#ubuntu-offtopic is often quite funny, but we’re really all just accidental and often oblivious comedians. This is why levo decided to bite the bullet and simply ask if anyone might be aware of something more professional. Turns out this valuable piece of information is the sole property of IdleOne, and it ain’t cheap. For shame!

tftot #35: premium content

For some time already, it has been evident that #ubuntu-server needs more operators. If you are interested in joining our great team of operators, please see this wiki page for instructions and apply no later than August 5th.

Also have a look at this old post which I wrote a while ago but still has some relevant advice.

Thanks for your sacrifice :)

We need more operators in #ubuntu and #ubuntu-offtopic. If you are interested in joining our great team of operators, please see https://wiki.ubuntu.com/IRC/IrcTeam/OperatorRequirements and apply no later than Saturday the 14th of this month.

Also have a look at http://www.siltala.net/2010/03/24/ops-teams-applications-announcement/ which I wrote a while ago but is still relevant.

Sometimes, new people /join #ubuntu-offtopic. They do! Some of them are directed from #ubuntu because they are chatting away on subjects that don’t belong to a support channel. Sometimes malicious friends tell them that #ubuntu-offtopic is lots of fun and thus trick them to /join as a practical joke. Most of the time, I suspect it’s just a simple typo in the /join command, or perhaps an elusive Pidgin bug.

Sadly, most people never read the channel topic upon /joining, which is very sad and leads to a lot of confusion. Then again, some people are so devoted that they even check the topic on #ubuntu-offtopic. Go figure! Naturally, those who are not familiar with the channel culture and do read the topic, will be very confused. For the past few months (since April at least), the #ubuntu-offtopic topic has contained the greeting, “Welcome to the new, more optimized #ubuntu-offtopic!” which has caused some nervous giggles and a lot of questions. Since #ubuntu-offtopic regulars never answer a question (at least seriously), I decided to try and take a stab at this mystery.

(Disclaimer: please do not take this as a promise of public parsing of any other parts of the topic at this or any future article. I can try for my standard, very high, consultation fee, but the gratis public service only covers this one freebie.)

Some people speculate that the “optimization” of #ubuntu-offtopic is a friendly jab at the famously efficient build process of Gentoo binaries. Others claim that it refers to the quality of conversation on the channel, very thoroughly stripped of sanity, detached of any real phenomena, and lack of requirements to coherent language. Some say it’s just a random thought added to the topic by an unstable operator on a Monday. All of these are very plausible and educated guesses.

However, my extensive empirical studies have lead me to conclude that the optimized nature of #ubuntu-offtopic refers to this ambitious vision developed by rww and mc44:

Sadly, we have not really seen this optimization effort bear fruit. Channel regulars keep blabbering pretty much as inefficiently as before, and new users almost never take the time to investigate the optimization algorithm. Instead, they are content with just having a short laugh at the topic and join the discussion about LOLcats, comparative flashlight brightness, popular music and the evils of proprietary software.

The failure of a majority of users to adopt this very efficient mode of conversation might be due to reluctance to search for suitable XKCD strips to express their point of view, and the extra work required on the receiving side of communication for checking the corresponding strip. Granted, this presents a fairly steep learning curve in the beginning, but anyone can see how highly effective our offtopic chatter would be after all the comics are memorized. Think about the reduced workload and bandwidth savings on freenode’s servers if idle chatter is conducted using the rww/mc44/xkcd protocol! These savings could be redirected for the benefit of support and development channels, and everybody wins. As a side effect, one of the greatest winners would be Randall and the XKCD web site. Think about the increase in page views!

I say, laziness is no excuse for inefficiency!

Our shiny new Launchpad-ified IRC Teams are now ready to take membership applications. This means that if you want to contribute to Ubuntu by acting as an operator on those Ubuntu IRC channels that you are active on, you can simply say so on Launchpad!

Well, it isn’t really quite that simple, but we do now have a process through which anyone can express their interest in contributing through operator work. Previously our recruitment toolkit has been more primitive and consisted of blackmail, bribery and coercion – in other words, when there was pressure to grow the operator team, we simply begged people to join.

So if you’re active on our IRC channels and you think your channel has too few operators, and if you’ve been aching to help, you should consider applying for membership! You might get your chance if

  • You are great at resolving conflicts
  • You are very patient. Superhuman nerve control is a basic IRC operator feature
  • You can take criticism
  • You are happy when helping and advising others
  • In addition to the Code of Conduct and our IRC Guidelines, you are happy to adhere to some additional guidelines :)

In general, please do not consider becoming an operator because it could be “fun”. It is not, it’s hard work. However, it is often quite rewarding, and you get to operate with a great team of people. You don’t need to be an IRC guru, but you do need to know enough to be able to learn more.

