Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Unexpected Success of Ubuntu Brainstorm

Once upon a time, there was a busy, vibrant community...with some communication issues. Yes, I'm talking about the Ubuntu community. Back in 2007.

So Ubuntu created a website to foster community discussion about ideas to improve Ubuntu.

Conventional Wisdom from the old-timers who remember those heady days is that it didn't work out. The site was quickly overwhelmed with bugs (not ideas), complaints (not ideas), and unrealistic expectations. It didn't work.

And Conventional Wisdom had those facts right...but reached entirely the wrong conclusion! Brainstorm has been successful in ways that were unexpected at the time.

1) Brainstorm is indeed lousy at directly turning submissions into code.

Well, we knew this already, didn't we? There is no roomful of monkeys poised over their keyboards eagerly awaiting the next idea to begin cranking out Shakesperian code. There never was. There never will be. Implementation was never really expected to be a metric of action was supposed to be the metric.

2) Brainstorm is a great early-warning system for controversy.

What? You can avoid getting blindsided? Brainstorm is awesome at reflecting the community's (lack of) consensus on a wide range of issues. For example, when 'close window' window button changed sides, the ideas on the topic were plentiful. Similarly, today most ideas are about Unity. Brainstorm is also a pretty good barometer of whether an issue is temporary or chronic, and our moderators are excellent at separating valid issues from mere whining (so you don't have to).

3) Brainstorm is a great place to recruit enthusiastic new members.

The website is a portal-of-entry for users who are just starting to get involved, but don't understand the community's structure yet, or how the various teams and projects interact.

4) Brainstorm keeps project community input manageable.

If you are involved with a project, you know how challenging it is to manage certain types of community feedback. Brainstorm has reviewers and moderators who do nothing but handle those tough cases. Better yet, it's set up to let the community itself moderate feedback for you. And it's set up so that you only answer an issue once...ever.

5) Brainstorm finds your blind spots.

Maybe it's documentation, maybe it's a workflow, maybe it's a use case, maybe it's a legacy, maybe it's something else. The trend of feedback across years helps you improve user experience.

So, in the spirit of Ubuntu Community Appreciation day,

- Thanks to nand for writing and maintaining Ideatorrent.

- Thanks to the best moderators and reviewers in the world: Vahan Harutyunyan, DarwinSurvivor, Komputes, DrG, alourie, andruk, and Thonixx

Your valiant efforts to raise the quality of discussions and ideas, and to uphold the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, challenge me to strive. I'm very proud to work with people of such high caliber.

No comments: