Should Upstream Contributions Count?

The Ubuntu Community Council will be deciding in a week or so whether upstream or external contributions count for Ubuntu membership & commit privileges. I always thought that all contributions that were for the good of Ubuntu counted. I believe part of my thinking comes from Mark Shuttleworth’s quote in 2005:

Every Debian developer is also an Ubuntu developer, because one way to contribute to Ubuntu is to contribute to Debian….Without Debian, Ubuntu would not be possible.

But it looks like I hold the minority viewpoint.

I believe contributors should not be penalized for working upstream. For instance, I could write Ubuntu desktop documentation or I could write the documentation for Gnome, knowing that my work would be shipped with Ubuntu & other distributions. I could fix KDE bugs by patching Kubuntu or I could fix them at the source (Kubuntu in particular does try to fix as much as possible at the source). Gwibber is shipped by default in Ubuntu but not as far as I know in any other non-Ubuntu derivative distribution. Should Gwibber developers be held back because they did not make their software Ubuntu-only?

Upstream contributions should carry significant weight. It is definitely not Ubuntu’s philosophy to discourage improving upstream.

An upstream developer who has no involvement with the Ubuntu community should not gain Ubuntu status, but an individual who does have strong Ubuntu social connections but contributes upstream should get appropriate status. More specifically, Ubuntu membership should be granted, and PPU (per-package upload rights) can be granted if the individual has decent Debian packaging skills. Core & MOTU upload privileges must only be given to those with strong, proven packaging skills…which obviously includes many Debian Developers.

Therefore, my opinion is that significant upstream contributions should count as significant contributions to Ubuntu if they are indeed significant to Ubuntu. However, it is important that the prospective member also be a part of the Ubuntu community and hold to Ubuntu values.

Posted in Ubuntu
9 comments on “Should Upstream Contributions Count?
  1. Jonathan Carter says:

    I’ve been following all the threads on the topic very closely. At no point did anyone suggest that upstream contributions should count against anyone.

    The current issues are a bit different than what you’ve layed out, I guess I’ll have to blog about it too now 🙂

    • Jeremy Bicha says:

      I apologize if I spoke before fully understanding what’s going on; I’m just trying to do my part to ensure that the balance doesn’t tip too far against outsiders. I look forward to your input.

  2. neuromancer says:

    I agree. Upstream contributions must count somehow.

  3. Matthew East says:

    Just in case it is misinterpreted, my view to the contrary ( is not about discouraging upstream contributions or devaluing them in terms of what they mean for Ubuntu. Direct upstream contributions are hugely important. For example, many upstream developers who have never touched Ubuntu have done more, indirectly, for Ubuntu than any of the Ubuntu members. But this is about defining what we mean by an *Ubuntu* member.

    • Jeremy Bicha says:

      And in case, I’m misinterpreted, I am not personally opposed to you or anyone else with a different opinion on this issue. 🙂 I agree that the intent is not to devalue upstream contributions so maybe I need to revise my post but sometimes things affect a larger scope than the origina lintent.

  4. Dustin Kirkland says:

    +1, agreed, Jeremy.


  5. Luke Faraone says:

    I’m not sure that you can compare Debian contributions to contributions to upstream projects.

    Nobody is being “held back”, “penalized” implies that their application is less because they contributed to other FOSS projects. Other FOSS contributions certainly help an applicant, but I think that you still need to have significant and sustained contributions to *Ubuntu itself*.

    • Jeremy Bicha says:

      Yes, I have a different opinion than many or at least I think I do. In the current discussion, I don’t believe there’s been talk of an exception for Debian contributions so that’s why I included it in this post.

      Someone with limited time contributing to upstream instead of contributing in Ubuntu may not succeed in getting membership because of that. It’s not active discrimination but it’s possible that the far-reaching results may end up with a similar result.

      I understand that the line is not black and white. I think the majority opinion is if people are working upstream by reporting and closing bugs from Launchpad, then that’s cool. And just giving every Debian or Gnome developer Ubuntu membership is a bad idea…there is a large percentage that don’t want to be associated with Ubuntu and would see it as Ubuntu forcing itself on everyone.

      The three ingredients are significant, sustained, and Ubuntu involvement.
      Some level of Ubuntu participation is important, but must the Ubuntu involvement be significant and what does significant Ubuntu involvement mean? I’m glad that in the current discussion I learned that sustained means “about 6 months active.” Perhaps the Ubuntu involvement required is less than I think and I actually agree with the majority after all.

  6. […] Should Upstream Contributions Count? The Ubuntu Community Council will be deciding in a week or so whether upstream or external contributions count for Ubuntu membership & commit privileges. I always thought that all contributions that were for the good of Ubuntu counted. […]

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Jeremy Bicha

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