Follow-up to “Shy Developer Syndrome”

community, freesoftware, maemo, work 4 Comments

Reposted from neary-consulting.com

My article on “Shy Developer Syndrome” a few weeks ago garnered quite a bit of interest, and useful feedback. Since a lot of it adds valuable perspectives to the problem, I thought I should share some of my favourite responses.

Here on gnome.org, Rodney Dawes argued that developers tend to stay away from mailing lists because the more public lists are very noisy:

For me, mailing lists are a huge risk vs. low return problem. They can become a time sink easily, and it’s quite often that pointless arguments get started on them, as offshoots of the original intent of the thread. Web Forums also have this problem. And, to really get much of anything out of a list, you must subscribe to it, as not everyone who replies, is going to put you specifically in the recipients headers. That means, you’re now suddenly going to get a lot more mail than you normally would for any highly active project. And for anyone trying to get involved in an open source community, 99% of the mail on that list is probably going to be totally irrelevant to them. It will just make tracking the conversation they are trying to have, much harder.

I agree with Rodney that dealing with a new level of volume of email is one of the trickiest things for new contributors. I still remember when I signed up to lkml for an afternoon in college, only to find 200 new emails 3 hours later. I panicked, unsubscribed, and gave up that day on being a Linux kernel hacker.

Since then, however, I have learned some email habits which are shared by other free software hackers I know. Everyone I know has their own tricks for working with medium or high volume mailing lists, and some combination of them may make things livable for you, allowing you to hear the signal without being drowned out by the noise. LifeHacker is a good source of tips.

Rob Staudinger says something similar, pointing the finger at bikeshed discussions as a big problem with many community lists:

Will the zealots go and suggest postgresql’s process model was poor, or samba’s memory allocator sucks? Unlikely, but they will tell you your GUI was bad or that you’re using a package format they don’t like, just because it’s so easy to engage on that superficial level.

Over at LWN, meanwhile, Ciaran O’Riordan makes a good point. Many developers working on free software want to separate their work and personal lives.

When I leave the office at 6pm, my work should have no more relevance until the following morning. Same when I quit a company. I might choose to tell people where I work/worked, but it should be a choice, and I should be able to choose how much I tell people about my work. Having mailing list posts and maybe even cvs commits might be too detailed. Maybe waaay too detailed.

Finally, over at neary-consulting.com, MJ Ray suggested that asking individuals to respond to a request can backfire:

Publicly referring to individuals on a mailing list is a double-edged sword. It might bolster the confidence of the named individual, but it also reduces the confidence of other people who might have answered the question. In general, I feel it’s best not to personalise comments on-list. Some e-democracy groups require all messages to be addressed to a (fictional or powerless) chair or editor, similar to the letters pages of The Times.

While I agree with MJ in situations where the answer is accessible to the wider community, but often only developers working for you, the manager, are in a position to reply – at that point, you have a choice: get the information off your developer and answer yourself, or ask him to answer the question. and I’ve found that asking on the list has the positive side-effects I mentioned.

Curing “Shy Developer Syndrome”

community, freesoftware, maemo, marketing, work 7 Comments

From the Neary Consulting blog:

One of the most common issues I have seen with experienced professional software developers who start to work on community software is a reluctance to engage with public communication channels like mailing lists. Understanding the reasons why, and helping your developers overcome their timidity, is key to creating a successful and fruitful relationship with the community you are working with.

In my experience, common reasons for this timidity are a lack of confidence in written English skills, or technical skills, nervousness related to public peer review, and seeing community interaction as “communication” or “marketing” (which are not part of their job), rather than just “getting stuff done” (which, of course, is part of their job).

Read more…

MeeGo Progress Report

maemo, work 2 Comments

Some of you may be interested in a guest article I wrote for the VisionMobile blog reviewing the state of MeeGo eight months after its announcement: “The MeeGo Progress Report”

Some excerpts:

On the state of the MeeGo application developer story:

From the point of view of tools, documentation and software distribution channels, MeeGo is undoubtedly behind its primary competitors – but for such a young project, this is to be expected. The success of the project among application developers and the free software community will depend to a large extent on the project’s ability to fill these gaps and provide developers with an excellent development experience.

On the openness of the project:

[…] In the mobile platform development world, it is fair to say that MeeGo is second to none in terms of its open development model.

On comparisons with Android and iOS:

It does not feel fair at this point to compare MeeGo, a project which came into being 8 months ago, with iOS or Android, but this is the yardstick which will be used when the first MeeGo smartphone comes on the market. The project has come a long way since its inception, in particular in working towards an open and transparent development model. There is still some way to go but improvements have been happening daily.

GNOME Census report released

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, work 8 Comments

I was delighted to see that the GNOME Census presentation I gave yesterday at GUADEC has gotten a lot of attention. And I’m pleased to announce a change of plan from what I presented yesterday: The report is now available under a Creative Commons license.

