Setting up a community based support site makes a lot of sense. I've
done something very similar and it became extremely popular. We actually
helped get the distribution we were concentrating on - at the time -
adopted in a lot of places. It's not difficult. If you'll bear with me,
I'll explain how we did it and what worked.
I did this with Sun's Java Desktop System and was asked to do one for
Fedora by people on the Red Hat desktop team. I was about to do one for
fedora when I ran into Ubuntu. You can see the JDShelp site at
You'll also notice that my partner and I wrote a book about JDS for
O'Reilly. So, JDShelp is still up to support the book, even though we
have completely blown off Sun. See - Author's Slam Sun.
Sun was very screwed up about their Linux distribution. It was nearly
impossible to find anything on their web site about Linux. So in July of
last year, I put together a team and consolidated information in one
place about JDS. At the time, Sun underwent four reorganizations and no
one was in charge of the Linux product. So, we essentially became the
support desk for the community.
We built packages for the distro - which I don't think Ubuntu would
need. I would just point to the Ununtu repositories and explain how to
add sources, etc. Of course, we can build packages like a groupware
package, government and school applications, etc.
At JDShelp did tutorials, howtos and setup a faq-o-matic knowledge base.
We got the information for the knowledgebase from the forums. Several
people wrote howto's. We made the knowledgebase searchable.
I spoke to the technical support team at Sun and EDS and found out that
they were using our knowledge base to solve their trouble tickets. So,
people were paying for support calls and the information came from the
community web site. I found that funny.
I wrote a whitepaper for Sun's management and suggested they set up a
community like Ubuntu's and they thought it was a great idea but they
wanted to control it like java.net. They put together about five
proposals and wanted to contract with us but the people with whom I
worked didn't keep their word. They were more interested in
When I discovered Ubuntu, I saw everything I suggested in my whitepaper
to Sun being actualized by the Ubuntu organizers. Sun isn't doing well
selling Linux BTW and Ubuntu is shipping 1 million copies in 1/3 rd the
time since Sun came to market.
So I suggest that the site consolidate everything Ubuntu and have links
to everything. That way, someone looking for information can find it
without having to have experience in Linux or BSD.
As problems are solved on the mailing lists, it should go into a faq-o-
matic. If no one has written a book about Ubuntu by the time I finish my
current Linux System Administrators Guide (by O'Reilly) then I'll write
one and we can see if O'Reilly will publish it.
As an alternative, I could set up a repository and ask people to take
different chapters and we can put it together fast. O'Reilly would
publish it under their community book series. I'll be happy to do the
outline, create the tasks and set up a CVS- type repository. We would
just need people to work with me. I don't mind mentoring aspiring
authors. We also would need technical reviewers, copy editors and proof
writers. if we do it for O'Reilly we would have to use their StarOffice
templates. Screenshots would have to be done in tiff format and we can
just sketch diagrams, etc. O'Reilly has the graphics people to make this
If you want an example of them doing a book simultaneously with an open
source book take a look a the Linux NAG - Network Administrator's Guide.
It's at LDP and for sale by O'Reilly.
The main thing about the site is to make it a community effort. It needs
to be a project and it needs structure and logic.
I have the server and support team to make it work. It's really up to
you. We'd also need to ask Canonical or their agreement, support,
permission or whatever.