Ubuntu - Governance

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URL = http://www.ubuntu.com/community/processes/governance


Source: Book: Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance Forum. Jeremy Malcolm. Terminus, 2008, from a draft of chapter 4

Jeremy Malcom:

"Mark Shuttleworth founded the distribution in 2004, and termed himself its SABDFL (self-appointed Benevolent Dictator for life). He exercises a casting vote on both of its main decision-making bodies: the Technical Board and the Ubuntu Community Council.

The Technical Board is a committee which makes decisions on technical issues relating to the distribution, such as which software it should include and how this should be packaged and installed. It acts by consensus, but only amongst its own members, and is not required to reflect the views of the Ubuntu community at large. Its members, currently four, are appointed by Shuttleworth subject to confirmation by a vote of all developers, and they serve a one year term.

The Community Council is responsible for overseeing the social structure of the Ubuntu community, including the creation of Teams and Projects with responsibility for particular tasks such as documentation and release management, and the appointment of new team leaders, developers and members. It also maintains a Code of Conduct to which all members of the Ubuntu community are required to adhere, and arbitrates disputes arising under it. The Community Council, also currently of four members, is appointed by Shuttleworth subject to confirmation by a vote of all developers and members, and sits for a two year term.

The developers or maintainers of Ubuntu are equivalent to those of Debian and nominated by a similar process, save that they are divided into two tiers: Masters of the Universe or MOTU, who have authority to maintain packages only in the unsupported “universe” and “multiverse” classes available for installation on an Ubuntu system, and Core Developers who are uniquely authorised to maintain packages in the fully supported “main” class which are installed by default by the Ubuntu distribution.

In addition, Ubuntu recognises as “members” those who have provided a significant contribution to the Ubuntu community, perhaps by providing support, writing documentation or reporting bugs, but who do not require the power to directly maintain packages. Members, like developers, are required to agree to the Code of Conduct and have the right to vote to confirm new appointments to the Ubuntu Community Council.

A survey of desktop users of Linux distributions conducted in 2005 by Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) revealed that in little over a year since its establishment in 2004, the Ubuntu distribution was already in use by more than 50 per cent of respondents. A prominent former Debian Developer who resigned in 2006 compared the Debian and Ubuntu distributions by saying,

- There’s a balance to be struck between organisational freedom and organisational effectiveness. I’m not convinced that Debian has that balance right as far as forming a working community goes. In that respect, Ubuntu’s an experiment—does a more rigid structure and a greater willingness to enforce certain social standards result in a more workable community?"