Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So, what are we going to do?

Ok, we've had our first WWW developers meeting. We had a stellar turnout! Plenty 'o people turned up and helped us start defining our direction.

We had a lot of topics to cover, but ended up barely covering the first few. This was due to a larger than expected discussion about certain issues such as the use of a CMS or which demographic the site is meant for.

Further meetings will need to be held to make more of these decisions.

We talked quite a bit about the state of KDE's websites - needless to say, quite a number of them are in a state of bad repair. In our discussions on this we decided that it would be a good idea to consolidate many of the kde.org subdomains into the xBases (techbase and userbase). This especially applies for the websites that do not seem to be in 'good repair'.

We will be compiling a list of the kde.org subdomains, their current state and their maintainers and contacting them regarding this plan. We're not saying that everyone has to shift to the xBases, but we are trying to move a lot more data there. All these subdomains are more a problem than a solution (maintenance wise, n00b user wise). If we can get rid of even half of the ~40 kde.org subdomains and consolidate them into the xBases then it will make our job a whole lot easier.

Also, during our meeting it was pointed out that we need to define what content we want to go on www.kde.org . This was because there were differing opinions as to whether we have 'learning' information or 'community' information on the www.kde.org site landing page. There are very strong arguments for both views, but we will talk about this further in subsequent meetings.

It was also discussed that we need a proper licence policy for all the content that goes on the KDE sites. This is especially applicable to user contributed content. We will be doing this with the help and guidance of the KDE e.V. board.

So, in terms of what were going to do? We're going to start tidying up the kde.org subdomains and moving as much as we can into the xBases, we're also going to get the ball rolling on creating a licence policy for content.

You can view the IRC meeting log here: http://www.valdyas.org/irina/stuff/kde-www/log-20081010.html

We didn't get around to discussing open collaboration services as we ran out of time. But this will be brought up in a future meeting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Its on! Meeting this Friday!

Using the nice tools provided by Doodle we have settled on a time for the developers meeting regarding KDE's websites and Open Collaboration.

The meeting will be held in the #kde-www IRC channel.

The time of the meeting is 12:00pm noon (GMT) Friday 10th (this Friday).

Again, we encourage anyone who is interested to attend and give their input into the meeting. There is going to be quite a bit of interesting stuff to talk about! =D

Don't miss it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

KDE Web Developers Meeting

Things are starting to move. We're slowly but surely drawing up plans to upgrade KDE's online presence.

As people have said, its a huge undertaking. There is many sites to maintain and a huge amount of information to update. Plus, we have grand plans for the furthering of KDE and 'Open Collaboration' as well.

As such, we are getting together to have a meeting on IRC and 'nut out' some of this information into a good strategy for tackling the job that lies ahead of us. We would encourage anyone and everyone who is interested to join in this meeting, even if you just want to listen or add your opinion to the topic.

We have put a schedule for the meeting here: http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/kde.org/Meetings/September08 (ignore that it says september =D)

We also have a draft document on what our general goals are here: http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/kde.org/Planning This document is undergoing changes as we further define our direction.

Also, you can go here to put in your preferred times for the meeting. We will pick the best date in the next few days.

My last blog entry further discusses what we're trying to achieve and some of our further goals. You can view it here.

Again, we would be delighted to have you participate in this meeting and give your feedback/help in this planning stage. The meeting will be held in the #kde-www IRC channel.

Put in your preferred time, and we'll see you there! =D

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Future of KDE's Online Presence?

There is no doubt that KDE has a vibrant online community. Sites such as kde-look.org prove this. People want to interact, share, help, learn and play.

Given this, it makes sense that KDE4 is pushing to provide for many of these online needs. For example, KDE games are getting the ability to play online against other opponents, you can install and share themes and wallpapers from your desktop and you can interact with people using applications such as kopete.

But can we take this further? What is missing?

Well, what about 'learning'? It doesn't take much to realise that much of kde.org and its sub-websites have fallen into a state of disrepair. Much of the information is out of date or obsolete and some websites haven't been updated in years. Also, the system that these sites were built on (Capacity) is not sustainable, scalable or flexible enough to meet the needs of KDE's community. Currently, it is too hard for someone to keep the content up to date. We need to come up with a solid plan for changing this.

What about 'sharing'? We have kde-look.org. From there we can share photos, themes, applications and all kinds of things. It could do with a face-lift and maybe some nice new user features, but it does a good job.

What about 'helping'? How does KDE and its online community enable us to help people? Well, we can file bug reports, get on IRC and fix people's computer problems, we can post on forums and we can become KDE developers.

And 'playing'? Its great to see what the Dev's are doing with KDE games. But can we take this a bit further? Does anyone want to have an online chess tournament or an online pong tournament? Ok, I'd really love an online pong tournament. =D

It occurs to me that there are a few main things that come out of studying this. Number one is - interaction. Everything said above requires interaction at some level. Interaction is a basic human need - we go crazy without it. So it then makes sense for us to concentrate on making interaction as easy as possible.

