[sf-lug] Web site design (and creeping commercial interest/bias)

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Wed Feb 25 08:10:06 PST 2015

So ... from some various communications (including not only on list(s),
but also off-list and verbal) ...

There can be various both advantages, and disadvantages to commercial
sponsorship and/or company or commercial entity owning
Open Source software (e.g. owning the copyright and controlling/tweaking
the licenses under which such is released and/or accepted), and
similarly, contributing in Open Source and related realms (e.g.
sponsoring or contributing to a User Group).

Of course some of the advantages, is they often have funds, marketing
clout, resources, etc., to contribute - and that can often, at least
mostly, be a good thing.

And of course, for-profit company, there's generally always going to be
at least some money-making commercial bias in their actions and
decisions.  So, that's certainly not always a bad thing, but sometimes
it at least introduces conflict of interest - or worse - relative to
what the goals and spirit of Open Source software are, or at least
generally should be.

Anyway, I'm sure a few zillion or so pro/con "arguments" can be made
(and (mini-?) flame wars started, etc.).

But, anyway, not to specifically beat up Canonical, but just to cite as
a specific example (and slight annoyance) that recently caught my
attention.  Oh, and also, just to disclose some 'o my own biases, Debian
does also happen to be my favorite distribution.  :-)

So, anyway, I tend to maintain fair collection of relatively current ISO
images for quite a number of Linux distributions (and even a bit 'o BSD
in there now), and web page on that too:
Anyway, not long ago (2015-02-22) I was again updating that wiki page a
bit, and as I often do, I verify the links I've included are functional
and appropriate.  So, ... I followed the customary link I include for
Ubuntu: http://www.ubuntu.com/
I (at least logically) generally think and presume, hey, that's main
page for Ubuntu, it ought likely well have fairly good/prominent link
for "About Ubuntu" or the like, if it's not already quite obvious on the
web page what Ubuntu is ... and unlike some specific "About Ubuntu"
link, http://www.ubuntu.com/ should be much less likely to succumb to
link rot than some more specific "about" URL, which might later change.
So, ... I looked at the http://www.ubuntu.com/ page.  Uhm, yeah, it does
still have an "About Ubuntu" link, but - at least as viewed from most
browsers, it's pretty well relatively buried in the "fine print" (small
font, third up from the bottom of links that mention Ubuntu) - certainly
not very prominent at all.  And, alas, the http://www.ubuntu.com/ web
page itself, uhm, ... reads much more like a sales/marketing page
promoting Canonical, than it does at all mention or describe what Ubuntu
is.  In fact, the most prominent mentions of Ubuntu on the page -
there's large Ubuntu logo and link ... to the page itself (kind'a
useless ... except for possibly providing consistent header and links
across multiple pages on the site).  Hmmmm ... and as I try to load it
presently ... "Connecting to www.ubuntu.com..." ... really, geez ...
well, whatever, I guess some transient issue ... reload worked sooner
than I could isolate why it was hanging up for many tens of seconds or
more.  Anyway, that page itself mostly pretty much lacks much of
anything in the way of information about Ubuntu - across the top,
nothing that's assuredly relevant, other than the self-referential link,
and the "Download" link may be relevant - but with the main body of the
page most prominently promoting (at present) "Canonical's OpenStack
Roadshow", it's not immediately apparent, especially for someone
unfamiliar with Ubuntu and/or OpenStack (or Canonical's relationship to
Ubuntu), if the page really has all that much of anything to do with
Ubuntu, ... though glancing down bit further, not quite as prominent,
but still quite clear, looking for mentions of Ubuntu, there's quite
prominent "Ubuntu for cloud" and "Download Ubuntu" - again, not so
useful for anyone that's not already rather familiar with Ubuntu (or
worse, they might presume Ubuntu is something one downloads for and must
use with cloud).  And are there any rather prominent links on the page
for "Help", "Information", or "Support"?  No, though there is a teensy
link for "Support" relatively buried just a bit above the
"About Ubuntu" link.

But gee, might there be a good, consistent "About" URL suitable for
Ubuntu?  Well, we find two possible links on the page:
About Ubuntu http://www.ubuntu.com/about/about-ubuntu
About http://www.ubuntu.com/about/
(makes me think:
"Will the real 'About Ubuntu' URL please stand up!"
wget -q -O - http://www.ubuntu.com/about/ |
perl -e '
About the Ubuntu project | Ubuntu
wget -q -O - http://www.ubuntu.com/about/about-ubuntu | perl -e ...
About Ubuntu | Ubuntu
... yeah, that didn't exactly help.  Project?  What's the difference
between Ubuntu and "The Ubuntu Project"?
It probably also doesn't help that the two "About" pages don't even
mention or cross-reference each other (unless we again count the teeny
weeny links towards the bottom)
But geez, one would think/hope, on a web page of:
that there wouldn't be two separate links to ... distinct "about"
content!  If there ought be a nice good, consistent, persistent URL for
"About Ubuntu", the page layout, URLs, and distinct sets of content
certainly doesn't make it clear.
I typically prefer to link to authoritative source - and
http://www.ubuntu.com/ would be such in this case - albeit biased,
but that would certainly also apply in most such cases.
But if Ubuntu's "About Ubuntu" information is that buried,
I might want to change and just link to wikipedia:
... though that approach also has both advantages and disadvantages.

So, ... among other things, seems it's not just some (presumed)
younger, less experienced community college students that could learn a
thing or two about web design and layout (and how to and how not to
market/promote oneself).  See also the earlier:
BALE updates (CCSF Linux Users Group ... 302 ... 301 ... JavaScript ...)

Anyway, Ubuntu/Canonical.  By way of comparison, have a look at the
main Debian website: https://www.debian.org/
The About (Debian) information is clearly and prominently placed (upper
left, in two places, relatively large/prominent font),
and also, once past the top navigation headers and banner logo (and a
link in its upper right for download), the very next bit of text on the
web page very clearly and quite concisely spells out what Debian is, and
the first link past that bit of text (two sentences, with some embedded
links).  Oh, and the "About Debian" link at the very upper left, and the
"About" link right after the two sentences describing Debian ... yeah,
they both go to the same place:
So, yes Debian and the main Debian web page rock!  :-) (wee bit 'o bias
might sneak in there).  It hasn't always been that awesome.  8-O  But
it's always been at least rather to quite good (it has gotten some very
nice cleanups and improvements over the years, and some redesign).

And, ... if we do a web search on:
about ubuntu
What's our top result?:
"Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'." ...
2nd ranked result?:
"Fast, secure and stylishly simple, the" ... hmmm, that sounds more like
a marketing plug ... whatever.  Also, not best for an "about" link, as
desktop is only one version of Ubuntu (e.g. there is also
3rd ranked result?:
"Ubuntu is an open source software platform that runs" ...
well, that's kind'a nice, ... except that's not within the body of the
web page!  It's in some of the web page header meta tags - hardly a
place that's particularly visible to typical user following link to the
web page.

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