Launchpad Entry: https://launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+spec/foo
Created: 2005-12-30 by Method
This is a working draft.
This is a proposal to create a registry of Ubuntu users who are willing to volunteer to help FOSS projects. Part of the Dapper installation process would be an entirely optional registration process, that would request the same information as Launchpad (email address) plus optional information: location, computer and natural language and other skills, physical resources, and any other assets. The registry would be integrated with Launchpad, and authorized project leaders would have the ability to query the database for a list of suitable volunteers. They could then send out a mass email soliciting help with a project.
The idea is that if there are truly 60,000 Ubuntu users, and only one fourth of those users opt to register, and of those 15,000 potential volunteers only 100 are suitable for a given project's needs, then 10 might be expected to respond favorably.
The main advantage of this system is that it would create an active mechanism for attracting/recruiting volunteers. It would play matchmaker between projects and volunteers and hopefully spur a more efficient distribution of talent and energy. A direct benefit to Ubuntu would be that it would establish a resource ("a CostCo [US wholesale vendor] for volunteer labor") that would encourage upstream projects to work closely with Ubuntu.
- Project A needs to tie into a system script written in Perl. None of the active project members know Perl. A project leader logs into the Launchpad interface and queries the database for volunteers who know both Perl and the technical details of the project.
- Project B needs a picture of a cartoon dog. A project leader queries the system for artists, and sees that one of the volunteer artists claims a specialty in cartoon animals.
It may be a good idea to implement the system as a third-party project that ties into Ubuntu or any other distro. While the proposal calls for some software to be written, it primarily depends on a community decision because of the implications of registration.
The system for returning a list of volunteers from a query could be as sophisticated as needed. Users could be marked as "taken" if they've formally accepted a request for help, or the system could work like jury duty, where once a user has received a request, he will not receive another request for several months. Users could even indicate dates and times when they will not be available. Privacy issues would be dealt with by strong good-faith assurances from the system administrator and by black-box information-retrieval mechanics.
See Scope and Code
Launchpad is a Zope 2/Five technology
A dialog in the installation scripts and a mechanism to send the information.
Data preservation and migration
The entries would presumably be consistent with and extend the Launchpad/Wiki accounts.
A major consideration is how this would change the culture of the Ubuntu user community, Ubuntu and FOSS development. The case could be made that such a system would create a positive sense of ownership of community on the part of users, especially if the system were used to request a variety of help, beyond the technical. Someone on the marketing team, for example, might ask users from a given location to help set up and man an exhibition. People with experience in education might be matched with organizations that request presentations.
Once a user has helped with such a task, she is likely to feel a greater connection to the given project, to Ubuntu, and to FOSS. Volunteers called up through the system (RoleCall?) might have a tendency to continue with the project after the specified task has been completed.
It may be, however, that a sense of additional regimentation or semipolitical mobilization would turn off some users, that they would feel pressure to drink some kind of kool-aid that they would prefer not to drink. Some people might simply object to the concept of a registry. The insertion of a registration step in the Ubuntu installer might lead some users to think, incorrectly, that it would be possible for a central authority to track their computers.
Other ways to spin/expand this idea:
- A Friendster for Ubuntu
- A Craigslist for Ubuntu