical under control. They seemed like good ideas but, because we didn’t have a community yet, only reflected the sensibilities of Mark Shuttleworth, myself, and the rest of the early Ubuntu team. The highest Ubuntu governance board, the Community Council was initially filled with people that were in the room in Oxford when we came up with the idea: myself, Mark, James Troup, and Colin Watson. We decided that the council members should, and would, be approved by a vote of the membership. With no members though, we faced a bit of a bootstrapping problem.
Three years later, Ubuntu has a vibrant community with hundreds of enfranchised members who have an up-or-down say on the members of the council itself. When we looked for new potential council members to propose to the community, we tried to pick the most active, most level-headed, and most representative group we could find. It was pleasing to see that only one member of the new CC board works for Canonical; Canonical employees are now outnumbered.
It has been interesting to see announcements by Fedora, FreeSpire, OpenSuSE over the last few years proposing systems of more inclusive community governance structures that, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, look a bit like what Ubuntu has built in its attempts to empower users in that sometimes awkward community/company environment. Whatever the reasons, I think it means there’s more pressure on us at Ubuntu to keep raising the bar. I see today as a great example of how we’ve done just that.