Ask Ubuntu moderator election is now underway!

We are in the midst of our 5th moderator election to add more firepower to our existing mod crew.

In the 6 years that Ask Ubuntu has been around, nearly 230,000 questions and 300,000 answers have been posted on the site, with the daily traffic clocking a whopping 487k visits as of now.

These numbers will only go up from here and to support this growing community, we are expanding our moderator team to accommodate two more. As is the policy with Stack Exchange network of sites, the new moderators will be added to the existing team and not replace them.

If you have a minimum of 300 reputation on Ask Ubuntu and think you can do a good job, consider nominating yourself for the role. The nomination phase itself runs for 7 days, followed by a week of primaries and then the actual election. People with 150 reputation are eligible for voting and I encourage them to vote for candidates that they think are most suitable for the role.

If you have any questions about the election process, you can ask them on meta. Discussions about the election can be had in the chat room too.

If mod work is not your cup of tea but you’re still looking for a way to help, you can always help us answer the incoming new questions. Featured questions would be a good place to start.


UPDATE:

Ask Ubuntu moderator election 2016 is now over and the following community members have been elected as moderators:

Ask Ubuntu – In the year 2013

Before I get anywhere, let me convey my thanks to slhck for his help with the data visualization and his awesome R skills.

Having got that out of the way, let’s look at some stats involving Ask Ubuntu in the year 2013. There is no real purpose in this exercise other than whetting my appetite for numbers.

Let’s start with the big picture. At this point, I should state the data points are not cumulative and represent the state of the site during that period of time.

d_m_deleted_closed

The total number of questions asked has almost tripled since 2011. Number of questions not being deleted has quite a linear growth as well. Remember, “questions” are deleted on Ask Ubuntu for a variety of reasons, including spam, offensive content and rants among others.

percentage

The percentage of questions closed to total questions asked has decreased over the years but the questions closed as duplicates has increased.

d_m_deleted_closed_2013

Breaking 2013 into months, we can see there are two peaks around 13.04 (2013-05) and 13.10 (2013-10) releases.

And what about the answers?

d_m_answers

There is a steep increase in the absolute numbers of questions with zero answers. Questions with accepted answers has taken a hit and so does questions with multiple answers.

d_m_answers_2013

In the various months of 2013, yeah.. we have work to do on that. Yet to fully recover from 13.10 release.

How goes voting?

One of the selling points of Ask Ubuntu (being a part of Stack Exchange network of sites) is that it is community regulated (via votes among other means). 2013, however, is not a year of voting on Ask Ubuntu.

d_m_score

Despite having more questions asked compared to 2012, the number of questions with at least a positive score has decreased. Questions with 3 or more votes have decreased sharply as well.

Questions with no positive score have skyrocketed. Guess it’s time to pull our socks and vote more. Want to help? ๐Ÿ™‚

d_m_score_2013

The monthly breakdown of 2013 seems to suggest a general decrease in votes as well.

Questions and traffic

For a site that is currently getting about 260k views per day, the following might be surprising.

d_m_views

50% of the questions asked in 2013 don’t have more than a 100 views, which is not particularly appeasing. It seems not a lot of questions are getting enough eye balls and are adding to the growing tally of tumbleweeds on the site.

d_m_views_2013

Making the truth more obvious since the 90s.

Scores, views and answers combined

d_m_views_score

More page views clearly increase the possibility of a question getting either a vote or (hopefully) an answer.

d_m_views_score_2013

The last couple months of 2013 have a higher number of lowly viewed questions. Guess they need a little time to garner more views.

If any data wiz out there wants to play with the data, here’s the spreadsheet. And that would be all from the numbers department this year.

[HOWTO] Reset Unity configuration using unity-tweak-tool

Not so recently, the command unity --reset was deprecated when Unity migrated its settings from gconf to gsettings. This happened in the 12.10 development cycle and as a result, there was no easy way to quickly reset the Unity configuration in 12.10 and later.

