Lowering the barrier of entry for newcomers (oscw18 feedback)

Hi guys,

Currently in the train back what I think was a very successful and fun Open Source Cubesat Workshop (It was nice meeting many of you there!)

Apologies if it sound a bit like i’m Rambling, Pretty tired at the moment ha!

I thought I’d get the ball rolling (if you don’t mind) during my boring train ride on one of the feedbacks SatNOGS project received from various parties/people. One of the things I got from talking with people about SatNOGS is that there is a lot of interest in SatNOGS by people but they somehow fail to;

  1. Understand what SatNOGS actually is/does. (From individual ground station, the network, the DB and how it can benefit their Cubesat project being intergrated).
  2. Find the information how to get started with their own station.
  3. See how they can use the information in the database.
  4. Find how to contact the community.

What I’d like to propose to counter these points is to lower the barrier of entry to SatNOGS for projects and individuals by doing the following;

  1. Revamp the homepage (addresses point 1,2 and 4).

  2. Create a getting started page (goes in-depth on point 2).

  3. Revamp the homepage (addresses point 1,2 and 4).

Having analysed the homepage through the eyes of a new user I think we can clarify things with a few minor changes;

  • Include a brief summary of what SatNOGS is/does/can be used for.
  • Add to the Network,DB and Community links a link to our Riot/IRC channel
  • Add a clear CTA ‘getting started’ page link.
    E.g. “Find out how you can get started receiving satellites and be part of the SatNOGS network in no-time.”
  1. Create a getting-started page (goes in-depth on point 2).

More importantly to lower the barrier of entry/eliminate questions like “I need you to tell me how to get my first station up and running” that would work well I think is create a getting started page that very clearly describes a few key things to get started.

  • A BoM (Bill of Material) for a non-rotator ground station.
    I think it is wise to concentrate new users on a non-rotator setup first as, like we discussed in the workgroup at oscw, it is very easy to acquire a RPi, turnstile, rtl-sdr, cheap LNA and be up and running within a few hours. Using this as a starting point to get people on the network so we can then help them explore the possibilities of a rotator should they want to.

  • A download link to the Raspberry Pi image
    I think it doesn’t hurt to start everyone out with a RPI3B+ as they are readily available and most people, schools and libraries have stockpiles of them laying around. Also, it is very easy to install SatNOGS this way. I do understand the scalability limitations as underlined by Kerel at oscw of the RPi (maybe suggest Banana Pi or Orange Pi as better/more powerful alternatives?)

  • A “explain it like I’m five” step by step guide (including possible video tutorial?) to do the installation of the ground station and getting it on the network.

  • Some simple yet major best practices for where to put the antenna;

Sky coverage
Out of way of high buildings
Not upside down ;p

The idea here is to try and help the individual set up the station in a location that will most likely guarantee a positive result on their first try. Pretty much to prevent the user from having to ask the question, ‘what do i need to look out for when placing my antenna.

  • How to schedule a observation (Can be text, but should probably also be video).
    walk the user through the interface and how to schedule a observation

  • Show the user what a good result looks like, what a bad result looks like and what a failed result looks like.
    key here is also a brief explanation of why it is a good or bad pass (much like the wiki but in explain it like I’m five terms).

  • A CTA at the end to get users to post their first results to the community forum so we can help them improve results and answer any questions they have.

I think having this will “satisfy” for lack of a better word the needs of 50% of individuals coming across SatNOGS. And also think it will create a more inviting environment for newcomers. For the other 50% we can from here point them towards a rotator station.

I’m very happy to take the lead on the getting-started page if people agree that it would be a good idea.

I’m not sure yet how to address point 3. “The user fail to see how they can use the information in the database.” As I haven’t used the DB myself yet.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and suggestions to enhance the experience for first time users to help them get a station online and thus making it easier for them to understand what SatNOGS is and does.




Sounds like I missed a good meet up!

Quite a bit of this information is on the wiki in one format or another, sounds like the message is just getting across on some fronts. Perhaps this is a good chance to look at the documentation again and see what we want and how it is best presented. I would be surprised if we don’t have enough information about to solve most of this.

