Above the clouds

Finally settling back into the groove after an exciting week in London at the GNOME 3 Usability Hackfest.  Despite the title of the event, I’m glad that it turned into a wide-ranging, and multidisciplinary discussion of user experience design for GNOME 3.  These kind of free-form, high bandwidth, and deep tissue discussions are so much more effective in person.

We started the week by talking about high level goals and broad stroke experience design.  It was awesome that Seth Nickell was able to be present for this and, as always, brought a lot of fantastic ideas and energy to the conversation.  These discussions and the goals for GNOME 3 that we list in the GNOME Shell designs seemed to inspire some of the various blog posts he made during the week.  It was a lot of fun to “throw up waves of leaves and dance in them.”  However, of course, one of our next challenges will be to try and figure out how to rake them back into piles.  I’ll try to cover that in another post, soon.

For me, two things became clear after these discussions.  The first is that we have a really compelling and exciting story to tell about GNOME 3.  The second is that we need to do a lot better in telling that story.

This kind of big picture thinking and goal setting is really valuable and far too rare.  It allows us to establish markers to help navigate and iterate our way forward with more confidence and less risk than simple dead reckoning.  Without overly specifying or constraining the path.  This is an important thing to remember on any journey – be it a trip to London, a stroll through the woods, or a software design and engineering effort that may change the world.  Don’t believe a 5 year plan.  Allow for the unexpected.  Leave room for fun.

What are the goals for GNOME 3?  I can throw at few at you.  But feel free to come up with your own.


Yes, I’m super serial.  It’s in the GNOME Shell design document.

Inspire the world.  With our designs.  Our code.  Our culture.  Our ability to listen and adapt.  Our get shit done ethic.  Our spirit of adventure.

Prove we’re relevant to a broad spectrum of people.  Finally start to meet the promises and match all the big talk.  Show that everyone deserves great design, an open and accessible platform, and a participation model that facilitates and encourages personal growth from “reader to leader.”

Provide a framework for taking responsibility for the user experience.  No more excuses.  No more: NOTGNOME, not my module, not my problem.

Help us cope with modern life in a busy world.  Help us connect, stay on track, feel at ease and in control.  Manage being informed without being disrupted.  Allow us to get deep in the zone while our next activity only a gesture away – right where it always is.

Design a first class technical platform that can meet the challenges of and take advantage of the capabilities of modern computing hardware.  Bring desktop programming into the web age.  The Shell is Javascript and CSS – yes, that Javascript and CSS.  The same ones that a gazillion teenagers are playing with right now.  Provide a clear and consistent guidance to application developers.

Sound good?  Love to hear what you think.

[Will continue with more from the hackfest in the next few posts]

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12 Responses to Above the clouds

  1. Pingback: William Jon McCann: Above the clouds | TuxWire : The Linux Blog Aggregator

  2. Honestly, all this lengthy vagueness, and calls to explain better, look increasingly like a development train wreck. I’ll remain very skeptical until I start seeing features explained like they would be in GNOME release notes. I don’t even see a real place that gathers together high-level goals. Even now, when there’s all this talk about design, we still don’t have a set of personas whose needs you meeting.

    Trying googling for GNOME 3 now. It’s not informative. If the information is out there then it should be gathered together clearly. Whatever Seth says, if you can’t explain it then it doesn’t make sense.

  3. Tom says:

    I have have to agree with Murray. It seems like you guys stuck your heads in the clouds and dreamed and brainstormed without any thought about what should be the next step and who should work on it.

    Gnome 3.0 is nothing atm, just Gnome-shell and maybe Zeitgeist .. and you are going to release in September???? Sure, but which year? 2012?

  4. Anders Feder says:

    It does sound good, McCann. Don’t let the hairy crowd drag you down.

  5. Sandy says:

    Tom, I think you’re misunderstanding the pie-in-the-sky stuff. It’s not for GNOME 3.0, it’s ideas for GNOME 3.

    The GNOME guys have been pretty clear that GNOME 3.0 represents some simple changes like deprecating a few libraries, and adopting gnome-shell/mutter and probably zeitgeist. These are not giant changes and they are easily achievable by September.

    All the latest design talk is how to continue on for the rest of GNOME 3. It is the beginning of forming high-level goals.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing these coalesce into concrete plans, but I expect that will take a little bit of time.

  6. > It’s not for GNOME 3.0, it’s ideas for GNOME 3.

    So that needs to be made very clear. It should be obvious that this is likely to cause confusion. I despair that anyone should have to point that out. It’s no good complaining later that people didn’t understand.

  7. Sandy says:

    Murray, I agree with you. Jason Clinton recently wrote about this on foundation-list:


  8. Anders Feder says:

    GNOME 2.30 (with GNOME Shell and everything) could be called GNOME 2.5, and GNOME 3.0 reserved for a full reboot. Just sayin’.

  9. Sandy says:

    Anders, we already had a GNOME 2.5, a very long time ago. 🙂 GNOME already decided that 3.0 would not be a “full reboot”, since it’s not really necessary to do what we want to do, and it’s not like it worked out great for our friends in KDE land.

  10. Tom says:

    Sandy, it was the “4.0 is not 4” that didn’t work out great for KDE.
    What makes you think Gnome will fare any better? Because it is not 4 but 3? Promise a shiny, new, awesome release full of awesomeness and then disappoint seems to be the consensus.
    At least for KDE after 4.0 progress was amazingly fast (4.2 kept nearly all 4 promises), I can’t see 3.4 doing the same for Gnome, maybe 3.8 or 3.10.

  11. Anders Feder says:

    Sandy: Yeah, I meant 2.50 of course 🙂 I understand that you don’t want to break the API and all, but that wasn’t what I meant either. By full reboot I mean a release with all the disruptive (non-API-breaking) changes that McCann is alluding to in his post.

    In other words, GNOME 2.50 could be the next quality release with GNOME Shell and so on, and GNOME 3.0 could be the next totally fucking amazing release with all the tools and features to support the goals McCann mentions.

    I know it’s not technically “necessary”. You can roll out the new features one by one. I just don’t think it’s a good idea – the features rolled out post-3.0 is going to miss all the spotlight and advertising benefits associated with the major 3.0 release. People will only click the “upgrade GNOME” button so many times before they decide it’s not for them.

  12. This can all be solved by calling this vague new stuff “ideas for GNOME 4”. That keeps “GNOME 3” as “we use gnome-shell”.

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