May 24, 2021


UbuntuOnAir - An Ubuntu Community streaming channel to talk, discuss, and showcase contributions and contributors to Ubuntu.

We (the Ubuntu Community team) are delighted to invite you to the UbuntuOnAir YouTube and Twitch channels! Woo. These particular air waves will hold community focused Indabas, office hours, highly requested community interviews and will deliver Ubuntu/Open Source related workshops, host special events and, hopefully, yes, play games.

You can go over there right now (but come back) to see what we have scheduled. In the spirit of ‘release early and release often’, there’s not much there yet. We have our first ever community office hours on the 27th of May, the next monthly Desktop Indaba on the 28th, and a discussion with Ubuntu on Raspberry Pi engineers on the 1st of June.  In this blog post I walk through some of the problems we hope to solve with these channels, why we think it’s important, and how you, yes you, can get involved. It’s the Ubuntu community after-all.    

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Community problems we’re trying to solve

With the (re)introduction of a community team at Canonical, Community Representative Monica (@madhens), completed a retrospective report titled ‘The state of the Ubuntu community’. In said report (coming soon) numerous things were identified that led to the decline of the Ubuntu community, and of course, numerous things that the community enjoyed but were hurt but disappeared as the community fizzled.

Open communication

Without spoiling the report too much, one of the issues that kept cropping up was a perceived lack of openness and a vanishing desire to involve the community in more and more decisions. Whether those decisions had a direct impact on the community or whether they would have just been nice to know, doesn’t matter. Parts of the Ubuntu community started to feel excluded and that’s not how good communities behave.

Of course, with a community around such a broad thing as an operating system, there is lots of complexity and enough facets that proper inter-community communication is difficult. Especially at the kind of size the Ubuntu Community once had. So how do you connect the right dots? Do you connect each individual dot and introduce communication between everyone? Or do you create a centralised hub for the collective? If you have ideas @ me.

What about the newbies?

While we are keeping in mind everything the retrospective and the long lasting members of the community have told us, we are also looking to the future. If you were a new user looking to see what was going on, how you could get involved? Or where would you go to get a feel for what the community is like? At the moment I would say the best place to look is the Ubuntu Discourse. And while the discourse is good and great, it serves a particular purpose and is not a good showcase for the personality or the breadth of goings on.

New people, people looking to contribute or just normal new users need a place to start. They need to be able to easily find an on-ramp, take in some information, have a look around and find the right place for them. Despite this ‘decline’ there are still lots of places for new people to look around and find interesting things going on. Unfortunately, the majority of these places have become islands or the on-ramp has become quite steep.

History is repetitive

And of course if what we’re proposing here is to bring something back, how come it declined in the first place? What happened? If people liked this aspect of the community, how come it all but disappeared years ago? Well, I’ll tell you. Priorities shifted, team members left, and as such the channel got pushed to the wayside. As it stands, frankly, there is no reason to think this won’t happen again. This, in my opinion, is the most important problem we have to solve.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

Our solutions

In the blog post announcing our return, we stated our core goals,  one of which is to build a more personable, positive and supportive community. To help do this,we decided to re-ignite UbuntuOnAir. Now, this is a channel that you’ll see has some history. It was once a place for testing days, docs days, for interviews, community events and, frankly, it looks like it was a lot of fun. So one at a time, let me walk you through how our  YouTube & Twitch channels might work to build a better community.

See that door? Open it.

Openness is an acknowledged problem within Canonical and I can think of a few Community specific places that could do with a little more transparency. But I can tell you that this is changing. We’re making sure of it. We have a very bright green light from the top and from various Engineering teams within Canonical to start broadcasting and talking more openly. Now, this is going to happen in more places than on UbuntuOnAir, but everyone loves a live stream.

Expect, and hold us accountable, for more things like the Desktop Indaba, for hosting streams and videos about specific projects, or big decisions that Canonical makes. Expect office hours, where I, the community team, and many others sit down to field questions, chat, and point people in the right directions. These kinds of sessions are open doors to talk and ask questions, not just of us as Canonical folks, but about the community. More than anything we want to support the Ubuntu Community to make things happen, so if we can facilitate your projects or support your initiatives, let us know.  And hold us accountable if we start to slip.

Focus on the approach

For newbies, we want UbuntuOnAir to be a great way to find out what’s going on and how it’s going. If one person interested in Ubuntu sees the channels, watches a stream, clicks a link, and starts contributing, we’ve succeeded. You’ll have to bear with us for a while, we’re not a media or a production company, but once we find our feet, find a rhythm, and have some regular events, we want to make sure it's of a high enough quality for anyone to enjoy.

By the time the ball starts rolling and more people start hosting streams and events and other stuff, we’ll have a couple of things in place. A guide to help ‘hosts’ optimise and get the most out of their slot. For example, if a project doesn't have a ‘how to join in’ type link, then we’ll make one. Even if its just a discourse thread. If you’re talking about something to the community, the community should be able to participate. And secondly, we’ll have a process to enable anyone in the community to host their own streams on UbuntuOnAir too.

Feed someone a fish, teach them how to stream …

Finally, the most important benefit of this attention to planning and processes is that we are putting the structures in place to make UbuntuOnAir a truly community run project. In the beginning, Monica and I are going to be bootstrapping things, because of course we are, it’s part of the job. But once we get up and running expect, some kind of OnAir open form for community members to book stream slots. Expect specific calls for contribution for stream art and video editing for pre-recorded content. Expect a small group of elected people to help with scheduling, planning and moderating content. And expect to be able to leverage UbuntuOnAir to succeed.

Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

Get involved

Obviously what we have here is pretty green. We’re still in the getting started phase ourselves. But, there is always something you can do to help. First, the easiest thing is to come along to the streams that we do have scheduled. Set a reminder or book it in your calendar, turn up, listen, and participate in the live chat. Second, we could use some live stream ideas. Not just any ideas, everyone has ideas, I mean ideas that fit some criteria:

  • Are interesting or entertaining
  • Is related to Ubuntu or Open Source communities somehow
  • There’s the potential for recurring/sequential streams
  • Doesn’t require a lot of prep
  • You would like to be involved!!

Third, we have some people working on a bit of branding and theme-ing for the channel but if you’re an artist and would like to do some graphic design for Twitch and YouTube overlays we will ABSOLUTELY feature them and credit you in each stream.  Fourth, we are not streamers so if you have any helpful tips and tricks based on experience not google searches, we’d love to hear them. And fifth and finally, if you have any other ideas of things you could do to get involved, we want to know. Maybe that’s stream ideas, or a stream you’d like to host, or music you’d like to compose or ….

If you’d like to get involved in any of these ways or more head over to the Community category in the Ubuntu Discourse, and introduce yourself and your ideas. Feedback welcome.

> Disclaimer for Canonical employee readers. UbuntuOnAir is a community project. There will be NO, zero, none at all, content from a commercial entity, Canonical or otherwise. If you want to take part appears it has to be as a contributor and community member.  

Photo by Gia Oris on Unsplash