Thursday, October 8, 2009

Conferences and Sprints

While the vast majority of the work of the Ubuntu community takes place online, Ubuntu developers do, from time to time, meet face to face. Since Ubuntu has released, there have been three public conferences organized and funded by Canonical Ltd.:

• The MatarĂ³ Sessions in MatarĂ³, Catalonia, Spain, in December 2004
• Ubuntu Down Under in Sydney, Australia, in April 2005
• Ubuntu Below Zero in Montreal, Canada, in November 2005

With Canonical Ltd., Ubuntu tries to organize these conferences so that they occur once per release, usually toward the very beginning of a release cycle, so that the specifications and goals for the forthcoming release can be discussed, thrashed out, and decided upon. A glance at the previous conferences shows how these conferences move around the globe geographically so that, over a several-year period, a large percentage of the Ubuntu community will be able to attend at least one conference and meet with other developers.

While the format changes slightly each time, these conferences have been between one and two weeks in length. Frequently, a given attendee stays for only one week. At Ubuntu Below Zero, the second week was devoted almost entirely to discussing, implementing, and developing infrastructure related to Launchpaddiscussed. The format of these conferences has changed as the attendees have experimented with different methods for structuring the events and maximizing efficiency of these short periods. One common theme, though, is a process of writing specifications.

At conferences, attendees describe features that they would like to see out in the next Ubuntu release. At an arranged time or in a series of meetings, a small set of interested users and developers work to draft a written specification. This process of drafting involves brainstorming and ends up with a formal, approved "spec" that describes a problem or need and provides a detailed description of how it will be fixed or implemented. While these specifications are often technical in nature, they are also used to describe goals that may pertain to localization, documentation, or community building. For example, both The Fridge and the planning of each conference began as a specification. With time, these specifications are categorized in terms of their priority for the upcoming release. Later, individuals will claim or be assigned some set of these specs. Paid developers at Canonical Ltd. frequently take responsibility for the highest priority technical specs. Each specification is written up and improved on the wiki so that Ubuntu hackers who cannot attend the conference are still able to participate.

These conferences have, so far, occurred in hotels with conference centers and have been attended by up to several hundred people. The conferences have been wholly organized and funded by Canonical Ltd., which ensures that its employees attend and also distributes funds for other active volunteers to travel. This funding tends to be divided up based on the contributions of volunteers over the last release cycle and their geographic proximity to the conference location. This is done to minimize travel expenditure and to ensure that users around the world get a chance to attend a conference when it comes near them.

In addition to the biannual conferences, Canonical Ltd. organizes a number of "sprints" each year. These sprints tend to be one- to three-week long intense collocated work sessions that involve a team or subteam tasked with a well-defined goal. They provide a time where team members can write code, write documentation, make plans, or do whatever else is necessary to fulfill that goal. The sprints attempt to squeeze large amounts of work into a short period of time and have earned a reputation for being exhausting, fulfilling, amazingly productive, fun experiences. These sprints are work sessions and are often limited to a small group of Canonical Ltd. employees. In many situations, they also include volunteer attendees as well.

While conferences act as a site for major technical advances in brainstorming and development, they are also fun and enjoyable experiences. They provide a venue for users to put faces to names, IRC "nicks," and e-mail addresses, and they provide for enjoyable, humorous, and productive interaction. In addition to work, there are frequent card-playing, eating, drinking, and athletic activities. Many Ubuntu users from the local area who've attended because they were curious have gone on to become some of the community's most important contributors. Attending a conference is like taking a drink from an Ubuntu fire hose. It is frequently overwhelming but can ultimately be a useful, productive, and rewarding experience as well.

Source of Information : The Official Ubuntu Book

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