Thursday, 10 September 2015

Contributing to UWN and becoming an Ubuntu Member

Finding a project in which to contribute

After spending around three years running the development release of various Ubuntu flavours, reporting bugs, testing ISOs and answering posts on the Ubuntu Forums, I became aware of Amber Graner's Ubuntu on Air session entitled "Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter: How to Contribute" in which she talked her viewers through contributing to the weekly cycle.

At first, I just wrote a few summaries to the agreed style guidelines each weekend but soon found that I could be of more help by also finding links to stories during the week and proof reading the final draft prior to release.  From May 2013 to June 2014 I contributed to 56 consecutive issues when I decided that for personal reasons I needed a break.

However, it became obvious that the number of contributors had reached an all time low and it was looking to stay that way. I could see that the quality of the newsletter had begun to suffer from a lack of content, and a few spelling and grammar errors had found their way into the published newsletter. Although I was busy reporting bugs and testing ISOs on a daily basis I felt that contributing to the newsletter was where I should be and I resumed my participation in October 2014 and haven't missed an issue since, passing the 100 issues mark in August 2015.

So I'm back doing what I consider to be one of the easiest ways, for someone who doesn't understand some of the more technical aspects of Ubuntu, to contribute to the Ubuntu project.

The weekly jobs can be summarised as follows:
  1. Collecting links to news stories and blog posts
  2. Writing article summaries
  3. Compiling and adding statistics
  4. Proof reading the final draft
  5. Publishing the newsletter
Jobs 1, 2 and 4 are open to everyone but writing article summaries is probably the best place to start as it gives you a feel of what is included in the newsletter each week and how it needs to be written.

Ubuntu Membership

Last December I became aware of a number of comments on IRC about the lack of applications for Ubuntu membership. I thought "Have I done enough to lead to a successful application?" I asked around and was told that I had and that I should apply as my UWN contributions alone should be enough to secure membership. I updated my Wiki and Launchpad pages, prepared a script for use on IRC and waited patiently for 2200 GMT on 8th January 2015, the time of my appointment with the Membership Board. I was amazed at how easy the process was once the meeting started. I copied and pasted my application line by line into the IRC channel, waited patiently and then received six votes all approving my application!

I never really got to thank everyone properly as I was a little nervous and I was still suffering from a bad head cold that started on New Year's Eve. So a very big thank you to the following people (in alphabetical order of their IRC nicks) :-

News Team: akgraner, jose, pleia2
Membership Board: belkinsa, chilicuil, cwayne, cyphermox, hggdh, iulian

UWN Today

Since my return to the newsletter the team has remained a very small one despite interest shown by many enthusiastic volunteers. Many that have contributed recently have drifted away after a few weeks for reasons that they haven't made known to the rest of the team. Even those who are not native English speakers or doubt their abilities are most welcome as they can still help write summaries or find links to news stories. At least two of the team will review the final draft each week so that anything that is not quite right can be corrected before the newsletter is published.

There's plenty of help on our Wiki pages and we can also be contacted on our IRC channel #ubuntu-news on the Freenode network. There's a lot of truth in the saying "Many hands make light work". I'm not going to be contributing forever so I'd really like to see a few more regulars helping Elizabeth and José each week. Please consider joining us.


At the end of my very first week when I wrote just three or four summaries I was very pleased to receive a copy of an email from Mark Shuttleworth, thanking the team for the newsletter. Thanks Mark!