The secret of Ubuntu success

Ubuntu has been my first distribution of Linux. I learned everything I know about Linux, on Ubuntu. However, there is a question that has been bothering me for a while: “Why Ubuntu is so successful?”. It took me some time to find the answer. The answer is simple, we are nice to new comers. We don’t try to prove anything to them; we just help them. (Of course, being the best distribution out there helps :) )

The slogan of Ubuntu, “Linux for Human Being”, took all its meaning when I finally understood that. We are the humans. We aren’t supposed to work for the computers. They are the ones supposed to do the work.

That brings me to the second reason of Ubuntu’s success. We are making Linux works out of the box. Users shouldn’t need to have to read a 10,000-pages manual just to use Linux. Not because I read the manuals, everyone should. Of course, we need all those friendly howtos and guides. They make Ubuntu so much more fun to use.

I think we need to continue in that direction. Sure, translucent windows are cool, but we should always remember the roots of our success.

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  1. Some Guy said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

    I think you are right, that is the reason i use ubuntu, i was always intimidated on linux before (i have been trying since 98 to use linux) ubuntu is the ONLY disto that i used that made me stick with linux. now i follow linux news and am learning slowly, i have become a linux fanboy due to ubuntu’s help. I think ubuntu sets an example for the rest of the distro’s in the direction they are headed. Keep up the great work.

  2. erik said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

    Yeah it works until you report a bug. Then the user oriented request for fixing a thing gets declined because of a technicality (such as selection of words, etc hair splitting), gets side tracked and nothing ever happens. There are people who should never be allowed to be in any contact with real people, and most of them you can find from handling Launchpad bugs. Their behaviour is just horrible.

  3. benoit said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

    I agree with you. Many open source projects fail due to a bad communication toward new comers.

  4. nasrullah said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

    I am a user of ubuntu for the past 12 months . Ubuntu is fantastic os. I want to know which printer and scanner is compatible to the great os ubuntu.

  5. Alexandre said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

    Oh? It seems my small edit made my old rant pop back on Planet Ubuntu. Ah well…

    erik, bug triage always been dirty work. And it’s rarely fun work I must admit. The problem is Ubuntu get thousands of bug reports on packages that we often don’t directly maintain. Sometime, the bug isn’t about the packaging, so often the only thing that can be done is forward the bug to upstream developers and wait. Some other time, the bug is hard to reproduce, so you’re left with detective work.

    When the bug is severe enough, then you can try to write a patch. For that, you need good programming skills, which only few people in the community have. Then even if you got your patch, you need to get through the procedures — i.e., get people to review your patch and upload an updated package. Myself, I had to wait 3 months to get a fixed package into the repositories.

    And in my humble opinion, bug trackers just sucks. They make the whole process too impersonal. When you send a bug report or a patch, you always feel nobody care — that you’re just another number in the ever-growing bug database. I would surely love to see a kernel-style method of development, where a lot of people submit patches and a few others integrate their changes.

    All that to say, Ubuntu developers don’t have it easy.

  6. Alexandre said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

    nasrullah, check out

  7. erik said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

    It’s the point of view that bothers me. A user has a real life problem. Related to that his software doesn’t serve him. So he reports it, and often how it relates to the real life problem. Then, things get messy.. And in the end he gets shot back with points that are completely moot from his point of view (technicalities etc) – and most usually he does not get any positive indication that the report even did any good at all. And most usually he doesn’t get any solution, not even work-around. The after taste of using launchpad for anything is often bad.

    It’s not that the problems should be fixed. I know it is too much asked. The reports from end users just should be treated as reports from end users, not as reports from other nearly omnipotent and very technically minded people such as software engineers.

    What also bothers me is that a lot of good is lost. Many good sub-ideas and thoughts are getting killed with a DECLINED for the main idea. Also you don’t get to see the forest from all the trees. What I’d do (if I had the power and resources) is to separate bug reports from end users and actual core developers.. Make it a guided process with required translations, dependencies and linking to proper issues (often things get messy just because the poor user couldn’t pick correct value for some minor field.. and the bug report practically gets completely lost) and such… And make the communication work between these two groups..

    Sigh. It just does not work the way it is presently.

  8. Stoffe said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

    I totally agree, and that’s why it is really sad to see the ubuntuforums getting worse and worse by the day. It is not unusual anymore that anyone who comes with a valid concern or complaint gets flamed heavily by hordes of people who “defends” their OS of choice. Can’t help but think that this is part of the price to pay for success, all the kids who are used to being rude on the internet and knows little about any community have now found their way to Ubuntu. Still, it makes for a pretty crappy experience for anyone that happens to trigger them (which doesn’t take any effort).

    If those forums are meant to be official, they should be kept much more “Human” IMO.

  9. Alexandre said,

    July 1, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

    Perhaps, a better way would to allow only maintainers to add new bug entries in Launchpad. People would instead send their bug reports, or feature requests, to a mailing list, where a team would take the care to discuss about problems with the users. Then, when enough information has been collected, someone fills a new bug report. This would certainly reduce duplicate bug reports, hide the technical side of the conversation and more importantly make the whole process more friendly.

    Unfortunately, a such change in the community would be hard to accomplish. That is the kind process that need to be set when a community is young.

    Stoffe, I don’t visit the forums very often, to be honest. However, such behavior in the forums should not be tolerated. That is the kind of thing the initial developers tried to avoid when they wrote the Code of Conduct.

  10. Joel said,

    July 3, 2007 @ 2:54 am

    You neglected to mention a foundation built from Debian, Mark Shuttleworth’s leadership, financial support from his company Canonical along with an ingenious marketing strategy “Linux for humans” – which IMHO has attracted the community in the first place.

    Not to mention all the things that come with the above; an existing package base, a focused direction, the resources to keep said packages “fresh” (i.e. shorter release cycles), and get it all into a state of “user friendliness”.

    When I started using Linux, it was typically in the domain of Comp.Sci undergraduates. Therefore, I must applaud Canonical, and the Ubuntu community, in their efforts to bring GNU/Linux into the eyes of the masses.

  11. erik said,

    July 3, 2007 @ 4:58 am

    Canonical and Mark is what I had in mind as well. They could do so much more than what they are already doing…