Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Executing on an idea; a UDS story

UDS is now behind us, and the excitement of the work that lies before us for the next cycle is fresh on our minds and hearts. Last cycle I solicited and received some amazing ideas for improving how we as a community do QA inside of ubuntu. As UDS neared I encouraged many of those with ideas to participate in UDS by attending, signing up for work items, and advocating their ideas.
This is a key portion of being a part of the community -- you must be willing to act. If you are unwilling to act upon your own idea, why would anyone else? If you don't believe in it, no one else will. Own the problem you wish to solve and you will find others who share your passion along the way to help you achieve your goals. This is the heart of open source.
But how? How can I act? What if the problem is outside of my skillset? Because of the greater community and the nature of open source, you don't have to solve all of the problem by yourself. As you undertake work to execute your idea, you will find it attracts those who are of like-mind and similar persuasion to you. The best part is that they will have different skillsets to bring to the problem and can help you accomplish more than you could alone.
In a previous job, I was given the freedom to spend a percentage of my time on anything I chose; provided I could convince two of my workmates to help out. The idea behind the requirement was a litmus test for my idea. If the idea has merit, I should be able to convince my colleagues to work on it with me. Ubuntu is one of several open source projects to operate on this idea of 'meritocracy'. The basic premise is to have the best people making the most informed decisions possible about problems specific to there expertise. This is achieved by granting authority to make decisions to anyone who demonstrates there ability to do so by contributing to the project.
So, returning to UDS I would like to tell you a small story of just one example of executing on an idea. Let me introduce Paolo Sammicheli to you. Paolo is from the Italian Loco team, and has been active in driving growth in the localized iso community. He began his work by starting an "Italian Testing Team" several UDS's ago, and has been advocating greater testing and community participation for several cycles now. This past UDS, Paolo wanted to help kickstart a localized iso community beyond just his Italian loco iso. Before UDS, he had already produced a set of wiki pages documenting how to use the isotracker admin features with a bent towards running your own localized iso tracker. Additionally, the Italian loco team planned and tested during the 12.04 cycle to create a localized ubuntu 12.04 image for release. Finally, Paolo came to UDS and created a blueprint so he could share his idea with others. Have a look at it yourself:

Paolo was able to generate good ideas, and see other people attempt to replicate his work within their own locos. Plans were made to have two other loco teams produce localized isos this cycle, and ultimately use there findings as a model for future loco teams. Although the work is on-going this cycle, Paolo, I think, has been successful at bringing his idea to life.
How can you replicate Paolo's example? A couple key points I see in what happened.

  • Lay the groundwork
    • Start proving the idea out as best you can. Perhap's it's a demo or prototype -- maybe even just a specification or a storyboard. You need to convince yourself (and others!) your idea makes sense and can be done
  • Tell others
    • Let others know about your work. Blog about it, come to UDS, present it at a Ubuntu user days event, post it to the forums, talk to people on IRC about it, etc
  • Do it
    • This is key. You need to start executing your idea as best you can. People are not going to make your idea a reality without you! (and why would you want them to? It's your idea! Own it :-) )
  • Share your work
    • Invite others to work with you on your idea. It's helpful to have specific and easy ways to get involved, but don't limit people. You want to work openly in a way that anyone can participate at any level.
Go forth and own your ideas! I empower all of you to do so. Who knows, maybe your OS also won't "just be a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu".

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