Increasing Ecosystem Co-operation

community, freesoftware, General, gnome, marketing, work 5 Comments

Reposting from Neary Consulting: This is an article accompanying the presentation I gave at MAPOS 08 in London on December 9th 2008.

Moving the Mobile industry from purchasing to co-development in free software communities

Recently, Matt Aslett wrote an article about the way that attitudes to free software evolve over time within a company, using a graphic he got from the Eclipse Foundation, based on some Nortel funded research. Software sneaks in on the ground floor, going from simple use of components to a real understanding of community-driven development, resulting, long-term, in building free software projects and strategies.

Matt sees an evolution in attitudes as the software and its value is discovered at different levels of the organisation, before finally the business development side of the company picks up the ball and drives free software into the heart of the company’s product strategy.

I have also seen this learning process in action, but I would express it differently. People discover the value of the freedoms granted by free software one by one, more or less independently of their level in an organisation – exploring each freedom before discovering its limitations, and thus discovering the value of the next freedom, and qualifying for the next level.

The core freedoms  in the Free Software Definition which are granted to the user of free software are:

  1. Freedom to use
  2. Freedom to modify
  3. Freedom to share, freedom to redistribute
  4. Freedom to participate

As companies start to integrate free software components into their products, they discover the value of these freedoms one by one.

Use

The first thing that people see about free software is FREE! As in zero cost. The days when companies reject a product out of hand because they don’t have to pay for it are gone – Linux, OpenOffice.org, Apache, Red Hat and a plethora of other “free” products have proven themselves in the marketplace, and companies are now prepared to allow free software components into their solutions, after appropriate consideration of the licences involved.

To quote one attendee at MAPOS 08, “why would I want to write a compression library, when I can download the best one in the world from zlib.org?” In the area of specialised components for secure communications, compression/decompression, a commodity kernel, and a bunch of other situations, it is appropriate to use free software components off-the-shelf. We expect them to work, and we don’t expect to ever need to talk to the maintainer.

Free software components are in use like this in thousands of systems solutions and commercial products, often without their authors even being aware of it. The main advantage of this for a systems or product company is a saving of time and money, through having a fully functional component without having to go through a purchasing process, and a reduced software bill of materials. An additional advantage is the simplification of your licensing due diligence, thanks to the relatively well-understood consequences of the various popular free software licences.

The difficulty arises when the software doesn’t meet your needs. In many cases, libraries are written by an individual to scratch an itch – it works for him, but is not quite up to your requirements. As one friend of mine put it: “Open Source: 80% as good as the last guy needed it to be”.

Perhaps it’s software that works on 32 bit platforms, but has never been tested for 64 bit. Perhaps it has not been ported to ARM or MIPS. Or perhaps the author simply never imagined that anyone would want the feature which you find indispensable.

In this situation, you can always ask the software author to write the feature or fix the bug for you – but since there is no client/supplier relationship between you, it is entirely reasonable for a volunteer to put your request on the long finger, or reject it outright.

At this point, you realise the value of having the source code – you can modify the software to meet your needs, or pay someone else to do it for you.

Modify

Being able to modify software that doesn’t quite meet your needs is amazing. This is the way things used to work by default, but the shrink-wrapped software revolution of the 1980s got everyone used to the idea that software was a valuable asset to be protected from public view at all costs. When I worked for Informix in the late ’90s, we used to refer to the source code of our leading product as “the crown jewels”.

With the widespread acceptance of free software as an alternative, developers are no longer surprised when they may see how a program works, and change its behaviour. This ability brings two important and immediate benefits – you have control of the behaviour of the software, and you can adapt it to suit exactly your needs. The old choice of build vs buy has become: build vs buy vs extend.

This situation is common in software services companies which provide vertically integrated “solutions” to corporate clients. You take components where you can find them to speed up initial development, stick everything together with duct-tape, hack whatever you need in whatever libraries you’re using to make everything pass the client’s integration tests, and then publish a set of .tar.gz files somewhere on the website of the company to fulfil any licensing requirements.

This control and ability to tailor a solution comes at a price, however. Over and above the cost of making the changes, your team is lumbered with a maintenance problem. Let’s say that implementing the features you need on top of a component the first time round takes a month. Fixing bugs in the features when it has been rolled out can take another few weeks. A few months later, the upstream product you’re based on goes and releases a shiny new version, with lots of compelling new features that you really want.

The cost of integrating your features into the newer version, and doing extensive regression testing before rolling out the new version, might take you another 6 weeks. It is not unusual for time spent integrating your work into later versions to quickly outweigh initial development time and investment. Inconveniently, this is typically effort which is not budgeted for beforehand.

After a company has run into this problem a couple of times, over the course of a year or two, someone will usually suggest that you propose that the features you have developed be sent upstream to the projects you work with – if the feature is accepted, you have solved your maintenance problem, it will be in all future releases of the project, and all of that tricky integration work and regression testing work will get done upstream, as part of normal maintenance.

Redistribute

And so you tell your star hacker Jack that he has two weeks to get your 5,000 line patch down to manageable size by getting your work integrated upstream. (when I said this at MAPOS, no-one laughed – so maybe this does not sound as ridiculous as I thought it did).

He diligently goes to work, cleaning up his code, getting rid of all the warnings, spliting up the big diff into small manageable chunks, creating accounts in 10 different bug trackers, signing up to a dozen mailing lists, creating 47 bugs with terse descriptions, attaching proposed bug fixes, and for major features he sends email telling people that the feature is there and asking for review.

By the end of a frantic month, two weeks more than he was given, he reckons that if everything he’s submitted is accepted, your 5,000 patch will be down to a more manageable 2,000 line patch.

What happens next is… underwhelming.

Major features and bug fixes lie unreviewed for weeks or months. Those that are reviewed need changes which take time and effort. Some patches are rejected outright because they’re too big and the feature is difficult to review.

A post mortem analysis of the project of “giving back to the community” might identify some of the following conclusions:

  • Not enough time and resources were devoted to advocating your changes upstream
  • Personal relationships between Jack and the project maintainers led to a much higher acceptance rate for patches and feature requests
  • The projects were initially evaluated on technical grounds, no thought was given to the developer community underpinning it
  • In some cases, maintainers priorities were ill-understood

There are two common conclusions that people make from this kind of analysis;

  1. It’s not worth it. They don’t want our work, and the time we’re spending is costing us more than maintaining out-of-tree patches
  2. Perhaps if you had engaged with the projects before modifying them heavily, or had been regularly sending contributions, that the maintainers would have been more encouraging, and might have been more prepared to consider your work. If someone from your company was a maintainer or committer already, you would have had a valuable short-cut to getting your agenda implemented in the upstream project.

If you choose door number 1, you will go no further in your quest to really understanding free software processes. This is a reasonable thing to do, but the costs involved are often miscalculated. In addition, the benefits of influencing upstream projects are often vastly underestimated.

If you choose door number 2, you have concluded, in short, that it is madness to include a component in one of your products and exert no influence with upstream projects.

Participate

To have influence, you must understand how the community around a project works. Someone within the team must become an active, trusted member of the community. Once they have gained the trust of the community through their contributions, there may be some procedure to follow for them to become a maintainer of the project, or to gain commit privileges.

These considerations are not technical, for the most part. Friendship and trust are fuzzy human concepts. And this more than anything else brings me to my final point.

Community is hard

For a start, every community is different. They all have different people, different behavioural norms, different dynamics, different forums for communication.

GNOME Mobile architecture

Taking GNOME Mobile as an example, there are 18 projects in the GNOME Mobile platform, with another 10 or so in incubation. Within that, we have a large number of projects housed on gnome.org, and governed by our rules, procedures and conventions. And yet each project has its own set of maintainers – GTK+ is maintained by a committee of around 10 people, EDS is maintained principally by Novell employees, gtkmm has one core maintainer, and so on.

On top of this are a number of freedesktop.org projects, and a couple more which are not under either of these umbrellas. To be an effective influencer of GNOME Mobile, you need to learn the culture of over 20 projects, of wildly varying sizes and baggage.

