A proposal for Fedora's website (considering Fedora.next)


(I’d like to apologize upfront, in that I meant to post this about a month or so ago. You might be aware that the Red Hat Summit is coming up in 2 weeks, and I’ve had a few odds and ends to take care of for that event that cut to the front of the line on my task list because of their imminent deadlines!)
So, Fedora.next is shaking Fedora up a bit – enough that our current fedoraproject.org website is going to need a bit of a gut reno to appropriately reflect the new world of Fedora! A few weeks back, Ryan Lerch and I had an informal brainstorming session about how to account for Fedora.next with fedoraproject.org. We came up with what we thought was a pretty workable concept, and met with Matthew Miller a few days later to see what he thought. Here’s the whiteboard of what we came up with:
Fedora.next whiteboard
Whoah, what’s going on here? Okay, let’s walk through this.

The Proposal

There’s several website components to this proposal. We’ll go through each one-by-one. We have some thumbnail mockups of each site to give you a vague idea of the kind of thing we’re thinking of – there are no larger, detailed mockups at this point, except that I think Ryan is working on a prototype of the Brochure site with the websites team, which I think he is planning to blog about soon.

A Fedora ‘Brochure’ Site

fedora-next_brochure
So first, let’s create a Fedora website to allow people to learn about Fedora – the Operating System, you know, the sausage we’re making here – and to be able to download it. Ryan and I started calling this the ‘brochure’ site because it’s really informational and aimed at people who have never heard of Fedora before and want to learn more about what it is. It’s also aimed at people who know what Fedora is and use it, but who simply want to download it and get on with their lives. It’s not primarily aimed at contributors.
Some of the sites we were inspired by when coming up with this idea:

  • getfirefox.org – simple and clean website introducing what Firefox is, with a prominent single download button, features list, and tour as well as links out to more information about add-ons, support, and Mozilla.
  • google.com/chrome – short and sweet introduction to Chrome, with a prominent single download button, screenshots, feature list, and some chromebook / chromecast stuff.
  • android.com – clean layout with basic information about Android. It also includes news updates, which the other two didn’t.

Do you think this makes sense to have? It might be cool if we could give it its own domain to separate it out from contributor-centric stuff.

A Fedora User Support Site

fedora-next_user-support
Right now, there’s a lot of places within Fedora you can get help. To a newbie, it’s not really clear what the best place to go is. We’ve had ask.fedoraproject.org set up for a while, and it has the potential to become a really useful knowledgebase of help for Fedora users – if only it had enough prominence for more folks to start using it. In this proposal, then, we’re elevating ask.fedoraproject.org to a more prominent position – and having it linked it strongly with the brochure site. We’ll skin it to match the new brochure site as well.
The idea for this site is to be targeted primarily at Fedora users. We could, however, have another instance set up for contributors to ask questions about how to do things within Fedora and get help.
Further on down the line, it’d be really sweet to have Fedora desktop integration with the support site, so you can ask questions and get notifications when answers to your questions are available from the desktop. Maybe?
What do you think?

The Fedora ‘Commnunity Hub’

diagram_communityhub
Okay, so here’s where things get more complex. Full disclosure, too – we’ve tried doing something like this a couple of times now and honestly failed to get wide adoption and also to expand the functionality across Fedora’s disciplines. Hopefully, third time’s the charm! 🙂 Perhaps there is something inherent in this idea that is fatally flawed, though. What do you think?
Well, let’s talk through it, first. It’s inspired by a lot of currently-popular social media sites; we’d really like it to be a place that Fedora contributors would feel compelled to visit daily and refresh throughout the day, depending on how actively they are working on Fedora that given day. (Whether or not we’ll achieve that, of course, we really can’t say or guarantee.) Here’s some of the features this hub would have:

  • Logged out mode has new user signup flow: Similar to how Twitter and Facebook operate when you’re logged out of them in a web browser, we were thinking that if you’re not logged into the hub, we don’t know what content would be the most appropriate to show you, so rather than risk a bad experience, let’s just prompt you to log in. This also gives us a nice clean space to promote new account signups. From the logged-out page, we could create a guided Fedora Account System (FAS) account creation flow (that uses FAS as a backend, of course) to help ease users into becoming contributors.
  • FAS integration: Speaking of FAS, we were thinking it might be nice if some of the basic account management tasks you do in FAS today were available from this site. E.g., change your password, email address, sign up for groups, that sort of thing. Maybe we could build out a groups UI and make the FAS groups we have more social (well, the groups that serve as more than just an ACL for something else. Maybe we could filter out the ACL groups?)
  • Messaging / notification tray: Another inspiration from various social media sites, we were thinking about having a messaging / notification tray along the top of every page in the hub. If there is new content available in one of the streams you’re subscribed to, or maybe if someone has sent you a message or you have a build that’s finished or what not, it’ll pop up as an additional item in your messaging tray. You can see in the ‘logged in’ thumbnail mockup above that the messaging tray has been expanded and shows a bunch of items. Click on any given item and you’ll be taken to the full details for that item, whether it’s a finished build in koji, a new update in bodhi to a package you watch, or a Fedora badge you’ve just been awarded.
  • Reddit-like spaces: Fedora is a really big project. We’re big enough and have enough teams and efforts and things going on that I think a global nav to encompass all that we do would be too unwieldy and out-of-date a few days after it was created. We’re more fluid than that. So I really like the idea of how Reddit organizes space within itself – users create spaces (‘subreddits’) that operate roughly under their own governance, and can customize those spaces (albeit in somewhat limited ways, a logo and custom banner I think.) New spaces can be created on an as-needed basis. Every space is basically a forum; each post has threaded comments and there is a voting system both for posts and for comments so the best content bubbles up to the top. We had the idea that we could organize the community hub in this fluid fashion – prepopulate the system with some established spaces, like for the Fedora Design team, Infrastructure team, and maybe the working groups and Fedora.next and projects like that. We’d allow Fedora community members to create and manage their own spaces too, and allow them to customize those spaces to their teams’ needs.

Let’s talk about that last point a little bit more in-depth, since it’s really core to how we were thinking this community hub could be organized.

Sub-hub-hubs and a bottle of rum!

diagram_communityhub_subhubs
Ideally, the spaces for various Fedora teams and projects on the community hub wouldn’t be limited to forums – we could build out custom widgets that each space could make use of, and tie those widgets into data coming in from fedmsg, for example.
You can see some (very, very rough) thumbnail mockups of what different hubs might look like above. Let me walk you through my brain using these thumbnails as a guide:

  • We’ve got an Ambassadors hub that shows a map of current ambassador activity, a swag gallery (lower right) and some discussions (courtesy Hyperkitty?) in the lower left…
  • There’s a Development hub with a list of builds and updates along the right column and devel-list discussions as well as announcements in the main content area…
  • Of course there is a hub for the Design Team with a widget to show recent mockups / designs, design-team list discussions, an asset search box, and a list of recent tickets along the right…
  • Finally, a Marketing hub with recent articles about Fedora from the press aggregated on top, with marketing-list discussions on the bottom, and recent Fedora magazine post along the right sidebar.

The specific content I walked you through on each thumbnail mockup above? It could all be totally bogus. It is a lot of work, figuring out for each team and project, what would be the right content to offer, and how to place it, and how to design widgets that would best hold it. To a certain extent, we’d like each subreddit subhub moderator/admin to create the default content offering, and maybe even allow users to customize for their individual needs further on top of those defaults. We do have to offer some basic tools and feeds, though, to make any of that possible.
You can see in our initial whiteboard that we walked through with Matthew (in the lower left corner) a list of the ways that different teams / efforts have overloaded the wiki to achieve what they needed:

  • development docs
  • personal pages
  • SIG pages
  • strategy
  • workflow (e.g., QA, design, rel-eng)
  • packaging policy
  • meeting minutes
  • team organization
  • asset management (e.g., the design team’s SVGs and PDFs!)
  • event management (pre-Flock, sign up for FUDcon in this wiki table!)
  • standard test procedures
  • UI specs (like this)
  • user documentation
  • community policy

Maybe some of these things would be better served by mechanisms made for working with them? Maybe we could design and build widgets or tie-ins to pre-existing infrastructure (like meetbot for meeting minutes, as an example) that would help manage these better than a wiki?
Getting flashbacks about early 2000’s web portal design? Yeh. We’re not trying to go there, honestly. Think about a model more similar to Facebook’s groups and apps, if you use Facebook.
On a per-user basis, the user might have a favorites bar or nav bar along the top prepopulated with the subhubs affiliated with the Fedora groups they are a member of. The user could customize this, to remove the subhubs they don’t want in their navbar and to add additional ones.

Does any of this make sense?