In order to fix that, we bundled a script with unity-tweak-tool which resets Unity configuration for you. The script utilizes gsettings API and is considered more secure than using dconf reset.

To use it, run the command

unity-tweak-tool --reset-unity

in a terminal. After doing so, log out and log back in again. You should hopefully have a Unity profile that was reset.

If in the unfortunate case you run into a bug or other anomaly, please consider filing a bug report against unity-tweak-tool on Launchpad. We will try our best to fix it for you.


For the attentive ones, it is in fact the same script that was posted on Ask Ubuntu. It should have made it into the Unity source code but we got lazy and Mir was announced; everything got thrown into the backburner and we took the easy way out and just rolled it into unity-tweak-tool.

Ask Ubuntu reaches new milestone: 100,000 questions!

Today, Ask Ubuntu crossed a major milestone in the history of the site. Yes, there are now over 100,000 questions asked on Ask Ubuntu.

This would be our 100,000th question:

What Unity Lenses and Scopes are available to add?

*Funnily enough, this question is actually a duplicate of another question already asked.

Here’s a rough graphical representation of how Ask Ubuntu has fared since its launch in terms of questions asked:

Ask Ubuntu questions by half-yearly

Clearly, there are still tons of questions that are unanswered. To be accurate, there are about 25,000 questions yet to be answered. Unfortunately, bringing this number down cannot be achieved without help from people like you. If you think you have what it takes, please consider taking a look at our list of unanswered questions and answering them as you see fit.

Unity Tweak Tool is now in the Raring repository!

It’s been wholly four months since we started development on unity-tweak-tool and two months since it was available for wider testing. And now, finally, it is in the Ubuntu repository for 13.04 release!

Many thanks to the MOTU reviewers Daniel Holbach, Michael Terry and Bhavani Shankar, who also sponsored the package. Also extending the cordiality to Adam Conrad (~infinity) for a final review on the distributability of the package as an archive admin. And, last but not the least, thanks to the Ubuntu community for their feedback during the development, which was really helpful in shaping this product for the better.


Now that I have gotten that out of the way, we are going to start work for the s-cycle (or is it rolling?). That includes finishing the rewrite of the backend for better maintainability and making it easier for us to extend the current set of features.

We also have some exciting plans in our mind for the s-cycle (or rolling, depending on how that discussion ends up), that includes:

  • Ability to preset settings (switching settings based on context)
  • Sync the settings โ€” potentially across various computers โ€” using Ubuntu One
  • Back up and restore settings, for those feeling adventurous yet unwilling to compromise their current setup.

Also in the to-do list for the upcoming cycle includes some relatively boring items:

  • Search bar
  • Installing and removing themes from tarballs
  • Unit tests to prevent any new bugs from creeping in and to increase the quality of the code
  • Autopkgtests โ€” Automatic testing for packages
  • Extensive debug logs for better bug-hunting.

Please do keep in mind that these plans are tentative in nature and it very much depends on how Unity development pans out over the next year or so. We’ll try our best to create a tweak tool for the Qt/QML based Unity as and when it becomes available for users.

Ask Ubuntu community moderator election is now underway!

We are having community moderator elections for the year 2013 in order to accommodate the growing community at Ask Ubuntu. The elected moderators from this year’s election will complement the current moderators, as is the policy with Stack Exchange network of sites.

Ask Ubuntu had some tremendous growth in the year 2012 and the stats only prove that:

  • Over 50,000 questions,
  • 60,000 more users and
  • more than tripling the daily traffic to 217k visits/day.

If you are one of those nice blokes (like the current set of moderators ;)) and is willing to help make Ask Ubuntu an even better place, please do consider nominating yourself for the upcoming moderator elections. The nomination phase runs for the next 7 days followed by the voting on the nominees. Do note that the nominees are required to have at least 300 reputation. Anyone with over 150 reputation will be part of the electorate and can vote on the nominees during the election phase.