There are a number of issues to bear in mind when you approach a free software community for the first time. The main one is that while the vast majority of projects think that they are welcoming people with open arms and are very welcoming, if you are a stranger to their land, it is very likely that you will be getting exactly the opposite message.

In some cases, the extent of the welcome is “go and read wiki page telling people how to contribute to the project”. In other cases, no wiki page exists. Occasionally, you will be told that you’re asking your question on the wrong mailing list, or in the wrong way, or that you should read the relevant documentation first. It is not unusual for people to answer questions with a very terse answer – perhaps a link to a mailing list discussion or web-page where the answer can be found.

In general, all of these things are intended to fulfil a simple goal – get you the information you want as quickly as possible, in a way that wastes the time of people already in the project as little as possible. An admirable goal indeed, but as a newcomer, this is not how people are used to being welcomed. Eric Raymond wrote extensively about this in his essay “How to ask questions the smart way”.

Indeed, one of the hardest things to do as an outsider looking in is to evaluate when a community is healthy and viable, and when it has problems which will prevent you from working effectively in partnership. Few resources which talk about healthy free software community projects exist – “Producing Open Source Software”, by Karl Fogel, is something of a bible on the subject, and should be required reading for anyone considering investing in free software. I have also found some presentations, including Simon Phipps’s 2006 OSCon keynote “The Zen of Free” and “How Open Source Projects Survive Poisonous People” by Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick, to be excellent resources in helping identify traits of what makes up a healthy community. Two other useful papers which include metrics on measuring the openness of a community, including its governance model, are Pia Waugh’s “The Foundations of Openness” and François Druel’s Ph.D. Thesis (in French) “Évaluation de la valeur à l’ère du Web ” (PDF – rough translation: “Measuring value in the era of the Web”).

Some of the considerations when evaluating a community are whether there is clear leadership, whether that leadership is an individual, a group, or a company, how the leaders are chosen (if they are chosen), what technological and social barriers to participating in the project exist, whether the community processes are documented and transparent, what recourse one has if one feels badly treated, what the behavioural norms of the community are (and whether they are documented) – the list goes on. Pia’s paper in particular gives a great overview in the section “Open Governance”.

Call to arms

And so I close with a call to arms to both free software communities, and companies planning on developing an “open source strategy”.

First, developers, document your communities. Think of yourselves as guides, explaining the cultural quirks of your country to a newly arrived immigrant. Be explicit. In addition to explaining where and how your community works, document how one gains trust and responsibility. Ensure that a newcomer can learn quickly what he needs to do to become a citizen and from there a project maintainer. I am not saying that it should be easy for someone to become a maintainer. What I am suggesting is that it should be easy to see how one becomes a maintainer before doing it

Next, project managers, software developers, company leaders: please, please, please – save yourself time and money and, when you reach the point where you will be building products which depend on good free software components, let the second thing that you do, right after a technical evaluation, be to evaluate the health of the community. A community where you can earn influence and guide the project to better meet your needs is a better long-term investment than betting on a slightly technically superior solution with an unhealthy governance model.

You are building products that you will be selling, supporting, and hopefully profiting from. In this situation, does it really make sense not to have the developer’s ear?

Busy December…

community, freesoftware, General, gnome, guadec, home, marketing, running 3 Comments

I’m going to have a busy busy month of December.

La Fête des Lumières

I’ve written about the Festival of Light in Lyon before, and it’s coming around again. I’m going to bring the boys into Lyon with over 1 million other people to walk around cold streets looking at light shows on some of Lyon’s best known landmarks. This year will be bigger than ever, with a €2 000 000 budget, and I have had a sneak preview of some of the installations from training runs on the riverbanks of the Rhône and in Parc de la Tête d’Or. The light shows are always interesting, sometimes a little arty, often spectacular. This year, I would like to bring everyone up to the top of Fourvière to have a view of the entire city.

