Ubuntu News Team: What happened to UWN and the Fridge?

As I mentioned in my last post – events of the past month are requiring more time and thus the hours I was spending each week working on Ubuntu aren’t available, and I will be taking this cycle off. However, I know I have not clearly communicated many changes taking place with the news team to the community, due to my own busyness, and I apologize, and now take a few minutes to discuss the News Team in this post.

Ubuntu News Team

The Ubuntu News team is the team that is responsible for bringing you the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter (UWN)and content on “The Fridge”. Over the last few months the team as been working to not only continue bring news in various sources to the community, but to also update these resources.

It has been brought to my attention, as I talked to various Ubuntu developers that the difference between the Fridge and UWN isn’t well known. And if they didn’t know I am sure more people weren’t aware. Here’s a short description of the differences.

UWN is a summary of Ubuntu News during a given period of time (usually a week) covering a wide range of topics as it relates to Ubuntu, a digest if you will of all the relevant Ubuntu Information. With a goal of giving readers a place to see what happened without having to read a ton of RSS feeds. – No original content – In other words – Past News

The Fridge – is a place to find meetings and events (via the calendars) as well as the currently, timely and relevant news as well as original content (once the new WP themed Fridge is in place)- or Present News.


The newsletter and Fridge (which is *temporarily* being maintained at ubuntu-news.org) are maintained by volunteer community members. Without volunteers these publications don’t get produced – and the news team has been short staffed for a while now.

As with all Projects/Companies/Teams etc that rely on volunteers to keep the wheels of progress moving – volunteers will come and go and this is both necessary to the growth of all Projects/Companies/Teams etc and to the growth of the volunteers. The Ubuntu News Team is no different in that aspect.

Contributions to the newsletter come and go as do the various levels of contribution people can gave at any point in time.  However, when contributors fall to low and only one or two people are producing and publishing the newsletter this is not ideal for the volunteers or readers as both the volunteer and the publication suffer.  This was beginning to happen again with UWN.  (This is not the first time in the history of UWN this has occurred.  In the past, this has also lead to editors leaving the team because it wasn’t something one or two people could sustain.)

UWN – Open and Transparent

Ubuntu as with other Free and Open Source Software projects strives to do everything in an open and transparent manner. One of the things that people mentioned to me when I agreed to step into the role of Editor and Chief (EIC) of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter (UWN) was that UWN wasn’t being published in accordance with those goals. And to be honest, I understand why it wasn’t and was instead being coordinated and worked on in a non-logged, non-published channel – it was easier, people felt more comfortable commenting and asking questions or defending their point of view without feeling like they were going to have to argue at length about something or worry that they were offending someone.

While I believe it was the right decision to move these discussions back to ubuntu-news irc channel, I have however, questioned as to whether this was best or not for UWN as a publication. I believed it was and still is important for the community to know how it comes together, and the time needed to verify content and edit the publication.  Also I felt like this move took away the mystery of who is working on what and where you could go to ask questions or give input. There has as with all changes been some bumps in the road.

Past EIC’s gave up weekends for years on end, and while I thought that was noble, we are after all volunteers, and I could not see asking the same team members to give up their time with family, friends, and more  *every* weekend for a Newsletter. If the newsletter can’t be published during the week, or if people aren’t volunteering to help, the Editors should not have to burn themselves out to accomplish this. Sadly, this has been the case for most of the past EIC’s.

Changes to UWN

So some of the changes that have taken place in the last cycle were undertaken with this knowledge in mind so that going forward we wouldn’t loose community members through burnout from working on the news team. Some of those changes included:

1) Publishing on Mondays
2) Moving discussions and coordination of UWN to ubuntu-news irc channel and at times the mailing list.
3) Documenting the Editing and Publishing Processes
4) Being available to interact and discuss the rationale behind what was and what wasn’t covered in UWN.

Suggested Future Changes

However, there are still many things that need to happen and I am sad that I won’t be working on them, but excited for the News Team as someone new takes the reins to bring these items to the community.

I emailed Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager, to help the with various changes, because I knew that I was not going to be able to handle this transition in a manner that I would like to or to hand off a nice neat bundle with everyone on the team trained to publish UWN like I would have preferred.

Jono, true to form, called me and we talked about some of the changes as well as some suggestions for making it easier on the remaining team to get UWN published. (Thanks Jono for the call and for your willingness to help the News Team)

Also, prior to UDS, we included in UWN a survey about improving UWN. (Results will follow in another Blog Post)

The suggested changes that Jono and I talked about, and I have emailed these suggestions to the active contributing members who work on UWN, were based upon this survey as well as pain points identified during the last cycle and include but not limited to the following. (None of these are set in stone – but suggestions and are being offered here to maintain transparency)

* Suspending UWN til 1st weekend in December
* Making the process for contributing easier
* Making the publishing process easier
* Rotating Publishing Editors on some predictable schedule
* Updating Newsletter Documentation
* Updating re’orging news team wikis
* Renaming of Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter to Ubuntu Newsletter to be
published bi-weekly
* Communicating the need for more contributors
* Recruiting and training (as needed) new contributors

During the last cycle, calls for more volunteers went out and let me say thank you to all of you who answered that call and said how can I help? I wish I had been able to work with you more on this and I hope you will continue to contribute to UWN.

The Fridge

During the last cycle many members of the news team worked hard on taking the Ubuntu Word Press theme (many thanks Ubuntu website team for that theme) and tailoring it to the needs of the Fridge. We did this on ubuntu-news.org and moved the Fridge temporarily from fridge.ubuntu.com to ubuntu-news.org as maintaining two sites was not feasible.

The Canonical I.S. folks (Many thanks to Charlie and his team) are working hard to make sure what we have added via plugin-ins and scripts pass a security review prior to being moved back to a Canonical Server. Thankfully this process is almost complete.

I have to pause and thank, Nick Ali who stood up the domain, and helped make this possible. I am not sure we would even have anything to review if he had not helped set up this site. Other thanks go to Nathan Handler, Melissa Draper, Elizabeth Krumbach, and Alan Pope for their work on the ubuntu-news.org site as well.


Thank you!

Also, I apologize for any inconvenience that missed or delayed issues might have caused readers and please know that UWN should resume on a predictable schedule soon. The news team is working hard to make sure that UWN is a product that can continue to be maintained by volunteers without burning out those volunteers or sacrificing the quality of the publication. Thank you for your understanding as the team now goes through this transition. If you would like to help with the News Team please let the team know.


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