Amplifying topics that matter in a world filled with noise.

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.

Planet Ubuntu Needs More Awesome - Part 2

In Part 1, I presented some of the results of my surveys about Planet Ubuntu from late 2013. Didn't read the summary? There's still time! What better a way to start your day?

With that behind us, let's dive into Part 2 of my promised summary along with additional bonus colour-commentary and recommendations not available anywhere else (at any price.)

Planet Ubuntu needs a makeover.


Survey Says:
There is a strong indication that people want a "new and improved" Planet Ubuntu.

Colour Commentary:
I'm firmly of the same opinion. Planet Ubuntu looks creaky and awkward. It's a throwback to an earlier era of web design. Interactivity? Not there. It also doesn't present well on different form factors. Have you ever tried reading it on Ubuntu Touch? Were you happy with the result? I could go on and on, but suffice to say there's room for improvement.

Some of you might be thinking "Why bother? There are plenty of other social web platforms that we could use as an Ubuntu blog. Why not just use ______." The problem with the word that's usually on top of that blank is that it's always out of our control, often predatory, and usually a bad idea in the long run. The best chance we have to shape the personality of one of the most prominent sites about Ubuntu is to actually maintain control of it. Planet Ubuntu reflects on Ubuntu whether we want to admit it or not. Let's admit it and make Planet Ubuntu great again.

Randall Concludes:
Let's reboot it.


Survey Says:
Ignoring the fence-sitters, people want Ubuntu stories to have prominence, by a factor of two to one.

Colour Commentary:
I was a little surprised by how many people don't care one way or another. That aside, the majority vote for increased prominence of Ubuntu-related content is encouraging. I think this represents a good compromise for people who are insistent about blogging about non-Ubuntu topics on an Ubuntu site. (Yes, there are some who are.) Give them a small place, but not a place that detracts from the main event. Maybe the "real estate" a story gets should be proportional to the amount of Ubuntu content it contains. The mechanism for determining that would have to be designed, but it's an idea that has merit.

Randall Concludes:
Ubuntu-centric stories should be granted more prominence.


Survey Says:

Colour Commentary:
People have no idea how widely (or not) Planet Ubuntu is read. Some think it's amongst the top sites on the web, and others swear it's nothing but cob webs and tumble weeds. This isn't really surprising since the site doesn't publish any stats, and in the absence of data people will make up some wild assumptions. If we want Planet Ubuntu to have as wide a readership as possible, which IS what we want, then perhaps an important first step would be to insert analytics, or even a simple page view counter that can be graphed over time. That way, well be able to see if we're as popular as we need to be.

Randall Concludes:
Publish page view stats ASAP. We cannot improve what we cannot measure.


Survey Says:
People want Planet Ubuntu authors to abide by the Ubuntu Code of Conduct.

Colour Commentary:
This was a bit of an accidental poll. While I was in the midst of my polling activities an unfortunate article that was a clear violation of the CoC and in poor taste was posted. What surprised (and disappointed) me is how long it took to take it down. Thankfully it was removed, but who knows how many people saw the article and now associate Ubuntu with something crass and juvenile?

Adding even more disappointment, the article was from someone who wasn't even an Ubuntu Member any more. So, it should never even have been posted in the first place.

And, adding *even more* disappointment, an effort to clean up the list of people who could post to Planet Ubuntu had been languishing for months.

Randall Concludes:
Maintain the site. (Looking in the direction of Community Council). Take down CoC violations with haste (i.e. in minutes, not hours). If you don't have the time/bandwidth, then delegate, or increase your numbers.


Survey Says:
Nearly an even split.

Colour Commentary:
Given that there's a desire to make Ubuntu stories more prominent (see above), I'm curious to know what mechanism the people who don't want up-voting would use to make this happen. Perhaps an algorithm that scans for keywords and adjusts prominence accordingly? Or, maybe we could leave the decision to a panel of experts? I don't think either of these options have merit. I advocate that we use a system of up-voting by a group of people that are passionate about Ubuntu and are actively contributing to it day-in, day-out. Perhaps Ubuntu Members would be a good start for a group of up-voters?

