Ubuntu Power Users Community

As Ubuntu continues to grow and refine, particularly in bringing excellence in design to the platform, there has been some concern in some parts of the community that it is less attuned to power users who want to tweak many aspects of the system than it once was. I agree. That in my mind is not a bad thing: Ubuntu is focusing on a simple, sleek and refined experience, and sometimes as Mark said recently, less is more.

Despite these subtle changes, this does not mean that we can’t accommodate power users and provide them with a fantastic experience. One of the most wonderful aspects of Ubuntu is that we have many derivatives and sub-communities that build on and change elements of the Ubuntu experience. This got me thinking: why don’t we create a power user community. Earlier I tweeted this, referring to it as Ubuntu Tweakers, but then nixternal informed me a ‘tweaker’ is a meth head. Best use another term then…

So this is my thinking. We should have a community that supports those users who like to take a stock Ubuntu system and hot rod it in every possible way. This community could do the following things (just off the to of my head):

  • produce a central hub of documentation for how to tweak, extend and customize your Ubuntu system. Imagine a fantastic library of wiki documentation for tweaking every possible aspect of your desktop…
  • provide communication channels and support resources.
  • build tools and facilities to provide post-installation facilities for configuring different elements of Ubuntu.

The benefit of this kind of community is that it would provide a home for those people who desire more configurability of Ubuntu beyond it’s default installation, and provide a fantastic way of supporting this community of users.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to build such a community, but I would love to help provide help and guidance to those who do. Anyone want to step up and lead the effort and we can maybe schedule and IRC meeting to move forward?

  • http://www.gauntface.co.uk Matt Gaunt

    Well I am all up for trying to set something like this up.

    Only thing I’m a little unclear about is, when you say a “power user”, what exactly are you referring to?

    Because in my mind it could mean any number of things:

    1. People wanting to compile kernels and every program themselves (Would these users just use arch linux or slackware instead?)

    2. Users who want to customise aspects their OS in terms of UI (Icons, Compiz and perhaps just “tweak” default behaviour)

    3. The users who rather have a terminal for everything instead of using a UI

    These are just the kind of scenario’s I’ve come across and kind of group in my head.

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  • http://grooan.com Luca

    here i am!

  • http://jefro.net/blog Jefro

    I definitely want to be involved & can help build the community in May. I am assuming Ubuntu can provide web space for it? If so, let’s get it going.

    I am particularly interested in Ubuntu on ARM, where I think there will be room for a lot of power-user goodness.

  • jono

    Maybe focus it on all of the above, with different stands.

    Maybe first create http://wiki.ubuntu.com/PowerUsers and then add http://wiki.ubuntu.com/PowerUsers/Desktop and http://wiki.ubuntu.com/PowerUsers/Kernel etc?

  • http://woodendice.org Flamekebab

    I might be willing to join in!

    It does depend on what is meant by “power user” though. I don’t use Ubuntu full time at the moment, but have in the past and hope to in the future.

  • http://anthonyrhook.com Anthony Hook

    I would definitely be up for this. I’ll keep watch for an IRC meeting or other ways to help (mailing list, etc).

  • http://tmkcodes.kicks-ass.org Toni Korpela

    I will definitely want to be involved with this. Configuration stuff about ubuntu. I almost use shell more than GUI. Has two shells open, and one GUI app, chrome.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    I could also see a ‘developer’ section for how to tweak out various things (vim/emacs/gedit, PYTHONPATH, bashrc, etc), and some general info for those getting into the dev scene.

  • http://jefro.net/blog Jefro

    It looks like http://wiki.ubuntu.com/PowerUsers already has some good, useful information.

    I suggest setting up a Power Users team (http://wiki.ubuntu.com/Teams) and then a corner of http://ubuntuforums.org/ specifically for power users. I’d be pleased to be a part of the process.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    should have been a reply up there to Matt and Jono.

  • http://tmkcodes.kicks-ass.org Toni Korpela

    Of course programmer is one of the biggest power users of the system.

  • http://www.gauntface.co.uk Matt Gaunt

    Sounds all good to me, especially like Jefro’s ARM idea.