I’ll be coming off some projects in the next few weeks so will be available to help out as well. Let’s get some kind of to do list together and get it published.


1 Like

Hi Alex,

Thanks for your comment. It was indeed a very nice meetup, I would have been great to meet you, maybe next time :slight_smile: .

I totally agree that most of what I’ve written above is already, or can be addressed in the wiki with a bit of a rewrite, let me however explain why I think creating a separate getting-started page is a good idea.

Based on the user feedback from oscw I wrote everything above targeted to a different segment of users;

Those who don’t tinker, linux, coding, tech in general on a daily basis. But who are very interested to join the SatNOGS network either because they like/love space, or because they want to get into tinkering, linux and more through building a ground station as their first project.

So, the idea of the getting started page is to create a more inviting (nicely designed, expain it like i’m five) page where just following that one page will get you up and running with a ground station (abbreviations or more info on our wiki links could definitely be included if the user needs more info).

Hope that makes sense. I guess I’m talking about something that looks more like an ‘instructables’ see example here

Perhaps this is a good chance to look at the documentation again and see what we want and how it is best presented.

Yes, totally. I think other related feedback also comes down to the wiki being a bit confusing in the sense that it doesn’t have a very clear flow (e.g "We have finished step 4, we created our station in network.satnogs.org ready to link to your hardware. Continue to step 5: connecting your hardware with your network.satnogs.org station entry.)

I know this page exists, but think the individual pages should also be linked together.

I’ll be coming off some projects in the next few weeks so will be available to help out as well. Let’s get some kind of to do list together and get it published.

Awesome, I’ll go through the wiki (as a relative newcomer) to see what things I find confusing and could use a re-write or better explanation. And in the meantime I’ll see if I can create a sort of draft for the getting started page to show you guys what I have in mind.


Rik ‘stwr’


Abbreviations were a major issue for participants during the whole oscw18.

1 Like

I’m quite used to writing technical specifications and reports and they’re generally fully stuffed with TLA’s (Three Letter Acroynm’s :wink: ) and good isometric illustrations or images. Some of the best documentation I’ve followed was for the installation of direwolf APRS software but this is person preference. Others are much better with visual stuff.

I generally find the instructable type stuff good if you know what you’re doing but lacking when it goes a bit wrong. I’m sure you found building the frame for the rotator needs some adjustment to get the frame tight.

Guides could easily be written in something collaborative like google docs or something a bit more open source and then presented accordingly.

I do like the video walk through’s but in my experience of doing the occasional one at work they can be very time consuming to make.


Great post @stwr! And great to hang with you in real space at OSCW. I recently have been doing some writing for the UK rocketry council and was pushing them to be more basic in the way they introduced their subject and its made me realise that for technical type projects going back to first principles for early/landing pages/documents is essential.

FWIW I reckon it would be good if the average persons first bit of text on satnogs was something like…

Imagine being able to receive something from space in your own garden! Circling the earth there are thousands of satellites in space. Most satellites send and receive some radio signals and if someone has a radio tuned on the ground they can hear, record and decode the data which may contain images of earth, information about the satellite or whatever else a satellite is sending!

The radios on earth are called ‘ground-stations’, usually a ground-station can only hear a satellite when the satellite is overhead. This means usually someone might only be able to hear a particular satellite once a day or even less frequently.

The Satnogs project is an opensource project that helps people to build and operate good quality and affordable ground-stations all over the planet that are networked. This means, once you build one, you can use your own and all the others on the network so that you too can hunt satellites!

That’s not definitely the finished article but more an example of the level I think is the most barrier reducing!


Hey Everybody,

Is there a recording or slides of this presentation? Or all presentations at OSCW18?


Awesome, this is exactly the type of “explain it like I’m five” text that I was talking about. If a five year old reads this, they too will understand it. It is really to try and simplify things.

Great way to get started! Thanks Concretedog :slight_smile:

Hi Bklofas. This feedback was the result of a workgroup we did during oscw18 so the feedback is not on film or in a presenation. All of the presentations however will be made available online soonish I’ve been told.

Rik ‘stwr’


I had a bit of spare time so knocked the attached up. Is this the type of thing you meant? Needs a bunch of images in it as well but its a start.No rotator draft.txt (4.1 KB)


Does this help?

