Social Circle: Improving social interaction at social events

A month ago my group’s semesterproject ended and with extremely positive feedback. At the 2nd semester Medialogy study me and six other students have been working on Social Circle, a question-based game where players can get to know each other and have fun.

Link to A/V Production of Social Circle (YouTube)

Particularly interesting was the different topics within media technology I got to work with in relation to Social Circle. Working with the user through a contextual inquiry was insightful and inspired a lot of designs which we kept testing and improving. This project also gave me a hands-on experience with programming the virtual interface in Processing using Eclipse. I really enjoyed working with the interaction design and visuals. Organizing the semesterproject was also less of a hassle for me this time but I plan to continue exploring different tools for this.

07-16 SocialCircleElectronics
First semester introduced us to programming using Processing and Eclipse, second semester introduced us to electronics prototyping via Arduino.

The prototype we created of the designed solution, is composed of an Arduino controlling six player boards with voting buttons and LEDs which it reads. The Arduino is connected to a virtual interface showed on a 19″ screen in the middle of the table. Players receive harmless question such as “Which player would be the best superhero?” and everyone then place a vote on each other using the player boards. Votes are then revealed and points are given to the agreeing majority. If players votes indicate disagreement, a discussion round is started where players have to persuade each other to vote differently.

IMG_3344_small
Final prototype used to evaluate the game design’s ability to let players socialize.

This semester has stirred my curiosity about designing interaction, which I plan to stimulate by working with the GNOME Design Team. Another long-term goal for me is to learn more about programming graphical user interfaces, particularly using GTK 3 as well as on the web. First I have a promotional video to finish and a GNOME conference to attend to, however. Looking forward to both!

GNOME documentation video: status and experiences

Title: Promotional Video about GNOMEs Documentation
Started: April 21st 2014
Deadline: July 26th 2014
Status: All animations finished, first draft rendered and being revised.

status-visualized.

Today I reached a new milestone. The last animations has been finished and I can now render out a full-fledged video about GNOME’s documentation efforts.

07-07overview

60-70% of the 1:48 minute long video consist of animation (the purple blocks) with a few screencasts here and there (blue blocks) This is because I’ve used this project as a learning opportunity for animating. This also means that the video contains some experiments in terms of style, mixing 2D and 3D, color and silhouettes in various ways.

This project was also an opportunity for me to learn how to organize myself within Blender. I’ve gained some nice experiences under the way:

– All scenes are named with a number in front, and all objects & materials of each scene are named with the scenes number. A camera in the “01_intro” scene would be called “01_Camera”. This makes it easy to filter the items in Blender’s dropdown lists (just search for the scene number).

07-07-dropdown-list

– All scenes are kept in one blender file. All external files are kept in sub-folders next to the blender file with self-explanatory names.

07-07-file-structure

– All animations are rendered to PNG and their folder inside “Animation” is called the same as the scene they were rendered from.

– All generic tools, templates and master scenes use “00” in front of their name so they always appear in the top.

07-07-tools

– Common RGB colors and textures can be shared across scenes through node groups if they re-occur. They are then easily changeable and easy to add to any new scene when needed.

07-07-node-groups

This means I’m starting the process of revision. I’ll be looking through the video, fix bugs, holes, glitches and send it around for feedback on the timing, sound and animations. Loooking forward to show this project, nice, clean and polished.

Revamping GNOME’s default avatars

One day while hanging around at the #gnome-design IRC channel, Allan Day made me aware of the fact that default avatars in GNOME could use a revamp. Sounded like a nice adventure, so I began following an exciting yet challenging path, aiming to find the treasure that is good avatar conceptual design.

my-login
A typical example of a context which these default avatars would appear in.

First step for the conceptual design was to define an avatar’s purpose based on the context which the avatar(s) would appear in (see figure above). My main thoughts were that:

  • An avatar should be unique to each user, to make the user distinguishable from other users on the system.
  • The avatar is the only colorful asset on the grey background.
  • The default avatar should be formal and personal at the same time, to fit on everything from your laptop at home to your workstation at work.

After some experimentation and a bit of discussion on #gnome-design, I came up with the idea of utilizing the great symbolic footer-art seen in GNOME on the web, to create a default set of avatars that could meet these criteria. The avatars’ personal yet simple and clean look makes for a nice balance to fit in both personal and formal contexts in my opinion. The picture below displays the majority of the avatar motives (colors not final). More information can be found on the design page for avatars.

system-avatars-example
More avatars can be found at the design page for GNOME avatars.

Based on this, Allan Day came up with a design of an avatar chooser (it rocks!). The picture below is one out of six interfaces which the avatar chooser consists of.

avatar-chooser
Source: /gnome-design-team/gnome-mockups/avatar-chooser/ by Allan Day

Next up I’ll be focusing on the default avatars for Empathy, which for now will follow a more ‘generated’ approach. However, most of my time still goes towards the documentation video. More on that in a future blog post of mine.

Hello Planet

I’m Bastian Ilsø, nice to meet you. I am a 2nd semester Medialogy student who use and participate in GNOME. You can mostly find me as “bastianilso” on #engagement and on #gnome-design at GimpNet IRC.

a-picture-of-me
Picture of me by Jakub Steiner. Scribus, AAU, Blender, Gimp, WordPress and Linux logos are used for identification only.

My most visible contribution so far has been the GNOME 3.12 release video. Since then, I have decided that promotional videos is something I want to continue doing and I currently have one in the works.

This blog is mostly going to be about GNOME. The GNOME project is awesome. It opens a door for me to get behind the scenes and learn. However, much of what I learn and blog about can also be applied in a wider context.

I’m definitely looking forward to meet the rest of the planet at GUADEC 2014. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your daily reading at Planet GNOME as much as I do!

Testing Grounds

Title: Promotional Video about GNOMEs Documentation
Started: April 21st 2014
Deadline: July 26th 2014
Status: voice-over done, recording video material, brainstorming animations.

status-visualized.

The GNOME Documentation Video marks my 2nd video for GNOME and I expect it to be finished before GUADEC. Currently, I am writing down notes, sketching ideas and recording some video. The picture below is my current timeline in Blender’s VSE (red are video recording notes, blue are animation notes).

Status-May-25th

Having notes in the timeline is super flexible for me because I like to work a little bit on everything and revising the design over and over. I expect to have 5-6 layers of material, starting from audio, notes and sketches, to video-recorded material/animations and finally transitions and sound effects.

This time I am spending more time tinkering with various workflows, exploring Blender’s various capabilities and finding the best way I can use the tools I have available. Concretely this means that I am moving much of the work previously done in the compositor into 3D space (cycles) or the VSE. My aim with this is to utilize blender’s real-time rendering as much as possible, so I don’t have to pre-render parts of the video when I make changes. I am also taking Jakub Steiner’s advice and trying to keep everything within one file which I am trying to keep tidy.

Thanks to Karen Sandler who provided me with a great voice-over. It is super motivating to work on a video like this when you have a high-quality crisp voice to work with. Looking forward to be showing off some initial work soon.

GNOME Docs Exposure

Talking with kittykat on IRC, made me realize that there might be a need to give the GNOME Documentation more exposure than it currently has. From what I have read on the internet, there haven’t been any comment or feedback on the documentation and I think that is a shame.

It kinda makes sense why there hasn’t to me though. What do you think when you hear “Digital Documentation”? This is what comes to mind for me:
engaging-user-in-our-docs-w98-mainhelp
Source: DREW University, Introduction to Windows 98

Good old Windows 98. Every time I opened Windows Help, I sure never did find what I was looking for. It has essentially lowered my expectations for getting offline help at all (whether this is true for anyone else is beyond my knowledge though). Which is quite problematic, because just look at that GNOME Help. It’s a true beauty and we have a whole docs team working hard on it.
engaging-user-in-our-docs-gnome-help

How can we help it?

I see two things that can be done here. First of all, I think it is important that the apps which the documentation team writes documentation for, need to show their gratitude once in a while. When a user is praising an app he is praising the whole experience, including the work that GNOME Design has done and what the Docs team has done and any libraries that may lay ground for the apps existence. Saying thanks can be easy to forget, but hopefully we can help each other remember.

Now, the second way we can improve the visibility of our documentation I think, could be through communication performed by GNOME Engagement. It could be an article published on the GNOME frontpage and spread through social media, centering on Help as a tool for users to discover how to use GNOME. More ambitiously, it could be a minute-long video with a visualising the role of Help as a component in the gnomiverse, and how you can use it as a tool to get started with a new app. Again, the video should be promoted through social media to ensure that it reaches some users.

Sounds like I should go back to the drawing table now and look into opportunities for this. Feedback and comments are welcome!

Summing up the positive GNOME 3.12 responses on the internet

As promised in my previous blog entry, I have gone through all the 393 comments on the Youtube video. I furthermore decided to point my curiosity towards, Phoronix, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and various articles I could find using a “GNOME 3.12 review” search. Below is a summary what I found:

GNOME General

Jack Gandy:
I just started using this release yesterday, and wow- what a difference! Thanks a ton for this release- I’ve never been more happy to use GNOME for work and play.

Gonzalo Marcote:
Amazing!. I really love Gnome. Every version gets better and better. Good job guys (;

Hex DSL:
This video (and Project) pleases me. Thank you.

Imma Wake:
Sorry but it’s just too sexy!

Aryan Ameri:
Congratulations to the Gnome team. A very nice release indeed. Well done.

