Starting an Ubuntu LoCo team.

Guest post by a good friend and fellow African Helge Reikeras of the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. He’s a specialist in Research and development in new media technologies.
During the 2009 Ubuntu Open Week held 2-6 November, Jono Bacon discussed how to start and get people involved in your own Ubuntu Loco team. I will only be making some additional comments, with some reflections from my personal experience, and hopefully encourage you to join your LoCo or start your own if one does not already exist in your area.

About Ubuntu LoCos
The term LoCo simply stands for Local Community. There are different types of LoCos. The officially recognized LoCo teams normally exist on a national level, or for certain larger countries such as the U.S on a state level. However, that does not mean that you cannot start a team for your city, town, university, corporation etc. Such teams are likely to work closely with the national LoCo teams, as there are certain to be common interests. Smaller and more local LoCos will allow certain types of interaction that will generally not be possible on a national scale:
  • Members can meet face-to-face in the real world. Although we all love the online community, we all need to socialize in the “real world” at times as well.
  • The team can advertise FOSS and Ubuntu locally by arranging e.g. Software Freedom Day, an install fest or a release party. These events can take place on campus, in the town hall, or even out on the streets.
  • In a campus or corporate environment the team can provide local support, e.g. resolve Ubuntu and FOSS issues related to the local network, local software etc.
Starting your own LoCo
Here are a couple of pointers to help you start a LoCo team in your community:

Social Media

Social media is here, it is free, and everybody is using it. Social media costs nothing and is a great way to get your message out there. Make use of social media to spread the word:
  • Create a Facebook group for your LoCo.
  • Create a Twitter list following your LoCo members’ tweets.
  • Create a blog for your LoCo team where members can blog about their Ubuntu and OSS thoughts and experiences.
  • Create a wiki for local Ubuntu users with technical information on Ubuntu issues related to the local university/business network. Get the rest of the LoCo team involved in contributing to the wiki.
Democratic processes
 
Although “benevolent dictators for life” is not rare in the FOSS world, one per project is usually sufficient. In accordance with the Ubuntu leadership code of conduct, you may want hold an election for a leader once the LoCo is up and running. If you have done a good job setting up the LoCo, this will likely become you in any case.

Other local FOSS organizations

Many regions also have local Linux User Groups (LUGs). An Ubuntu LoCo will likely work close with, or even be a part of, such an organization. However, LUGs tend to be more technically oriented and have a certain “geeky” image. One of the great aspects of the Ubuntu community is that everyone is welcome to make a contribution, whether you are a developer, tester, graphics designer, blogger, legal practitioner, or pretty much anything as long as your skills and knowledge somehow can contribute to the project. Therefore, I encourage anyone who is running or is planning on starting a LoCo to focus on gathering a diverse group where everyone, including users, feel welcomed.

Maties ZA Ubuntu LoCo: A case study
 
I’ve recently been involved in getting a LoCo up and running for my university. So far we have had a successful Karmic release party where the team got together to socialize at a local venue. This was part of a series of release parties held around the country. Future plans for the LoCo involves:
  • Advertising Ubuntu and FOSS on campus.
  • Organizing a bug jam in one of the campus computer labs.
  • Work towards getting an open source computer lab at the university.
  • Maintain a wiki and a mailing lists where users can obtain local support.
  • Develop local open source software. E.g. on our campus network, a special software is required to access the web (where costs are charged from the user’s student account). Only a Windows version is supported by the IT section. However, local students have developed an open-source cross-platform Python implementation. Software of this kind can be packaged and put into local repositories.
Conclusion

I hope I’ve managed to highlight some of the advantages and possibilities that exists in Ubuntu LoCo teams, and that you have become interested in joining or starting such a team. The community that exists around Ubuntu is truly unique in the software world and, I believe, will lead to great things.

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