MAPOS 08

First up, next week I’ll be in London to give a presentation at MAPOS (nothing to do with cartography), the Mobile Application Platforms in Open Source conference. My presentation is titled “Increasing Ecosystem Cooperation”, and will be at 15:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

I will talk about the need for companies building on free software to make mobile application platforms to work actively to develop that platform. I hope to get the message across that building on free software is not a client-supplier relationship, but is more like a research grant or R&D function.

Companies in this space are used to surveying the market, choosing the best solution, and then paying for it, so that some third party will keep improving it. The integrator model which many distributions use, of modifying the basic building blocks according to your needs, and sending changes up-stream after they have been developed, is an intermediate model, which has both positive and negative sides. But what we really need is an active co-development, with companies building on our platform investing R&D dollars into targeted co-operation across multiple companies, to address coherently a problem space (such as the needs of mobile platforms).

GNOME Foundation members are entitled to a 15% discount on registration, for those thinking of going.

Bibliothèque Municipal de Lyon

On the evening of the 12th, I will be participating with a panel including some people from Handicap International’s Centre icom which I visited a few weeks ago. I will be presenting GNOME’s accessibility capabilities to a seminar on Information Technology and Handicap both to show its power and also to advertise its freedom (philosophical and financial) compared to proprietary programs like Jaws.

Christmas run

On the 14th, I’ll be in Aix les Bains, running in the Corrida des Lumières with a bunch of my club-mates from the AAAL – since running 39’10 last month in a 10k, I’ve been hyped about running another competition. I’ve been training well, and Christmas runs are always fun with mulled wine & dinner afterwards.

GUADEC co-ordination

Along with Vincent Untz, I’ll be flying out to Las Palmas on the 15th (oh how life is hard) to meet with Alberto Ruiz (for GNOME), the Gran Canaria Cabildo (the local government), and the KDE eV board members co-ordinating the conference from their end. We’ll be testing out the cheaper hotel accommodation option for the conference (I hope there will also be a “very low budget” option like a youth hostel or a campsite), meeting with local volunteers, and resolving the major issues we need to work out before we ramp up the next phase of the organisation – gathering and scheduling conference content.

Judo

Thomas started Judo this year, and he loves it. I have stayed around after bringing him a couple of times, and the warm-up they do is certainly fun, but challenging. On the 17th of December, Thomas will be having his end-of-year competition, the first time he’ll be in a Judo competition. It’s a bit of fun, really – and yet I hope that introducing an aspect of competition into the activity doesn’t in some way ruin it for him.

Christmas skiing

As usual, Christmas will be on the 25th of December this year. Last year we were in Ireland, but this year we’re going to celebrate with just the family, and the kids will get to wake up in their own beds.  On the 27th, Anne, the kids and myself are going to go into the Alps to meet up with the rest of her family for a week. We’re hopefully going to get in some skiing, go walking in the woods, eat too much, drink too much, and be very merry indeed. It’ll be my second time celebrating the new year in the mountains, and with the cold & the snow it feels like Christmas in the films. I love it.

Go

When Lefty wrote about trying to get a particular type of brush in Japan,the intricacy of the detail of the story made me think of Go. Go is an ancient game with a small number of simple rules, which result in a game of deep complexity and beauty, and a handicap system which allows unevenly matched players to play competitive games.

It is a game steeped in the kind of tradition that Lefty talks about – professional Go tournaments are played on goban cut from a particular type of rare wood, with white stones made from the carved and polished shells of a specific type of clam, gathered on a single beach in Japan, and the black stones being made from slate mined in a single mine. The Go board is elongated, just enough to make it appear square when you are sitting in front of it, and the size of the black and white stones are slightly different, to compensate the visual impression of white stones appearing larger.

I’m back playing regularly (mostly, unfortunately, with GNU Go, who is more than a match for me on bigger boards) and have taught Thomas the basics. He’s caught on surprisingly rapidly – he’s up to the stage where he can beat me in a 9×9 game with 4 stones. Go is a very intuitive, rather than analytical, game, and some of the key concepts like influence, “good shape”, life and death are quite abstract, making it a game that children can “get” quicker than adults.

I’ve also found parallels between the ebb and flow of a Go game and free market economics. The core principle that the goal is not to kill your enemy, but simply to reduce his territory while protecting yours through strategically placing your stones to create influence and strength, matches closely my ideas of how markets work.

Phew! That’s a lot of “stuff”.

Things to learn for GNOME?

gnome, marketing 7 Comments

Having made a donation previously to Medecins Sans Frontieres, I occasionally receive mail from them solliciting donations. After one year when I didn’t give anything, I received a letter asking if I was unhappy with MSF and the work they were doing, with a detailed presentation of their major actions, and today, just in time for the end of the year, I received another mailing asking if I wanted to give again this year.

The entire mailing fascinated me, especially their donation form.

Medecins sans Frontieres

Medecins sans Frontieres

There was a bunch of stuff I found interesting about this. The letter emphasised that MSF gets very little public funding, and that 99.6% of its funding comes from private benefactors. I got a small glossy newsletter highlighting some of the most important work the organisation has done over the year, and on the donation form itself, there is a suggested amount of €200, which I thought was a bit high. But beside it, they talk about what they can do with that, and how much the donation will really cost you if you pay taxes (and most people do) – in short, if you give €100 to MSF, you’re actually giving them €25 of your own money, and €75 which you would otherwise be paying in taxes.

In other words, they simultaneously speak to your heart and your pocket. Nice work. In addition, they include a postage-paid envelope for you to return your donation. It’s as easy as write a cheque, put it in an envelope, post, done. Having to address the envelope and search for a stamp are barriers to donations, so they take them away.

They also include a brochure for their line of Christmas cards – another money-maker which is also free viral marketing for them. Every occasion is good for raising money for a good cause.

While the GNOME Foundation and MSF are very different organisations, I think there are lessons to learn for the foundation across the board here. We need to keep track of former donors and remind them why they gave, what we’re doing, and ask them to give again. We need to make it as easy as possible, within our means, for them to give. And we need to elaborate the value proposition: what do we do with the money, what good work are you supporting?

These are all things which we’ve been doing, or have done partially, in the past, but seeing all of the steps put together in a simple, nice package really brought home to me how much we need to leverage our donors – they’re people who believe so much in us that they’ve given money, and they can be our best ambassadors.

Jerry Maguire on the future of the free software industry

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[Reposted from my professional site]

Suddenly, it was all clear. The answer was fewer clients. Less money. Caring for them and caring for ourselves.

Jerry Maguire

“Fewer clients. Less money.” Sacrilege in a world where the goal is to grow the first billion dollar “open source vendor”. But that chimera that Matt Asay holds a torch for may never come. Free software has a lot of selling points – and the main one is that if your vendor is charging you too much money, you can find a different, smaller one who will charge you less.

That doesn’t mean that the originator of the software can’t make money – knowing the software better than anyone else, and being able to customise the software, is a pretty powerful selling point and a clear path to building a profitable small business.

As many commentators have said (and I agree), support is not a scalable business model. Other smaller, more agile, companies can start businesses around your product, gain expertise, become contributors to your project, and syphon off some of that yummy support and maintenance cash you’re hunting for.

But so what? Free software doesn’t get developed like proprietary software, why should the free software industry look like the proprietary software industry?

Here’s my vision of the future: Smaller businesses. Each with fewer, happier clients. Less money. Lots of them, all over the world.

GNOME at JDLL 2008

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It’s been a quiet day in GNOMEland here in Lyon. Not too many people around the JDLLs this year – hopefully things will be more lively tomorrow, and some lessons will be learned for the organisation for next year.

I finally got some A1 & A2 posters printed up that look very nice, if I may say so myself – special credit to artists & contributors andreasn, mizmo & zagorskid for the material.

Fredp, looking zen, at JDLL 08 in Lyon

Fredp, looking zen, at JDLL 08 in Lyon

Along with some “Why choose GNOME?” hand-outs, a Nokia N810, Nokia N800, a couple of laptops, and fredix, Dodji fredp and myself, the stand is looking not too shabby – could be better, could be worse. Tomorrow Dodji will be gone, but vuntz will be here.