Eduardo Carrillo:
Looks very polished and thought out. Congrats to the GNOME team!

Stephen dela Cruz:
Whoa! This maybe the Gnome I’ve been waiting for!

tjpld:
Man I really have to get into Vala and JavaScript. Gnome looks exciting! Most polished Linux desktop by far and very extensible and themable.

Mario Sanchez Prada:
This is plainly TOO good! Congrats to everyone involved!

Marco Trevisan:
Congrats to the GNOME guys for the 3.12 release… Multiple visions in FLOSS can only bring more freedom to the users!

Ingo Gerth:
I am thoroughly impressed. There is some real innovation.

Swapnil Bhartiya, muktware.com:
In a nutshell, I think Gnome teams have done an incredible job with 3.12 and created a desktop which is extremely simple, extremely secure and privacy respecting

Mark LaDoux:
I’m not a huge fan of Gnome, but I do believe that Gnome is important for the linux desktop community because they keep pushing the boundaries, even if I don’t always agree with the direction they push them in.

monraaf:
I like that they are not afraid to experiment and how they don’t limit themselves to boundaries of the past. They have a clear vision of simple, unified and refined interface and they are really passionate about every detail.

Jack Gandy:
Aside from the huge revamps such as Videos (which I’ve been eagerly awaiting since the first mockup), all of the core applications feel more complete and accomodating.

The Release Video

Matthew Cherrey:
Beautiful video! I can’t wait to get it!

Jeremiah Foster:
This is the kind of video that GNU/Linux needs to make all the time. So great to see the GNOME folks do professional promotion for their great software. Great stuff!

Thomas Pfeiffer:
That’s a very professionally done release video! I want that for our releases, too!

Valentin Anastase:
Really pawnage video overall!

Jiří Eischmann:
I’m amazed how professionally GNOME 3.12 has been announced. This video and the release notes look really professional.

Jannis Haase:
The video demonstration is pretty nice and the narrator did a good job, so props for that.

Duke Togo:
I can’t understand how and why there is so much talent at Gnome. This release is amazing.

Travis Reitter:
Great way to show off the changes. I hope this becomes a new release tradition!

Clément
@gnome super nice video you have there!

GNOME Design Team

Jack Gandy:
“the new tabs provide much clearer feedback, waste less space, and certainly feel more clean and ‘professional’.”

Nuno Bica:
GNOME has a new version ready. Kind of like the top bar redesign for most applications. Can’t wait to try it.

Lilian:
Although I am a KDE user since Gnome 3.0, I like a lot the design focus of the current Gnome, there are a lot of things to love about it.

xybersurfer:
i love the minimalist ideas. it’s looks so clean :D

“journalctl”:
The new tabs look so much better

“RSoreil”:
I’m mostly just very pleased with bringing back my wired connection. [..]Popovers look like something really nice and the general improvements seem like a joy as well.

Web/Ephiphany

Jack Gandy:
If I’m being honest, Web is the shining star of this release, if only because it’s the most used application (or at least, it is now that it’s caught up with Firefox and Chrome). A few tweaks here and there and it will be the perfect realization of a GNOME 3 web experience.

j1mcamp:
Gnome-web actually is pretty serviceable as a regular, day-to-day browser now.

GNOME Shell

teguh ginanjar:
gnome shell is going better and better !
cant wait this!

Matt Currie:
Finally can have folders! I’ve been waiting for this for a long time!

Scott Gilbertson, theregister.co.uk:
One place that GNOME 3.12 hands down beats every other desktop I’ve tried is support for high-resolution screens.

GNOME Software

Luke Sokolov:
Wooo! +GNOME 3.12 is shaping up to be one of the BEST gnome releases I’ve seen! Definitely being more torn between #pantheon and #gnomeshell :/ which is a good thing :D [..] I am sure the +elementary devs integrate most of these improvements well into eOS! I’d love to see the Maps and Gnome Software Center apps available in Isis :3

Swapnil Bhartiya, muktware.com:
Software is an app that I kind of love in Gnome. I wish there was something similar for KDE’s Plasma Desktop. When compared with Ubuntu’s Software Center it’s extremely polished and responsive. [..] GNOME’s Software is extremely polished and works like charm – so I must give credit to Gnome for doing a great job in this department.

Gedit

Logan VanCuren:
Gedit looks seeeeexy!

Otto Robba:
That Gedit… so freaking sexy.

Clément Guérin:
nice improvement!

Jason Raveling:
I love gedit, but I am really looking forward to this!

Wayland

MrLol333:
looking forward for decent wayland support. GO 3.14

Harshvardhan Singh Rawlot:
WOW, finally getting rid of x.

Videos

Björn Sonnenschein:
Congratulations!
The new Videos application looks awesome and 3.12 feels great overall!