    Well I’m free for an IRC chat or two in May but will be pretty tied up until Mid June with uni thesis, after I will be able to help out where ever possible.

    Where’s best to post times etc for an IRC chat? On the help.ubuntu.com/powerusers page or would a wordpress site be better just maintained with static pages and on going information added to the blog feed until something more solid is sorted out?

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    Page already exists, though it hasn’t been updated since 07-08 .

  • http://tmkcodes.kicks-ass.org Toni Korpela

    Well if we used a blog everyone could keep writing guides and stuff, with a wiki we have to power of collaboration.

  • http://tmkcodes.kicks-ass.org Toni Korpela

    damn dyslexia running over. I’m sure i wrote the power of collaboration.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    I can throw up a wordpress/moinwiki/whatever if need be, but I think a forum topic on ubuntuforms.org would do just as well for the planning stages.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    following https://wiki.ubuntu.com/BuildingCommunity/CreatingTeamGuide we can set up a few things: irc, mailing list, forum section, wiki page.

    One thing that comes to mind is ‘how far do we take this’. Are we going to be a specialized ‘doc team’ or are we wanting to also look at this and find ways to make ‘tweaking’ easier (via development). Personally I like the idea of writing (or finding existing) applications that make being a power user easier.

    As for “ubuntu-tweakers”, I like it. We should take it back.

  • http://blog.strycore.com Mathieu Comandon

    Jono, I’ve been wanting to tell you about a project I had last year that could interest you. Grab a beer, sit back, because this is going to be a long blog comment !

    What struck me in your post and and made me want to write this comment is that you talk about a community of Power Users, and funny thing, the codename of my project is Tweekers (and yes, I know about the meth thing too, I have to find a better name). This might be a little off topic, I will not talk about users customizing their desktop, but since you are the author of Acire, you know that learning how to hack is a primordial thing.

    Tweekers was,in 2006, my first website which I used to learn PHP, It’s in French and still online, even if I don’t update it anymore ( http://tweekers.free.fr/ ). The goal was to build a community of hackers to exange tips and stuff about computing. I never had a community on this website and the whole stuff was poorly coded. In 2006 I also discovered Ubuntu and it quickly became my main operating system, I really got into the Open Source stuff and I wanted to do lots of stuff with all this freely available source code.

    As Eric Raymond says, the way of the hacker cannot be taught, and getting into it can be pretty darn hard. Documentation is sometimes hard to find, they often lack good example. Diving into others people project is though, the original creators have been here from the start, they know their source on the tip of their fingers. Me, as a wannabe contributor, I don’t know where to start, so many files, so little documentation, and I just want to change a few lines of code to implement a cool feature or fix a bug, but I spend hours to find how.

    It became very clear to me that something was missing. The original idea of Tweekers – a collaborative platform for developers- was good but it needed to be aimed specifically to Open Source software. Open Source software needs more contributors and to achieve this it should be as easy as possible to contribute. With Didier and Rick’s amazing tool you quickly create projects, but we also need to quickly contribute to existing projects. I had to build a web app for that, and in summer 2009 I started writing a draft of the specifications in French. During the summer, I saw Google’s keynote on what was going to be Wave and that was exactly what I wanted: Real time, open collaboration on a whole bunch of documents. I got really excited about Wave until I realised (when I got an invitation) that I would have to wait a undetermined amount of time until they opened their source code.

    So I put aside the Wave stuff and decided that the project could really benefit from an enormous amount of source code and documentation : the Ubuntu repositories. I started writing some python scripts that fetched source code and man pages from Ubuntu packages, I didn’t get very far but the scripts were already useful for me. I tried to explain the features I want to implement in the English version of the specifications : http://wiki.strycore.com/index.php/Tweekers-specs-en, it’s still an early draft. To sum it up quickly, the complete website would be a mixture of Launchpad, StackOverflow, and Wikipedia.

    One of the key features of Tweekers is very similar to what Acire does but in a different context. Instead of writing a small example of how to achieve a task in Python, you show it on real projects. Want to know how to scan a directory for changes ? Here’s how it’s done in Rhytmbox’s feature “Watch my library for changes”. Want to put some nifty ballons with text in it ? That’s how Gwibber does it. Want to write a driver for a joypad ? here’s one in the linux kernel ! You get the point. Instead of asking questions in a forum or a mailing list, you work directly on the source code and documentation of a real project.