No rotator draft.txt (5.2 KB)


That’s a great start g7kse! I’ll spend some time tomorrow seeing how this can be improved and write some more getting started around it.

Any objections if i throw this into a google doc or something?


Hey Everybody,

Haha! I’ve been working on a very very similar doc for the past few weeks, based on my experience setting up Station 237.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, I need to add a lot of screenshots and pics of my setup, and links back to the existing documentation on the wiki.


Bryan KF6ZEO


Looks like yours is a bit more developed Bryan. We should focus on getting yours sorted then move on to the next one. Pointless us all creating new documents for the same subject.

We ought to really focus on the ‘To do’ list and who will be checking work. I’m really keen that anything I produce is at least checked before its published as I will always make a mistake or use poor grammar at least once.

Alex: no need to publish nearly perfect documents! If there are mistakes in it: don’t worry, we are a lot of people and someone will point it out if it is essential. Don’t look at grammar… again: if it is essential for the understanding - someone will point it out!

If we start when it’s nearly done: we will never start :wink:

Just my 2 cents on this.


Just me getting all corporate. I’m not keen on poorly constructed documents at work (most of which are mine).Happy to go with the flow as long as it gets checked at some point, just so is readable and is accurate enough. There’s a lot of change with SatNOGS so we also need to be sure that everything is current.

As I’m not particularly familiar with this does Git work for documents as well? i.e. is that the place where issue could get raised and then closed off? For example. wiki page x has old screen shots on it - Needs update.

That would be a good idea. Not sure if docs work with Git indeed. I’m sure the others will know though!

I think that wiki would be better than git in this scope.

1 Like

Ok. So I had anoher look at the wiki today. Can I be a honest? I think we need to spend a bit of time on it. Ignoring the look and feel for the time being I think it hasn’t kept up with development of SatNOGS and it makes for difficult reading. I had a little dabble with it almost a year ago (time flies !) and looking back I think we missed an opportunity. So get your thinking caps on and start commenting against this as a plan.

Front page is broadly ok but could do with some tiding up. The further you go through the harder it becomes to read unless you are fully conversant with what is going on with development. I’m thinking here about the decoding pages etc (where stuff gets pretty technical).

So, starting from the top and taking into account the original post can I suggest that we focus on getting it really easy to go from the start page to assembling the reference (RPi+RTL-SDR+Non rotator and the RPi+RTL-SDR+SatNOGS rotator) pages really up to scratch. I found the rotator assembly guides easy to follow so I don’t support saying the same thing in the wiki. This would mean clearing a bit of space on the front page and then working from there.

I’m really cautious about stepping on other peoples work. I’m happy to do so, I just don’t want to upset anyone. @bklofas has done a great starting page for newcommers so lets not do that again, just support ingetting it finished off then move onto the ‘intermediate’ world of rotators the ‘advanced’ with commercial rotators and Ubuntu / Fedora / Debian installations & The complex telemetry & decoding stuff.

Comments / suggestions?


I have made several comments over the last two months about how confusing the wiki is to anyone that is not fluent in Satnog developement, or not trained as a LINUX programmer.

Nowhere on the page can I find that the Satnogs-client cannot be easily installed on an existing RPI Stretch full install. It should be made clear that a beginner should use the embeded Satnogs-client/Stretch lite files that are available on another page. I also posted a ‘long’ post of how I managed to get Satnogs-client to run on my pi that already had stretch full installed. This point should be made very clear as several post show that some people tried to install and gave up because there is not an easily found method of installing unless it is on stretch lite/embeded Satnogs-client download from Satnog.

Most of the information on the wiki needs replacing or rewriting, as it is very confusing to people that are not conversed in this project.

my 2c

@bob I can see your points and we heard similar thing at the #oscw18!
To be honest: you did it just the right way - write-up what you experience, what you’re missing, where are pitfalls. This is the payback a community like this needs to show we’re alive! The easiest thing to do is not to expect anything “overhauled” by someone else, but do it by yourself. :wink:

I think this is the reason why this community is very active and new people join the team.

Just my 2 cents on this!


1 Like