DX Hackfest

Last week I participated in the 2014 Developer Experience Hackfest. It was a great event – it’s so useful to spend time focusing on this important area, and it was an invaluable opportunity to move existing work forward and agree on plans. We should definitely ensure that we have a developer experience event every year.

My personal priority for the event was to plan the future of GTK+, particularly so that it supports the GNOME 3 application designs we have. We have come a long way in this area, but there are a few outstanding design patterns that aren’t fully supported by the toolkit. Adding support for these will not only make it easy for people to create GNOME 3 style applications, but it will also enable us to publish a new version of the HIG.

During the hackfest we spent an afternoon reviewing GTK+ support for the various application designs we have, and identified the priority items that we need to take care of. We seem to have a clear plan in this area now (more details on this to come). I’m really happy that people have signed up to work on the most important tasks. Hopefully we will have support for all the key application design patterns in the not too distant future, which will enable an initial version of a GNOME 3 HIG to be published.

Another area I spent a bit of time on during the hackfest was developer documentation. I worked with Kat and Dave to clean up the material on developer.gnome.org, and I did a bit of tidying of the platform overview. This work should tie in with the advances we’re making on API reference documentation.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Chris Kühl and Endocode for hosting the hackfest. They have a great space, and were very hospitable hosts. Many thanks also to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring the event – many of the participants would not have been able to attend without this support.





GNOME Developer Experience Hackfest, 2014 Edition

I’m about to travel to Berlin, to attend the 2014 GNOME Developer Experience Hackfest. We have about 22 confirmed participants, with a nice spread of expertise from both GTK+ to developer documentation.

Last year we had a great Developer Experience Hackfest in February, and the hope is that we can keep this going by having a similar event every year. Developer experience is important, and we want to keep focusing on making it really easy for people to make applications for GNOME.

It is a significant time for the GNOME developer experience right now. GTK+ has been getting a lot of major improvements, and our application developer platform is improving in general. People are working hard in this area, and the result of that work is beginning to show. There are still some rough edges and missing pieces, of course, and I’m hopeful that we can use this event to coordinate, plan, and gather momentum to get deal with those.

Huge thanks to Endocode (particularly Chris Kühl) for providing the venue for the hackfest, and to the GNOME Foundation for sponsorship. Expect updates as the event unfolds.

Help Me! (Yet another docs hackfest blog post.)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to sit down and do some work with the awesome GNOME docs team on a number of occasions, but something always seemed to get in the way. So I was really happy to be able to spend three days with them at this week’s documentation hackfest.

One of the things I looked at during the hackfest was the design of Yelp, our help application. Shaun McCance and I talked about how we can make it more consistent with our other GNOME 3 style applications, and we’ve also been working on designs for an improved “start screen” – so that the content of the help browser looks more engaging.

Help Start Screen

Documentation isn’t always about “help”. To me, our documentation is an opportunity to let people learn about the functionality we provide, to master tips and tricks that will help them be more productive, and find out about the cool new features that have recently been added. As work progresses on the help, I hope that these other aspects of the documentation start to come through more strongly.

The hackfest also gave me an opportunity to participate in some interesting discussions about developer documentation. Documentation is obviously an important part of the GNOME application developer experience, and is something that we really need to improve if we want to stimulate the creation of great applications for GNOME. These conversations generated some pretty cool ideas about how to quickly create helpful developer documentation, and how to tie our existing documentation together in a more cohesive way. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to take those ideas forward in the coming weeks and months.

Many thanks to the University of East Anglia for providing a great venue. The Ziggurats are awesome.

Telling GNOME’s Story

The 2013 GNOME Marketing hackfest finished yesterday. We did many things over the course of the three day event: we updated the design of the website, discussed new outreach initiatives and planned how to clean up the marketing wiki pages. But our main focus was the development of a clear story for the GNOME Project. We spent a long time talking about why GNOME is important and how we think that contributors think and feel about what they do.

We refined and defined these ideas, pulled them together to form an integrated identity, and started the work of translating them into text and pictures with which they can be communicated.

While GNOME has not had a clearly articulated story in the past, I believe that we do have compelling aspirations. If you look around our project, you will see a lot of highly motivated and passionate people. They find GNOME inspiring, not just because of the technologies that the project produces, but also because of its wider mission and ways of working.

Our job in marketing is to distill these ideas about GNOME into something that can be easily communicated to the outside world, and to ensure that our messaging is consistent enough to make us familiar and recognisable. Over the coming weeks we will be continuing this work and will be presenting it to the rest of the project for feedback, comment and further development.
Continue reading Telling GNOME’s Story

DX Hackfest: Developer Documentation

The GNOME Developer Experience hackfest wrapped up a couple of days ago. It was definitely one of the best GNOME hackfests that I have attended. There were lots of people there with diverse affiliations (Canonical, Suse, Lanedo, Collabora, Red Hat, the Linux Foundation…), who were all extremely focused and keen to work together.

The high attendance at the event meant that we were able to break into four groups, each of which focused on a different area of the developer experience: application definition, toolkit, documentation, and tools. A discussion at the beginning of the event and regular catch-up sessions ensured that we were all on the same page and working towards a common vision.

I spent most of my time as a part of the documentation group. Together we worked on a number of aspects of developer documentation.

Fred Peters, Aleksander Morgado and Thomas Bechtold hacked on DevHelp and made good progress modernising its user interface. The new version should be easier to use and should look much nicer.

Jasper St Pierre worked hard updating our automated documentation generation tools, and seemed to make some excellent progress towards extending their coverage for introspectable languages, especially JavaScript.

Me, Meg Ford, Federico Mena Quintero and Jakub Steiner looked at the GNOME developer website. We created an updated design and identified documentation that was missing or needed updating. Our decision to focus on JavaScript really helped with this and enabled us to effectively update the website design, as well as write new tutorials for first time GNOME application developers.

The new website design that we developed had a few goals:

  • Provide an effective interface for browsing and searching API documentation.
  • Include introductory guides that lay out the basic process involved in creating a GNOME application.
  • Include a space for the new version of the HIG (this is currently under development).
  • Be responsive, so that it can be viewed on tablets and phones.

Me and Meg created a couple of new tutorials that will go on the site, and Meg updated some of the tutorials for JavaScript. Federico started updating the existing platform overview. Jakub gave the site a new responsive layout and created some artwork for the homepage. Together, we started rearranging the content and the pages. There’s a couple of development branches on git.gnome.org where this work will continue and we hope to relaunch in the not too distant future.

I will also be reaching out to existing documentation contributors to get their advice and to figure out what additional documentation we will need. It would be great if they want to help with this work too, of course.

In general, the hackfest felt like a significant event. If we can push forward with the agenda that we have set, then the future looks extremely bright. If anybody who wasn’t at the hackfest wants to get involved, there is no shortage of things to do, and I would encourage you to get in touch.

Big thanks to the GNOME Foundation for supporting the event and to BetaGroup Coworking for being such generous hosts.