Why the change of heart? My intention was never to make a fortune with the report, my main priority was covering my costs and time spent. And after 24 hours, I’ve achieved that. I have had several press requests for the full report, and requests from clients to be allowed to use the report both with press and with their clients.

This solution is the best for all involved, I think – I have covered my costs, the community (and everyone else) gets their hands on the report with analysis as soon as possible, and my clients are happy to have the report available under a license which allows them to use it freely.

You can download the full report now for free.

GNOME Training confirmed!

community, freesoftware, gnome, maemo, work 4 Comments

A few days ago, I took the risk of setting off alarm bells on the GNOME developer training sessions planned for GUADEC this year. It was a risk, and comments from the naysayers reminded me that it’s easier to do nothing than it is to take a risk. I’m happy to say that the risk paid off.

Thanks to all who spread the word, a couple of prospects I was aware of confirmed their presence on the course, and I received a new group booking. The training is now feasible, and we are confirming that it will happen. There is still room on the course, and I expect to sell a few more spots in the coming days.

I did get one interesting suggestion in a Twitter reply to the announcement, and I’ve adopted it. If you are interested in attending one or two of the modules (say, community processes and the GNOME platform overview, but not the practical session or Linux developer tools), you can do so for the much lower price of €400 per module and €750 for two modules, not including a GUADEC registration.

Anyone who would like to avail of this offer, please contact me, and we will take care of getting you signed up.

Thank you all for your help and support!

http://blogs.gnome.org/bolsh/2010/06/28/gnome-developer-training-in-danger/

GNOME Developer Training in danger

gnome, guadec, work 14 Comments

The take-up on the GNOME Developer Training sessions at GUADEC (pdf brochure) has been below expectations. Without going into the details, we’re in a situation where running the training would cost the foundation and the organisers more money than canceling.

If we have not had a number of people sign up for the training by Wednesday evening, we will unfortunately be in the situation where we will have to cancel the session. The GUADEC organisers sign the final contracts with the university for room reservations on July 1st, and that will increase our costs substantially, so that is our deadline for viability.

I hesitated for a long time before writing this blog. It’s never nice to have to admit that something you thought was a good idea, that you put together and made a reality, might not work out.

Many people have, over the years, said that the lack of training options was a major flaw with GNOME. With this training offering, we gave people what they were asking for, with a two day training course plus the flagship GNOME conference for less than you would pay to attend another technical conference. If we cancel this training session, there will likely not be another. The credibility of the foundation (and, I suppose, my credibility) will take a hit.

I decided to let people know in advance that the session is likely to be canceled, to have a chance to stop that from happening. I have confidence that the GNOME community can come to the rescue here, in some sense.

I am sure that there is interest out there. Perhaps people have not yet gotten budget commitments to send developers along, but that they’re still working on it. Perhaps there are people who really should know about the training who don’t yet, because I haven’t managed to get in touch with them. Perhaps a couple of people were planning on signing up, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

If you are in one of these categories, please get in contact with me soon. If you know someone who would benefit from the training, please let them know, and point them to the brochure and web page. If I have a relatively small number of commitments to attend by Thursday, the training will go ahead.

Thanks everyone for your help and support – I will keep you posted to any new developments.

GNOME Developer Training at GUADEC

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, maemo, work 2 Comments

I’m delighted to announce the availability of GNOME Developer Training at GUADEC this year. It’s been brewing for a while, but you can now register for the training sessions on the GUADEC website.

Fernando Herrera, Claudio Saavedra, Alberto Garcia and myself will be running the two-day course, covering the basics of a Linux development environment and developer tools, the GNOME stack, including freedesktop.org components, and the social aspects of working with a free software project, being a good community citizen, getting your code upstream, and gaining influence in projects you work with.

The developer tools section will go beyond getting you compiling the software to also present mobile development environments, and the tools you can use to profile your apps, or diagnose I/O or memory issues, dealing with the vast majority of performance issues developers encounter.

This is the first time I have seen a training course which treats the soft science of working with free software communities, and given the number of times that people working in companies have told me that they need help in this area, I believe that this is satisfying a real need.

We are keeping the numbers down to ensure that the highest quality training & individual attention is provided – only 20 places are available. The pricing for the training course is very competitive for this type of course – €1500 per person, including training, meals and printed training materials, and a professional registration to GUADEC, worth €250.

If you register before June 15th, you can even get an additional discount – the early bird registration price is only €1200 per person.

I’m really excited about this, and I hope others will be too. This is the first time that we will have done training like this in conjunction with GUADEC, and I really hope that this will bring some new developers to the conference for the week, as well as being a valuable addition to the GUADEC event.

