There seems to be some confusion surrounding why we made the decisions we did regarding the Ubuntu-US Planet. I would like to discuss those now, and I leave the comments section wide open for feedback pertaining to the reasons backing our decisions. There seems to have been hurt feelings, as some have left the US Teams Mentoring Project, and there is definitely some unanswered concerns. I hope to alleviate those now, and call back all those who have left.
First, who should be on the planet, and who shouldn't? This seemed to be immediately clear as we started discussing putting the planet together. Obviously, being a LoCo Team mentoring spec for the United States, US LoCo teams should be syndicated. The question came up as to whether or not individual bloggers should be syndicated as well. We decided not for a number of reasons, all of which we are willing to discuss at any great length.
The number 1 reason for not allowing individuals on the planet was to avoid duplicate content. Already, we have planet.ubuntu.com, which syndicates approved Ubuntu Members by the Community Council. For Ubuntu bloggers who have not been approved by the CC, but still would like more visibility and a higher profile, www.ubuntuweblogs.org has been created for just such an audience. To me, both of these planets serve the need for a blogger to get syndicated, and be read by a high number of readers.
The second reason for not allowing individuals on the US Teams planet was not abundantly clear, but came clear later on. If we were to allow individual bloggers on the planet, approved members or not, then we felt that a set of guidelines would need to be established as to what would be appropriate syndication. At which point, moderation at some level would need to be employed. The overhead, and maintenance of it all, made it clear that moderating blog posts as to what can be on the planet and what can't, is overall, just babysitting. For example, Alice publishes a blog post about some cool video she found on the web. Is this appropriate content for the US Teams planet? If the video was about a US LoCo team activity or meeting, sure. If it was about something not related, then no. So, how do we approach Alice, if her post was not appropriate? Do we remove her from the planet? Do we discuss it with her first? You can hopefully see the reasons why moderation aren't exactly the best option.
Lastly, if we are still ultimately concerned about individuals posting to the planet, then the best option that we could come up with, would be creating some sort of login to the planet directly, at which point, they could write directly to the planet treating it as a blog. It came down to the complexity of creating such a beast that made us decide this was not a good way to get content to the planet. So, individual bloggers just aren't a good fit for the US Teams planet.
Now we move to whether a US LoCo team needs to be approved by the Community Council before their team news can be syndicated. Ultimately, we decided in the affirmative on this point for a couple of reasons as well.
First, the planet is falling under the ubuntu-us.org domain, which to my knowledge is owned and operated by Canonical. Thus, we want to keep the face of Ubuntu and it's parent company Canonical in the best light possible. While there is no Code of Conduct for LoCo teams that I'm aware of, becoming approved shows that you have made the necessary sacrifices as a team and have solidified your footing in keeping the growth of the team moving. In other words, if approved, the team has shown that it can represent Ubuntu in communities. We want to make the same impression on the planet.
Second, the reason for approved teams on the planet is motivation and desire. When setting a personal goal to become an Ubuntu Member, I wanted my blog on planet.ubuntu.com. I wanted more and more people reading my blog to see my thoughts on opinions about various technologies in the industry. In other words, I wanted exposure. Your team should have the same desires. Ultimately, to become an approved team, means gathering a decent amount of people together in the area, holding regular and consistent meetings and spreading Ubuntu throughout the community. Once approved as a team, however, you work is far from over. Exposure for more to join the group and engage in the work of spreading Ubuntu is an ever engaging task. So, setting up a team news site, such as a team blog, is one way to increase that exposure. It can be argued that getting on the planet before approval would help in this situation. While I agree, there needs to be some external motivations, and we decided to use the US Teams planet as one. Get approved as a LoCo team from the CC, then get your team news site (blog) on the planet to increase your exposure even more.
I recognize that these decisions weren't easy ones to make. But, they were discussed in the #ubuntu-us channel at great length, and decided on as a majority. They were not made by any 1 person. As the United States of America is built upon democracy, so too is the US Teams Mentoring Project. The voice of the people, by the people, for the people. We hope that the US Teams Mentoring Project can offer some help to LoCo teams in the United States and get them on the road to approval. Ultimately, we want to see a team in every state by the end of the year, and we are really close to hitting that goal. Early even. It would be a shame to let the politics of the planet hinder that work. A lot has been done, but there is a lot more to do.
If there are any questions or concerns regarding these decisions, we are all ears. Please drop by the #ubuntu-us channel on Freenode to discuss them. All concerns will be heard and we talk about them at great length if needed. If we've made a bad decision, or are taking the project in the wrong direction, then we would like the feedback of the community.