In a chat discussion about the moderator elections on different Stack Exchange sites I've seen a couple of numbers that make me think.

Apparently we have a pretty low reputation per user ratio. I'm going to compare some numbers from Programmers and Ask Ubuntu.

Ask Ubuntu Numbers

Total users:              36065
Users < 150 rep:      33911
Users >= 150 rep:      2154
Users >= 3000 rep:        82

Programmers Numbers

Total users:              40708
Users < 150 rep:      34888
Users >= 150 rep:      5820
Users >= 3000 rep:      256

Note: All data is from 2nd February

Now that leaves us with roughly 5.9% of the Ask Ubuntu community being eligible for a vote in the elections. Programmers had 14.3% of the community being eligible!

That is quite a lot but it gets even worse when comparing the users >= 3000 reputation.

Only 0.22% of our community can cast close votes on questions! On Programmers it is 0.63% which isn't a great figure either but still better than what we have.

Here are the results of last years Ask Ubuntu community moderator elections.

776 voters were eligible, 211 visited the election, and 145 voted

That means that we had a vote participation of 18,7% last year. We'll have to wait for the results of this year's election to find out if that number went up or down of course.

Here are the figures of the 2012 election.

2,226 voters were eligible, 880 visited the site during the election, 353 visited the election page, and 180 voted

We've gained 1450 eligible users however the vote participation this year was only 8%! Which is frustrating. We have gained 35 voters.

That is a problem!


The figures above mean that we have to get the rest of the community more involved in voting. The best option to do this is to organize an event especially for Ask Ubuntu beginners.

This event should be about the Stack Exchange concept, that is how Ask Ubuntu is supposed to work. Why it is important to vote on questions and answer, to flag posts, to edit and of course to participate in Meta and chat.

Of course such an event doesn't help without letting people know about it. Thus advertisement is going to be crucial.

Here are some ideas on how to address that problem:

  • Write a Meta.AU question about the event.
  • Create an ad for the sidebar that links to the Meta question.
  • Have a site banner (like in the moderator elections) linking to the Meta question.
  • Get some media coverage (OMG! Ubuntu! for example [Joey Sneddon is happy to help]).
  • Blogging and micro-blogging.

I've already added a card to our Ask Ubuntu Trello board.

Here are the tasks to make it happen:

  • Preparing material for the event.

    That is, relevant Meta.SO and Meta.AU questions for example.

  • Preparing the actual event.

    Write all the chat comments and proofread them.

  • Writing the Meta.AU question (announcement)

  • Creating a sidebar ad for the event
  • Creating a site banner ad for the event
  • Creating an article for OMG! Ubuntu!

NOTE: This event is not meant to attract new users to Ask Ubuntu - even though that might be a nice side effect - but to help already registered Ask Ubuntu users get the concepts of Ask Ubuntu right thus improve their user experience.

NOTE2: This should be an Ask Ubuntu chat event by the way.

What do you think about it?

  • 3
    Our disappointing election participation is... disappointing. – jrg Feb 14 '12 at 21:16
  • 1
    You should know that there are beginners events within the Ubuntu Community during User Days and what not, mainly on IRC, but elsewhere in the community... we could try and coincide an Ask Ubuntu Beginners event on the same "days" (just a thought) – Thomas Ward Feb 15 '12 at 7:51
  • I know but I'm not sure if it is a good idea to have both events clash. – Octavian Damiean Feb 15 '12 at 13:46
  • 2
    You're missing what % of users are active during this time period. If 10% of users actually used the site during the election and 8% total voted, that's a turnout rate of 80%. Not saying that's what happened, but theoretical users aren't the same as the sample of users that might have actually been able to vote. – Ben Brocka Feb 16 '12 at 21:47

(Partial answer)

We can definitely run more AU tutorial events on things like Ubuntu Open Week. Marco's been blogging AU tips and stuff that make it on Planet Ubuntu, it would perhaps be useful to have more people helping him out with that to get people more interested.


I think an explanation for the stats is that the system is partially broken. Compare StackOverlow to AskUbuntu. On AskUbuntu, you can have a newbie asking questions about some weird hardware configuration and why s/he can't install something, and it might be something even an experienced Ubuntian (or whatever the term is :-)) doesn't know, but another newbie who just dealt with the same problem does know. So you have newbies mainly interacting with other newbies (as a newbie, perhaps I pay more attention to these things, but it seems to happen a lot, including with me).

