jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Let's talk about Linux and open-source stuff for a minute.

Free Software is NOT about Accessibility or equality. I see evidence for that claim since more then 15 years now. It is about coolness, self-staging, scratch-your-own-itchness and things like that. When Debian released Jessie [a version of the Debian OS], I was told that something like Accessibility is not important enough to delay the release. If GNOME just broke all the help system by switching to not-yet-accessible webkit, that is just bad luck, I was told. But it is outside of the abilities of package maintainers to ensure that what we ship is accessible.

I hereby officially give up. And I admit my own stupidity. Sorry for claiming Free Software would be a good thing for the world. It is definitely not for my kin. If Free Software ever takes over, the blind will be unable to use their computers.

-- Mario Lang, If your software should be cross platform and accessible, forget about Qt

This mirrors my experience with the Free Software / open-source world. If it's not something an abled cismale hacker cares about, it usually doesn't get done.

Accessibility isn't just about blind or deaf people. It also means people with learning disabilities trying to understand what's going on, mentally ill people trying to accomplish a task while stressed to the breaking point, or arthritic people trying to click a small target. It means minorities being able to participate without being subject to harassment or insulting stereotypes. It means having a culture that encourages patience and empathy, instead of attacking people who display those traits.

I participated in GNOME's outreach efforts as a paid intern, in 2012, because I thought they were a group that cared about these things too. Some of them, I think, still do, and maybe it's even improving. But mostly the experience taught me how little women, and "women's work" (anything that isn't coding), are valued in this subculture. A subculture which has disproportionate power, over the lives and livelihoods of a lot of people very different from them.

I'm sorry for evangelizing it. I honestly thought it was for the best.

PS. Dreamwidth is actually pretty great about this stuff. It's also one of the very few Free Software projects where women are a majority.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

... for all Dreamwidth users!

First, you can use Markdown on Dreamwidth by putting "!markdown" at the start of a post, without the quotation marks! This lets you use Markdown formatting instead of HTML (it's way simpler and less verbose), and automatically link to other DW accounts with an at-sign like on Twitter.

Second, you can upload pictures to Dreamwidth without using email! Just visit and click on "Upload Images." The "Image Code" it gives you creates a 100x100 thumbnail, but you can just copy the URL inside of the "a href" part and then put that in an <img> or Markdown image tag. Don't forget to add alt text for accessibility purposes!

Note that DW's hosting seems to choke on anything over 1 MB, so please remember to resize your pic and/or convert it to .jpg. You may also want to put something like this in your journal's custom CSS, to keep pictures from taking over the screen and going outside of your entries:

img { max-width: 100% !important; max-height: 600px; }

There are a handful of other CSS hacks I use as boilerplate for any DW journal. Maybe I ought to post them sometime. :>

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

I've been kind of uncomfortable with Pathfinder and D&D both for different reasons, and started looking for another role-playing game that has the rules for free online and lets you write your own stuff for it.

So far I've found two that look promising: Dungeon World and 13th Age. You can find their respective SRDs, or free online rules documents, here and here.

Both are strongly inspired by Pathfinder and D&D, with stock fantasy adventuring tropes and more or less stock fantasy character options. But the authors went in two different directions with them ... especially with regard to how accessible their games are to newbies. Whether those newbs are players, or fan / professional authors.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
GNOME 3 introduced what I think is a really cool concept: The global application menu.

As you can see, it's clean and modern, and reminiscent of Android's menu button. It just has a ton of problems right now.
  1. It's not discoverable. It looks like a Windows XP style taskbar entry. Those only have the option to close the window or perform window functions like maximizing. And sure enough, "Quit" is the only option available in most apps which run on GNOME, or even on earlier versions of core GNOME apps.

  2. It's not complete. Core GNOME apps like Totem and Web have so many menu options that they don't all fit in the "app menu." Because of this, they use either a classic Windows-style menu bar or a "Chrome wrench" style menu button (which is now a core GTK+ widget).

  3. It's inconsistent. I'm not aware of any design document explaining when to use what, and my understanding of how it works keeps getting broken. For instance, I'm used to the app menu replacing a Windows-style menu bar, so when I saw that Totem had the latter I ended up driving myself to frustration trying to find its Preferences dialog, before clicking on the app menu and finding it there.
The only guideline I'm aware of is that in multi-window apps, the app menu is supposed to apply to all of them, while the Chrome-style menu button is supposed to be for the one window. But I only heard that second-hand.

