Running a wallpaper contest

The community team runs a wallpaper contest once every release to reward community contributors for their amazing artwork and to provide users with a pretty background to see in Ubuntu. Here is how to run the contest, currently based on experience from the 22.10 wallpaper contest (update this if you’ve made changes).

The messaging for this contest should be fun and encouraging. There are many talented people who are putting in their time to create something amazing, and we want to value this even if their picture does not get selected.

Setting up the contest

We schedule the contest about 5–9 weeks before the feature freeze (.04: Feb 22, .10: Aug 26th), which leads to these time ranges to start the contest:
  • .04 release: December 21–January 18 (Feature Freeze: February 22, October 20)
  • .10 release: June 24–July 22 (Feature Freeze: August 26, Release: April 21)

To set up the contest, take care of the following:

  1. Prepare a social image at 1200x630px to use with the competition
  2. Draft a discourse post to announce the contest. See template down below.
  3. Draft a separate discourse post that will be used for the vote. Make it unlisted, so you have the URL ready.
  4. Draft a number of social messages, including links to the respective discourse posts. You can pre-schedule most of these, this will save you the scramble when the time comes.
    a) Announcing the contest
    b) Weekly reminders about the contest, noting the deadline
    c) Submission has closed and voting is open
    d) One or more reminders about the voting deadline
    e) Highlighting the winners
  5. Verify timeline with the community, desktop and social teams:
    a) Make sure that someone from your team is available at the time of the voting close deadline to take a full page screenshot. Discourse unfortunately cannot lock likes.
    b) Make sure assets are provided in time for the desktop team to bring them into release
    c) Make sure our messaging doesn’t interfere with other social launches or messaging, and that the team is available for short notice messages, e.g. based on winning results.

Now you can post drafts to discourse and schedule (most of) the social messages.

During the Contest

There are a few tasks you should take care of during the contest:
  • An occasional thank you to submitters, especially those who are new to discourse.
  • Reverse image search and forensics to make sure the images are original works of art. You can do this at the end in batch if you have the time, but doing it once a week will make it less of a daunting task.
  • Try the images on a 4k monitor to identify lower quality images and reach out to the authors.
  • Make sure all authors are either submitting their full resolution images, or the full resolution images are linked in a way that they’ll be available at the end of the contest. If you hover over an image and are not seeing a box with the resolution, it is likely downscaled by discourse.

After Submissions close

Once contest submissions are closed, here is what is next:
  • Lock the submissions thread.
  • Respond to the voting thread with one post per image, noting Author and title (e.g. “The Kudu” by @username). If the author submitted a dark/light version, put both into one post. To save space on discourse, you can use the upload:// url from the original image.
  • Remove the unlisted setting from the voting thread.
  • Add a post thanking all submitters and point to the voting thread.
  • Make sure social messages are fired, if you didn’t already schedule them

When voting closes

At the time when voting closes, make sure you have a screenshot with the final numbers. Now:

  • Augment the voting and original discourse post to include a ranked list with the votes as it was when voting closed. This is important because discourse likes cannot be locked.
  • Download all winning full resolution images and put them in the Community Team drive.
  • Share folder with the Desktop team, so they can put the images into the ubuntu-wallpapers package.
  • Update the drafted social message announcing the winners with the images of the winners and publish it.
  • Award the Artful Aardvark badge, in the participant, finalist and winners variant.

Ideas for Improvement

Here are a few ideas for improvement that we have not yet tried. If you use one of these approaches make sure to share your experience on what didn't work:
  • Augment weekly social posts to show the submissions for that week. If we do this, needs to happen every week.
  • Use a voting platform that will randomize the images to avoid bias
  • Use a voting platform that will allow voters to rank their votes and use an STV vote to improve outcome? Might be to tedious
  • Create a script that does all of the setup and processing using the discourse API (set up posts, lock accordingly, award badges)
  • We should have regularly recurring categories to avoid too many release animals in the same batch.
  • Determine a good maximum file size. A 4k image can easily go over 7.5 MB without any compression.
  • Provide guidance on file formats. Gnome now supports webp, which may offer less compression artifacts.

