Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Labyrinth experience

During the last weeks I've been trying to conduct a small experiment on how global volunteer organizations like SugarLabs can cater for the needs of individuals around the world.

All started when Sebastian Silva from Peru suggested in the olpc-sur mailing list that the GNOME application Labyrinth could serve as a good base for a Sugar activity for mind mapping. Teachers in Uruguay, Peru and Panama had been asking for a long time for such a tool, and some people were experimenting with web-based apps, java ports, etc. Labyrinth is a good match for this job because it's written in pygtk as Sugar is, so it's in the category of easiest apps to sugarize.

The experiment is running well and teachers are trying the software, giving some feedback (though not as extensive and detailed as developers would like, we need to work more in this direction) and other people are showing interest in maintaining and further developing the activity. Right now, two people have offered their help: Rafael Ortiz from Colombia and Gary C. Martin from Scotland and I need to make sure that they find fun ways to be useful to the end users.

So the next steps are:
  • further develop the relationship with the teachers (thanks Greg Smith for your awesome presentation on this, slides here),
  • further involve interested individuals like Rafael and Gary,
  • work with the original GNOME project so we can share as much code as possible and we can join forces in improving Labyrinth for all its kinds of users,
  • establish the translation workflow.
Right now teachers are suggesting names for the mind mapping activity, so this is one more chance for them to feel that are part of this effort. A critical item, as only if we get the best feedback they can give, we'll be able to maximize the usefulness of our efforts.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

SugarCamp Nov 08 (Part I)

Some notes about my memories of the SugarCamp of last week. You can see the schedule and many presentations in, and hopefully video recordings will appear soon in the wiki as well.

Monday Nov 17th

Launch day, people got to meet each other (in most cases for the first time) and that's maybe the number one hit of this SugarCamp. I realized that many talented people are interested in getting involved with the Sugar community and that must mean something. Not only I got reassured by that show of support, but also got inspired by the different ways that people think that they can put Sugar to work for them.

Later that day Mel organized a hackathon that brought about a dozen people getting the taste of some real Sugar. Most spent that time getting a development environment up and running, others were already experienced Sugar hackers and worked on their stuff, others like Marco and me wandered around answering questions but we also had newcomers doing real stuff that we hope can be integrated in the Sugar sources soon.

Tuesday Nov 18th

The day started with an awesome presentation by Collabora's Guillaume Desmottes about the current collaboration architecture in Sugar and what he thinks we should work on for the next one or two releases. This last part clarified many doubts I had and sounded like a very good plan for most (all?) non-OLPC deployments. OLPC has some very specific use cases and Scott Ananian would talk about it at a later session.

OLE's talk interested me not only because of the possibilities of Sugar facilitating the use of their software to teachers and content creators and consumers, but also because of their model for working together with local organizations, something that SugarLabs really needs.

Later followed some open discussion about how to make Sugar a better content browser and reader. Check out the minutes here.

Then we had some more discussion about the future of the collaboration stack in Sugar. I would summarize it as having both lots of hard work to do and a bright future to share. Guillaume talked more about how we are going to improve the scalability of our jabber-based backend, some new features to be added like avatars and file transfer, how scalability will be further improved by clients being able to directly talk via p2p tubes, and more. Resara's Brendan Powers talked about how they plan to deploy Sugar in thin clients setup and their collaboration model. Check out the presentation and the minutes in the SugarLabs' wiki.

To close a hard day full of very interesting stuff, Yama shared his powerful (and fun!) ideas about how global organizations like SugarLabs and OLPC can better work with people in the field, specially teachers.

After dinner we got to hear a report on Michael Stone and Chris Ball trip to Uruguay. I found a bit disappointing that Chris talked very little, as I find his interventions interesting, understandable and to the point. OLPC has many hard issues to solve in Uruguay (and in the rest of their deployments) and they will need all the help they can get to succeed.

Though on the schedule, we didn't got to talk about SugarLabs' and OLPC relationship on that day, but we would talk later in the week.

To really end for that day, we had a long and heated discussion on Scott's plans on collaboration for the use cases that OLPC cares most about. Check out the minutes and expect further details from the OLPC folks as they work further on this.

More to follow soon...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A blog's birth

Sugar's marketing team wants us Sugar developers to blog, so I thought I may be able to get something in exchange if I acted fast. And that's how Greg has agreed on taking XoIRC maintenance and releasing some patches I had floating around.

So expect some noise about SugarLabs here, at least for as long as I manage to get people from the marketing team to do stuff I actually care about ;)