repurposing Planet

OK, so I previously wrote that perhaps we should reevaluate the stated mission of Planet Ubuntu, which is currently:

Planet Ubuntu is a window into the world, work and lives of Ubuntu developers and contributors.

The point being that we’ve now got so many blogs being aggregated as well as quite a diversity of opinions and sensibilities towards what is appropriate content, that maybe we should reduce the scope to posts pertaining (at least somewhat) to Ubuntu. I’ve seen quite a few “I read Planet Ubuntu to learn about Ubuntu, not …” comments. The other approach to dealing with “offensive” posts is to make a claim of Code of Conduct violation and take the offending party to the Community Council. Here’s a couple reasons why I think these two approaches fail:

  • limiting the scope of Planet Ubuntu doesn’t guarantee unoffensive behavior. It is true that most offensive posts are nontechnical and not about Ubuntu specifically, but it’s certainly not all of them.
  • limiting the scope of Planet Ubuntu takes away a certain amount of the “humanness” of the community. Ubuntu is not only “Linux for human beings”, it is also developed by human beings.
  • trying to legislate morality is both undesirable and incredibly difficult for the Community Council to do. They are trying to represent a community made up of people from nations and cultures all over the world, and it’s essentially impossible to satisfy both the moral sensibilities and personal liberties of everybody at the same time. I’m also fairly sure it is neither their right nor their charter to tell people what is and is not offensive.

OK, so what do we do? Is the status quo healthy and desirable? Well, I personally don’t think so. Obviously some people are getting offended (rightly or wrongly), other people don’t like being censored (rightly or wrongly), and still other people just want to read about Ubuntu and be informed about what’s going on.

On further thought about what the root cause of the current discontent may be I’ve come up with two possible reasons, IMO:

  • the repurposing [yes, I took that long to explain the title] of Planet Ubuntu into a news delivery medium. Planet Ubuntu is currently a mixture of Ubuntu news, announcements, activity, reports, team blogs, personal happenings and opinion pieces. I know if I want to let everybody know about something, I put it on Planet. Reader expectations play heavily into whether a post is deemed “appropriate” and what you would say in a newspaper article is generally going to be quite different from what you’re going to say friend after work over a drink.
  • the non-technical nature of Planet Ubuntu. More than most planets around the open source world, Planet Ubuntu is fairly non-technical. This is a reflection of the fact that it’s not an aggregator of Ubuntu developers, but of Ubuntu Members, many of whom contribute to Ubuntu by way of support (LoCo teams, IRC support, forums) or other “non-technical” avenues.

So, a couple of conclusions I’ve come to:

  • The Community Council will not solve our problem
  • We should try to separate “news” from the “window into the world, work and lives of Ubuntu developers and contributors” by pushing for an easy to use and effective Fridge. Fridge should be our primary web news outlet, not Planet. I think the result would be a shifting of reader expectations back towards the original purpose of Planet Ubuntu.
  • There will always be offensive (to somebody at least) posts on Planet occasionally, but as long as people aren’t publishing illegal or other clearly unacceptable content (which the Community Council has already ruled on) we should favor freedom of expression. I believe we can do this because the expectation of the reader should be that of peaking into Ubuntu Member lives, warts and all.
  • That same freedom of expression should allow people to respond critically to offensive posts. Open and respectful communication is going to win out over rules, censorship, and governance pretty much every time. We’re all friends here, we can tell each other when we mess up :-)

Anyway, not sure if this will be helpful for anybody or accomplish anything, but I at least feel good having said it

random bits

OK, so rather than my usually long and boring posts I’m going to try to do some smaller/quicker posts just so I can get some thoughts out without it turning into some boring epic that nobody wants to read ;-)

  • the latest discussion about appropriateness of Planet Ubuntu posts – even though Stephan can’t seem to stay out of trouble I really feel that the problem is with this one little sentence: “Planet Ubuntu is a window into the world, work and lives of Ubuntu developers and contributors.” I think we’ve perhaps grown too large to not limit aggregation to Ubuntu-related posts. [Edit: After some further thought I think I might change my position a bit. I'll give more info in a follow-up post]
  • upcoming Ubuntu QA team meeting – tomorrow (23rd) at 17:00UTC we’ll be having a meeting in #ubuntu-meeting. There’s a few agenda items that people might be interested in so if you’d like to contribute feel free to drop by.
  • hiking this weekend – my wife and I hiked Mt. Rose this weekend with some friends from church. Total the hike was ~10.6 miles (17 km) and had a ~1,900 ft. (579 m) elevation gain. We started at 8,900 ft. (2710 m) and it took us 7 hrs to hike to the summit, eat a quick lunch, and get back to the trailhead. You skinny hiking fanatics might not be impressed, but it was the longest/hardest hike I’ve done.
  • related to the previous item, anybody have a good suggestion on a place to put pics of my hike and other events? I’ve heard both good and bad things about Picasa and Flickr, what would you suggest? I’m looking for a pretty easy, simple, storage and sharing site.

The new and improved Ubuntu QA

For the last couple weeks I’ve been working behind the scenes on creating a community Ubuntu QA (quality assurance) team. For quite a while Canonical has largely driven QA efforts in Ubuntu and I firmly believed that the community can and should step up in this area (see this wiki page for more background information).

So, long story short, I’m announcing that a community-driven Ubuntu QA team is up and running! The IRC channel is #ubuntu-quality and the mailing list is ubuntu-qa.

From the team wiki page:

The Ubuntu QA team is focused on developing tools, policies, and practices for ensuring Ubuntu’s quality as a distribution as well as providing general advice, oversight, and leadership of QA activities within the Ubuntu project.

In general, QA in Ubuntu is broken down into the following areas:

  • Defect Management (Bug Triage)
  • Quality Control (Update, Application, and Pre-Release Testing)
  • Quality Assurance (Verification of Changes, Policy Compliance Review)
  • Product Improvement (Development)

Getting Involved

The main entry points for working on QA tasks are the BugSquad and Testing Team, however feel free to drop by #ubuntu-quality, if you are interested in Ubuntu QA.

Because Ubuntu QA is a coordination/development/working team the membership guidelines are:

  • Individuals, not teams may be members.
  • Expectations are that members have already been doing some QA work in the community, show a commitment to QA, and have some sort of plan for work they want to do. Ubuntu Membership and membership in a relevant QA team (see the list below) is generally what we are looking for.
  • Memberships expire annually and can be renewed by members themselves.
  • People from all areas of QA are encouraged to join.

What kinds of things does Ubuntu QA do?

  • Coordinate between the various QA-related teams
  • Build communities around QA work and help them run smoothly
  • Provide lead-from-the-front leadership to Ubuntu’s QA projects
  • Assess and communicate Ubuntu’s QA needs
  • Develop tools and services needed in Ubuntu QA work
  • Work on creating consistent and efficient QA-related policies
  • whatever else comes up or people want to contribute

Huge props go to Emmet Hikory, Steve Beattie, Henrik Omma, and the rest of the team for helping this get launched.

So stay tuned for more exciting QA developments, feel free to contribute, and rock on!