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


22 thoughts on “repurposing Planet

  1. You may need to do some clarification of your final point (“That same freedom of expression should allow people to respond critically to offensive posts.”). As worded, it could be taken to mean that you expect the OP to allow critical comments on their personal sites, which while in the spirit of what you’re getting at, would at the same time be an unreasonable expectation from individuals regarding their own property / online space. I’m guessing that you were more getting at “response posts”, usually (but not necessarily) by other Planet-aggregated people. Is that correct?

    Meanwhile, wholeheartedly agreeing with the rest, getting more of the “official newsy” sounding things on Fridge where they belong and keeping Planet more personal. I think part of it is that it used to be a lot harder to get things on Fridge, and many people got used to that and just don’t bother, while the Fridge team has actually become a lot more responsive for the things that are sent their way.

    The rest of my gripes with Planet are technical in nature, so let me know if you feel like doing any hacking on the code while you’re thinking about it… 😛

  2. please let ALL planets be a FREE and LIBERAL place!
    everyone else can maybe move to china or the lebanon.


  3. I will echo Matt Easts comments. I would have changed “The Community Council should not solve our problem” as it should be decided by a larger group than just the CC and will not implies lack of ability to make a decision rather than lack of wanting to impose a decision on the community.

  4. Well put, Jordan. I’ve been writing a post about offensiveness, but I think it’s one of those things that should be done after I get a good night’s sleep.

  5. “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.”
    It’s not in your right or charter to tell us that that isn’t in our right or our charter. We’re back to being tolerant of everthing but intolerance again. This could turn into a huge philosophical debate.

  6. News is for the fridge. If we need to somehow expand the ability of people to post to the fridge, that might be worth looking into.

  7. I have responded to a couple of people before I realized that the Planet was more comprehensive that just Ubuntu-related material. In the intent of “virtual socialization”, having personal posts keeps a tangible reminder of the real people and their daily things that they set aside to work on Ubuntu.

    However… I do read the planet to read about Ubuntu stuff. With so many blogs added to the planet, what I want to read about sometimes zips away when there are bursts of personal posts.

    Unless the overall statement is going to be revamped, I think there is one basic rule I learned from a bartender that should be implemented: “Don’t talk about religion or politics. Talk about anything else, and you can be anyone’s best friend.” Everyone has strong opinions about religion and politics, and those should be kept to more specific forums.

  8. Pingback: Andre Noel » Blog Archive » Repurposing Planet

  9. I am still fascinated how asking members to be respectful turned into this, and now you propose “repurposing Planet”.

    By moving the focus away from this issue, and attributing it to “moral sensibility” you are essentially validating the arrogance, the agressive attitude and the un-helpful comments that followed my original post – those are the ones highly off-topic, that is what I feel is wrong at the moment.

    If we can’t even have basic netiquette (yes, netiquette) on Planet, it’s an important regression back to the “AOL users s**k, back off our newsgroups” days, I thought the whole idea was to improve on that.

  10. Hi Jordan,

    Nicely put. But this issue is really a nitpicking one. We agree fully, that illegal or violating NDA (corporate) stuff doesn’t belong on the planet.
    In this special case, it’s neither of it. The question here, with this particular matter, is being a meta-communication thing.

    Question: How often are you reading “WTF” on irc, if something is strange from devs or other people on our channels? It’s really nothing “un-ethical” “illegal” or whatever is not allowed. It’s neither against any CoC document…because it’s nothing then just an abbreviation of “something”.

    As “geeks” we know what “WTF” means, but to know and “translating” it in my (or somebodies) mind doesn’t mean, that’s “foul language” or whatever Fabián is pointing out for others.

    The problem here, is people are in need of “appointed a**holes”, and for many people I’m this appointed one. I don’t care. But I do care, if someone tries to push me into an area, which I’m not belonging, mostly because there is a lack of knowledge or understanding or not reading the refered articles I (or also other people) reply to.

    I know of many members, who are not anymore on the planet, because of those “self appointed moral guardians”.

    Well anyways, the last time when there was a discussion about me during a CC meeting, I wasn’t even invited, this time was the same. Fabián was not telling me personally, I was informed by another member.

    This time, IMHO, we discuss this matter for once and for last, because this “religious” attitude pushes people more away from our Project, then a simple WTF or whatever.

    We (as project) are not a church, religion or a sect. And this is one thing people should learn.

    BTW, my blog and our planet is being read by my bosses, and if they are not kicking me, it’s ok. The other way, that they are coming to me, and telling me: “Good article, I agree fully here” is more likely to happen.

    But again, a very good article, and 100% agree.

  11. @Tony: Yeah, thanks for the clarification. Responsive posts, emails, etc. should be allowed under the same freedom.

    @Jadd: it’s not particularly philosophical. The Community Council *does* have a charter (you can go read it). Whether a person is offended or not is a personal decision/feeling and not something that an external body can just tell you. So, I was merely stating what people should already be aware of, not making a philosophical proposition.

