GNOME visions: More needed

As a follow up to my people post:

I was pleased to be reminded how many people are already working in this direction, such as Gimmie’s People menu, gossip-telepathy, and Project Soylent. I’m not claiming to be original. I’m convinced that we can get this done technically, and that we can get it done faster by encouraging people to work towards a coherent vision.

But this people thing is just one vision. Where are the others?

And I wonder, once someone has written these up sanely, how should we go about giving a plan an air of respectability? Can we brand a plan as official? I doubt that, but I think that’s OK. I’m sure we don’t need unanimous consent, but it would be nice to have some consensus, and it’s important to try to avoid clashing with alternatives if there are any. At the moment, I guess it would be enough for someone to just say “Here’s an XYZ plan for GNOME. Who’s thinks that would be good?” but maybe I’m being overly optimistic.

As always, I’m not under the illusion that anyone can make something happen by just saying it should happen. But a shared vision can make things more likely to happen.

11 thoughts on “GNOME visions: More needed

  1. Great posts… here is just a small brain dump.

    Maybe getting out a common statement/document ‘everyone’ agress to during GUADEC?
    That way you avoid “my oponion matters – but i have no clue” comments on maillinglists.
    The goal should be to influence what kind of projects people start/helps out. There is no way to force people, but they might be herded ;) . It’s OK to be vague :).

    Boostrap the discussion with a articles for Gnome journal(?) discussing the future vision/above statement? I would suggest concentrating on User features rather than architecture/language (Avoid this bigtime!). Let the masses figure out the implementation :)

    Organize something similar to this at GUADEC?
    http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/03/how_to_host_a_p.html

    It’s really great you pick this up.

  2. Are you just interested in thoughts about your so called “people thing” or about gnome in general?

    Gnome is supposed to be user friendly but in my opinion the interchange with the users should be better. An easy way to do that would be a poll directly on gnome.org asking what should be improved in the next release. (Well Done[ ] Speed [ ] Stability[ ] User Interface [ ] … Concerning {GnomeInGeneral, or, some parts, specified, via, a dropdown, menu}) After each release there should be a reset of the poll.
    Many users just complain about software and switch to alternatives instead of bothering bugzilla with them. You should offer a way for these non power users to participate.

    For the people thing you should add a way to group and/or tag them. It would be nice to (graphically) drag users into groups and then associate other tags with them. Searching for a photo delivers also users connected to it and the other way round. That would dramatically increase the user experiences because it would stop every app using it’s own tagging and sorting system.

  3. I’ve been thinking a bit lately on how I use contact lists, specifically how I use GAIM and how I would like to use a contact list. Seeing this post on planet it looks like a good opportunity to dump some of it. ;-)

    Background:

    I have a pretty long list of contacts, which I’ve tried to categorize as well as possible, but with just one group per person, it’s still a mess. Most of the people are grouped by where they live, but some are listed udner a school I attended, adn yet more are under they different companies. How I group them is mostly based on how I most often wants to find them, but there is a huge overlap here.

    I use the groups to scan for certain people, as in, “I’m going to that town, now who lives there?” or “Some of the people in my old school should see this”. That is, I’m often scanning for certain people in a group without being certain who I’m looking for before I find them. At the same time I’m not talking about being able to send a bulk message to all of them, usually it’s still just one or two I end up contacting in the end.

    I have the contact list open *often*, as in almost always. Here the groups help me easily identify who’s who of the people I don’t speak as much to. In all honesty, this is a waste though. If I don’t know instantly, I usually don’t want to talk to them anyway other than in special cases. :) Still, GAIM wants me to see these people unless I put them in groups that I close. Which means I effectively would need to sort out the majority of the people, or close all groups except a “best friends” one.

    Ok, so how do I want it then?

    Not sure, but I think something on these lines. Instead of groups and online/all buddies, I’d like to be able to set multiple groups (the famous tags) on people. Then, I’d like to mark some buddies as friends, or otherwise special.

    The default mode of my contact list would be to show my friends only. These are the people I normally talk to and don’t need to group. Then I can select a group in some easy way, not by typing a search (though that could exist too). This would bring up all the people who, say, live in a certain town according to my grouping. And I’d like a simple online/all toggle *button* (not menu dammit stupid GAIM!).

    I think this would cover all my use cases:
    * easily see who is online of my common contacts/friends.
    * easily find someone online or not in a town, company, school etc

    Of course, a search searching say town data about the contact is fine too, but cumbersome and more unreliable.

