Q&A: Jono Bacon on joining GitHub

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When you look at Ubuntu there are two overall scopes of community. On one hand you have the many, many individual teams. This includes the developer teams, docs writers, translators, QA team, LoCo teams, and more. These teams are commonly fairly small and often have their own specific team culture which is naturally anchored around the type of work they do. On the other hand you have the wider Ubuntu community that incorporates everyone; these teams I just mentioned, but also users, app developers, ISVs, teachers, and others.

The kind of community leadership required for these two overall scopes is quite different. For the former, the individual teams, it is all about helping them to be successful, optimize how they work, work well with other teams, resolve personality conflicts, and get a good sense of overall strategy moving forward. For the latter it is more about inspiring and driving the culture, setting a good example, and inspiring the overall impact you want to have. These two scopes are common in lots of places - government, companies, charities, and elsewhere.

Where GitHub is different is that while there is an overall GitHub user community, the individual projects and repos in GitHub are really quite independent projects. Unlike Ubuntu where the individual teams served a generally common Ubuntu mission, the projects and repos in GitHub serve a multitude of missions and goals, many of which are competing or incompatible with each other.

My current thinking is that my work should start by helping to equip those projects as best I can to build strong and engaging communities. The majority of people in the world find community leadership a bit of a mystery and I would like to help bridge the gap to help everyone build awesome communities. I think a big chunk of my initial work is going to be really just listening and getting a good sense of what the GitHub experience has been for so many folks, and use this as a means to plan future work.

Of course, there is also a lot of opportunity around the wider GitHub userbase, but I want to get a better sense of things before I even start considering plans around that. The reason is simple: platforms like GitHub often have to strike a delicate balance between being an independent tool for general use and otherwise influencing opinion and policy. This needs to be handled carefully so I want to listen and learn extensively first.

Are you still involved with the Ubuntu project?

I am, but where time permits. My schedule is rather hectic these days but I try to devote as much time to Ubuntu as I can.

I am regularly in touch with David Planella who was my replacement when I left Canonical. David and I regularly discuss community strategy, requirements, and next steps. I also keep in touch with Rick Spencer (VP Ubuntu Engineering) and Mark Shuttleworth. I have also been involved in the Ubuntu Summit coming up in LA next year and I regularly try to raise awareness about the great work going on in Ubuntu.

So, while nowhere near as much time as I used to spend, I try to help where I can.

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