The Ubuntu Code of Conduct says:
Step down considerately: When somebody leaves or disengages from the project, we ask that they do so in a way that minimises disruption to the project. They should tell people they are leaving and take the proper steps to ensure that others can pick up where they left off.
I’ve been working on Ubuntu for over ten years now, almost right from the very start; I’m Canonical’s employee #17 due to working out a notice period in my previous job, but I was one of the founding group of developers. I occasionally tell the story that Mark originally hired me mainly to work on what later became Launchpad Bugs due to my experience maintaining the Debian bug tracking system, but then not long afterwards Jeff Waugh got in touch and said “hey Colin, would you mind just sorting out some installable CD images for us?”. This is where you imagine one of those movie time-lapse clocks … At some point it became fairly clear that I was working on Ubuntu, and the bug system work fell to other people. Then, when Matt Zimmerman could no longer manage the entire Ubuntu team in Canonical by himself, Scott James Remnant and I stepped up to help him out. I did that for a couple of years, starting the Foundations team in the process. As the team grew I found that my interests really lay in hands-on development rather than in management, so I switched over to being the technical lead for Foundations, and have made my home there ever since. Over the years this has given me the opportunity to do all sorts of things, particularly working on our installers and on the GRUB boot loader, leading the development work on many of our archive maintenance tools, instituting the +1 maintenance effort and proposed-migration, and developing the Click package manager, and I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many exceptionally talented people.
However. In recent months I’ve been feeling a general sense of malaise and what I’ve come to recognise with hindsight as the symptoms of approaching burnout. I’ve been working long hours for a long time, and while I can draw on a lot of experience by now, it’s been getting harder to summon the enthusiasm and creativity to go with that. I have a wonderful wife, amazing children, and lovely friends, and I want to be able to spend a bit more time with them. After ten years doing the same kinds of things, I’ve accreted history with and responsibility for a lot of projects. One of the things I always loved about Foundations was that it’s a broad church, covering a wide range of software and with a correspondingly wide range of opportunities; but, over time, this has made it difficult for me to focus on things that are important because there are so many areas where I might be called upon to help. I thought about simply stepping down from the technical lead position and remaining in the same team, but I decided that that wouldn’t make enough of a difference to what matters to me. I need a clean break and an opportunity to reset my habits before I burn out for real.
One of the things that has consistently held my interest through all of this has been making sure that the infrastructure for Ubuntu keeps running reliably and that other developers can work efficiently. As part of this, I’ve been able to do a lot of work over the years on Launchpad where it was a good fit with my remit: this has included significant performance improvements to archive publishing, moving most archive administration operations from excessively-privileged command-line operations to the webservice, making build cancellation reliable across the board, and moving live filesystem building from an unscalable ad-hoc collection of machines into the Launchpad build farm. The Launchpad development team has generally welcomed help with open arms, and in fact I joined the ~launchpad team last year.
So, the logical next step for me is to make this informal involvement permanent. As such, at the end of this year I will be moving from Ubuntu Foundations to the Launchpad engineering team.
This doesn’t mean me leaving Ubuntu. Within Canonical, Launchpad development is currently organised under the Continuous Integration team, which is part of Ubuntu Engineering. I’ll still be around in more or less the usual places and available for people to ask me questions. But I will in general be trying to reduce my involvement in Ubuntu proper to things that are closely related to the operation of Launchpad, and a small number of low-effort things that I’m interested enough in to find free time for them. I still need to sort out a lot of details, but it’ll very likely involve me handing over project leadership of Click, drastically reducing my involvement in the installer, and looking for at least some help with boot loader work, among others. I don’t expect my Debian involvement to change, and I may well find myself more motivated there now that it won’t be so closely linked with my day job, although it’s possible that I will pare some things back that I was mostly doing on Ubuntu’s behalf. If you ask me for help with something over the next few months, expect me to be more likely to direct you to other people or suggest ways you can help yourself out, so that I can start disentangling myself from my current web of projects.
Please contact me sooner or later if you’re interested in helping out with any of the things I’m visible in right now, and we can see what makes sense. I’m looking forward to this!