    Every time I start to hack on some software, trying to fix a bug or just wanting to understand how it works, I miss Tweekers, and i know a project like this would help tons of other hackers that are not yet on the same level as Linus or Guido 😉 Sadly, I’ve had very little time to give to this project lately, mainly because I’ve found a real job and also because I work on several other projects, but I still want to make it happen ! Being a community manager an author of Lernid and Acire makes you the perfect guy to understand this project, and you might be able to give it a push in the right direction. Thanks for reading and I hope we’ll get in touch about this.

    I’m glad to see that there are people interested in Jono’s idea this is a great opportunity to start something big and really nice !

  • Jason Taylor

    Ill add one “Web Developer”

  • Eddward

    Any chance one of these groups would be geared toward people who like Linux as a best of breed UNIX rather than a poor impersonation of one of the other OSes? As long as there was a decent chance that changes might be accepted, I could see wanting to participate in put options back into the system, even if they have to be hidden safely away in the bowels gconf so as to not intimidate ‘non-power-users’. If there were a way to provide a file based interface to access UI configuration for backups, restores, migrations, offline modifications, etc … I’d feel like my computer were mine again. But I’d settle for baby steps.


  • http://www.nixternal.com nixternal

    Yay, now I look like the all knowing drug dude! I watch Dog the Bounty Hunter, that’s how I know what a tweaker is :p Never touched the stuff, never want to touch the stuff!

  • Scott

    No worry about creating a mascot for the group; he already exists: http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/characters/64/

  • stlouisubntu

    Ubuntu Power Users Communities already exist (and have existed for quite some time.) There are many, many, ubuntu blogs out there where the blog author and the commenters share power user buntu hacks, tweaks, and optimizations. Just one example is at: http://www.webupd8.org/ One aspect of open source is that there is rarely a need to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch when one can easily stand on the shoulders of what it already out there.

  • lucas

    nice idea

    in my point of view and needs, when i’m looking to deal with tweaks, the main problem that first come is to find the most recent wiki/howto/blog … and dont waste time with outdated things. Then i ask myself: can i trust this info ?

    So i can imagine a kind of database where each one could find/register about every ubuntu release and linux, with the look and feel of brainstorm for example with its counter opinion.

  • http://www.gauntface.co.uk Matt Gaunt

    Been thinking about how I can help kick start this project.

    I’m really reluctant to take any sort of role until June.

    If no-one is free to start-up things, I’ve set up a form for people to drop in e-mail addresses into and I’ll drop you an e-mail as soon as I get something up and running:


    (I’ll only use your e-mail address the once, after that I’ll delete it forever)

    If something does get set-up before I get time, I’ll drop everyone an e-mail with a little up date, and then delete them all.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    I’ve set up #ubuntu-tweakers on freenode. And requested ubuntu-tweakers@lists.ubuntu.com be created. I’m going to hold off on a forum request and wiki page writeup until I collaborate a bit more with other people.

  • http://www.gauntface.co.uk Matt Gaunt

    Awesome stuff Brandon.

    I’ve taken down the wufoo thing now, since I don’t think it’s needed.

  • http://www.thetechandcents.com Alex Lourie

    Jono, all

    I think that you may be up on something, so let’s bring the bar of this a bit up :-)

    Imagine that this community could grow to something larger than just tweaking the default Ubuntu installation. It could be more “professional” social network, with people getting acknowledged for their professionalism, know-how and experience.

    It could potentially lead to few interesting developments, such as the following (off the top of my head):

    1. Better reception within of Ubuntu and knowledge of it in “professional” IT crowds.
    2. Organizing knowledge areas around Ubuntu, where a person can be considered a professional in some specific area.
    3. Creating a placeholder where Ubuntu professionals can be found.

    And this is just a thought, so don’t judge me too much…

  • http://opensourceplayground.org Doug Whitfield

    Nix, you’ve cleared your name, but I don’t think you needed to. It’s not like they don’t talk about meth on the 10 o’clock news (yay for Central Time!)

