One of the great strengths of open source software is that it is continuously being scrutinized and improved by users and developers around the world.
Ubuntu, for example, has a global community of participants who are constantly working to make the Linux distribution better by contributing to the development, design, debugging, documentation, support and other aspects of work on the free and open source operating system.
Tomorrow, there's a global online event planned in which anyone can donate a little bit of their time to improving Ubuntu. It's called Ubuntu Bug Day, and it's a great opportunity for users and fans to get involved and contribute to the operating system--no training or experience required.
Ubuntu Bug Days are actually regular events in the Ubuntu world, and they typically take place on a dedicated Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called #ubuntu-bugs.
To join a Bug Day, you'll need client software designed for IRC; many options for various operating systems are available for free download. The IRC section of Ubuntu's online documentation lists several possibilities, but if you use a recent version of Ubuntu, Empathy is the default.
On average, more than 1,800 Ubuntu bugs get reported every week, and the primary task on Ubuntu Bug Days is to "triage"--or classify--those reports so that they can be addressed as quickly as possible. Much the way emergency-room patients get triaged the minute they walk in the door so that they'll get what they need as soon as possible, so bug reports are subjected to a similar categorization process.
Individual Bug Days typically focus on triaging a specific category of bug reports, and tomorrow it's bugs for which no associated package was listed in the original report. So, those participating in tomorrow's Bug Day will be going through bug reports that don't list which software package is affected, and then adding that information. Once that's done, the bug reports can be forwarded on to the appropriate place for fixing.
Open Source's ‘Killer App'
If you'd like to join the countless Ubuntu users around the globe who help to make the software better, all you need to do is visit the #ubuntu-bugs channel from your IRC client tomorrow, and you'll be shown where to start. If you want to read up ahead of time, the Ubuntu wiki pages offer helpful documentation about bugs, tomorrow's Bug Day, triaging and the Ubuntu BugSquad, which you may even want to consider joining at some point.
In the open source world, the community really is the software's best asset. Widespread participation is a big part of the reason why open source is so often more secure, better supported and of higher quality than proprietary contenders are.
So if you're happy with Ubuntu and any other open source software you use for your business, consider pitching in with a little bit of your time. Not only will you learn a lot, but you'll also help make open source's "killer app" even stronger.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.