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.


The results show that at SOMETHING should change.

Planet Ubuntu should be about UBUNTU

The planet is "a window into the world, work and lives of Ubuntu developers and contributors." But, that doesn't mean that we can't change that to something else. I think the data support that change.


I say rip down any post that sucks. I say let upvoting be the judge of what sucks and what rocks.

Kind of.

At least we need a panel of judges to up or downvote it. ha

Good stuff Randall. Thanks for continuing to care. Ubuntu wouldn't be as awesome as it is without guys like you.


FWIW, the offending post was noticed within minutes (we do have great community reporting on these kinds of things), I removed the feed from the configuration file few minutes later and then we had to wait for Canonical IS to rerun the script to get it removed from the site itself before the hourly refresh. In all, it may have been up for an hour, but certainly not longer than that. It was actually a great response from everyone involved and I was happy that someone from Canonical IS was available to handle it for us.

Unfortunately most RSS readers cache articles even though they've been removed, so complaints continued to pour in hours after it was gone from the site itself :( There isn't really way we can prevent RSS readers from doing this.


Thanks for clarifying Liz. This seems to be an opportunity to review how posts get removed. Perhaps there's a way to automate based on community feedback? Taking a worse case, if Canonical IS had not been available right away, what would have happened?

Or, maybe there's an opportunity to have a moderation queue with a single rule: if post violates CoC, then reject, else post.


If no one from Canonical IS had been around, the hourly refresh of the planet feed would have purged it, so it would have been up probably 30 minutes longer than it was.

I believe it's important to trust our fellow Ubuntu Members, so I wouldn't be in favor of any kind of moderation queue for everyone. Signing the Code of Conduct is part of becoming an Ubuntu Member, if they violate it then we have a bigger problem than something slipping on to planet and it needs to be handled.

It's also worth pointing out that 1) this rarely happens and 2) in this case, the post in question came from someone who had deactivated his membership. I think doing a better job of cleaning up the feed of former members would be valuable. Currently it's not at all automatic and the process is "someone notices it's got former members on it, CC reviews list with the help of a script" - this happens about once a year.


1) What's preventing us from taking non-members off the Planet as soon as they deactivate, not a year later, or never?

2) How would the situation be different if non-members were able to post? There is some data that supports the idea that we should open up the Planet to people who live and breathe Ubuntu. That might require pre-moderation, no?


I don't know if it already works this way, but regarding poll #10 maybe you could implement a system which checks if the article has "Ubuntu" or "Planet Ubuntu" as one of its tags, so that people only post stuff that's relevant to Planet Ubuntu.


Since the planet is "a window into the world, work and lives of Ubuntu developers and contributors" I'd go with changing that first if we wanted to include only Ubuntu posts :) No sense using a technical solution when the currently stated goal does not insist upon Ubuntu-only posts - indeed, it encourages posts about everything.


In my view, there's a slogan that's ambiguous and a stated topic/title of the site that is not. We ought to respect the fact that this is an Ubuntu site, regardless of the slogan. Yes let's ditch the slogan.

There's also strong data to support de-emphasizing (or omitting) non-Ubuntu posts.


That is currently the mechanism for inclusion. A person defines a tag that Planet Ubuntu will recognize, and stories that have that tag are pulled (included) by the Planet software. Unfortunately, some people tag things for inclusion that aren't related to Ubuntu.


There are some good points raised, but some of them appear to require technical solutions. Do you have any ideas on alternatives or solutions. would something like Venus be an option?


Good point and not sure. There's Venus, Pluto, and probably others. We'd have to map features and see what fits.


I am curious what one you would suggest. How do they map to the problems you have defined?


At this point, not understanding the feature sets fully, and not knowing how much customization would need to be done, I cannot make a recommendation. My guess is that either would be an improvement over what we have now though. The question is, would they take us far enough?

I've been thinking that we may want to (or have to) handle this with "non-planet" software. SOme CMS's will auto import RSS for example.


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