Do we need a new 'Welcome to Ubuntu'?

John Richard Moser john.r.moser at
Fri Jun 1 07:45:03 UTC 2007

Hash: SHA1

The default home page in Ubuntu is a mostly non-graphical, minimally
useful introduction to Ubuntu that I for one ignore.  Besides spicing up
the graphics, perhaps a content change would improve things; Welcome to
Ubuntu, but you already have it, so how about where do I go from here?

Let's look at the current content, with comments injected by me:

Welcome to Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn!
/* Finally a welcome, now that I've configured the system, figured out
  the Internet works, and got a browser.  Couldn't this be in a Tip of
  the Day screen? */

The Ubuntu project is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu
philosophy: that software should be available free of charge, that
software tools should be usable by people in their local language, and
that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their
software in whatever way they need.
/* Blahblahblah I don't care, hard core open source people might know
   but not care and hard-core Ubuntu philosophical evangelists care and
   already know. */

Getting Help with Ubuntu:
/* This was here?  It had no pictures, I just went to google.. also how
   do I get help with FINDING THE WEB BROWSER?  */

There are many ways to get help with Ubuntu.

Access Ubuntu's guides and documentation by selecting "Help" from your
System menu. You can also find help from the official Ubuntu
documentation website and the community contributed documentation.
/* "Help" is not in the system menu in Feisty; it's "Help and Support"
   these days.  Also the Help site is very nice if you want to do some
   reading; this is not encouraged specifically.  There needs to be a
   SINGLE encouraged "GO HERE FIRST" link. */

If you prefer some human contact, you can use the mailing lists, web
forums, or chat with the community on Freenode IRC Channel: #ubuntu.
/* What the f@*k is a samophlange-- er, a mailing list?   IRC too for
   that matter.  Mailing lists are better than news groups because they
   create a barrier for entry that keeps the noobs and morons out, so
   speaks Larry Wall (I believe). IRC however we expect noobs on, where
   is the IRC primer? */

You can also obtain commercial support.

Participate in Ubuntu:
/* I'm using it, what more do you want? */

The Ubuntu community is made up of software developers, documentation
writers, translators, graphic artists, and most importantly, the people
who are using Ubuntu in their everyday life. We invite you to join this
community and help shape Ubuntu into an operating system that better
meets your needs.
/* Either I know this or I'm not interested.  If you want me to get
   interested, you better show me something attractive like pretty
   pictures to get my attention down this far, because I got bored at
   "Welcome to" */

To find out how to participate, visit Ubuntu's community participation page

OK so things we've noticed:

1.  This thing appears when you open a browser, not when you've first
    logged in.  It should probably appear when you first log into
    Ubuntu, which in turn means it appears as soon as you load a LiveCD.
    In fact it should probably appear inside the Help and Support tool,
    not Firefox.

2.  tl;dr.  This page contains a bunch of boring text about stuff nobody
    cares about.  I opened the browser to use the Intertruckthingy, not
    to learn about my computer; I already know what I want to do and I'm
    not interested in fiddling with whatever random home page comes up
    by default.

3.  Graphics.  There's no pictures besides the Ubuntu logo.  Each
    heading should have a picture; and stuff in the headings should
    probably have more graphical organization too.  A picture-bulleted
    list showing icons for Mailing List, Web Forums, and IRC instead of
    just a bunch of links for example.

What about content changes?  Well like I said, there's boring things
like Philosophy and the whole thing about working on Ubuntu that nobody
cares about unless they know already.  The page has minimal content as
is; if it were more attractive, these extras would harm nothing.  Still,
I think some changes are in order.

The Philosophy paragraph is almost spot-on.  A graphical icon next to it
or a "learn more" link or something and it's nice and brief and
attention getting.  It states what Ubuntu is about briefly, and links to
more information.

The last part, Participation, is a load of crap.  It's brief, that's all
it has going for it.  Can I do any of this stuff?  (Yes)  No, wtf are
you talking about?  You need a more personal entry angle before you
start dumping that on the user, or else they'll assume the whole thing
is for geniuses.

Maybe with Participation you can kind of climb a ladder.  Open with a
quick statement about bug reporting, about how Ubuntu listens to its
users when they report something is broken, and has a system to handle
it; anyone can complain that crap is broken here.  Continue on to say
there's a Specification system to allow users to collaborate on ideas
for new features, and then start talking about how users can work
directly on Ubuntu with the developers.  The reader will stop when he
hits something he doesn't think he can do, but he'll be exposed to what
he CAN do and in the future may start taking further steps (or not but
who cares, he's further than he would have been).

Besides allowing a light-weight Help system to show this stuff, and thus
making it feasible to pull up the Welcome to Ubuntu page on first
log-in, moving this stuff into the Help system would allow leveraging
the browser home page for something more useful.  When you hit a Web
browser you are entering hostile territory, because we have phishing
sites.  I don't have much suggestion here, but in the future maybe we
should say... SOMETHING... about how to not get yourself owned.  Even
something as simple as pointing at a tool like a Firefox anti-phishing
extension or OpenDNS would help here, and would fall more into context
with your opening a Web browser than "Oh you've started using Ubuntu."

- --
    We will enslave their women, eat their children and rape their
             -- Bosc, Evil alien overlord from the fifth dimension
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