Swapnil Bhartiya, muktware.com:
Videos is another cool app which has gone through massive make-over and instead of boring Totem, it’s an extremely beautiful app.

mslurr:
The updated Videos UI is great, I use it over mplayer now because of it.

Forwarding users’ response to developers

During Libre Graphics Meeting I had a conversation with Richard Hughes, which at some point touched the topic of feedback.  I don’t quite know if this applies to all developers, but to some, it appears that the feedback you receive as developer is not so varied as could be. Mostly, users who take straight contact to the developer either has a serious complaint or a bug in the software to talk about. Similarly, much of the mail on the mailing lists and on the bug tracker is about crash reports, bugs and general problems in the software. 

But there is positive feedback out there. In many cases the thank you‘s and I love App X is left by users in vast amounts on social media. Mostly because these places are social where it is more accepted that you simply say whatever you want to say. This very well explains why the GNOME 3.12 release video currently has over 350 comments. Every time a new comment arrives, I receive an e-mail and I read every one of them. However this feedback only reaches the engagement team and or maybe only me. This definitely is a problem as that means a lot of contributors are missing out on all the positive words being said out there about their hard work.

How do we fix this?

In an ideal world, I think that it should be GNOME engagement‘s responsbility that feedback reaches its person who was meant to hear it. Short-term I will take responsibility for making sure that the comments received on the 3.12 video is distributed among the modules. This I will do either by quoting the comments and organize them, or by summarizing the feedback received per application.

For the future, a similar effort could be done in other aspects of communication that GNOME performs, be it on the comments section of the status updates on Facebook, replies to GNOME tweets – basically any platform where users is given the opportunity to reply to your post.
Thanks to everyone who remember to give feedback, whether you are a developer using a library to make your app awesome, or a user using an app to make your life awesome. I think it helps keeping the spirit up and helps thrive the community.

Libre Graphics Meeting 2014

LGM this year can best be described for me as a spontaneous trip that ended up very worthwhile. It was my first and probably not my last, with talks ranging from Blender Animation to Scribus Desktop Publishing.

What made it even better was all the familiar nicknames that I now can put a face on. I had a lot of great conversations with Allan Day, Jakub Steiner, Tobias Mueller, Mathieu Duponchelle, Thibault Saunier and the list goes on.

Prior to the conference, I had set up some goals for myself:

  • Create usable template animations based on the GNOME 3.12 release video, to be used in future relase videos.
  • Write guidelines for future release videos elaborating on the animation style and clarifying technical specifications.
  • Attend Blender talks and related workshops to improve skills in animation and editing.
  • Talk to people face-to-face from the blender community to aquire new knowledge that can improve the workflow.

Suffice to say, I managed to reach many of these goals and more importantly, gained even more. Libre Graphics Meeting has revealed some interesting areas of GNOME where I think I can help:

  • Forwarding the feedback given on the release video and from news sites to the actual developers in GNOME.
  • Give usability feedback to PiTiVi and try to integrate it into the release video pipeline.
  • Play with Design, specificially trying to mockup Geolocation Privacy Setttings.
  • Continue helping Commons Machinery to find a solution for preserving RDF/XMP metadata when writing images using gdk-pixbuf.
  • Help users communicate with the developers to ensure mutual understanding and perceivance of user experience problems.

In the blog posts to come I will try to go through each of these goals to explain my intentions in further depth. In conclusion I had a great time at LGM. If you could not attend LGM, hopefully we’ll meet at GUADEC this summer instead.

Lastly, thanks to Tobias Mueller for splitting the costs of the accomodation. The Space Hotel sure was an interesting place to stay in Leipzig.

Introduction

Hello there. I am Bastian Ilso Hougaard, going by the nickname “bastianilso” on GimpNet IRC. It is also the name of a student from Denmark, studying for a Medialogy bachelor at Aalborg University. Don’t worry, this is not a common education, so I probably wouldn’t expect anyone to know what that is right away. Medialogy is about designing from both sides of the screen whether it be designing the interaction, sound, graphics or even the physical aspects. After the bachelor I intend to specialize in just one of these areas  – which one, is yet to be decided, though. I have a portfolio! So throw http://portfolio.rvzt.net into your destination field if you want to see something concrete I have created.

This blog is not about that side of me, though. I will mainly use it to blabber about my contributions to the GNOME project. And I will let you, dear reader, be my assistant on these GNOME adventures of epic proportions. With a splash of free software and technology topics in between, of course.

So GNOME?

At the moment I am most active in GNOMEs engagement team. I participate in meetings and discussions and I contribute with things like release videos and marketing materials. I intend to poke around with the GNOME Design team as well. I also attend Free Software conferences from time to time. So if you see this face, then don’t be afraid to greet!

bastian

And that shall mark my introduction. Have fun!

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