But you see the problem. They can't mark up each other's answers or even make comments to each other appropriately because they don't have the privilege yet. This makes sense on a site like StackOverflow. For example, if you have a C++ question, is it likely some newb is going to know the answer and some expert perusing the question is not? And even if the newb can answer and the expert cannot, how likely is it that there is a productive conversation between newbs where an expert cannot jump in and clarify things? But with installing stuff, that can happen all the time; on AskUbuntu, a lot of the questions are with troubleshooting some installation issue. Even experts will be leery of jumping into some mundane, detailed troubleshooting session, whereas they feel good about joining in some discussion of C++ syntax.

Does this mean I think AskUbuntu is completely broken? Absolutely not. It is apparent however that extra vigilance is required on the part of Ubuntians to welcome newcomers and make sure that those that are contributing well in good faith are quickly able to give back, without being limited -- I mean, I could have answered several more questions if I were able to questions as comments to clarify the original post...instead i had to post the questions as answers and they get deleted because "your comment is not an answer."

  • 2
    I know and understand that the initial privilege restrictions are quite problematic for new users. However there is a flaw in your observation. Being a high reputation user doesn't mean that you are an Ubuntu expert nor the other way around. New users can use several methods to gain reputation. The most effective way is to help with editing questions and answers. Each accepted suggested edit brings two reputation. The problem is that we have to get more registered users to understand those concepts and why it is important to up-vote good posts. – Octavian Damiean Feb 14 '12 at 9:10
  • Please understand the general point I'm making. It is not high rep = expert. It is that the way that newbies and more established users interact is different on AskUbuntu versus StackOverflow. For example, consider that without a starting investment cost, you get more noise -- hence the rep minimums to gain privileges. But with Ubuntu, someone actually invested a lot of time already. Will a system designed to keep out random programming trolls work as well when dealing with a group of people, who have already invested time installing Ubuntu (or trying to)? – Chan-Ho Suh Feb 16 '12 at 5:20
  • I'm not sure I can follow you. – Octavian Damiean Feb 16 '12 at 7:36

I would like to see that also translated in to tutorial videos, the more the merrier.

Events are nice and work as a charm, being in direct contact with the users and helping them understand how the site works and why it always useful but when they are done and don't get a repetition run people tend to just move on.

Make introduction movies with these topics:

  • How to ask a question?
  • How to edit a question?
  • When to upvote a question or an answer and why is it important to do so?
  • How to remove a post?
  • How to flag and which options to choose when doing so, when to use each of those?
  • What is meta, how does it compare to the main site?
  • etc (< means I cant bother to remember now but if I make an effort I can get some more topics)

I have seen Jorge Castro making 1 or 2 and posting them in G+, those are nice. We should make more and make them more visible on the site. A new bored user would definitely learn a lot from those if they are visible and 1 or 2 clicks away.

I can't say I have the best voice in the world (I sound as I look, caveman) but I r got skillz and can edit, convert, host the movies (lets pretend youtube and other options do not exist :)).

Other than that we could make a room for new users to hang out and ask questions about the site, with some attendance from a few of us we could hand out some help.

  • Videos are definitely also a good idea. The event should be a recurring event, once we have all the material and the event chat messages prepared it won't be such a problem to repeat them. As for a room for new users, I'm not sure if we really need a new room for that. The General Room or the Meta room should be fine in my opinion. – Octavian Damiean Feb 13 '12 at 21:37
  • Agree about the rooms and the event repetitions, that should be ok. Videos only enable the user to keep on learning by himself without being really necessary to have an appointed event. Keep us updated on how this will unfold. – Bruno Pereira Feb 13 '12 at 21:40

The entire idea of holding a beginners event for Ask Ubuntu is excellent and should be encouraged. And, I have a couple of points to make regarding that.

Perhaps, we should define the audience for our event to be more specific. Like holding one for the newer users to support channel and another one attracting people who are already providing support elsewhere (like in IRC, forums and the Launchpad answers, etc).

I believe we should be targeting the second group of people more than the first especially because they have sufficient experience providing support and as such, will be crucial to our growth. I note that we already do have some users who are across a variety of support channels and we should try to improve on that.

A quick chat I had with the Ubuntu forums contributors earlier helped me realize their perspectives regarding Ask Ubuntu. While they feel that Ask Ubuntu is a great platform for questions that have definitive answers, they don't particularly feel comfortable about questions that require holding hands with the users. They feel that our platform isn't too suitable for such troubleshooting. When I pointed them to the chat as a medium for troubleshooting, they were quite surprised to learn that we actually have a chat for that purpose.

It is pretty clear that they will (and we too, indirectly) definitely benefit from an awesome well-organized and executed beginners' event, where we basically walk through the potential contributors about the several features of Ask Ubuntu.

Let's collaborate on this and hopefully, we will get cracking before at least the next jam.

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