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 Much of the information is out of date or obsolete and some websites haven't been updated in years.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 )