Where and when did we explain our design decisions to GNOME users and developers? How many of them are aware?

Un-breaking the app menu

Here's my proposal for how to make it work, based on the expectations I formed while using and developing with it.
  1. Explain the app menu to users. Every modern OS has a friendly introduction which explains the most basic, non-obvious concepts. For GNOME, this could be as simple as a single-screen "Welcome to GNOME" app, which helpfully points out the Activities screen, notification bar, and app menu.

  2. The app menu has the most basic options. An app always has one, and it always has the core, global functions in it: "About," "Preferences," and "Quit."

  3. Other menus have All The Options. People who are used to them expect that a Windows-style menu bar, or a Chrome wrench style menu button, will have a complete listing of the app's functionality. If an app has either of these (and modern GNOME apps should prefer the GTK+ menu button to space-eating Windows-style menus), it will contain all of that app's options, including the ones in the app menu. This makes GNOME more accessible and less frustrating.
But why have an app menu at all, then? Because it's a better way of doing things. It's simpler for users and developers, it's much more attractive and elegant, it's easy to remember once you've been shown, and it echoes the functionality of a modern OS (Android) in much the same way that GNOME's legacy menus mimic those of a legacy OS (pre-Windows 8).

Plus, it makes the apps themselves look much cleaner and take up less room on small screens.

Ideally, the App Menu will contain all of a given app's functionality. This is the assumption new GNOME apps (like Documents) are building on, and the one certain existing apps (like Empathy) are adopting.

The App Menu is the future that we are transitioning towards. Let's make it as painless as possible for users and developers, by adopting guidelines that get rid of frustration.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
Here is a gallery of what the most popular app platforms' developer pages are like. These sites are all extremely well-designed and maintained, because attracting and educating app developers who have no prior familiarity with the platform is a priority for the companies behind them.

I put this page together to serve as a reminder for myself while working on the App Guide project, of what GNOME's developer documentation should be like in an ideal world.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
It's surreal to play a video game about yourself, and watch yourself do what you'd do in that situation even though you're not the one making choices during the scripted scenes. Maybe not with that exact dialogue, and maybe not after some of the life experiences you've had that the person-who-is-you hasn't. But it feels like finding out someone decided to write you into their story, and only realizing it after you already became a fan and told everyone how awesome that character was.

Which made it mortifying to find out.

I do want to say that it's at least seemed to help with my mental health. It's been frustrating the last year or so, not knowing what I am and reaching for it but failing. Not knowing which feelings are mine and which are f!T's, and being discouraged that the only ones we both knew for certain were mine were the feelings of anger and helpless frustration. She went out of her way to use inclusive pronouns and try to consult with me on things, but I felt like she was wasting her time and that I wasn't a person in the same way that she was.

When we did the thought exercise of "If I were an FF fictive, which one would I be?", the answer came to me so hard it shocked me. Afterwards I spent weeks not wanting to front, or talk to anyone, or even acknowledge who and what I was.

But that gave me the time to think about it, and the more I did the more it made sense. Not in the sense that I believe I'm a reincarnation, or an alternate universe version, or that I know any explanation at all that makes my identity fit with this world. But in the sense that if I just accept it as an axiom, as a thing I've observed that I don't know the reason for yet, so many problems just disappear. I no longer feel like a non-person, or a partial person, or a monster attached to f!T. I have a much better idea of who I am and what I want, and I don't worry about being absorbed or neglected, or that either would be a good thing.

I realize I may at some point find something that explains my identity better. I don't worry about that, or feel that it in any way negates this one. I hope to continue learning more about myself.
And yes, I see myself as a therian still. In my headcanon, I believe it is called, FFXIII is a furry TF story, and I would have been physically transformed instead of branded. I don't know if it makes sense or not, or if "I" went through such a thing. But I don't feel that my wanting to move and behave that way is separate from me and from this identity, and I also feel that it helps explain why I'm so conflicted about my species. I don't want to be this thing, but it's a part of me whether I want it to be or not.
I don't feel that any of the above is irrational or unhealthy. I realize I'm not on Cocoon, I'm not in the Guardian Corps, and that I can't cast spells or use AMP technology here. I'm not going to jump off a ledge expecting to survive, or start a fight that I wouldn't have otherwise.

