September 2, 2016

The Planet Is Safe For Now

Filed under: digital,documentation,future,interfaces,mozilla,work — mhoye @ 2:40 pm

This is a followup to this post – The Future Of The Planet – where I said we had four choices about what to do next:

  1. Do nothing; leave Planet as is.
  2. Improve Planet as a Planet.
  3. Replace Planet with something better suited to Mozilla’s needs.
  4. Replace Planet with nothing.

To give away the punchline, we’re going with option two.

I reviewed all the feedback from various places that post ended up – the Mozilla Community discourse forums, HackerNews, Reddit, my inbox, a handful of others – and was delighted to find that it was was generally positive and spoke to Planet’s ongoing relevance. The suggestions for improving the situation were also generally good and helpful, and even the person who accused me of planning to destroy Planet just so that I could put something on my CV that made me sound like a supervillain was worth a laugh.

In broad terms, that feedback was:

  • Planet is the best tool available for getting an overall sense of what all the different parts of Mozilla-the-global-community are up to, and there doesn’t seem to be anything more effective waiting in the wings. Virtually all Mozilla-related news sites or discussion forums are downstream of Planet aggregation in some way.
  • The signal to noise ratio is good enough. Constant vigilance, sure, but good enough.
  • Participatory but also low-effort and easy to skim is a nice combination, and makes it a good tool for an important job. However,
  • Accessing Planet – both as a participant and a consumer – is harder than it has to be in a number of ways. There’s room for improvement, and often new teams or projects feeds’ are overlooked.

With that in mind, I think we can do the following things in no particular order to improve Planet as both a tool and an experience.

  • The most common request was from people who’d rather have Planet show up in their inbox than open another app, so create an email-digest option for people who live in their inboxes.
  • Make a Bugzilla form for adding feeds.
  • Update the page style(s) to something modern and responsive that works well on mobile. Being able to pin more important posts to the top of these pages without disturbing the feeds would be a very nice feature to have.
  • Anoint a feed reader as Planet Mozilla’s reader of choice and point to it from the Planet homepage (along with information like “what is a feed” and “why do I need a reader”, because RSS usability is at an all time exactly where it’s always been.)
  • Possibly do the same for a comments forum? I’m open to suggestions, but it looks like Reddit is where most of that action happens these days. I’m definitely not building a new one.
  • Since new Mozilla projects and feeds pop up periodically, somebody needs to be more disciplined about getting the internal-comms part right. Mozilla team and project feeds should all be syndicated as a matter of course. Call me vain if you like, but I’m pretty confident the “somebody” they’re talking about here is me.

Some of these are more work than others, but I’ll open bugs for the ones that need them the next little while.

Thanks for your feedback, everyone.


  1. Keep in mind i know nothing about space, planets or feeds or email digestions…

    .1 Doesn’t most of the convo about a blog post happen on the post itself which sometimes has a fancy commenting system? Perhaps a more visible way to click through and get to the blog itself is the best approach there (both feed, email digest and website).

    2. Keeping track of where someone left off on the website (as a rss reader does for rss users, and email digest does by nature of digesting a period in time) would also be a nice way of helping manage reading through the noise. Even collapse/fade read items and storing by cookie (no login).

    Comment by Robert Accettura — September 2, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

  2. Yeah, that’s a good point. We kind of obscure the link back to the original site for I’m not sure what reason.

    Comment by mhoye — September 2, 2016 @ 7:56 pm

  3. A lot of the sites being syndicated on planet seem to use one of a number of popular blogging frameworks. For the comments it might be easy enough to check the feed for a comments link (sometimes provided) or the generator* (e.g. wordpress) and simply expose the link to comments on planet (and its feed). IFF a link cannot be found then simply link to the blogpost direct so humans can look for comments.

    Alternatively you could think about using the Mozilla Discourse for comments as a way of standardising a discussion place for planet stuff so people dont have to search multiple channels to understand the comments/feedback to items posted… however that is a little more heavy handed in terms of basically defining where comments must go…

    * If its a know blog engine there are some consistent rules for links to comments that can normally be followed I know this wont work for everything.

    Comment by William “FuzzyFox” Duyck — September 7, 2016 @ 3:16 pm

  4. I came about halfway down this post before realizing that this was not a satirical epistle about Earth.

    Comment by Jasper Janssen — September 14, 2016 @ 3:24 am

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