New maemo.org community logo

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As part of the judging panel for the maemo.org logo contest (along with Peter Schneider, Tim Samoff and David Greaves) I had the daunting task of choosing the winner from the long list of entries to the maemo.org contest. There were 62 people who submitted logos for consideration, and a total of around 120 logos to choose from (excluding variants of the same logo), we had our work cut out for us.

In the end, we went for  this logo from glaolivier:

New maemo.org logo

The judges (that includes me!) liked the modernity of it, the clean typeface, the call-out to the current maemo.org colours, and the mixed metaphor of the a and e joined – infinity, a meeting of minds, and openness. And it was pretty. There are a bunch of single-colour and flat variants for things like monochrome print, t-shirts and so on.

Variants of maemo.org logo

We’re very happy with it, and we believe that everyone else will be too.

Live from OSCON

freesoftware, gnome, maemo, marketing, running 1 Comment

OSCON has been pretty cool this year so far. It’s been really weird, since I haven’t been in North America too often in the past, and this is my first ORA conference, to be meeting people I’ve exchanged email with for years in the corridors, and bumping into people that I’ve been hearing about for ages. There’s also a decent scattering of people I already knew, too. Far too many to name individually without leaving people out & insulting somebody…

I arrived on Friday, and to help get over jet-lag, I decided to go out for an hour-long run. After losing all sense of orientation, and going North when I thought I was going East, that ended up being a 2 hour run.  Which was nice.

Over the weekend, the FLOSS Foundations group met, and we talked about lots of stuff – accounting, membership, CRM & donor management software that non-profits can use (there isn’t any that works well enough), merging foundations, and how umbrella foundations work (targeted funding, etc), best practices for dealing with donors (big and small), merchandising, CLAs, trademark policies, and a really interesting discussion on university outreach, the creation, aggregation & distribution of open course materials and university outreach.

All in all, a very valuable 2 days.

On Monday, I attended OMX, the first edition of the Open Mobile Exchange. Myself & Paul Cooper stepped in at the last minute to give a tag-team presentation on GNOME Mobile which went, to my mind, very well. Having 2 people was great, because it meant that all of the things we wanted to say got said (usually I end up being quite non-linear and saying “oh, earlier, I forgot to mention…”, with Paul that didn’t happen). There was a decent amount of GNOME Mobile presence in any case – Jim Zemlin had nice things to say about us, and Jenny Minor from Vernier and Lefty Schlessinger from Access gave presentations from the perspective of a device manufacturer and a platform developer.

Tuesday was a quiet day for me – finally got to have quality phone time with Anne, and attended the Maemo sprint meeting on IRC before eating with Stormy – we talked about a couple of cool things I’ve been working on for the past two days that I hope to be able to announce in the next few days.

All in all, a great conference, social & work merged, mixed, mashed, and with a spot of early-morning running & Tour de Francing.Happy happy joy joy.

Tonight: RedMonk beer tastes Good.

To stir or not to stir?

gnome, humour, libre graphics meeting, maemo, marketing 5 Comments

That is the question…

I am honoured to have become the latest GNOME personality to catch the eye of Sam Varghese.

Sam feels I was unfair in my characterisation of him as a “shock jock”. He may be right… he says himself that the definition of a shock jock is “a slang term used to describe a type of radio broadcaster (sometimes a disc jockey) who attracts attention using humor (sic) that a significant portion of the listening audience may find offensive.” Clearly, since Sam’s not funny, I was unfair. Sorry Sam.

I take issue with Sam’s massive leap (which reminds me of when my maths professors used to say “obviously it follows…” at the end of complicated theorems) when he says that I “have to fight the perception that any of [our] major sponsors is making nice noises to the other camp”.

First, as I have told Sam on numerous occasions when he contacts us for answers to leading questions, we do not think of KDE as “the other camp”. Second, Mark Shuttleworth doesn’t exactly avoid a perception that he’s a fan of KDE. Later in the same article, he says that he thinks that KDE have got a nice rate of development going, and are driving innovation better than GNOME. He’s the first top-paying member of KDE eV, which is roughly the same amount of money annually as Canonical gives to GNOME.