    ,,,though, I mean, who watches the news.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson

    Matt Gaunt, Toni Korpela and I had a chat in #ubuntu-tweakers I’ve uploaded the log.

  • http://thebwt.com Brandon Tomlinson
  • jimcooncat

    Back in the day my first real use of Linux was a mail server, based on Gentoo. In the Gentoo community was a subculture who were referred to as “ricers”. This unfortunate term was used because they liked to push the envelope of their setup, much like an American fad built around of Japanese motorcycles.

    This group’s love of encouraging performance over stability became so popular in the overall Gentoo community that the distribution as a whole suffered. Those who were drawn to Gentoo for its approachability found themselves with little community support because of the infighting.

    I left sadly, but eventually finding that the Ubuntu community was as helpful as Gentoo’s originally was. Choice is great, but please keep a stable default. At least for LTS releases, anyway.

  • http://woodendice.org Flamekebab

    I know the term from the movie “Spun”. A bizarre but enjoyable movie about meth addicts.

  • ethana2

    They call us ‘ricers’ when cars are involved.

    I’m an Ubuntu Ricer.

  • simon bennie

    Id be interested in seeing this done. It would be nice to see some poweruser documentation standardized for all the great sources on the internet.

    Such a community could encourage some fedora and arch users to come over, who i think would be very valuable contributers.

    One thing i think ubuntu forums defiantly lacks is the same culture as the arch forums, I’ve never used arch myself but they seem to have an amazing amount of advanced content on their forums.

    It would also be good to see content better categorized by release. With periodic cleanups of old ‘mods’ (?) which are no longer relevant as development occurs. And orphan pages being offered up for adoption.

    Canonical could help by giving use a good template for a wiki to built on. Something that fits in well with their current design scheming (would purple or orange be best? How many dots?).

    It could also be interesting for each wiki to have an auto generated forums page for comment or discussion as to the content.

  • jenniepet

    My highly biased, personal reaction: Don’t create something for “power users”, create something for “advanced information” (or something along these lines). Because names matter, and all that politically correct stuff. So, do not create a forum where non-developers will be afraid to enter, even when they know they have valuable input to offer. Like I said, I am biased. I am a woman with a degree in translation, and I don’t know where my fstab is. For most intents and purposes, I am not a power user. However, if you want to create a stardict/goldendict dictionary, I am the person you need to ask. I have got first-hand experience with every single feature (and bug) in their specs. And I would really like to share that knowledge with others. But I would be very wary of doing it in a group of “power users”, simply because I would rather not face the inevitable question “Can you code?”

  • http://www.thetechandcents.com Alex Lourie


    I don’t think you should worry. I see a “power user” as anyone who does anything beyond the default installation of the system.

    So you are qualified without coding.

  • jumpnett

    This is a great idea. I’m always tweaking and experimenting on my system. and it can be difficult to find what I’m looking for at times. A central repository for all this good information would be fantastic.

  • http://podcast.ubuntu-uk.org/2010/04/28/s03e06-bughouse-bellhops-ogg-high/ S03E06 – Bughouse Bellhops – OGG HIGH | Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo team

    […] Jono suggests a new “Power User” community […]

  • sorin7486

    The power user community: great idea. But I have a question: throughout the redesign of the Ubuntu experience it seems to me that we, the power suers, are taking a back seat. Why is that and why should we put up with it ?

    You talk about “central hub of documentation”… would that be the place with the instructions on how to unlock every useful feature that I need but the design team decided to put away because “normal users” can’t deal with it? Something like a dozen different config files that i’d have to edit in order to get what I want ? Hell no !!!

    I’m an Ubuntu user too. I want things to be easy and intuitive for me too. I mean do you think I like editing config files. No… I want to be able to do it from the interface that I’m provided with just as anybody else.

  • Tom Wright

    Sounds great. This would be an awesome idea for a (perhaps hidden) category in software centre (including Ubuntu Tweak, Nautilus Open Terminal, Terminator etc.).

  • http://feathertail.dreamwidth.org/ Tachyon Feathertail

    I think the OMG! Ubuntu! community might be what you’re looking for. ~.^

  • http://eelsecreto.com El Secreto

    Luv the community so far! Helpful and vibrant

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