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