We'll see | Matt Zimmerman

a potpourri of mirth and madness

Back to the future

In my professional role as Ubuntu CTO, I take on a number of different perspectives, which sometimes compete for my attention, including:

  • Inward – supporting the people in my department, alignment with other departments in Canonical and reporting upward
  • Outward – connecting with customers, partners and the free software community, including Debian
  • Forward – considering the future of the Ubuntu platform and products, based on the needs of their users, our customers and business stakeholders within Canonical
  • Outside-in – taking off my Canonical hat and putting on an Ubuntu hat, and looking at what we’re doing from an outside perspective

My recent work, as Canonical has gone through a period of organizational growth and change, has prioritized the inward perspective. I took on a six-month project which was inwardly focused, temporarily handing off many of my day-to-day responsibilities (well done, Robbie!). I’ve grappled with an assortment of growing pains as many new people joined Canonical over the past year.

With that work behind me, it’s time to rebalance myself and focus more outside of Canonical again. It’s good to be back!

In my outward facing capacity, I’ll shortly be attending Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. I attend several free software conferences each year, but this is a different crowd. I hope to renew some old ties, form some new ones, and generally derive inspiration from the people and organizations represented there. Being in the San Francisco Bay area will also give me an opportunity to meet with some of Canonical’s partners there, as well as friends and acquaintances from the free software community. With my head down, working hard to make things happen, it’s easy to lose perspective on how that work fits into the outside world. Spending more time with people outside of Canonical and Ubuntu is an important way of balancing that effect.

Looking forward, I’ll be thinking about the longer term direction for the Ubuntu platform. The platform is the layer of Ubuntu which makes everything else possible: it’s how we weave together products like Desktop Edition and Server Edition, and it’s what developers target when they write applications. Behind the user interfaces and applications, there is a rich platform of tools and services which link it all together. It’s in this aspect of Ubuntu that I’ll be investing my time in research, experimentation and imagination. This includes considering how we package and distribute software, how we adapt to technological shifts, and highlighting opportunities to cooperate with other open source projects.

My primary outside-in role is as chair of the Ubuntu Technical Board. In this capacity, I’m accountable to the Ubuntu project, the interests of its members, and the people who use the software we provide. Originally, the TB was closely involved with a range of front-line technical decisions in Ubuntu, but today, there are strong, autonomous teams in place for the most active parts of the project, so we only get involved when there is a problem, or if a technical question comes up which doesn’t “fit” the charter of an established team. It’s something of a catch-all. I’d like to re-establish the TB in a more central role in Ubuntu, looking after concerns which affect the project as a whole, such as transparency and development processes. I’m also re-joining Debian as a non-uploading contributor, to work on stimulating and coordinating cooperation between Debian and Ubuntu. I’m looking forward to working more with Zack on joint projects in this area.

This change will help me to support Canonical and Ubuntu more effectively as they continue to grow and change. I look forward to exercising some mental muscles I haven’t used very much lately, and facing some new challenges as well.

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Written by Matt Zimmerman

November 11, 2010 at 15:42

5 Responses

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  1. Counterpoint:
    As a FOSS developer, I don’t target the Ubuntu platform. I rather target the subset of the entire Debian/main archive, which suits me and I know it to be stable. In Ubuntu it is mainly found in the universe component.

    Likewise, you argue that you want to see TB in “a more central” role. This seems to cover issues, that might also be in conflict with the Community Council’s region of interest. Governing development processes was also dealt with by MOTU as large (by vote of majority in meetings, later with the trial to do it on ML, which however was never formally approved and imho didn’t succeed). Likewise MC had the role to oversee these development, so I think both the processes and the development of processes that used to be in place for the universe component were founded quite well. Why did these die out, and what would you have liked these to die out? More importantly, with the role of TB that you envision, what would you have done wrt. these imho well working community?

    former Ubuntu developer

    November 11, 2010 at 23:02

    • With regard to your first paragraph, that’s OK, and you can continue to do that. We’re going to try to make things easier and more fun not just for you, but for all kinds of developers, including those who aren’t already intimately familiar with the dizzying array of components you and I know and love.

      With regard to your second paragraph, I can hardly understand what you are trying to say. Maybe this is something you would like to take up in private email or on the technical-board@ mailing list?

      Matt Zimmerman

      November 11, 2010 at 23:13

      • Thanks for the quick answer. It answers more questions than I’ve actually asked for :).

        former Ubuntu developer

        November 12, 2010 at 00:16

  2. [...] it’s been a crazy ride this year for me at Canonical.  I started out covering for Matt Zimmerman while he took on an internal project, which was an eye-opening adventure, where I learned to [...]

  3. [...] it’s been a crazy ride this year for me at Canonical.  I started out covering for Matt Zimmerman while he took on an internal project, which was an eye-opening adventure, where I learned to [...]


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