And Mark’s not alone. Nokia are sponsors of both Akademy and GUADEC, as well as investing heavily in both GNOME (through Maemo) and QT (and paying the wages of some KDE developers).

What Sam has trouble understanding is that I have an issue with sloppy journalism. I like the KDE developers, we get on well, and I’ve done a lot of work bridging gaps between projects – whether it be through the organisation of Libre Graphics Meeting or FOSTEL, or my participation in the FLOSS Foundations group, or the numerous conversations I have with KDE board members about any number of subjects (including Akademy & GUADEC colocating).

So when Sam sets me up as a shill, or as someone who has a problem with KDE (or considers them competitors) he’s ignoring a body of evidence that suggests otherwise. But then, with Sam, that’s par for the course.

Off to OSCon

gnome, maemo, marketing, work 2 Comments

I only just got home Friday evening, and after a weekend with the family, and 3 working days this week, I’m off again to OSCon, for the first time. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing some familiar faces :) I’m currently posting this blog entry (which I wrote on the airport) in room 640 of the Doubletree (anyone who’s reading this & wants to grab a bite tonight, ring me at +33 677 019 213).

On Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be helping run the FLOSS Foundations meeting, then on Monday I’ll be helping out a bit with the Open Mobile Exchange day. I may take Tuesday as a relaxing/working day before the conference proper, where I’ll be giving the State of GNOME lightning talk on Thursday morning.

My main reason for going to OSCon, though, is to meet people who might be interested in availing of my consulting services. As someone who’s recently set up shop, but who has worked with free software communities for many years, I feel I’m well positioned to help companies save money by working better with communities they depend on. It benefits everyone.

My services go from presentations to managers & directors, training of developers in the dynamics of a given community and how best to work with them, to on-site consulting on specific issues like free software governance, community management and integrating free software best practises into your development team.

The transition from closed shop to free software participant is complex, and often underestimated. I can help make it easier.

I don’t much like banging my own drum on my syndicated blog, but I figure that I don’t do it very often, so… if you need someone like this, drop me a line.

Live from RMLL

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I’m coming to the end of my two days in Mont de Marsan (and, as it happens, to the end of the charge in my laptop battery). I think the GNOME Accessibility presentation I gave went very well, certainly people seemed to get a lot from it. I’ll put my slides online at some stage (before the weekend), and I was filmed, when I have a link to the video I’ll throw that up too.

As usual, the great thing about conferences is meeting old friends, and making new ones, and there are a lot of familiar faces around.

One thing that did come out of my presentation is the need for those storyboards I proposed a while back. In particular, I tripped up when demoing Orca (no real plan to show off its functionality, other than turning on TTS, and “doing stuff”, then turning on magnification, and “doing stuff”, etc…), Dasher (it’d be handy to have a few phrases to type rather than coming up with something on the spot), and sticky & slow keys.

I hit a few problems with the keyboard a11y. When I had both sticky & slow keys activated, I got double letters (I’m sure it was a configuration issue, but anyway…). And when I used the keyboard shortcut to navigate to the top bar, I hit two bugs – if I open a menu in the top menubar, I can’t navigate away with the keyboard (Ctrl-Alt-Tab doesn’t work any more), and I can’t navigate to the notification area with the keyboard. And I got some comments on MouseTweaks (“we need a way to temporarily disable it for times when you’re reading a document or a web page, for example”) and Dasher (“not really suitable for certain classes of users” – I’ll try to get more information).

Yesterday’s presentation “Building bridges” went less well – it was a dry run for my GUADEC presentation, and I’ve taken away 3 or 4 good ideas for improvements. But like all the English presentations here, attendance was poor – I have about 10 or 12 attendees. And at 9am this morning, there was one person who turned up for my presentation in English on accessibility in GNOME – lucky enough, since when I tested my laptop with the projector, I had a bunch of problems! Many thanks to Claude Paroz, who helped me identify the problem (old driver + options which were necessary in Ubuntu 6.06 and 7.04, but have since been deprecated) and the solution (dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg). My laptop works with projectors! Yay!

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