Karma means action

I not only hack on Launchpad, I use it everyday for my personal projects and for the 1100+ projects I maintain as a registry administrator. I see hundreds of pages each week where my first question is “what has this user or project done recently”? Launchpad cannot easily tell me that, and what it does say requires interpretation. I am very disappointed. I think the most important information I need to see on Launchpad pages is an activity log.  I want to see something like a wall or stream presentation to understand how a person contributes to projects, what kinds of contributions are made, and is a project vital or dormant? My disappointment is compounded by Launchpad’s karma mechanism. I happen to know that “karma” is a Sanskrit word meaning “action”, which is not how Launchpad users or engineers interpret it.

I not writing an argument to fix Launchpad’s karma. It is fundamentally corrupt. Discussions about it become bike shed arguments. I like the name “karma” because I know it’s essential meaning, and that is all that I want to preserve.

For your edification, the value attributed to your action in Launchpad was arbitrarily set by an engineer, then a mechanism “balanced” the number against values in rarely used features.  These rules were created to in an effort to bring fairness to actions. We know that some actions help more people than other actions, but what is happening is that someone was awarded a tremendous number of points for some action that will never help someone else. For example, You can work for a year to build and release an app to earn 10 points, then Launchpad slaps you in the face when I register a blueprint that will never be implemented…awarding me with 300 points. Launchpad is misinforming you and everyone else about the value of your contributions. The numbers will always be subjective. Stop reading those karma numbers, stop trying to raise them; you will not win anything for having a high score.

  • I want to stop recording values for action, at the very least, never show them.
  • I want to stop expending valuable CPU time balancing karma.
  • I want to stop expiring karma.

Once we stop talking about value and fairness, we are free to add new kinds of actions that we want Launchpad to record. I hope to know that someone has registered a project, set the branch used as development focus, added a recipe to build it, and made an official release.

  • I want to see a listing of all the things I register or change in Launchpad.
  • I want to see a list of actions that someone has done today, this week, this month, this year, and maybe even last year.
  • I want to filter the actions by to specific categories that pertain to bugs, code, or planning.
  • I want see a link to the thing the action was about.


3 thoughts on “Karma means action

  1. Jelmer Vernooij

    I couldn’t agree more.

    What is considered a relevant contribution is subjective, even for a single person.

    Launchpad has a lot of useful data (and structured!) about a lot of projects, but it’s not displaying much of that data at the moment. Our database has sufficient data to generate pages with Ohloh-like graphs (and for more than just code) or GitHub-like dashboards, we’re just not using it very well at the moment.

  2. Bryce Harrington

    I completely agree about the arbitrariness of karma and how ineffective it is as a motivator (which I gather was the original design intent?) I would not be sad to see it go away.

    But I should say as a package maintainer, I do find karma measures useful though, as a shorthand for answering two questions:

    a. Does this bug filer/commenter know what they’re talking about?

    b. Has this person contributed so much to open source that I might want to spend extra time helping them out?

    For reasons you outlined, karma isn’t even that accurate of a way to answer these questions, but it roughly correlates most of the time.

  3. curtis Post author

    Hi Bryce.

    I think showing the categories of the contributions help to understand how the user contributes. Showing total events over week, month, and year help me to gauge activity. I like to know if someone has been active for long. Maybe
    this week / month / year
    bugs 20 / 120 / 400
    blueprints 0 / 0 / 2
    code 0 / 5 / 120

    I did propose a reform of the karma point system that attempted to be objective where points were awarded by who I thought benefited by the change. The judgement is not perfect and can be considered unfair because it cross-community and end user contributions were awarded much more than someone who just helped himself


Comments are closed.