What didn't work well

  • We used to allow only 2 submissions, mostly due to size constraints. 5 or 10 should be fine.
  • We used to vote via Google Forms, which made it easier to game
  • We used to limit each voter to 10 choices. This was hard to maintain in the voting platform, and might put some images at a disadvantage. Allowing people unlimited votes will allow them to select all the images they really enjoy.

Please see the replies in this post for some communications templates.



We are sharing a few templates in this section. Note the :pencil2: emoji for items that need to be edited. Click on edit source for this post to copy the markdown, which will make it simpler to keep the formatting.

Discourse: Announcement Template

Examples: 22.10 Kinetic Kudu

[[:pencil2: insert social image here]]

[[ :pencil2: insert warm welcome here]]

We will be collecting submissions in responses to this thread. Once submission closes we will provide a link to vote for your favorite submission. The top 10 images will be featured on discourse, Ubuntu social media, and in a blog on The top (:pencil2: FIVE/TEN) submissions will make it into the (:pencil2: 22.10) official release image!

To take part, [[:pencil2: witty quip encouraging amazing works of art]] and respond to this thread with your work of art. Please ensure the following:

  • You must own the rights to the image you are submitting, it should be your original work of art.
  • The full quality image must be 3840x2160px.
  • Please ensure you create a high quality image. Avoid image compression artifacts, pixelation, chromatic aberration and noise. Please do not add any watermarks, names or logos. See also these helpful guidelines from GNOME on screen backgrounds.
  • When posting your image, please include a note that you are licensing the image as CC BY-SA 4.0 or CC BY 4.0 . If you do not specify a license we will assume CC BY-SA 4.0 . By entering the competition you are agreeing to these license terms.
  • See this page for detailed information regarding our rules.

Regarding choice of artwork, we also have the following guidelines:

  • Using Ubuntu Orange or Canonical Purple is not a requirement! You are welcome to be colorful, as long as it doesn’t appear like a different Linux distribution.
  • You do not necessarily have to use the (:pencil2: release animal). Maybe there is a more abstract version of it, or that nature photo you’ve been squatting on is truly amazing as a background?

Here is the timeline for the contest (:pencil2: adjust the dates):

  • 2022-06-24T00:00:00Z (now!) — we open submissions in this thread
  • 2022-08-10T00:00:00Z — Submissions close, and we begin the voting period.
  • 2022-08-24T00:00:00Z — Voting closes
  • 2022-08-25T12:00:00Z — The winners are announced during the day and the winning wallpapers are prepared to go into Ubuntu (:pencil2: 22.10) beta.

If you are looking for inspiration take a look at the (:pencil2: last two releases) 22.04 results or 21.10 results .

[[:pencil2: Insert encouraging words on getting creative and that we are eager to see what comes around]]

Discourse: Voting thread

[[:pencil2: insert social image here]]

[[ :pencil2: insert warm welcome here]]

Here you will find all of the submissions from our amazing community of artists! Please vote by liking :heart: any number of wallpapers below that you would wish to see included in the next release of Ubuntu. You can vote for more than a single entry. The top most voted for wallpapers will be included in the release of Ubuntu 22.10 “Kinetic Kudu”.

Here is the timeline for the contest (:pencil2: adjust the dates):

  • 2022-06-24T00:00:00Z — we open submissions in this thread
  • 2022-08-10T00:00:00Z — Submissions close, and we begin the voting period.
  • 2022-08-24T00:00:00Z — Voting closes
  • 2022-08-25T12:00:00Z — The winners are announced during the day and the winning wallpapers are prepared to go into Ubuntu (:pencil2: 22.10) beta.

Discourse: Voting results

Add this to the original submission thread and the voting thread:

Voting has closed! Here are the results as of (:pencil2: 00:00 UTC). The following will be in Ubuntu (:pencil2: release animal):

These wallpapers were also pretty amazing, if you enjoy them as well feel free to add them to your wallpaper set:

Social Messages

Be creative here. If you need some examples check out: