A lot of what we have built, in Canonical and Ubuntu, is infrastructure
to handle complex conversations between people with widely different
viewpoints, and to create collaboration between people with competing
interests. We rely a lot on the best things in human nature - a shared
desire to see the world improve, but we also create space for
differences of priority, approach, or interest, and make an effort to
defend against the worst things in human nature.
Open source communities often have intense, happy, fruitful periods of
collaboration between a small group of like-minded people, followed by
explosive detonations and fights as the group grows and natural
differences become more evident. Ubuntu has managed to grow enormously
as a community because we actively invest in ways to address our
differences. For example, some people say a community should use mailing
lists, others believe in web forums, we managed to create effective
leadership and collaboration across both. The real test of collaboration
is not between people who see the world the same way and want exactly
the same thing, it's whether you can create collaboration between
diverse and different groups that really matters.
One of the key potential areas of difference in the Ubuntu community is
about commerce, and the relationship between Canonical, Ubuntu and the
wider commercial and volunteer community that makes up this movement. We
very consciously created BOTH Canonical and Ubuntu, with separate
missions and mandates and organisational structures, to reflect the fact
that there are differences between the project and the company. That's
no accident - it was done deliberately, to make it easier to organise
around for-profit and not-for-profit goals. We didn't want to build
Ubuntu and THEN create a commercial organisation inside it, we wanted to
signal commercial intent and the intertwined nature of Ubuntu and
Canonical from the very beginning. So far, we have done well. The lines
aren't pristine, Canonical and the project overlap tremendously, largely
to the benefit of both. I often meet members of the community who don't
realise the depth of Canonical's investment in their success, but then I
often meet people who are appreciative of the way Canonical engages with
other participants in Ubuntu.
Nevertheless, there are bound to be some flashpoints, and this is
naturally one of them. I'm proud of the fact that we can have a public
conversation that draws on the full breadth of opinions, and I hope we
can draw some good conclusions, shape our plans and accelerate the
creation of the future of Ubuntu. My vested interest is in building a
good community that can achieve everything we want for both Canonical
When people start making wild accusations of aggressive behaviour or
disingenuity, and proposing extreme alternatives of "north pole or south
pole", then a conversation becomes unproductive. In the comment quote
below, I see symptoms of both problems, and ask that we simply not
accept this approach, it's not constructive.
> So canonical should, in the short term, rename the service, and in the
> long term, transfer effective control/ownership of the trademark to the
> community, by whatever legal means this requires (notice that this was
> what the trademark policy was originally for: use was subject to
> approval by the community council).
> Alternatively, Canonical should openly state that they have no intention
> of continuing to uphold the trademark policy, change its terms of
> licensing, assert their ownership of the project and stop making false
> promises. i.e, fuck the community.
So, the argument is "polar North, give over what I want, or polar South,
say you don't care about the community"? Wow, that's not very
innovative. The interesting options are always the more nuanced ones,
which find ways to bring together different interests. This A-or-B
approach runs the risk of polarising the debate down to options that are
ultimately not interesting or useful to anybody. I strongly suggest we
focus our energy on those more nuanced options that have got us this
far, and not follow fundamentalists down their rabbitholes.
> There's no middle ground in this,
Really? No middle ground? I don't believe that's true. Arguments based
on fundamentalist left or fundamentalist right turn productive
communities into bitter, unproductive wastelands. I'm sure that's not
the intent in this case, but left unchecked that's where it takes us.
I've no interest in going there.
The Ubuntu trademark has always had commercial value - only Canonical
can offer official Ubuntu support, for example, and the fact that the
Official Ubuntu Book is official is because Canonical says so (to the
benefit of the authors). Canonical has tried to be a pioneer in making a
valuable trademark available to the Ubuntu community under
community-friendly terms, hence the trademark policy that was developed
for that purpose (and which is being widely copied by other trademark
holders, I'm proud to say). It's important to be able to envision a
future which includes both successful commerce and free software, and
this is part of that mix.
Just as code can be dual-licensed by the copyright holder, making it
available to free software users while still preserving some commercial
flexibility, so a trademark can be licensed under multiple sets of
terms. The trademark policy that allows LoCo teams to build
Ubuntu-branded sites is one license, as it were, and Canonical's right
to brand the online services infrastructure it provides as "Ubuntu One"
If you can't imagine that they could co-exist, then please have the
generosity of spirit to allow those of us who CAN, the space in which to
explore it. Pushing for either a trademark which has no value because
anyone can use it for anything (in which point it loses its legal status
as a trademark) or a trademark which is exclusively used by a company,
is pushing to go back to about 1999.
> it is, as others have put much more
> eloquently than me, <a href=http://doctormo.wordpress.com/2009/05/15
> /ubuntu-canonical-in-trademarks-and-trade/>about who is who’s daddy.</a>
I'm the daddy.
And I have no problem imagining a rich future for Ubuntu and Canonical,
which includes a full range of perspectives and contributors, and brings
together people with really very different goals, in a productive
collaboration. That is what both were born to achieve. As someone said,
both are not adults, there is no simplistic "parent-child" relationship
between them, they have shared goals and diverse goals, shared
infrastructure and diverse infrastructure, and they have many
Those who say "the Ubuntu community should not allow Canonical a
privileged position" are perhaps unaware that the Ubuntu community is
privileged to have Canonical's backing in the first place. And
occasionally, someone new to Canonical says "those community guys
shouldn't think we work for them", at which point they get reminded
that, in some senses, we do. It's human nature to have blinkers on both
sides, but thus far we've generally managed to get both sides to rise
above it, and I'm sure we will do the same here.
I've just arrived in gorgeous Catalunya in preparation for UDS
Barcelona, where we will have ample opportunity to discuss this in
person. Many folks from Canonical, and many non-Canonical folks who care
just as much about Ubuntu, will be there (quite a few at Canonical's
expense). I expect we'll forge new understandings and a good roadmap
there. Canonical will NOT be giving up its title to the Ubuntu
trademark, as suggested, but nor will it flounce out of the room and say
"screw the community". Of that you can be sure ;-). The road ahead lies
in finding strengths and shared opportunities on both sides.
Maybe someone will say "this is it, I quit, I don't want to work on
Ubuntu together with Canonical, I don't want a world which is more
diverse than my specific values". If they do, that's their prerogative.
Remember, the Ubuntu project has always been defined by that
collaboration - company and community - it's nothing new, and it gets
stronger when we remind ourselves of that and when people with wildly
different expectations leave. There's no sense in calling people names
over this - it's perfectly acceptable for people to want different
things. I'm just interested in working well with those who are actually
interested in exploring how open source, and commercial success, can go
hand in hand. And Ubuntu One is part and parcel of that exploration.