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GNOME Developer Documentation – Bottom-Up

This year’s GUADEC took place in Greece – six days vacation with plenty of time to dive into GNOME again (I missed you!).

When I last posted in January, I talked about my new full-time employment at Aalborg University as Research Assistant. Unfortunately it has left me little time to continue release videos or developer documentation. At GUADEC 2019, I decided to re-visit the developer documentation issue, with a different approach to contributing to a better experience.

The “ideal” GNOME developer portal has been the conception of a top-down approach: Creating a coherent structured platform, which collects documentation in one place. The challenge is that providing platforms require a lot of legwork and coordination – something which we in the past months have not had. So until we have it, I have been wanting to focus the time I had at GUADEC on a bottom-up approach: Providing GNOME developer documentation, where new developers look for them: on “Google” (and other web search engines). Arguably, people employ several strategies to find answers to questions, but my own experience is that searching the web remains consistently one of the most prominent strategies to get answers in relation to programming and app development.

The Bottom-Up Approach

The bottom-Up approach to developer documentation is the idea to:

  1. Identify areas which lack documentation.
  2. Provide that documentation on a location, which is highly likely to be found when searched for.

Concretely, during GUADEC 2019, I followed this approach through the following means:

  1. I began programming my own simple GTK application called ‘Podium’ in GNOME Javascript / GJS.
  2. I searched the internet when I ran into unknown errors, unknown concepts or API in GNOME technologies.
  3. If I found the answer, I could continue programming.
  4. If I did not find an answer..
    1. I asked the question I had in my mind on StackOverflow, using the search terms I used.
    2. I asked experienced developers at GUADEC for help, and used the information to answer my own question on StackOverflow.

This way, I intended to fill in gaps in the available knowledge across the internet – which to me is an important initial documentation goal, which we still can do, until we have a well-structured, cohesive platform to migrate content to. Additionally it comes with the bonus that it can be done small-scale – and since I was developing my own GTK app, I had extra stakes in discovering the answer (and hence, writing the documentation necessary).

4 days later

Here are some quick browser history stats after working on ‘Podium’ for 4 days (excludes API lookups):

  • I had in total, 18 GNOME development questions or challenges.
  • To solve those questions, I have in total performed 30 web searches and navigated to 37 search results.
  • 10 of the web searches led to readily available results which solved my problem.
  • 8 of the web searches did not lead to results which solved my problem, and instead i had to ask on StackOverflow and/or get help from GNOME experts.
  • As a side note, I also filed 9 issues (small bugs or enhancement suggestions) against gtk+ and gnome-builder during the process.

If you would like some more details (fx the gaps I had in knowledge and my search terms), I compiled a filtered spreadsheet. All in all, it was quiet productive documentation session – I got a little app out of it too!

Next Steps

I hope this can demonstrate that there is still a lot of possibility to contribute to better developer documentation. Humans share knowledge like this all the time, but the knowledge is easily lost in inpersistent and closed communication channels such as IRC/Matrix/Real life, which are not accessible to web search engines. I think we should strongly advice newcomers to post questions online – this way, we can accumulate questions, worded based on newcomers’ mental model, which become future migration paths to the tacit knowledge hidden in our APIs and application code. Might be worthwhile to investigate how to integrate this approach into future newcomer workshops?

Eventually, I would like to make knowledge further persistent by keeping it on a GNOME-hosted platform in the future. Discourse might be a candidate for us to store information like that, but at the moment GNOME Discourse topics does not seem to appear in web engine search results – (might be natural given that our instance is fairly new? not sure).

Let me end this blog post with links to the Q&A threads created:


Earlier this month, the annual FOSDEM conference happened again at ULB, Bruxelles, Belgium. I had the opportunity to go there, man the GNOME booth, sell socks, and catch up with other GNOME contributors.

Prior to the conference I had booked La Chambre Haute, which is a great little rooftop apartment located in Etterbeek, around 1.7km from the FOSDEM venue. I arranged the apartment for sharing through the GNOME wiki and shared the apartment with fellow GNOMEies Florian, Tobias, Julian and Niclas. We had a really pleasant time there, including oriental cooking and hacking! I can recommend joining for FOSDEM 2020. ;-)

Me at GNOME's FOSDEM booth
Me at GNOME’s FOSDEM booth

At the FOSDEM booth we sold hoodies, t-shirts and lotsa socks. By Sunday we were almost out of stock for the socks, most socks remaining now being knee socks. At the booth I also got to see the Purism Librem 5 Dev kit running GNOME software – I’m excited to see how it’s coming along!

Thanks to GNOME Foundation for sponsoring the trip. See you next next year!

2019 – New directions

It has been a while since you’ve heard from me. My keyboard’s Q, W and E buttons broke, but that will not prvnt m from making som nois on this blog anyay!