Randall Concludes:
We need a reliable way to make Ubuntu articles prominent. Up-voting is that way.

To be continued...
I will wrap up the series in my next post with general conclusions and a prescription on how to make Planet Ubuntu awesome again. In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Planet Ubuntu Needs More Awesome - Part 1

Could Planet Ubuntu be made more awesome? How would we do it? Where would we start? Perhaps we'd start by seeing who reads it and what those people actually think about it. During the latter weeks of 2013 I conducted a series of polls (on my blog) to determine just that. Going into this effort, I had my opinions. Some of them were validated. Some were not.

What follows is my promised summary of the survey results along with my bonus colour-commentary and recommendations.

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.


Survey Says:
Members outnumber non-members by a factor of two (give-or-take) as readers of Planet Ubuntu.

Colour Commentary:
I was surprised that the margin wasn't a *lot* bigger. I was expecting a factor of at least 10:1, and certainly not 2:1! Planet Ubuntu is an echo chamber - a place where primarily Ubuntu members speak to themselves. Could we do better? Yes! Why not make Planet Ubuntu a place for everyone? Why not make it *the* place where people (of all types, not just Ubuntu members) come to get the latest information about Ubuntu's collaborators and their Ubuntu thoughts? If this were to be our focus, I think we'd see a lot better news and information on other sites too as they would be hard-pressed to slant their stories (or to miss the point entirely) when the people who are actually building Ubuntu are presenting matters clearly and to a wide audience on a very public site.

Randall Concludes:
We need to make Planet Ubuntu appeal to everyone. We need to make it read primarily by non-members. The ratio needs to be at least 1000:1.


Survey Says: By a wide margin, readers perceive that they derive value from Planet Ubuntu.

Colour Commentary:
This is a very surprising result, and I must admit, I don't share the same opinion. To me, Planet Ubuntu has drifted far away from where it was a few years ago. I can recall visiting daily in those days and reading all kinds of really interesting news and commentary, mostly about Ubuntu, and specifically from people who were at the core of a lot of Ubuntu goings-on. Now, when I come to Planet Ubuntu, I am generally disappointed to find that most of it is not about Ubuntu, and the core contributors rarely chime in. Instead, we have people that perhaps were once really interested and involved in Ubuntu who now have new pet-projects and want to showcase them. I'm all for learning about what people are working on these days, but Planet Ubuntu ought to be mainly about Ubuntu.

Randall Concludes:
I'm going to agree to disagree and be in the minority here. Planet Ubuntu is not as useful as it could be. We are aiming too low.


Survey Says: People primarily want Planet Ubuntu people to be written by "Ubuntu people", but not necessarily Ubuntu members. Then there are some that want to introduce a Canonical relationship, but only for authors who don't work for Canonical.

Colour Commentary:
I'm surprised by the Canonical (or Mark) selected result. This tells me there is pent-up demand for a more official voice, or more core-contributor stories but reluctance to restrict to the direct voice of Canonical employees.

There is also demand to let in authors who are Ubuntu contributors but not necessarily Ubuntu members. Overall the data suggests a need to expand authorship. Perhaps Ubuntu Members aren't pulling their blogging weight.

Randall Concludes:
Let's open up Planet Ubuntu to people who have real passion for Ubuntu and who live and breathe it daily. That might mean forgoing the requirement to be an Ubuntu Member, and replacing that requirement with something along the lines of "must have a demonstrated and sustained passion for Ubuntu".


Survey Says: Most people want Planet Ubuntu to be about Ubuntu.

Colour Commentary:
This is expected, and I fully agree. I want Planet Ubuntu to live up to its name. I would love it if people writing there would keep their articles focused, at least to the point there's a clear Ubuntu tie-in. That's what makes it worthy of a read instead of the gerjillion other sites on the web that aren't about Ubuntu. Do we really need a site that has Ubuntu in its name that is primarily not about Ubuntu?

