Free software at 40°C

It’s that time of year again, time for a belated reflection on the GUADEC conference!

In August I traveled to Thessaloniki, Greece, to attend first the annual GNOME Foundation board handover day, then the advisory board meeting, then the GUADEC conference and associated unconference days.

The board discussion focused quite a lot on the strategic goals for the GNOME Foundation which you can hear more about in executive director Neil McGovern’s talk. Nuritzi has also blogged about the process of putting together these strategic goals.

One of the goals that’s most important to me personally (and in fact, in a slightly different form it was part of my original candidacy statement the first time I was elected to the GNOME Foundation board) is:

Evaluate and adopt new technologies to stay competitive with proprietary desktops.

In the evening after the board handover I got a chance to talk about this with some GNOME people over gyros and why I think it’s important — but that’s a topic that could fill an entire blog post! And I intend to publish one at some point.

I’d like to describe some of the talks that I thought were highlights during the conference days.

Setting a Positive Voice For GNOME, Britt Yazel (video) — One of a surprisingly large number of talks this year about how a large free software project is made up of humans, something which people tend to forget.

Hack: Embedding Learning Tools in the OS, Meg Ford / Manuel Quiñones (video) — This is a great talk about some of the cool stuff in a project which is quite familiar to me; as I had worked on it for a year. I had not really gotten a chance to take a step back and see how cool it actually is, and this talk brought that home for me.

Environmentally Friendly GNOME, Philip Withnall (video) — Fantastic use of the relatively little data we have, to do quite a lot of order-of-magnitude calculations about GNOME’s environmental footprint, as well as suggestions on how to reduce it.

About Maintainers and Contributors, Georges Basile Stavracas Neto (video) — Another talk about humans, and one of the reasons why I think this conference will be regarded as a turning point in GNOME’s history. Georges talks honestly about the struggles that many of us face when we become the public face of a well-known project.

Free Software / Utopia, Deb Nicholson (video) — A strong closer for the conference, and a strong statement of values for a community that is — sorry if I sound like a broken record — made up of humans. I fully support the idea that we shouldn’t just try to equal proprietary software, but to do better, not only technically, but in our treatment of humans!

There were a lot of difficult decisions to make as to which conference track to follow and I ended up switching back and forth a lot, and in addition I was rehearsing my own talk. This meant I still had to miss some things that I would have liked to attend, like (unfortunately) the workshops on Saturday.

On Saturday there was also the annual meeting of the GNOME Foundation, but I think plenty of other people have blogged about that already.

On Sunday I delievered my talk (video, slides) and started to run out of time near the end, so the video shows how I gradually started talking faster and faster… Happily, a few people expressed interest in taking on some of the projects for GJS that I suggested in the talk, and I hope that when the next round of Outreachy and Google Summer of Code internships come around I will be able to be a mentor again.

During the unconference days I did not actually stick very much to the published schedule; I was mostly occupied with hallway conversations. I spent one day with the travel committee talking about what we could do to improve the travel sponsorship process, and taking advantage of the fact that most of the committee was in the same place to review the open tickets.

I also spent some time hacking on GJS, both by myself and with others: Meg Ford and Marco Trevisan started fixing some GJS bugs.

The last day was filled with a whirlwind tour of the many museums of Thessaloniki — anyone who knows me personally knows that I love museums and could have stayed for many more hours in each museum.

Thanks to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my attendance.

GUADEC 2018 Reminiscences

This year’s GUADEC in Almería, Spain, was over two months ago, and so here is a long overdue post about it. It was so long ago that I might as well call it a reminiscence! This will be a different kind of post than the ones I’ve done in past years, as plenty of other bloggers have already posted summaries about the talks.

Board of Directors

I didn’t even get to see that many talks anyway, as this was my first GUADEC after being elected to the GNOME Foundation board of directors and I found myself doing a lot of running around to complete things. The board has to prepare for a number of meetings including the GNOME Foundation’s Annual General Meeting that’s always held at GUADEC, and so there was plenty of preparation to be done.

So, except for a few sessions, I mainly followed the “hallway track” this year.

It’s an exciting time to be on the board; it’s been in the news recently that the GNOME Foundation has received two substantial donations, and is hiring some new roles. If you want more information and background, Rosanna Yuen, director of operations, explains all about it in this GUADEC talk.

Interns

Somehow I found myself mentoring two interns this summer, Avi Zajac and Evan Welsh, and both of them were able to attend GUADEC. (I co-mentored Evan with my coworker Manuel Quiñones, who unfortunately could not be there.) I had not done a good job introducing them to each other, but they connected with each other and realized that they were both working with me! If you haven’t already, make sure to read Avi’s blog post and Evan’s blog post for their perspectives on how it went. I was glad to have both of them there and really enjoyed meeting up in person.

Both internships have finished up in the meantime. Evan’s website is viewable here, as well as some improvements to DevDocs which I hope to deploy soon. Avi’s project was released as a technical preview in GNOME 3.30 and will be covered in my next blog post.

JavaScript Talk

I gave one scheduled talk, on GJS and JavaScript, and one unscheduled talk, on Endless Code.

I will cover the material from the JavaScript talk in my next post about the new features in GJS, but for now I wanted to post the slides for everyone’s reference. The video of the talk is here.

Endless Hack Talk

I was voted into one of the conference’s open talk slots with a proposal to talk about Endless Code (since then, renamed to Endless Hack). This is a new (well, it was new at the time of the conference) project at Endless. It’s a continuation of this feature which (I didn’t work on, but) my coworkers demoed about two years ago:

The Endless Hack product generalizes this idea to the whole desktop. The idea is that you should be able to tinker with everything, and there’s a narrative that guides you along the way and teaches you programming concepts. It’s aimed at children and young teenagers. Although this product hasn’t been released yet, and although some of the source code is currently open it’s not in a finished or usable state yet, I did want to talk about it at GUADEC because I think the ability to learn by tinkering is an important part of the free software experience and a direct consequence of one of the Four Software Freedoms, and it’s something the GNOME community should be aware of.

We also made a survey asking people about their experience learning how to program, or not learning how to program, and it’s still open, because I did not do a very good job in the talk of publicizing the link! You can fill it out here.

I haven’t dared to watch the video of me talking completely unrehearsed, but you can watch it here if you want.

Unconference

I had high hopes for organizing a GJS unconference session like last year, but after a certain point I was just completely tired out. We did eventually have a GJS session that consisted of people hacking on their favourite thing. Happily, I was able to convince Georges Stavracas to fix a regression that was preventing GNOME Shell from starting. I got a chance to work with Meg Ford on testing with JavaScript, and I also got some work done on the GJS debugger, a new feature in GNOME 3.30. I will talk about all this and more in my next post!

We also used some of the unconference time for a kickoff session for the GNOME Developer Center. Bastian Ilsø is leading this initiative and has a lot of material for you to read on what’s happened in the meantime.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank the GNOME Foundation for making it possible for me to attend the conference and the board meetings.

Thank you to my coworker Lisette Silva for convincing me to submit the open talk and giving some last-minute feedback beforehand.