August 14, 2007

Ubuntu tries to go LoCo in all 50 states

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

The Ubuntu community is seeking to get approved Local Community (LoCo) teams in all 50 states in the US by the end of this year, and it's making impressive progress.

A LoCo team is a local group of Ubuntu users who help promote the operating system in their local community. Activities might include educating users, translating Ubuntu into the local language, or just raising Ubuntu's visibility. Ubuntu LoCo teams are spread out all over the world, but Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon noticed last year that the US just didn't have much going on in the way of LoCo teams.

Christer Edwards, founder of the Utah LoCo team and one of the founders of the US Teams project, says, "As one of the few US Teams leaders, I felt a bit of a responsibility to share what I had done with the rest of the country. Myself, Aaron Toponce (also of the Utah Team), and Stephen Stalcup (of the Ohio Team) started the US Teams project. Our goal was to create a team-building framework, improve communication between teams, and build a small group of mentors to help users build their teams with one-on-one guidance."

Edwards says that they're making good progress, with five teams approved by Ubuntu's community council and 39 teams pending approval. At the beginning of 2007, three US teams were approved, and none were pending approval. The states without approved or pending teams are Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Long-time Linux users may be wondering why there's a need for Ubuntu LoCo teams when so many Linux user groups already exist, and whether the LoCo teams are competing with LUGs. Edwards says that the LoCo teams exist to "advocate, educate, and support the use of Ubuntu" specifically, and that they try hard not to compete with existing LUGs. In fact, Edwards says a LoCo team can assist LUGs.

"By offering Ubuntu-specific education and resources to existing regional and university-based LUGs, we can help them improve their attendance and user experience. One advantage of approved Ubuntu LoCo Teams, for example, is larger shipment of CDs upon each new release of Ubuntu. In Utah, for example, upon receiving a shipment of 500 CDs for Ubuntu 7.04, the first people I contact are the existing LUG leaders, and distribute the supply based on their needs."

Getting approved

So what does it take to get a team approved? The LoCo Team HOWTO lists some of the technical resources required or useful in running a LoCo team, including an IRC channel, mailing list, forums, and (of course) a Web site for the team.

Edwards says that to become "official" a team needs to "organize support resources, advocate, and work on growing the presence of Ubuntu in their state. The team needs to be able to duplicate positive results on a regular basis and create a positive community presence."

The biggest hurdle, says Edwards, is organization. "Ubuntu has a great community, and users are very responsive to the idea of contributing to the project, but they don't know where or how to do that in many cases. The US Teams project is working to create a framework wherein localized community contribution is as simple as possible."

After establishing a track record, a team can go to the Ubuntu Community Council, and if the council decides the team has been doing good work, then it can be approved.

One might wonder why the Ubuntu folks are trying to organize on the state level, rather than create more localized groups. LUGs have traditionally been organized around cities, because it's difficult to organize and socialize with people from all across a state. Edwards says that has been a concern, particularly in larger states.

"Texas and California have been two of the biggest concerns so far, but we have been working toward a good solution for everyone. Canonical and Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon have requested that we designate and organize teams on the state level. While this can appear to cause regional struggles, we encourage users to work with those closest to them and organize smaller team 'chapters' within the state whole. There are some very successful chapters in cities like Houston, Dallas, and Chicago that are now coming under the umbrella of the state-based organization, but we encourage them to continue spreading Ubuntu in their local cities. In time I'm sure more city-based chapters will arise, and we welcome them, as long as they continue to work to the overall health of the state-based team and Ubuntu project as a whole."

If there's no LoCo team in your state, or your region if you live outside the US, the LoCo Team HOWTO provides a guide to getting started, and the Ubuntu wiki also sports a FAQ. The US Teams project has an IRC meeting scheduled for Saturday, August 25, at 16:00 UTC in #ubuntu-us on the Freenode IRC network.

The effort has made huge progress so far, Edwards says. "I know we can reach our goal. Ubuntu has a fantastic community. I absolutely love working with them and plan on doing so for a long time to come. Anyone interested in joining the project is encouraged to email me directly and I can point them in the right direction."


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