How Ubuntu Michigan Runs Jams

Introduce yourself, and what’s your role in the Michigan local team?

My name is Craig Maloney, I am the host of Open Metalcast, co-host of, and current contact for the Ubuntu Michigan Local Team. What I do as a contact is act as a liaison between the Ubuntu community, Canonical and the Ubuntu folks in Michigan. I help organize things like meetings, releases parties, and jams, but mostly I’m just a single point of contact if someone has a question about the LoCo.

You guys invented the idea of “jams” and always run jams and parties, what’s the secret sauce to making them so succesful for you?

Partially just getting the word out to folks that there is something is happening (and that’s key: people can’t go to an event if they don’t know it’s happening.) Secondly, finding a venue that’s centralized to a lot of folks. We haven’t had very good luck with keeping things centralized. Sometimes we’ll have things over in Ann Arbor, which is a bit of a trek for the people on the east side of town. We’ve been very fortunate, though, to have a company named SRT Solutions who have been gracious enough to let us host several of our jam events over there. In the past we’ve had them at one of the public libraries, which I used to live by. That made it pretty easy to organize an event around that area. I’d say that if you’re looking for locations check your local library. Some of them will rent for free to folks who are in the area and/or have a membership card. Check with local restaurants and businesses, some places are pretty accommodating.

How do you deal with the issue of having people spread over a large area, do you try to rotate the location of events?

Sometimes we do, sometimes we might hold it to coincide with another event, for example we’re running our next release party at Penguicon since it’s the same weekend of the release, so we coordinate on infrastructure as in this case the audiences for both events might overlap.

What do you do when you actually run the event, do you hang out, or have a tasks for people to do or what?

Well, I think we try to do it more organically than having a set process in place. Usually the release will speak for itself. We’ll pass out USB keys, people will load it up on their machines, and then will go through installing it and trying to use it and making sure things are working out OK. That gives us a chance to actually see the release as it’s coming together and check for bugs and get better acquainted with the tools that are available (like the ubuntu-bug tool, which is frankly awesome) instead of trying to manually figure out where things go in Launchpad. Essentially we’ll just start loading up and see what happens.

Sometimes in the past we’ve done more organized bug jams which will include a presentation on how to triage bugs, though we haven’t done one in a while. As the jams have gone from being more bug-only to having a wider focus.

How do you guys keep it interesting and fun for people? How do you keep them coming? Do you do social marketing?

I am not sure how we keep it fun, but we mostly just figure it out since we have a pretty solid core of folks that hang out anyway, so it’s really an excuse for us to get out and hang out with each other. We’ll hang out in IRC most of the other days of the week, but when it comes to a jam we’ll head out to whatever location we’ve chosen. Sometimes we’ll do dinner afterwards or something like that to try and keep it not all about work. As far as the release parties, that’s mostly an excuse to go out to a local establishment and blow off a little bit of steam in the name of Ubuntu.

You don’t really need to have someone in charge per se, or be formal about it; you just need a common goal. If you have some USB keys and people start loading it up, then you’ve already started helping.

Thanks for your time Craig, see you at the Jam next weekend!