People interested in discussing the election or any of the nominations, please consider joining the chat room for Ask Ubuntu elections.

Or, we can always use some help with answering the questions. Here’s a good place to start.


UPDATE:

Ask Ubuntu moderator election 2013 is now over and the following community members have been elected as moderators:

Unity-tweak-tool: For the power user in you!

After almost two months of intense development, we people at Freyja Development team are in a position to release unity-tweak-tool for wider consumption.

The two months of developing unity-tweak-tool had its fair share of fun and frolic. Unity-tweak-tool was born as Mechanig but was renamed twice to this very name. Reasons for the renaming varies from being too witty for the users to naming issues with the Unity developers.

As if naming wasn’t the only issue, I had goofed up the apport hook and pointed the hook to Novacut project instead. I realized I didn’t carefully vet the single line of code that I copied from Jason DeRose’s blog post regarding using Apport in daily PPA. Jason identified the faux pas and fortunately, we managed to fix the issue within a day. It made me realize the necessity of carefully reviewing any piece of code that we write from this rather embarrassing mistake. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I would like to use this moment to thank my fellow team members at Freyja Development team namely Phani Mahesh, Amith kk, Georgi Karavasilev, Sam Tran, Sam Hewitt and รngel Araya for their continued efforts on unity-tweak-tool.

Also to be thanked are Jason Gerard DeRose, the talented developer behind the wonderful Novacut project, who helped us immensely by setting up the packaging for unity-tweak-tool, David Planella, whose input on Gtk and Glade were of great help when the project was still in infant stage as well as Benjamin Kerensa for interviewing the entire Freyja development team for OMG!Ubuntu!

There has already been 519 downloads on quantal and 46 downloads on raring from the daily PPA and that makes us quite excited. If you are equally excited, you can try and test the package from our daily PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:freyja-dev/unity-tweak-tool-daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

Alternatively, if you are interested in reviewing the code or contributing to the project, you can obtain the code from GitHub.

Ask Ubuntu update for November 2012

Data dumps
Ask Ubuntu, as part of the Stack Exchange network of sites, licenses all the user contributed data by CC BY-SA 3.0 license. As part of the licensing, the data are made public by data dumps every quarterly. Starting this month, however, the data dumps would be made available every week.

This makes it much easier to keep track of interesting data queries and Jorge Castro shares some of them here. If you could spare some time, go through some of the data queries and flag the questions and review the posts and what not. It would help us improve our currently flailing answered rate. ๐Ÿ™‚

Self-learners
We have users who run into a problem and then eventually find a solution on their own and then come back to document the solution themselves. As an attempt to reward such users by reviewing and upvoting quality answers from them, Jorge Castro blogs about how to “hat tip” to them.

Top contributors
Following are the top five contributors who have accrued the most reputation points in the month of November.

Hottest questions
Some of the hottest questions for the month of November:


If you are looking to help, the featured questions should be a good place to start. If you are interested in the site, you can sign up for the newsletter and you will be kept informed of quality questions and answers every week. In case you are struck and is looking for help on how to use the site, feel free to ask your doubts on the Ask Ubuntu meta or join us in the chat*.

*Requires 20 reputation to participate in the chat.

HIG for Ubuntu Unity

Last week, I started working on a personal project to create a good Unity configuration tool that doesn’t look out of place or outright ugly. During the process, I realized how awesome it would have been if we had some sort of design guidelines.

Having Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) would allow developers to create applications that blend with the platform instead of sticking out like sore thumbs. Like myself, there are many other developers who don’t have any idea about properly designing applications for Ubuntu. The closest we have to a HIG is a bunch of links to Ubuntu wiki, API and documentation.

Surely, if we were to compete with well-established developer platforms like Windows, iOS and Android, having a neat set of HIG for developers to refer to would go a long way in helping them create software that are well integrated with Ubuntu itself.