Here's an anecdote. Back in the early 2000's, 2002 I recall, there was a period of time where the USA (government) was considering an invasion of Iraq. At the same time, there was a large popular movement and demonstrations/marches against the idea. I was in San Francisco at the time, and recall seeing large numbers of people marching on Van Ness Ave, near SF City Hall carrying placards saying "No Invasion", "Peace not War", i.e. stuff one would expect to see at an anti-invasion demonstration. In the same march, I also saw placards with slogans like "End Poverty", "Stop Animal Cruelty", and other noteworthy causes. What struck me about this was just how out of place they were and how obvious it was that some were trying to capitalize on the popularity of the demonstration for other "pet" causes. I was saddened that the main cause was being diluted. (Note that I'm not saying these other causes were not worthy, but I am saying that this was not the place for them. People were trying to stop a war.)

Randall Concludes:
I'm going advocate that we keep Planet Ubuntu about Ubuntu and encourage everyone who writes here to respect the stated title of the site.


Survey Says: Planet Ubuntu is a "watering hole". Our readers come here often.

Colour Commentary:
This is encouraging in that it shows that we have reader loyalty. People keep coming back. This doesn't say why though. Are people coming back in the hopes that there will be something interesting about Ubuntu? When they arrive are they pleasantly surprised? Or, are they like me and longing for more Ubuntu? This survey question begs for more questions to get at the reasons.

Randall Concludes:
We have loyal readers. Let's find out why.

To be continued...
I will continue with a summary of results 6 through 10 soon. In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Fighting the "War on Ignorance"

I started this blog three and a half years ago with the headline "Amplify the Signal". In general, that sentence has served me well. But recently, I've been thinking if there's a clearer statement I can make to state my intent.

Then on Friday, a close Ubuntu friend asked me, "Why are you so passionate about Ubuntu?"

In a nearly automatic way, it all "clicked" at that moment. I blurted out "I believe the most important battle to fight is the one against ignorance, and Ubuntu is the best way to do it." Let me explain...

People mostly have their attention siphoned to the crappiest and most caustic drivel the web has to offer. I don't need to name sites and content. You know the places. Littered with ads, useless trivia, minutia, stuff that is so far from mattering that it's brutally painful. Meanwhile the world rots.

To quote Lessig, "We need to get to the root of the problem." (He thinks it's political funding, but he's wrong.) The real root of the problem is the world's diet of "junk information". Like junk food, "junk information" is toxic, it causes mental diabetes, and it's everywhere. It is foisted upon people as soon as they fire up their browsers. It's a predetermined path. The second people power on their devices their proprietary systems take them to the "properties" they are supposed to see. You know, the ones that fund the mansions of the predatory 1%. The sociopaths.

So, today, I'm declaring the "War on Ignorance", and I'm adding that tagline to my blog. It is unacceptable to prey on other people through the use of technology that breeds ignorance, and the war is hereby declared.

Enter our weapon: Ubuntu. It's ours. It's free. It's a clear channel that obeys our wishes, and more importantly our Mom's wishes, and takes us to places on the web where *we* want to go. Places that can teach us what's really going on and how to make the world a better place. Places that respect us.

There's only one catch. (Relatively) no one knows about Ubuntu. And this my friends is the first thing we must fix. We can't win the war until Ubuntu is front and foremost in the minds of everyone we know. Ubuntu not only needs to be top of mind, but it needs to be the spotlight that makes it obvious that every proprietary system is predatory and socially unacceptable. In fact let's not even use the term proprietary any more. Let's just call these systems what they are: *predatory*.

Will you help me win the war? Will you help me end the ignorance of Ubuntu and thereby end ignorance. Let's make this our top priority. Let's attack the root of the problem.

> Fighting the "War on Ignorance".


Image cc-by-nc 2.0

Planet Awesome! Poll #10 (and final one!)

Is your Planet really awesome? Could it be made more awesome by massively growing its audience?

Please click through for Poll Question #10, which is the final poll question in this highly controversial series!

Thanks in advance for participating, and thanks all for your answers on questions 1 through 9. Once this poll closes, we'll all enjoy an analysis and summary, and maybe even a new Planet.