Please be aware that *many* applicants will not become operators for various reasons. This will not necessarily be because we think you would make a bad operator. Only a limited number of operators are ever needed, some timezones are better covered already than others, and so on.

If you feel that you could be a good addition to the IRC Team, please head on to Launchpad and apply to the team corresponding to the channels you want to help in, and create a Wiki page where you explain why you want to join and why you would be a good operator. Think of the wiki page as your resume. Gather testimonials from other people who know you and believe you qualify. Think of those as your references.

Before you do any of the above, be sure to study the official requirements and application process, to ensure everything is well with your application and it will be considered whenever new operators are needed.

Edited on 2011-07-29: fix grammar in order to make more sense.

The IRC Council meetings have public meeting minutes of course, but some of our practical work is never discussed in these public meetings and tends to go unnoticed. Some of this boring behind-the-scenes mundane work has implications to users and operators on our channels, and I decided to write about it here.

So, what has been going on outside the spotlight?

Wiki reorganization

One of the janitorial jobs we’ve done is the reorganization of our IRC related wiki pages. Wikis by nature evolve organically, pages being created by many people over time, and they end up being largely unorganized. So we moved all pages to an old fashioned, boring hierarchy under a common IRC/ name space, and the result is something like this:




You get the idea. All old pages redirect to the new pages, so we can hope we did not break any of your old links and bookmarks. If something is broken, you can report it, or even better, fix it! It is a wiki after all :)

We have updated several core documents, most notably the operator guidelines and the description of the IRC Council itself. We also created a calendar that will nag us periodically to review all wiki pages, one at a time, to make sure they don’t become too out of date.

Operator teams on Launchpad

Ubuntu’s IRC universe has become very, very large and keeps growing, and so has the need for operators. We can’t possibly know all the potentially awesome individuals who would make great operators, so there’s a need to define a better process to nominate operators than simply giving access to friends that we know will do a good job.

Terence did a terrific job at converting the access lists on our channels into Launchpad team memberships. This makes managing them much easier for everyone. It also makes it possible for people to offer help easier: they will be able to apply for team memberships as a way to announce their willingness to serve as an operator. We will soon have this new process in effect, and it is documented on the wiki already.

IRC Council access in channels

The Council should now have access to all core channels for easy maintenance. Additionally, we strongly recommend adding the UbuntuIrcCouncil and the freenode staff cloaks into your LoCo channel’s access list, so that they may intervene in case of serious disruptions on your channel while your operators are asleep or attending a release party. This is documented in the wiki page for channel creation. When creating channels, make extra sure to have a good read of the document, to ensure your channels fit nicely in the #ubuntu-* name space.

How you can help

Is IRC not working well for you? Do you have a great improvement on your mind that will make it work even better? The IRC Team is easy to contact on #ubuntu-irc, and via e-mail. Most importantly, have fun and help to keep our IRC channels friendly and useful! :)

Yesterday, I announced my official approval of the “inverted” Clearlooks theme to be included in the list of usable things. Everyone was happy, no doubt. I hope the theme creators are recovering from the resulting party nicely. Always concerned with the quality of Ubuntu’s IRC services, elky inquired about the certification status of #ubuntu-offtopic. I hope this installation of tales from the offtopic clears everything out, and everyone can continue enjoying their time on the channel!


Edit: I guess you’re probably thinking, “pffft there’s no such thing as a topyli starburst sticker of approval!” Guess again! Of course there is one, kindly (and 100% officially) created by mc44.

Today, nickspoon was unhappy about the fact that the last installation of tales was published so long ago. I guess regular releases would be better since Ubuntu users are used to them! Sorry about that, but like LjL noted, quality matters as well. (Ubuntu does get good quality regularly because they’re supported by such an awesome community quality assurance, but alas, great art such as tales from the offtopic can only be achieved by lonely geniuses.)

Like any respectable author however, I do take notes continuously, which means that when being tied to the Whipping Post, as i was today, I was able to search my trusty Tomboy archive for worthwile discussions I had thought funny in the past.

Here’s one from December 2, 2007 then! mc44 advocates Web apps, but will still give IRC to Chatzilla since while it’s not a Web application, at least it comes from Mozilla. He can also back his opinion up with evicence. wobblywu is suspicious, topyli is confused as ever.

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