This morning in the Community Roundtable, Jono talked about the culture of Ubuntu and how it is changing and morphing. This caused me to think about another group of people who have popped up in the Ubuntu (And open source in general) world.
There is an open source culture out there that if you are using you should contribute back. And yes, while this is the practice that we use and this is why Ubuntu has grown, there is a small unseen issue that crops up from this. That is the expectation that a user needs to (or should) give back. We have reached a point in relevance where we now have a group of people who are using Ubuntu and open source in general who have no desire and no inclination to contribute.
When you talk to someone in Ubuntu about new users the phrase “How do we get them involved?” comes up. I do not think this is a very healthy attitude at all. We let people know that they can get involved (it’s all over the website) but, I think that we need to change the mindset of expecting them to get involved.
There are other open source projects who have started to master this mindset. Let’s take Mozilla Firefox as an example. If you were to walk down the street and ask people about the internet most of them have heard of or, are using Firefox as a browser. There are “Just Users” and are not contributing to Firefox and they are not being pressured to do so.
This is something that we need to be aware of as we become more relevant and as we stretch out to more platforms. Not all of our users are going to want to contribute. With coming at users with the mindset of figuring out how to get them involved can feel like a religious group walking around and knocking on doors to “talk” (pressure) people into their way of thinking. In a way, open source people do the same thing without realizing it. We automatically expect things back from people who use our software and we make sure that we talk to people about it.
We even do this internally. Yesterday at the Leadership Summit there was a mention about Canonical people becoming more involved in community. In a way we are forcing our “community views” down the throats of people who are not interested in such. This will cause frustrations on both ends. The employee and the “Just User” as well as those of us who are involved start to feel frustrated. The first group gets frustrated because they feel that the ideals are being pushed onto them and the pressure they feel is very unwanted and/or uncomfortable and the second group has already built in expectations on what people “should be doing” when they use open source software, these expectations are not being met.
This causes an instant rift within communication between these two groups of people. This rift is not healthy and in some ways can become damaging.
I think that if we all start becoming aware of this mindset and start actively working our way around this idea of “users must contribute” we will see the value in having a true Ubuntu point of view. That is, Humanity Toward Others.