    @Fabian: the problem is that “respectful” is a very loaded term, and as I said, basically impossible to define sufficiently for all members. BTW, I’m most certainly not defending offensive content. I’ve taken great offense to a great many posts on Planet. I’m a “fundamentalist” evangelical Christian from the US who voted for George W. Bush twice, you can’t get a lot more “offendable” than that 😉

    @shermann: you know I love you man, but seriously, don’t you think after this many times it’s a bit more than nitpicking? It’s not about censoring you, but you make it more difficult for people to read your blog when you do stuff like that. I’ve love to be to recommend your blog (and Planet Ubuntu in general) to my family and friends but I can’t because of posts I know will offend them. That’s what I think is the shame, personally.

  12. There is no offensive content. There are only immature people who get pissed off for nothing. And write long meaningless blog posts about it.

    The mature thing would have been to ignore and move on.

  13. @Jordan:

    TBH, I don’t take it against me. It’s a general question.
    I haven’t (I say it here again ;)) been offending. A “WTF” is just a three letter keyboard typing experience, “w” “t” “f”. But those three letters are the case why we have all this now.

    A “climax” (Greek: klimax, Meaning: 1 : a figure of speech in which a series of phrases or sentences is arranged in ascending order of rhetorical forcefulness , 2 a : the highest point : CULMINATION b : the point of highest dramatic tension or a major turning point in the action (as of a play), there are other meanings, but those I leave out, because it’s not what I intented to say) (which I wrote also in this very article) has nothing to do with what someone think it is (the last one meaning of the word climax is imho that what he was thinking of) …it was very well formulated to be a reply to a very special and refered article. And really, if I wanted to point out last meaning of this world,you know me, I would have said it in other words.

    Yes, I know, clicking on links is painful sometimes, but when I’m reading an article, I need to know, is the author refering to something, and what is written in this refered article.

    This was not done. I know already, then when I really write something offending that people will kick my butt…but this wasn’t the case, just MagicFab who complained, and even with the appeal to come back, when he informed himself about the article afterwards. I can’t be to blame, if his mind is playing some strange games with him while he was reading my post. But really, I can’t take any precautions because of people with a strange fantasy.

    The problem with all this:

    a) I’m questionable, because of some mistakes in the past. My fault, but that’s me.
    b) Some people need at least one punching doll, I’m very happy that’s me.
    c) Nobody, especially not the complaining party, is informing the other party, that he is going to some other place and is complaining publicly. The result would be, that I couldn’t listen to his complains, and can’t react. (I admit, I don’t read all those pages with agenda items of meetings I’m not interested in or not having the time for)
    d) It’s nitpicking, or something I (and others) don’t understand.
    e) The result was the public “blogwar”…but this is the consequence someone has to face when someone takes an action. I think this is more then usual. You slap someone, someone will slap back (even if the holy book says otherwise, but reality looks different, sad enough).

    Anyways, let’s wait for the CC meeting…I’m happy to discuss all that in front of a big audience…:)

  14. ‘WTF’ is an abbreviation for ‘What The Fuck’. Just because you got used to abbreviating it and not typing ‘Fuck’ but ‘F’ each time, it doesn’t change the abbreviation at all in many people’s minds.

  15. Hopefully people are considering the conflict-of-interest created by this discussion for those blog authors who generate revenue from their blog. Obviously focusing the content on the planet could reduce traffic to their blogs so any argument against such an action by those authors should be considered bias.

  16. @vadirkp: I know exactly what this abbreviation means, so does every geek in the world.
    Good to know, that this world is not full of geeks. 90% of the world population won’t know it, even if geeks want to see a world full of geeks. Nobody in my non-computer friends world does know any of those geekish abbreviations…they hardly understand CU or w8.

    We are writing in a different codepage, only a handful (regarding the population of the world) knows or recognising the meaning of those abbrevation.

    In former times, mostly when most of our community didn’t know anything about internet, communication, usenet or even mailboxing or modems, those abbrevs were used to save bandwidth (use google). These abbrevs were then adopted by the new kids in the cell generation for SMSing, because there you have only 163(? dunno I don’t write enough SMS) characters…

    BUT, the reason today to use at least abbrevs like WTF is to not use the word f*ck..because of reasons of whatever.

    Regarding my dictionary is this very special world a “slang” word. Which means, in my language WTF is something like “Was für ein Scheiss!” or “Was ist das denn?” (use google again or use to translate this into english).

    Regarding other anglo-saxxon speaking countries, especially the US, you will hear more likely this word on the street, then you’ll like.

