Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Re: User Advocacy in Ubuntu

On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 7:40 PM, Steve Langasek <steve.langasek@ubuntu.com> wrote:
On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 05:22:15PM -0800, Benjamin Kerensa wrote:
> On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 12:52 PM, J Fernyhough <j.fernyhough@gmail.com>wrote:

> > Wasn't this the purpose of Brainstorm, which was closed earlier in the
> > year? How would an advocacy group produce a different result than
> > Brainstorm in producing "popular" ideas that are ignored or judged as
> > against the desired Ubuntu direction?

> Good question. The problem with Brainstorm was it was a tool and time was
> never really invested in pushing the ideas out of that tool and acting upon
> them in our development process.

I don't believe this is at all accurate.  There was a period of at least a
year when the Technical Board was routinely reviewing the top ideas from
Brainstorm and attempting to distill these down into actionable bug reports
for the developers.

One of the reasons provided when the proposal to sunset Brainstorm was that developer interest was waning in reviewing the input users was providing [0]. Additionally users were not really using it much, and that's understandable considering the fact developers did not spend much time there.

Had Brainstorm been regularly read and had a larger impact on Ubuntu's design and development you could bet users would have used it more frequently. This is why UA is important in projects at the scale of Ubuntu or even Mozilla.

The users need a voice in the community that developers and Canonical will listen to.


Toward the end of Brainstorm's run, it became clear that almost none of the
remaining top issues were going to be actionable, either because they were
too hard (= would require too many resources to resolve), or were contrary
to broader design goals of Ubuntu, or were matters for upstream to decide.

I don't see any reason to think that some formally designated user advocacy
group would yield different results.

The ideas that were often being produced in Brainstorm were focused on feature development while user advocacy would work on feature requests it would also identify bugs that need prioritization for fixes or even things like performance areas surrounding existing features.

I'm convinced that Brainstorm was not interesting to developers because the ideas were like you pointed out contrary to the broader design goals of Ubuntu which to be honest are often times driven by Canonical. I think UA would provide a good opportunity for users to play a bigger role in having input into the development process and could enable Ubuntu to meet the needs of its next million users.

I think feedback and solid data could be convincing to Canonical and to the broader Ubuntu Development Community, and I believe we could even take some of the results and encourage our partners upstream to adopt ideas in the case that it makes more sense to have changes occur upstream.

What is preventing you from advocating for the fixing of such bugs today?
There is lots of existing information in our available systems to help
someone identify bugs that have a major impact on users: bug heat in
Launchpad, and top crashers on errors.u.c, to name just two.

You discount Brainstorm because it was "just a tool", but then seem to be
proposing the introduction of new tools for gathering data.  I don't think
we have any shortage of data about what users want fixed in Ubuntu.  The
question is, how will this data be turned into bugfixes?

I think relying on a bug tracker alone is much to narrow and that as a result we could be missing a larger segment of feedback and in fact missing problems impacting our users who chose not to file a bug or submit crash data.

These are all reasons why other projects don't solely rely on their own bug trackers to determine what is the most important thing is because there is certainly a segment of users who will choose not to file a bug. I think there are groups of users who do not know what bugs are and that do not know what the purpose of submitting crash data is.

I think we have a segment of users that are less tech savvy and as Ubuntu continues to grow we will see more and more less tech savvy users that are unfamiliar with bug trackers and crash reporting.

Surely you have had some opportunities to learn things from other contributors and users and then ended up filing a bug on their behalf? This is about getting a bigger picture and providing data and metrics surrounding what our users need now and what are the biggest impacts on their desktop .

I think providing a report to teams that is something they can digest, and that does not require them to dive into multiple input points will result in better advocacy for our users, and I think a UA Team could achieve this.

 I don't think we could see results overnight, and I do think some level of planning and tooling and lots of discussion will be necessary but I think UA could help us make better decisions throughout the cycle and have more information in advance of our UDSes.