To my surprise, it so happens that other open-source projects do have a HIG. Some of them may not be complete but it is nonetheless better than nothing. KDE has it. XFCE has it. GNOME has it and by extension, distros with pretty much unmodified GNOME software like Debian and Fedora are covered as well. Even Ubuntu downstream Elementary has it and a pretty good one at it too. If I may add, it shows that these platforms care about creating a unified experience for the users. Ubuntu being one of the major Linux distributions seem to have forgotten about HIG altogether.

I do have to point out the default applications themselves aren’t very much consistent. That might very well have to do with the fact that there are at least 5 different toolkits (Gtk, Qt, Xul, Nux and whatever that LibreOffice uses) being used but that discussion is for one other day. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I figure Canonical was looking for an interaction designer earlier this year to create HIG for Ubuntu among others but I am not sure what came out of it. With the added focus on developing a Ubuntu SDK sometime in the foreseeable future, I hope Canonical doesn’t overlook the need to create a HIG at least this time around.

A look at GNOME’s designs

I took gnome-shell 3.6 for a spin and it looks pretty decent on the face value. It is doing fine for a product that I would consider a work in progress. But there are considerable number of designs that I would think are flawed by nature.

Yes, yes. Yet another rant against the poor designs of GNOME but I couldn’t help it. It’s been in my TODO for way too long. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Obfuscated unlock mechanism
The one that should be very obvious to most is having to slide using the mouse to unlock the screen and then type the password to unlock the screen. Why exactly is two different forms of authentication is required is beyond me. The idea of sliding to unlock is primarily for touch interfaces to prevent unlocking the phone by accident. On a traditional desktop environment, we shouldn’t have to do anything to unlock — the good ol’ way of entering the password should be sufficient. If the new shiny useless lock screen was designed with touch devices in mind, it should be implemented just on those devices.

No window controls for maximized windows
The next niggle is not showing the window controls for maximized windows. How exactly am I supposed to unmaximize windows once I maximize them? Oh yes, accessing the window menu using Alt+Space is always an option but do I really have to do all that just to unmaximize / minimize a window?

Or are we deprecating the feature of minimizing the window altogether? Actually, that seems plausible given there is no minimize button by default and I just had to put it back by tweaking the button_layout in dconf. Anyway, completely hiding the window control is even worse than Unity’s way of showing the window controls over mouseover and that is not exactly a good thing.

Lack of unobstructive notifications
The default GNOME notifications are distracting. It very much interrupts the workflow as the notifications require manual interaction to be dismissed. I currently fall back to Ubuntu’s notifyOSD as it doesn’t require immediate action but it isn’t perfect either.

Quicklists and progress bars
I really dig Unity’s minor but quite useful features like quicklists and progress bars. From having to quickly launch into a task to keeping an eye on the file transfer progress, these minor features were quite handy when I am using Unity. I am hopeful that implementing such features wouldn’t jeopardize GNOME’s long-term design plans.

Not everything that the GNOME designers have been doing seems backwards. They have made some chances that I commend.

Saving the all precious vertical space
Being a Unity user, I have been pampered with more vertical space as the window controls, title bar and the menu bar all gets rolled into the top bar and that gives ample of space when browsing the Internet and other regular activities. It is good to note that the GNOME’s current designs have similar guidelines and I would be eager to see more applications getting updated to match the designs.

In the meantime, I am using HTitle, a Firefox addon that hides the title bar when maximized as a stopgap solution.


The idea of being able to highly customize gnome-shell using the extensions is also impressive. I am afraid the various Unity lenses will never be able to match the versatility offered by the extensions.

And for some unknown reasons, flash videos have a much better performance in gnome-shell than in Unity. I am thinking it has to do with the differences in mutter and Compiz.

To bring about a closure to the semi-rant, I think gnome-shell has a bright future if the designers realize that they shouldn’t disregard all the form factors. Sure, target the tablet devices assuming they are the future but don’t forget the desktops and the laptops that are still around.