I was asking some basic questions in order to gauge the audience, relevance, and usefulness of Planet Ubuntu. I had my opinions, but I wanted to see what the data said.

Got an idea for an enhancement for Planet Ubuntu that hasn't been polled? Please share it! Let the world know.

People should be able to "up-vote" the content they want to be most prominent on Planet Ubuntu

Excellent Idea!
23% (31 votes)
15% (20 votes)
Slightly Agree
8% (11 votes)
5% (7 votes)
Slightly Disagree
2% (3 votes)
7% (9 votes)
No way!
40% (55 votes)
Total votes: 136

Ubuntu. We're Going to Mars!

Ubuntu Friends,

Some news from Ubuntu Vancouver and also from our sister group, Ubuntu Mars:

In 1975, NASA launched the historic billion–dollar mission to land on Mars and to photograph its surface. It was the most ambitious space science project in history and it was a resounding success. Well, almost...

All but a few images were lost. Why? Depending on who you ask, you'll get a bunch of excuses, apologies, or even silence. My best information (from the source) tells me it was a result of data loss, indirectly related to the misapplication of proprietary software and tools to a public mission. Proprietary software has no place in projects that are funded by the public for the public. Lesson learned? Hopefully.

A few years back, when I was just getting started building Ubuntu Vancouver, I met Kip Warner who introduced me to one of the most profound and interesting projects I had ever heard of: a project to create a game on Ubuntu that would allow people to design a new society based on Mars as a way to learn why Earth is broken and how to build a future society that actually works.

There was just a *tiny* snag: In order to get the imagery to create the game, Kip and his crew had to first recover the Viking images.

Good news! They did it! The ground-breaking software originally intended as an internal research tool, is now available.(It's licensed under GPLv3, and totally rockin' on Ubuntu),

You too can experience the Mars imagery in its true and original glory by going here:!/store

The team will have a lot more to showcase with you over the coming weeks, including already complete beautiful concept artwork.

Thanks for helping us with this important mission!

See you on Mars!


Do you live in Vancouver? Join us!
Want to help with the Mars mission? Join us!
No Ubuntu group in your city or town? Join us!

The appropriate action for a Planet Ubuntu article that violates Ubuntu's Code of Conduct should be the following:

Do nothing
25% (31 votes)
Talk to a friend about it
0% (0 votes)
Get angry
5% (6 votes)
Post a comment in that article
7% (9 votes)
Write an article that condemns the original article
4% (5 votes)
Submit the link to Slashdot
2% (3 votes)
Remove the posting (Community Council)
14% (17 votes)
Issue a stern warning to the author, then remove the posting
23% (28 votes)
Issue a stern warning to the author, leave the posting up
10% (12 votes)
Remove (ban) the author
5% (6 votes)
Something else (See comments)
5% (6 votes)
Total votes: 123

Planet Awesome! Poll #9

Is your Planet really awesome? Could it be made more awesome by massively growing its audience?

Please click through for Poll Question #9.

Thanks in advance for participating.

I am asking some basic questions in order to gauge the audience, relevance, and usefulness of Planet Ubuntu. I have my opinions, but I would like to see what the data says.

All poll results will be summarized and published here.

Got an idea for an enhancement for Planet Ubuntu? Please share it! Let the world know.

Not an Ubuntu member (and can't post to Planet Ubuntu)? If you have a poll question you'd like me to ask, just ask (in the comments)!

Planet Awesome! Poll #8

Is your Planet really awesome? Could it be made more awesome by massively growing its audience?

Please click through for Poll Question #8.

Thanks in advance for participating.

I am asking some basic questions in order to gauge the audience, relevance, and usefulness of Planet Ubuntu. I have my opinions, but I would like to see what the data says.

All poll results will be summarized and published here.

Got an idea for an enhancement for Planet Ubuntu? Please share it! Let the world know.

Not an Ubuntu member (and can't post to Planet Ubuntu)? If you have a poll question you'd like me to ask, just ask (in the comments)!

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