An analysis of topics that need more amplification in a world of noise.

Ubuntu Contributors' Guide

I spent a few minutes this morning writing the comprehensive Ubuntu Contributors' Guide.

Here it is in all its glory:

Yes, that's really all there is to it. It's simple.

As obvious as this seems, there are people (names withheld) that will want you to believe otherwise. I'll elaborate in a future post.

When you encounter them, please forward a copy of this flow chart. Tell them Randall sent you.

Writing About Ubuntu? Own Your Own Content

A friend of mine sent me a link from her "+" account last night, publicizing a fundraising effort...

Admittedly, I've never been impressed with "+", so I rarely (if ever) look at it. Because she was a friend, and I like to help friends, I decided to go in and see what the link was about. I ended up staying longer than I originally planned and took a look around.

What did I see? I saw a lot of people who used to make Planet Ubuntu a lively, exciting, and vibrant place writing prolifically on "+" instead. Sadly and disappointingly, they rarely post on Planet these days.

Are you one of these people?

Friends, do consider the effect of the following:

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services ...

Something smells wrong with this.

Friends, it's really not that difficult to host a blog and to use a more respectful service. I hope you'll consider that one small step in the sprit of not becoming the product, or even better, in the spirit of making Planet Ubuntu *the* place for Ubuntu happenings.

image by Terry O'Fee

Why Smart Phones Aren't - Reason #3

I love movies. I especially love seeing movies in an old-fashioned movie theatre. The smell of popcorn. The immersiveness. The whole sensory experience. Well, almost...

Why oh why must I, my friends, and my family be subjected to nonsense warnings that precede every movie shown in a theatre? You know the ones: "Silence your phone", "Silence is golden", "It only takes one phone call to ruin a movie", etc, etc.

Even with all that preamble, there is inevitably someone at the theatre that ignores it, or is too distracted by their phone to see the warning. So, the messages are largely ineffective. Oh, the irony!

Let's think about this for a minute. According to the MPAA, "More than two thirds of the U.S./Canada population...227.8 million people went to the movies at least once in 2013"

Let's take the most conservative view of this statistic. Assume that the total number of person-movies that year was 227.8 million. And, let's also assume that each one of these movies was preceded by a 10-second "Silence your cell phone" message.

That amounts to over 632,000 hours , or 26,365 days, or 72 years of lost time, in one year. "Smart" phone manufacturers, this is a problem you could have solved years ago. For just how many years has this been a solvable problem? My guess is 10.

"Smart" phone manufacturers, you are wasting my time. You are forcing theatres to air useless reminders and distractions. In economic terms, that's called an externality: pushing the costs onto others so you don't have to incur them yourself.

That's right. 720 years lost, in North America alone.

Stop this nonsense. Humanity has better things to do.

I'm sorry "smart" phones. You are as dumb as the day you were born. Think about it. It's really not that hard. Don't be fooled by the name. Movie theatres don't move. You know when you're inside one. Maybe it's time to pay attention?!

With the upcoming Ubuntu Phones, perhaps we, the people that believe in our shared humanity, can give back humanity this precious time it needs to get on with life and perhaps the chance to use this time to solve just one problem to make the world a better place...

Our best chance at a phone that respects humanity is here:

More reasons "smart phones aren't are here:

image by daniel

Why Smart Phones Aren't - Reason #2

I ride public transit, a lot. This gives me the "privilege" to (too often) overhear important matters that are being discussed over the phone.

Can you guess the most common use case for "smart" phones? Apparently it's to obtain the answer to the world's most important question: "Where are you?"

Really? We can send a rover to Mars but we can't solve this problem. Is the world engaged in one giant game of "where's Waldo?" I have yet to meet a phone that is smart.

Phones have GPS, wifi, and of course cellular signalling. They also are programmable. One would think that an off-the-shelf "smart" phone would eliminate the "Where are you?" call once and for all. Or, could it be that the mobile carriers love to prey on people by forcing them to consume and be billed for lots and lots of extraneous voice minutes? Hmm...

So, I'm sorry phones. You are *not* smart. You are still as dumb as the first feature phones.

I remain optimistic that the Ubuntu Phone will overcome this issue. In my lifetime, I hope to be riding a bus, a subway, or a streetcar never to hear the words "Where are you?" uttered again.

"Where's Waldo" image by William Murphy

Why Smart Phones Aren't - Reason #1

I was ranting to some of my colleagues the other day about "smart" phones, and just how really dumb they are. The topic generated a lively discussion so I thought I'd share the fun!

I have yet to meet a phone that is smart.

Phones have GPS, motion sensing, and NFC, yada yada, yet they still alert/ring when someone is driving. Has society not learned that distracted driving kills people? Not cool.

So, I'm sorry phones. You are *not* smart. You are as dumb as the first feature phones.

Having said that, I still have optimism that the the Ubuntu Phone will become the world's first truly smart phone, respecting its owner and "doing the right thing".

dumb phone image by Tom Hoyle

Discount Offer for Ubuntu Members - Get Certified!

Are you an Ubuntu Member? Have you ever wanted to get a technical certification?

My buddy Jorge Castro has an offer for you! Please take a look at this page over on Ubuntu Discourse:

In Jorge's words, "Go rock that exam!"

I'm Back!

Greetings Planet! First, I'd like to apologize for not posting in a long while. Life has been, shall we say, interesting!