    I leave it up to others to draw up actual UIs, but I thought I’d offer my very incoherent thoughts on the matter… I think this is one area that has stagnated almost completely when it comes to the common programs and I think it could be done much better.

    As an extra feature, I’d think it’s be nice to be notified when someone who has not been online in a long time shows up – in *many* cases this is someone you are happy to finally see again, and otherwise it might be a contact you should remove. ;-)

  4. Steve, polls are not a good way to decide direction or to assess the quality of particular releases. Everybody wants everything now. Yes, bugzilla isn’t perfect, but it is full of data. Your general poll is not as bad as feature polls, which lead to uncoordinated checkbox feature planning, but it still isn’t likely to produce useful results. I’m interested in how the _developers_ express what they want to achieve. We are not short of user feedback.

    Yes, a general metadata system would be useful. I hope we can keep that orthogonal to the people thing though.

  5. At the risk of making a fool of myself:
    I feel like the title of this blog post expresses the problem pretty acutely. It’s been widely agreed upon by both academics such as Yochai Benkler and Steven Weber and industry figures like IBM and Intel that open source has valuable advantages as a model of distributed production but opinions are more divided on it’s merits for innovation in particular. While I want to agree with someone like Eric von Hippel or really any number of people who are quite firmly behind this idea I’m not sure that I can right now. There are a number of reasons this could be occurring. One is that an infrastructure which would sufficiently lower transaction costs between people who generate ideas and people who implement ideas doesn’t exist. That seems pretty unlikely although open source does admittedly have a bit of a “have some code\prototype it” mindset. The second idea (which I feel makes more sense) is that we’re not really sure what we think desktop 2.0\3.0 is\should look like. Similar to the vague notions of total redesign that have been associated with Topaz for some time now there isn’t a grounded single vision on what the killer app or feature would be that would make Gnome 3 so different. We have ideas about whole new desktop paradigms where tagging and user interfaces are concerned but little in the way of realities. Certainly if everyone leaped behind Macslow (Mirco) and lowfat and started plugging away we could come up with some pretty crazy stuff. Or compiz and telepathy or metisse or some things similar to what SymphonyOS was\is up to. The problem seems to be that we aren’t sure what we want to do or what will actually be advantageous. Is the revolution supposed to be about ease of use or increased productivity\efficiency or some other factor not accounted for yet? You do have the right idea though. We might as well all get on the same page about it.

    Respectfully,
    Brit Butler

  6. I don’t see how polls can be bad. Polling is gives you general info and can validate/invalidate how well features are received. If GNOME wants to serve users better then GNOME should find a better ways to interact with large segments of the non-technical users and developers using GNOME as a platform.

    This would not mandate anything, of course, but it would give GNOME developers a better sense of where things are working and where they are not.

  7. I have to second Patrick, for sure a poll might not be representative for all users but it is better than nothing.

    There is no coherent vision among the developers how gnome should look like. Your “call for visions” on planet.gnome.org should become a “call for ideas and your personal vision” addressing every single user.

  8. 1) What happens is you a poll where people end up “voting as in elections” and expects the outcome to be a promise. which nobody delivers. Leading to conflict and frustration. Polls only bring people father away from each other – not closer.

    2) Those who vote on such a poll are _not_ those who should end up using the desktop. (Ie, 95% hackers vote, but our target isn’t primarily hackers?).

    What we need is a vision/goal/target where people 1) Tries to work in the same direction 2) Accepts that not every project is a great idea – that someone tried is still invaluable.

    Think of as bringing af company on the same track working together. The CEO jus’t cant proclaim “We do XYZ” – getting buy in from employees brings a much better result, since people end up working towards the same.

  9. However it would be done it’s a very good thing to get feedback from users. It is often surprising.

    Why would feedback necessarily be restricted to hackers? That’s exactly what you don’t want (i.e. only hackers feedback).

    Speaking of vision/goal/target, here is what I think would be a killer feature: 1-click install for the latest gtk (or whatever) development source. I think Linux developers are the most patient humans on the planet. I just want to get a project on my machine, to be able to build it and start hacking. I don’t care where it defaults. I don’t want to individually download dependencies. I don’t want to tweak anything. I just want to install it, build it (for sanity), and start hacking. It’s fantastic to be able to customize how everything happens but it’s not so great to be forced to.

  10. You’re wrong about shared visions in a way. In undirected foss community that means driving towards concensus and being average. It shows from the previous results: average. Plain average.

    Nice idea, to gather visions and all.. But it’s doomed. For organizational and cultural reasons.

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