Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Alan Bell: On Becoming an Ubuntu Member

I had the opportunity to meet Alan at the Karmic release party in London. He is a wonderful addition to the Ubuntu Membership but also just an awesome Community Contributor. He recently sent an email to the Ubuntu Women mailing list outlining his thoughts on the process of becoming a member. I had a chance to speak with Alan about it and asked him if I could publish the email in full on my blog. To my delight he said yes! Also included is the archive link so you can see the awesome discussion that came from his email. Thanks Alan and I hope everyone else can appreciate his time and effort on this email as I and members from the Ubuntu Women team did as well.

Last Tuesday I was accepted by the EMEA regional membership board as anUbuntu Member, which is pretty cool. The reason I finally got round toputting myself forward is because I
wanted to understand the process abit better. This is some background and my current understanding of the process, and some of my previous misunderstandings.

I have been working with others on the #ubuntu-women IRC channel to gain an improved understanding of the proportion of women in Ubuntu to establish firstly if there is an
under representation that needs to be fixed. We found lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest there was, but not much hard data. I was also a little unsure of the objectives of the group, obviously to increase the numbers of women, but by how many? Measuring the number of women in a somewhat amorphous community is a difficult thing, who do you count? Someone who just uses Ubuntu? Do you count my daughters who do their homework and play Frozen Bubble on Ubuntu? Fortunately there is the Ubuntu Member process where people who have made a sustained and significant contribution to the community are recognised. Those who are accepted are added to a group on Launchpad so they are nice and easy to identify. I took the list of names from Launchpad and made a Google docs spreadsheet with the list, everyone on the #ubuntu-women IRC channel was invited to edit the sheet and help figure out who was female. Not an easy task, but by looking at profiles, wiki pages, blogs, flickr photos and asking people on IRC we completed the list. The final result was 23 women out of a total of 520 members, or 4.42%. I have subsequently done some further analysis on the dates people were made members and I started a page of interesting graphs and statistics at http://wiki.ubuntu-women.org/UbuntuMembers if anyone wants an invitation to the spreadsheets that drive the data or the python-launchpadlib script that collects it then mail me. I would quite like to not be the only maintainer of the data going forward.

So the membership process, it starts with filling out a wiki page about yourself. This is not a comfortable thing to do. I started mine quite a while ago and kept adding to it when I did something interesting - this was probably a good idea.

Anything you do can go on your wiki page, the approval board will look for stuff they want to see and ignore stuff they are not interested in - more on that later.

I made no effort to do proper wiki markup on it, it was just a list of stuff. I had no testimonials section, because I felt an empty testimonials section would look a bit sad, this was an error - if you have no section then there is nowhere for someone to add one. Laura Czajkowski helped me sort this out at the last minute, which leads me on to:

Get someone to help you well in advance. Ask them if they think your wiki page is ready. Get them to help find you testimonials (it is way easier to ask on behalf of someone else than directly)

When your wiki page is looking reasonably full of stuff you can add your name to the regional board agenda, but when you add your name to the agenda don't be first in the list, let a few other people go before you. The approval meeting goes in the order the names are added.

It is not a job interview! There is no job at stake, no money at stake, nothing of significant value in the list of member entitlements. You are probably not going to go through it for the incentive of receiving an IRC cloak. You are not doing it for the published benefits but because you are a part of the community and the procedure of the community is that we recognise those who contribute in this way.

It is not a job interview! They are not interested in your background, technical or otherwise. You are not being interviewed to decide whether you are *allowed* to join the community, you are being interviewed to see if you have *already* joined the community. This should affect the stuff you put on your wiki page and what you say in the interview. If you help people in IRC channels say so, if you are on various mailing lists then say so, if you use the forums say so. If you have written code or done some packaging that is good too, but you may be pushed towards the MOTU process (MOTU is a nested team in Ubuntu Members)

Rejection is an option, and it isn't final. Rejection doesn't mean "go away, you are full of fail" it means "contribute a bit more stuff, document it better, get some more testimonials and come back in a month or two" it is an easy option for the board to choose, they are not missing out on the opportunity to accept you, just delaying it a bit.

Attend a few approval board sessions on IRC before you put yourself forward - like I didn't. Figure out who on the board is the most harshly critical, figure out what responses they like and don't like.

Make sure you have supporters in the IRC meeting who will speak up on your behalf and mention things you have done that you have forgotten about yourself - that really helps.

In the end, despite all my errors, I got through with only minor scrapes and bruises. At the meeting on Wednesday 8PM UTC #ubuntu-women there is an agenda item to discuss the stats on Ubuntu Members and whether the group wants to influence them and what the SMART objectives

http://www.thepracticeofleadership.net/2006/03/11/setting-smart-objectives/ should be for them.


https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/ubuntu-women/2009-December/002285.html - Archive link

Thanks again Alan!