    But if real life is annoying, someone should move away from the real life…I do write and speak about real life topics, not about the beauty shiny dreamy world of someones fantasy. For those fantasies there is Hollywood, oh sorry, Bollywood I mean (the idian movies) where you don’t hear those swearing or exclamations. Even in most of the movies from Hollywood you will hear those words…and I wonder if anybody of the audience will go afterwards to the director of the cinema and complaining about the movie which wasn’t even made by this guy.

    Really, people should get a life and not living in front of a computer the whole day.


  17. This was a good blog post…..and I liked that you appreciate that it is not the Community Council’s job to legislate morality for us. Honestly, this is the very problem with having such council’s. Folks that get on such councils don’t look at it as a way to keep out REAL threats, but as a way to CONTROL OTHERS, while claiming to protect folks. Uh huh, I got some land in the swamp for sale also.

    Now, you bring up about it happening so many times to Stephan can it really be nit picking? Well yes it can and is. It is the same bunch of folks that harass him over and over again. The same troupe. Most of them with “authority” in the Ubuntu “community”, which I have mentioned is nothing of the sort…if you arent part of THEIR crowd..forget it you are sure to hear complaints. This isn’t a community of equals. This is a religion.

    Now why is it so often against Stephan? Because the rest of us that are like Stephan, WONT come onto the planet because we’ve watched this crap endlessly. Like Stephan how? Having opinions and lifestyles outside of the typical mainstream. In his case it is because he is German, so there are language considerations that anglo speaking persons so often just do not get, or care about. My money’s on the second. But for the rest of us, we are different, outside the mainstream, in our lifestyle choices. Same money on whether these Ubuntu leaders give three rips about us.

    Go spend a few days in the Ubuntu chat rooms. Here is what you will see. Gay and lesbian folks told that they are not allowed to talk about their relationships. Folks that are not allowed to talk about alcohol. Then, the ones telling them that are then talking about it! Folks told not to use swear words. Ask them WHAT swear words? What constitutes a swear word to you doesnt constitute it to me. I’m of Irish descent, and even after all these years we still say feck with an E. It’s not offensive, and it’s not meant to be Fuck. As the maid said on Father Ted….”And she used the F word Father…I don’t mean Feck, I mean the REAL F word….”

    Still they won’t answer what counts as a swear word. After chastising you for certain words (not just fuck), they will then use all manner of swear words. They will tell us we cant talk about our relationships (GLBPT) but then they will talk about having cheated on their spouses. Serious wtf kind of double standard is that? In the least if certain words are forbidden TELL us what they are. Post it someplace. Anything less leads to Kangaroo Courts, wherein the Judges decide on a whim what is and is not allowed. Are you their friend? Then fuck is no big deal. Are you not? Then expect to being punted for saying crap. Think about that for a minute, certain words are NOT permissable.

    Now, this is claimed to be about respect. That is, I have to respect that you might be pissed off about something that I say, so I have to carefully choose my words, cause god forbid you hear something a bit sharp. Yet, this is absolutely no two way street. If I am offended, or folks on the fringe like myself…too bad.

    So, I’ll explain how I feel about respect. I respect folks enough, that even when I disagree with them passionately, I refrain from suggesting that they need to adjust what they say. That’s respect.

    If we are going to get down showing respect only by limiting our speech, ideas, words or initials (wtf, fuck, my gay boyfriend, my panchant for Guinness, a bad childhood experience), then shouldn’t the very same consideration be granted to us? Can’t we start to say what offends us and that therefore they also should not be posting that? For me that means, no religious posts. No posts about kids (I have none for a reason). No posts about marraige (I’m opposed to it because of its historic domination), posts about asparagus (which I am opposed to cause it is icky…..)

    Is this an angry comment? Of course it is. I mean for cryin out loud this stuff of trying to control folks with different ideas (mainly us on the fringe) has been going on since I first saw Ubuntu. My only consolation is, that somehow, with all this crap, Ubuntu as an OS still somehow turns out pretty alright. It’s probably got something to do with insanity being a key component of Genius. Hel if I know. (By Hel I mean Hel, a Germanic Goddess, not Hell, the christian place)

  18. Ok, I agree with some points and disagree with others.
    1. As to making it easier to post to the fridge, it’s not that hard now. Just join the ubuntu-news-team mailing list here: and submit your news. If it’s deemed worthy, we will post it to the fridge.
    2. Can you ever have to many outlets for news items. We want and should encourage post to the planet about Ubuntu, and Ubuntu news should be part of those posts.
    3. I suppose my biggest complaints when I look at the planet really only concerns a few post. Those that have absolutely nothing to do with Ubuntu, and the posts from people (sometimes 2 or 3 a day) that are lengthy howtos that also include at the bottom, related posts they have written before. Howtos should really be posted to the forums where they will have the most impact to the community. I’m not saying howtos are bad, but maybe a better way is to have a small description of the howto and a link to the full version.

  19. Pingback: Justin Dugger: George Carlin’s rolling in his grave | Christian eBuddy Blog

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