Here is an example: what if 'Sally' has a problem with Gwenview and wants 'help'? Where does she go? Well, Sally loves KDE, but she doesn't have the first clue about using an IRC channel or filing bugs - she just likes playing songs, viewing pictures and watching movies. Wouldn't it be great if Sally could instantly go to the 'Community Plasmoid' that is on her desktop and have it automatically show her 'nearby' help? Sally could see that 'John Smith' is a KDE 'Gwenview Support' user and Sally can instantly contact him via her (or his) preffered media (IM, video, VoIP, email) and ask for help on her issue. Things like this would make Sally's life so much easier!

At the moment, getting help is a journey. You have to make your way to the IRC channels or journey to the forums and search for an answer. You can also journey to the mail-list and hope for a reply or search the websites and see if you can glean your answer from there. It would occur to me that we need to bring help, in all its forms, to the user - instead of the user searching for the help.

This brings me to the second thing that I think comes out of studying this - intercommunication. If we really want to harness the power of the online KDE community and bring it to our desktops and deliver a truely awesome experience to our users then there needs to be a 'meshing' of the separate online services that we offer.

For example, 'John' is a graphics designer and has created a KDE online account so he can upload photos to kde-look.org to share with others (he uploads them from within Gwenview). John then decides that he would like to help the artists who are working on the next release of KDE. John is approved for svn access and his online KDE account shows this. He doesn't need to create another user login and password for svn. John also decides that he wants to support users who are using DigiKam, so he changes his online KDE account settings to reflect that he is also now a support member and that he supports DigiKam - John states that his preffered method of contact is Instant Messaging or VoIP and his preffered hours of contact are 9am-9pm (GMT+10) - he does all this from the community plasmoid. Instantly, users 'nearby' and all over the world that are having a problem with DigiKam can see on their 'Community Plasmoid' that John is willing to offer help. Fred, who is having an issue getting DigiKam to do what he wants, can now call John through telepathy/decibel and ask for help with his issue.

The biggest thing to note in the above example that neither John or Fred need to leave their desktops to do all this. Sure, there is a server out there somewhere on the intermawebs that is handling all this stuff, but John doesn't need to go and find it, log into it and move around an archaic request->response website to get what he wants done - he does it all from his Community Plasmoid. Application intercommunication.

People shouldn't need to have 10 different accounts with 10 different services to get the most out of the community. They should be able to have one place for their settings and status (with full control over this information) and have this information used wherever they need it, whether it be SVN, mail-lists, Community Plasmoid, kde-look.org, KDE forums, etc.

The next question is, how do you plan on accomplishing this goal? Well, over at the #kde-www IRC channel we're discussing this. We've got people on board who are willing to help overhaul KDE's websites and bring them up to date - but we always need more people. We have plans to switch to a CMS system to make it easier for everyone to help keep content up to date. Also, we are planning to have an IRC meeting soon to further discuss all these issues and opportunities. Anyone that is interested in any of this is most welcome to attend and give their input! =)

Ok. That was a massive brain dump. I hope you can make sense out of it. Let me know your thoughts on this. (I'm tired, so I apologise for mistakes in advance =D )

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Epic Fail. =(

This morning, my wife informed me that she was taking our laptop to work so she could show ~40 people a slideshow. The slideshow was just images so I gleefully showed her how Gwenview does slideshows. She liked how it looked and worked very much.

Anyway, she was going to use this laptop with an attached projector so she could ensure everyone could see the slideshow. I told her to call me at work if she had any problems. I assumed that KDE/Kubuntu/Linux/Dbus/X/Whatever would make sure it would Just Work™.

Alas, 15 minutes before the presentation she rang me and described how she couldn't browse the external hard drive she was plugging in. Easy, it was an NTFS drive, the logfile on the system needed resetting because it had been un-safely unmounted.

5 minutes later she rang back because when plugging in the projector, it wouldn't show anything - just a 'No Signal' error. I took her through KDE's system settings and we tried configuring it with the 'Display' section. But everything I tried wouldn't work. None of the applications recognised that an external projector/screen had been plugged in. Also, none of the Function Keys worked. So holding down the 'Fn' key and pressing the 'CRT/LCD' key did absolutely nothing.

In the end, she had to try and find another laptop to do the job - something with Ms Windows. Which worked straight away.

I don't know where the blame lies for this, my hunch is Xrandr. Or is it the KDE implementation of it? Also, why didn't my Function keys work? =(

Either way, my wife went to work with an operating system and desktop environment that she expected to do what she wanted without any hassles. It failed her when she needed it most and has damaged her already fragile confidence in open source software. This saddens me a lot - but, it also motivates me. We need to create an experience for the every day user that makes them head into their day brimming with confidence that their 'computer' will do everything they need - no questions asked.

It made me realise, as crappy and bloated as XP's desktop environment was - it worked when you needed it. Still does.

P.S. I'm aware that support by manufacturers for Ms Operating Systems helps this. While its 'unfair', it doesn't change the fact that it just works.

Just how hard is it for a manufacturer to include support for their monitor/projector product in the free desktop environment? What are the barriers?