In association with heise online

08 July 2011, 15:18


Running an Ubuntu/Debian unconference

UCubed, the Ubuntu & Upstream Unconference, is a compact unconference that brings together Ubuntu and Debian users in one place to exchange notes, talk about what they are passionate about and share knowledge and experience. This year's UCubed happened a few months ago at the Madlab in Manchester, and The H decided to look up organiser, Les Pounder, to see how it went and what's next.

The H: What's the idea, from your point of view, behind UCubed and when did you get it?

Les Pounder: The idea was to bring together different communities, initially we focused on the Ubuntu and Debian communities, and when I say Debian, I also include the derivatives. Ubuntu is doing a lot of good work to increase the userbase of Linux, but doesn't contribute as much as it should upstream to Debian. Whereas Debian, and its derivatives, are constantly improving and pushing their changes upstream, for example the changes made in Linux Mint, and the constant improvements made to Crunchbang Linux. By bringing together the users and developers in one room, we were able to forge new working relationships, and educate users on how they can contribute to their chosen distro.

For future events, I'd love to involve other communities, such as Android, Meego users and developers

The H: So what goes on at a UCubed event?

LP: Typically, there is a core to the event, this is based on the Ubuntu Global Jam, so there will be people who are testing bugs, installing and upgrading to the latest version of Ubuntu. There are also talks and workshops going on to inform and entertain the attendees.

Those talks are typically generated by the attendees on the day, we supply the resources that they need to deliver the talk. Workshops are also catered for by offering attendees a dedicated space to host a workshop on any subject. We offer workspaces, power and wifi, all they need to bring are their ideas.

This year's event had workshops on Vi, video editing, and Blackpool LUG ran a Debian Demo Area, they brought lots of kit, and showed how much of a versatile operating system Debian-based distros are.

The H: Ubuntu and Debian are often portrayed as in conflict... Is UCubed an attempt to bridge that gap?

LP: Very much so, Ubuntu has been critiscised over the years for their apparent lack of contributions to the upstream Debian community. We hope that UCubed can foster new working relationships between Ubuntu and Debian users and developers. Debian has such a diverse base of derivative distributions, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Crunchbang, and every one of those distributions has something different to offer the end user. Imagine if they all shared their best achievements with each other? Or if one asked the others for help in resolving an issue that they had? They could radically improve the image of Linux, and work together to increase Linux's userbase.

The H: What goes into organising UCubed resources-wise?

LP: This time there was a lot going on behind the scenes. We had our first planning meeting in October 2010, and we created a plan early on. We looked at what we wanted to achieve, then analysed how we could achieve it. Luckily the team are exceptional, and we managed to keep our event on time, and ensure that we could deliver what we promised.

Our key activities were, creating a web site to promote the event through, linking with popular podcasts and groups to find new ways to promote the event via different channels, working with the venue to ensure that all of our requirements could be met.

Our toolset to achieve our event was quite diverse, we held meetings via IRC, recorded any actions via etherpad, and used the Habari CMS framework to quickly build our web site. Our entire event was planned, created and run using free software, that was one of our fundamental best practices.

The H: Is it a model that could/should be replicated elsewhere?

LP: Indeed it can, our model was created with reuse in mind. By looking at our requirements at a high level, we were able to create a modular, re-usable approach to event organisation. In fact one of my outstanding actions is to create a working document, so that other events can use our model as a framework for their event. Once I have this document fit for purpose, I will release it under the creative commons, and post a link on the UCubed web site.

The H: When is the next UCubed event going to be?

LP: The next UCubed event will be in April 2012, but do keep an eye on for related news and events in the area.

You can read more about UCubed's 2011 event in their own report and browse the event's Flickr pool.

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