Jet-lag tips and tricks

work 10 Comments

During my recent adventures in San Francisco, I told a number of people about my jet-lag “cure”, and they found it sufficiently interesting I thought I would share.

On trans-Atlantic flights, you typically take off late morning and arrive early afternoon  when traveling East to West, or you take off in the afternoon & land in the early morning when traveling West to East. There are two steps to dealing with major (>= 6 hours time-zone difference) jet-lag: what you do in the plane, and what you do when you arrive.

For me, when I’m traveling East to West, I don’t sleep much on the plane. I watch movies, get up & walk around, chat to the other people hanging around outside the toilets, read – whatever helps pass the time. This means that when I arrive at my destination, I’m tired – my body thinks that it’s late night and I’ve been awake all day. But in reality, it’s 2pm.

By the time you get out of the airport, get to your hotel and check in, it’s probably between 2pm and 4pm. If you go to sleep now, the chances are that you will sleep for several hours, then go out to eat a late dinner, and have difficulty getting to sleep for the night, resulting in tiredness early the following day. This is the vicious circle of jet-lag.

To break the cycle, here’s where my cure kicks in: get out of your hotel. Your body uses sunlight to set its biological clock, so by getting out in the daylight, you are helping your body to adjust to the new day and night pattern. Getting outside during the day suppresses the natural production of melatonin, which helps put you to sleep. It also stimulates the production of vitamin D, helping combat illness (another consequence of jet-lag).

The absolute best way to get out and get over jet-lag is to get some exercise. Go on a cycling tour of the city, or go running. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphines, making you feel good, and more importantly, after exercise you typically do not want to go to sleep. And a few hours later, when you do go to sleep, you sleep more soundly.

If you do an hour or two of outdoor exercise after arriving at your destination, then go back to your hotel and shower/bathe, go out for a bite around 7pm, and then get to bed at an early but reasonable 10pm, you should be able to have a good night’s sleep, and function all day the day after. I typically wake up very early the first couple of mornings when I travel to the States – which gives me an opportunity to (you guessed it) go for an early morning jog before getting ready to go where I have to be.

When traveling from West to East, the problem is similar, but the lag is in the other direction – you may have a hard time waking your brain in the morning when you travel 6 or more hours back in time.

The same trick works. Avoid excessive sleep in the plane – a couple of hours nap is about all I ever manage overnight on these flights. When you arrive, get outside and moving about for the afternoon. I love to go with the kids to the park when I come back from trips and run them (and myself) ragged with a football, or go for a walk with the family – anything to get us out of the house. To help me get to sleep, as well as skipping most of the previous night in the plane, I take a melatonin pill (purchased in Safeways while in the US, not on sale in Europe for some reason) to help me to get to sleep at the right time. And the following morning, when I have the most difficulty waking up my brain, I force myself with difficulty to put on a pair of trainers and go for a 45 minute jog.

And that’s all there is to it! Typically, the day I arrive I suffer, the day after I can function, but am not 100%, and the the day after that, I am fully adjusted to my new time zone.

Does anyone have any other hints & tips to overcome jet-lag? Comments open!

Line-up pour Ignite Lyon finalisé

community, francais, freesoftware, home, humour, marketing, running, work Comments Off on Line-up pour Ignite Lyon finalisé

Je viens de finaliser aujourd’hui les présentateurs pour l’inauguration de Ignite Lyon. Les sujets sont assez diverses, du vache à lait à l’informatique bio en passant par la course à pied et l’art libre. Pour ceux qui sont plus du tendance entrepreneur, nous avons également des présentations sur la démarche commerciale ou créer sa première boîte jeune.

Voici la liste des présentateurs pour ce premier Ignite Lyon en order alphabétique, sauf modifications de dernier minute:

Avec une salle qui prendrai autour de 100 personnes, les places risquent d’être chères, même si l’entrée est libre!

Je vous suggére vivement d’être à votre place dans la salle D101 de l’Université Lyon 2, Quai Claude Bernard, à l’ouverture des portes à 18h30 jeudi prochain le 4. Les festivités commenceront vers 19h, jusqu’à 20h30 à peu près, avec une pause pipi au millieu.

Vous pouvez également vous inscrire pour manger un bout après l’événement au Chevreuil, ou nous allons nous retrouver quor quelques boissons raffraichissantes à partir de 20h30.

Vous pouvez trouver plus d’informations sur le site Ignite Lyon. A la semaine prochaine!

2009 blog links collection

community, freesoftware, gnome, maemo, marketing, running, work Comments Off on 2009 blog links collection

Looking back on 2009, I wrote quite a bit on here which I would like to keep and reference for the future.

This is a collection of my blog entries which gave, in my opinion, the most food for thought this year.

Free software business practice

Community dynamics and governance

Software licensing & other legal issues

Other general stuff

Happy Christmas everyone, and have a great 2010.

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