Well, what do you think? Ryan and I met with the Fedora websites team a few weeks ago or so to talk through the idea after working up this proposal with Matthew Miller. They were very supportive of the idea. So, we have had some designer-crazy checks up to this point; it can take a village to suss out designer-crazy sometimes, though, so do let us know your thoughts on this!
If need be, we can modify the plan, come up with a new one, or start blazing forward towards making this one a reality. We’ll need your feedback to figure out what to do. So, what do you think?

Addendum

I found this lurking in my Fedora People ~/public_html from 2009 – we’ve thought about this kind of split of the website before, and even thought about hubs (although not necessarily a platform for fluid hubs as in this proposal):
fedora-model-1
By the way! The scribbly font I used in the mockups is called ‘Redacted’ – it’s an Open Font License font that is really handy for when you want to whip out some quick mockups and don’t want to bother with lorem ipsum text. You can snag it from this link.

10 Comments

  1. Stephen Smoogen

    The images do not seem to blow up so I really can’t tell the difference between them at the moment.
    I was wondering if you might want to have a morlock.fedoraproject.org which is just a HTML-3.0 layout of links to all the downloads and various mailing lists.. that way people who don’t get web design (hey look at my website for an example) would have a place to go and maybe most of the complaints we end up with would not happen. [OK I am not dreaming… but maybe?]

  2. I have been discussing a little about this with Ryan but thought I should mention it also here.
    My main reaction has been on your sentence:
    > a place that Fedora contributors would feel compelled to visit daily and refresh throughout the day
    The main reason why one visits “https://github.com“ logged-in, frequently, or his/her facebook page is that the page contains information that is not available elsewhere. GitHub gives you information about the projects you are following, facebook about your friends, but they do not send you this informaiton by email or anything, and I think this is, for a large part, responsible for people going back to the website to get the news.
    We could of course create such “news-hub page“ but then the risk becomes that information present on this hub is actually not present elsewhere, which creates a division in the community and increases the risk of mis-communications.
    On the other side, if the information is present elsewhere, and I’m thinking email/irc or even android and desktop notifications (which fedmsg already provides), then we might change the workflow of some of our contributors but the old-timers that already have their workflow and habits might not make the change and then I wonder if we won’t end-up in a similar situation as the old community website which duplicates information available elsewhere, is another infrastructure to maintain and end up being used by not enough people.
    Ryan made the point that with web content we can present rich-document and provide the information in a much more user-friendly way. Of course, I cannot disagree with this 🙂
    However, this might change the original quoted sentence from “visit daily and refresh throughout the day” to “visit regularly”.
    That being said, my intent was just to provide some food for thoughts, I’m very curious to see how this news-hub will look like and if it is something I can integrate in my workflow 🙂

  3. finite9

    I’m just a user, and i’ve always found it confusing as to where I should get help. I came to Fedora 16 after having used Ubuntu since 2006, and I initially really missed the focus around ubuntuforums. The fedoraforums was based on an older platform design and harder to navigate than ubuntuforums (font and font size was also really off-putting), and I was confused as to whether I should be using askfedora or the fedoraforums. Even now, my impression is that most people who are familiar with Fedora use the forums and that newcomers use askfedora. It would be great if you could focus all support to one site, and I do prefer the askfedora platforms looks even if it’s slightly cluttered.
    Your proposed design looks good, esp. the getfedora site/support site. I think an important aspect of adoption is to very clearly inform the community of the changes [on all current sites], and have solid focus on what each site provides.

  4. Mike Pinkerton

    Using separate domains for the “project” (i.e., community) and the “product” (i.e., distribution) might help communicate the difference between them to users.
    With respect to the project/community domain, please don’t require login before making content available. Creating that sort of barrier to access will prevent folks like me from ever seeing any of the content on that site. I refuse to create yet another account for yet another web site just to see material that is in no way confidential and shouldn’t be placed behind an access wall.
    Also, with respect to the project/community domain, you will probably need a “brochure” page as part of it, as well, explaining the Fedora community and project structure.

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  7. James Davis

    I am a new user to the Linux/Fedora community (about 5 weeks now) and I like the Fedora.next concept. Especially a centralized help area as finite9 mentioned above. That is one aspect I have struggled with.
    Also, is there a way to create application/software installation guide similar to sites like http://omgubuntu.co.uk or http://webupd8.org. In my opinion these sites do an outstanding job of explaining system modifications. Other than “if not true than false”, I have not found two many Fedora sites that mimic that flow/style. I speculate the Fedora community is geared towards the advanced crowd but you could attract more beginners by providing tutorials that make the environment less intimidating.

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