Launchpad Strategy

We want to make Ubuntu the world’s best operating system. To do this, we need to give Canonical an edge in productivity over and above other Linux vendors and, just as importantly, help make the development of open source software faster, more efficient and more innovative than its proprietary rivals.

Launchpad does this by helping software developers share their work and plans, not just within a project but also between projects.

Introduction

This document tries to answer two big questions:

  1. why are we making Launchpad?
  2. who is Launchpad for?

This is not our strategy for the year or the scope of Launchpad development for the next six months. Rather, it is our answer to these fundamental questions.

When you are finished reading this document, you should know what problems we want to solve, what we hope to gain from solving these problems and how we know if Launchpad is doing well.

Audience

This document is for everyone who cares about improving Launchpad. Primarily, we’ve written it for Launchpad’s stakeholders within Canonical and for the developers of Launchpad, whether they are Canonical employees or not.

Why are we making Launchpad?

The world we live in

Open source software is bigger than you think. It is much more than simply writing the code. Code has to be packaged, integrated and delivered to users who can then give feedback and file bugs. Distributions made up of tens of thousands of different software packages need to be released to meet a deadline. Translations must be made into hundreds of different languages and accumulated from a variety of sources. Everywhere bugs need to be tracked, fixed and checked. Plans must be made and kept. Distributions have to be made to work on a wide variety of hardware platforms with varying degrees of openness.

Those who make open source software and wish to profit commercially also face unique challenges. Contributors are scattered across the world, making coordination, communication and alignment just that little bit more difficult. Many contributors are volunteers, and so decisions must often be made by consensus, deadlines enforced without the leverage of an employment contract and quality maintained without formal training. Users of open source software use a widely heterogeneous stack of software and hardware, thus increasing the burden of compatibility work. All of these things make open source software development more difficult, thus increasing the need for tools to aid collaboration.

The Ubuntu community, together with Canonical, are dedicated to making the very best open source operating system possible, one that far excels any proprietary operating system. To do this, we need to ensure that the process of making Ubuntu is as effective as possible. Moreover, we need to make the process of making open source software as effective as possible, and then make it easy, quick and desirable to get that software into Ubuntu.

Secondarily, Canonical’s main business is the provision of premium services built around Ubuntu. Many of these services are based on proprietary software, which Canonical must be able to make more quickly and at less cost than any rival.

The word “effective” covers a multitude of concepts. Here we mean doing the right work with the highest possible quality as quickly and with as little waste as possible.

Business goals

Launchpad exists to give Canonical a competitive advantage over other operating system vendors and service providers, both proprietary and open source.

To gain an advantage over open source operating system vendors, Canonical is relying on Launchpad to:

  • increase Canonical’s effectiveness in making software
  • grow and accelerate contributions to Ubuntu

To gain an advantage over proprietary operating system vendors, Canonical needs Launchpad to do both of the above and:

  • improve and accelerate open source software development in general beyond that of proprietary software so that the software in Ubuntu is better than the software in any rival proprietary operating system

The value flow of Launchpad can be summed up in this diagram:

Who is Launchpad for?

Launchpad is aimed at many different groups of users. They can be roughly described as follows:

Software developers
These are people who make or contribute to free and open source software. They are made up of both paid professionals and volunteers working in their spare time. They vary widely in expertise and patience. Any given software developer might be working on both open source software and proprietary software.
Expert users of software
The sort of people who file bugs, try new releases, run the bleeding edge snapshot, are interested in following development plans, who help other people on mailing lists. Note that software developers are frequently but not always expert users of software.
End users of software
People who download and install software and then use it. These people have little understanding about what software actually is or how it is made. They use it, sometimes without noticing, sometimes enjoying it, sometimes hating it.
Translators
A special class of software developer who is normally a native speaker of a language other than English. They contribute to open source software projects not by submitting code, but by translating strings to new languages.
Managers
These are managers in the broad sense of people who are responsible for the completion of a task and so need to know what many other people are doing towards that goal. This includes release managers, project leads and traditional corporate project managers. It does not necessarily mean people who are employed as managers.

User needs

The people who use Launchpad, in whatever role, share one broad goal: “make great software and get it to its users”. To do this, they need:

  • tools to facilitate collaboration on their proprietary and open source software projects
  • a place to host and publish their open source software projects
  • as little overhead as possible in maintaining these projects
  • more contributors to their projects
  • to be able to easily contribute to existing software projects

Some of our users have particular needs:

  • managers need to be able to quickly get an overview of activity and progress for their teams and their projects
  • expert users of software need to be able to give high quality feedback to the software developers

Further, we believe that providing tools for cross-project collaboration, we can benefit our users by:

  • giving them feedback from groups of their own users that they couldn’t reach before
  • reducing the time and effort required to publish software to actual end users
  • pointing them to knowledge and fixes from other projects in their network
  • helping OS-driven improvements reach them code faster, and their improvements reach the OS faster

Conflicts between business goals & user needs

Canonical is primarily interested in open source software that runs on Linux or lives within the Linux ecosystem. Thus, even though Launchpad could be an excellent, general platform for Windows, OS X, iOS and Android based software, our main area of focus is software that is aimed to run natively on Linux.

Canonical is much more interested in quality assurance and release management than many open source and even proprietary projects.