Pencil and paper

Since August 2018 I have been attending a classical drawing course full time. The craft has given me a great foundation for understanding composition, value and color judgement and I feel much stronger in my ability to plan, judge and execute visual artwork. My hands are also much more willing to do what my mind imagines and my thought process has been thoroughly challenged and turned upside down by my teacher.

Click to find BastianIlso's studies on Pixelfed

You may click the picture above if you are curious to see some studies. All in all, I’m far from done with classical drawing and I still have much to learn. I have every intention of returning to the school and continuing my studies in the future!


Back in August I posted about my finishing of my master’s degree and that I was looking for new opportunities. Since then I have been offered a position as research assistant at Aalborg University’s Interaction Lab which I after much consideration have accepted. This has since January 1st 2019 been my full time occupation and will continue to be until 2020. The department is nice and I’m happy to be surrounded by many bright heads around me I can discuss and learn from every day. I will mainly be occupied with HCI research around mobile interaction, virtual reality and health technology. Which brings me to a sadder point..

GNOME Release Videos Needs New Hands!

It’s hard for me to let go, but reason tells me that it is time to pass on the torch with release video production for the time being. 10 videos is a great round number and a good place for me to step down. None of them were ever a stand-alone project and I deeply thank everyone for their contributions, small and big! I’m far from convinced that I have hit the right magic release video flavor yet, but they require a large concentration of time that I no longer have on my hands to give. That said, get in touch if you are interested in being the next video production person! I will gladly supervise, pass on necessary details and give feedback in the process of it all. I’m unfortunately hard to get hold off on IRC/matrix these days, but quiet easy to get hold of on telegram and e-mail.


This is not a goodbye post, let’s just make that clear. I’m going to FOSDEM to take care of the GNOME stand and I’m bringing lots of socks! I’m eager to meet all of you fellow GNOMEies again. I have arranged an apartment which I will be sharing with Tobias, Florian and Julian and I’m looking forward to it!

So all in all, lots of things. I’m in the middle of moving out of my student dormitory so there’s still stuff to do. Let’s see what else 2019 brings! Happy new year!

New Videos & New Opportunities

Flatpak 1.0 has released which is a great milestone for the Linux Desktop. I was asked at GUADEC whether a release video could be in place. In response, I spontaneously arranged to produce a voice-over with Sam during the GUADEC Video Editing BoF. Since then, I have been storyboarding, animating and editing the project in Blender. The music and soundscape has been produced by Simon-Claudius who has done an amazing job. Britt edited the voice-over and has lended me a great load of rendering power (thanks Britt!).

The Flatpak Video

The GNOME 3.30 Release Video is also on its way, with release due at September the 5th. The video will be the 10th release video I have been involved since i started (time flies!).


From 2019 I’ll be looking for full-time opportunities to continue working with UX, User Onboarding and Motion Graphics in FOSS (see also my website). This summer I graduated as MSc. Medialogy at Aalborg University in Denmark. Since then, I have been working for Aalborg University over the summer to design Learning Analytics UI. In parallel I have enrolled in The Drawing Academy to engage full-time in the visualization craft until 2019.

My past six years of world-wide remote collaboration to GNOME have been greatly rewarding. Apart from the release videos, I have designed the GNOME Newcomer Guide with Carlos, working on Polari UX in Google Summer of Code and most recently engaged in the Developer Center Initiative.

I am on the lookout for short-term or long-term occupation which allow me to continue my contributions in the GNOME and FOSS ecosphere.  Don’t be afraid to get in touch! :-)

Re: GUADEC Report

Hi Sébastien,

I am truly sorry if the discussion we had on developer documentation has upset you and contributed to your negative experience at GUADEC.

1. From my point of view there was nothing going wrong between you and me.

I remember we had a productive discussion at GUADEC. We found out that we have different opinions. For example, I you told me that you prefer books and written tutorials. I remember telling you that I like video tutorials. I think that in a future developer center, there can be space for both (See [1]).

2. I have not reported you to the code of conduct committee.

I remember an evening we sat at a café outside Civitas and you told me there was negative talk about you. When I heard this I got really confused because it came out of nowhere for me. I did not recall anyone saying “..asshole developers” in my presence at any point during GUADEC. I was being honest back then when I told you this.

I do remember that we went out to eat together on the evenings after our developer documentation discussion. We did not have so much to talk about but I thought it was natural. I am not are really the type of person who naturally can “set the line of conversation”. :-)

If you have any further doubts or questions about my behavior, please let me know.
If you had the impression that I was attacking or avoiding you, I really apologize deeply, this was never my intention.



GUADEC 2018: BoF Days

Birds of a feather flock together..

Monday went with engagement BoF. I worked with Rosanna to finalize the annual report. Please help us proofread it! I have also started collecting information for the GNOME 3.30 release video. If you are  a developer and you have exciting features for GNOME 3.30, please add them to the wiki. The sooner you do it, the happier I am.

