I’ve been giving the Ubuntu Stack Exchange some attention and I wanted to do a little bit of a review. Firstly I’d like to thank Jorge Castro and other members of the community team for getting a tool in place to replace the failing launchpad answers functionality.
With that I do want to make a criticism. This site was pushed as a JFDI and as such it doesn’t really take into account the views of the larger ecosystem. What do I mean? well now we have to decide if we want to keep launchpad answers around, how projects/the ubuntu project will specify to go to askubuntu instead and how to transition existing data over, migration of data, who owns it and how access is guaranteed. This is all made harder by the proprietary and out sourced nature that the stack exchange service is being offered to us.
This is mitigated slightly by some help from Robert Cartaino of Stack Exchange who is excited to help us with our functionality and integration issues. It’s just not as ideal as I would like.1
The service it’s self is well thought out, with questions being editable, comments being useful and answers being constructive. The functional stepping stones that you go through as you get more reputation are interesting and beneficial, although missing is the functionality to have reputation per tag and have that shown in your answers to questions.
There isn’t much to the site over all, it’s clever design takes some good elements and mixes them together in just the right way to produce a clever output. It’s useful and seems to be a winner with the community. The ranking, badges and increasing reputation make the system more of a game and use the best elements of addictive research to keep people participating in the volunteer support site.
I did want to list all questions which has never gotten an answer, all I could do was list questions that had never had an answer accepted. Which is not quite the same thing. I also see there is a _lot_ of questions with answers without the answer being picked. Something we may have to do some future house keeping on.
The chat functions are a bit erroneous and should probably be integrated into irc somehow instead. But perhaps it’s just a place to do house cleaning so maybe it just needs putting in a better place than on every page.
So far the culture on AskUbuntu has been very good. I haven’t seen rudeness or condescension anywhere and people have been polite and helpful throughout even with really hard problems of hardware issues where a number of back and forths are required to sort them out.
Overall I think I’m happy with the Ask Ubuntu site. It’s too late to now back up and move to the FOSS solution so we’re stuck with what we got. But if we must be stuck using a proprietary system, at least let that system not suck. Which this one doesn’t at all.
1 Canonical tends to have a bit of a blind spot for making sure community and development tools are FOSS. Take Launchpad’s extended exile for instance. It’s all rather reminiscent of BitKeeper and the price we pay for not learning from that mistake.