Up until the end of August, my focus has been on (non-Ubuntu-related) client work as part of my IT cyber-security consulting practice. This has meant that I've been traveling back and forth between San Francisco and Vancouver BC, living and working in both of these beautiful cities. This has also meant that I've been somewhat time-starved to do some of the things I've historically enjoyed doing in the Ubuntu world, blogging being one of those things.

So, what happened at the end of August? That's a bit of *great* news that I'll save that for an upcoming post. ;)

Putting Some Spin Back Into Ubuntu

What would the Ubuntu logo look like if it really did spin?

That's a question explored recently by Andrew Kvalheim, a talented member of Ubuntu Vancouver.

I can't really add much more to his eloquent analysis other than to share it with all of you. Click the circle of friends below to read Andrew's thoughts... and to see it spin!

Click to see the spin!Click to see the spin!

Thanks Andrew for your permission to cite.

There Shall be Ubuntu Phones!!

I'm flabbergasted (is that even a word?) that no one on the Planet blogged about this (yet). That's definitively un-awesome. I *did* see posts about stuff absolutely unrelated to Ubuntu though: fictional TV series from days gone by and databases that I don't need. Why, oh why?

Anyways... Today, Mark, Jono, and Rick announced that there are two (2) manufacturers that will be making phones with Ubuntu pre-installed later this year.


Now *that* is news that is worthy of Planet Ubuntu. And more than that: It's AWESOME!

You should give this video a watch!

Planet Ubuntu Needs More Awesome - Conclusion

Could Planet Ubuntu be made more awesome? Definitely. Planet Ubuntu is not as useful as it could be and we are aiming too low. Let's reboot it.

In conclusion (and interpreting that I collected and summarized here and here):

Readers of Planet Ubuntu are loyal. They say that they derive value from the site but they want more. Planet Ubuntu is an important part of the Ubuntu information landscape. Let's admit that and let's give it the attention and maintenance it deserves.

Planet Ubuntu is nearly as important to Ubuntu as as it represents the real pulse of the Ubuntu project as seen through the eyes of its contributors, potentially *all* of them. It does not have a commercial angle, nor does it present Ubuntu in the uni-dimensional "software-y" way that most privately run Ubuntu news sites do. In fact, Planet Ubuntu reminds us that *"Ubuntu is not just software"*. No other site has the potential to send that message as loudly and clearly. Name a proprietary platform that is anything except software for the extraction of profit for a select few at the expense of everyone else. See why the "Ubuntu is not just software" message is important?

I recommend that we work hard to measure our audience size, publish it, then set goals to expand our readership *well* beyond the current echo chamber that consists mainly of Ubuntu Members (and "free software enthusiasts/contributors"). We cannot improve what we cannot measure.

Let's re-frame Planet Ubuntu as *the* place for authoritative goings-on in the Ubuntu project as written by those who are passionate about making Ubuntu. Let's ditch the current tagline "Planet Ubuntu is a window into the world, work and lives of Ubuntu developers and contributors." This tagline opens the door to ambiguity and confusion of our readers. I can imagine someone new to Ubuntu coming to Planet Ubuntu and seeing that most of the posts have nothing to do with Ubuntu. The signal that sends is "Ubuntu is not important enough for even its contributors to write about." Perception becomes reality.

Let's not water down the site with random tidbits of unrelated content. This infuriates (yes, that strong a word) people who come to the site looking for a pulse on the Ubuntu project. I personally feel that it is disrespectful (or at least in bad taste) to use the popularity of Planet Ubuntu as a springboard for one's personal projects and topics completely unrelated to Ubuntu. I'm not saying that's always the motivation of those who post unrelated content, but I *am* saying that it happens. Plus, everyone who posts to Planet Ubuntu has their own personal blog anyways. What's the point of shipping irrelevant information to the eyeballs of people who crave Ubuntu information?

If we cannot enforce a "stay on topic" rule, then I recommend that we consider moderation and/or emphasis/de-emphasis of submitted articles based on the relevance to Ubuntu. This moderation could be crowd-sourced or automated.

I recommend that we adopt a zero tolerance rule for Ubuntu CoC violations, deleting posts that do not comply in no longer than 5 minutes or 500 page views, whichever occurs first. Authors that violate the Ubuntu CoC should be removed using a "three-strikes and you're out" rule. I recommend that we remove authors that have not posted Ubuntu content during a span of one year.

I recommend that we extend Planet Ubuntu authorship well beyond Ubuntu Members. Let's identify people who are truly passionate about Ubuntu and who live and breathe it. Let's get past the notion that blogging about Ubuntu requires membership in an exclusive club. Let's encourage and people who do a lot for Ubuntu but who never get a voice to step forward and help write the content of the site. Let's embrace our community members inside Canonical and respect them for what they are: passionate and dedicated Ubuntu contributors.

Let's change the look of Planet Ubuntu. Let's make it more modern and more interactive. Let's make it work well on all the screen sizes (form factors) that Ubuntu supports. Let's choose a platform that we make and control, or at least one that does not use us. We are tired of being used.

In conclusion, Planet Ubuntu has the potential to be *much* more awesome, and we should seriously consider making it *the* place to visit for all things Ubuntu by rebooting it.

Thank you, and a call for assistance.
This concludes my series on making Planet Ubuntu awesome again. If you have additional thoughts and constructive suggestions kindly share your thoughts in the comments. If you would like to help champion a blueprint or work items to bring these improvements to fruition, please raise your hand.

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