Tuesday went by with the GUADEC BoF where we reflected on the conference as a whole and identified pain points and how we might improve them. Afterwards, glorious sandcastles were made at the Sandcastle BoF.

Wednesday morning I hosted the Developer Center BoF. It was a productive session where we identified what the developer experience currently consists of, the possible audiences, the variables coming into play, challenges, stakeholders who might be interested in its development and developers centers by other projects equally sized like GNOME. I’ll write a blog post summarizing the BoF soon.

In the afternoon me and Sam recorded audio in preparation for a possible Flatpak Release Video and Britt helped mastering it. I also helped the GUADEC Video Editing BoF with generating intros and outtros for this year’s GUADEC videos.

GUADEC is over and I am going home tomorrow. But there is a lot of stuff coming up in July for me. The GNOME annual report needs final review and publishing. We plan to have a developer center call in the by end of July (if you are interested in participating, please  mark your availability here.) We also expect to make a Hackfest for the Developer Center after FOSDEM. And I have the GNOME release video and Flatpak release video on my to do list.  GUADEC has been productive and I hope I can work on some of these projects in my free time (help is welcome!).

Thanks to the local team and all volunteers at GUADEC for a great conference!



GUADEC 2018 Day 3

Day 2 ended with a guided tour inside the Alcazaba of Almería.

Surprisingly, the castle tour featured an exciting belly dance and a bonus theater show starring GNOME’s legendary actors.

Day 3 had plenty of talks like the other days – but I decided to spent it working with Britt on the annual report.

Lastly, lightning talks took place by the end of the day, I spoke about my experience starting Open Source Aalborg (Download PDF Slideshow).

(all picture are CC-BY-SA 4.0, by me)

GUADEC 2018 Day 2

Yesterday ended with a cozy party at the beach with opportunity for swimming in the ocean and in ice cream. Today, GUADEC Registration and one conference room moved to a new building.

I volunteered as chair conference room all day and saw many exciting talks with many topics such as System76, GJS, Translation and testing.

We had breaks with tea, coffee and delicious eaties sponsored by Slimbook and Codethink.

GUADEC was also in today’s local newspaper – we finally made it to mass media folks!

The conference day ended off with GNOME’s Annual General Meeting which is a great opportunity to reflect on GNOME vision and the amazing progress we are making to achieve it.

(All pictures are CC-BY-SA 4.0 and taken by me)

GUADEC 2018 Day 1

At 8.30 i took off Thursday morning to start my journey to Almería. I took the plane to Madrid and had 1 hour to get hold of a taxi and reach a train taking me to Almería. There I was fortunate to meet Julian and Tobias who were hacking on Fractal and making mockups.

We arrived 10.30 in the evening at Civitas for pre-registration. I met up with my roommate Niclas, who is also from Open Source Aalborg  (Denmark) like myself. The day after started with tomato spread on bread.

Everyone gathered to get with the bus and we arrived to the university.

GUADEC was kicked off in a big hall with Nuritzi, the GNOME Foundation president on stage.

After watching a couple of talks I had volunteered for the infodesk and helped giving attendees lunch tickets.

Of course, I also brought the socks and the GUADEC team had this year’s GUADEC t-shirts for sale.

This wraps up todays’ events for me. I’ve already managed to chat with many GNOMEies again and I’m looking very forward to the next days!

(All pictures are CC-BY-SA 4.0 by me).

Coming Up: GUADEC 2018, Annual Report 2017 & Release Video 3.30

Now that my master’s thesis is over,  I finally have time to make some noise in here again!


GUADEC is coming up and I’m super excited for it! My hand luggage will be packed with socks and I plan on becoming a red shirt again this year, as is tradition. I can recommend volunteering to anyone who has tried attending GUADEC before, it is an excellent way to get to know some fellow conference attendees.

This GUADEC I also plan helping with the newcomer initiatives, very possibly including a newcomer workshop. I have also volunteered to help making intros and outtros for the recorded talks.

Annual Report

The Engagement team delivers an annual report every year and this year it will cover what happened from October 2016 to September 2017. I have volunteered to do the layout and you can follow it’s progress in the Annual Report 2017 Finalization Gitlab issue. Any help on fixing the last few TODO items in there would be appreciated!

Release Video for GNOME 3.30

GNOME 3.30 is scheduled to release on the 5th September 2018. With GUADEC coming up I want to shift focus onto the release video and collect as much information about new features as possible while I have the opportunity to talk to our awesome GNOME developers face-to-face.

If you could be interested in helping me prepare the 3.30 release video, please follow this gitlab issue for updates. I will continuously update the issue as I and others make progress. With this issue, I hope it is easier for everyone to track the release video development and participate! Let me know if you are interested in helping. Thanks!