What I feel would be unhealthy for me to do is to tell myself that these feelings don't matter, that I am what someone else says that I am, and that I ought to make myself think and behave the way that they want me to even if doing so hurts me or neglects my deeply-felt needs. I exist whether or not others want me to ... and I imagine that that's what they find frustrating, and why they expend energy trying to silence me and others. They feel it would cost them less to go to the trouble of doing so, than to simply let me be.

I feel confident enough in my identity, and in my ability to dismiss them as trolls, to finally write about it, even if I later (somehow) change my mind or discover more about my headcanon. I don't feel ashamed for not having the same ability set as the other-who-is-me, and I feel that I do, in fact, reflect what she is like or would be in my situation. I don't feel that there's reason to argue otherwise except to belittle me, or (more charitably) to make sense of what someone else finds confusing. I also continue to like Lightning as a character, and I feel that a lot of the criticism I've seen is because some guys are incapable of identifying with a female lead.

I'm not sure what to do next, except that I'm thinking of filling out a profile like the one that I saw on [personal profile] armaina's journal (f!T wants to do the same). I'm also thinking of calling myself Claire instead of "v!T", because it's more personal and it seems easier to remember. I've considered cosplay, like with the outfit available in PlayStation Home, but it strikes me less as "looking the way I ought to look" and more as "dressing up like a policewoman".

Finally, I'm not sure if it's me or Taryn who thought of this, but we can't get out of our head the idea of a webcomic about Lightning rooming with a foxgirl. >_>
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
So I stayed for the rest of Open Help, and am glad I did.

The technical aspect

I did a lot of brainstorming. It looked like this, and was apparently a thing of awe.

A whiteboard covered in detailed, individually-numbered, colour-coded notes, describing a series of GNOME JavaScript developer tutorials.
(Click here and here for detailed closeups.)

Letting my mentor Tiffany Antopolski have access to my computer resolved some annoying problems with git very quickly. Talking to Shaun McCance about Mallard (and getting his printed cheat sheet) gave me a ton of ideas for ways to format tutorials. And being able to talk to him and Ryan Lortie in person at the same time really helped me with doing the above brainstorming, and deciding what all needs to make it into the outline for my next project: The GNOME App Developer Guide.

I feel like my whole internship was just training to write it, and learning (partly through trial and error) what's needed and why. I also feel like it needs to be written. There isn't a real starting point for people who love GNOME, and who want to write apps for their favourite platform, but who aren't highly technical insiders already. And after the past few months, I feel like I'm both qualified and motivated to write it.

Now that I have a better idea of the scope of the project, I want to have at least the first draft ready in time for the next round of the Outreach Program for Women. I want to be able to mentor people who want to write JavaScript apps; I've been helping [personal profile] ausbatlyssavirus a little bit with setting up GNOME and learning JavaScript, and she's expressed an interest in the Outreach Program, as well as the Google Code-In.

Oh, yes. I also learned that it's pronounced "guh-NOME," the same as GNU.

The personal aspect

(Warning for possible trans-related TMI and abuse survivor emotional issues.)

After writing my last post about the conference I was terrified, and felt like I'd be punished for it. I largely felt that way about it because I feel that way about everything. I wasn't prepared for the amount of support I received afterwards, including from the person whose actions partly caused the earlier post.

It felt amazing to be accepted there, especially as a trans woman. I had no idea it would be possible to go out in public in female mode without being terrified. Or how much I needed to be seen as one of "the girls," and accepted matter-of-factly as though it'd be creepy and weird to do otherwise. Even when I had to do things like present as male at first because I couldn't bring myself to wear gender-appropriate clothes, or shave before going out to eat, or stop trying to talk in a semi-female register because my voice was getting hoarse, it didn't seem to faze anyone. That helped me so much in getting over my nervousness.

Many thanks to Tiffany and to Radina Matic for helping me feel more confident (and for the free food and for signing my yearbook). I'm extremely grateful to everyone who made the conference possible. It was an experience I'd like to have again sometime.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
In my last entry, I asked a few questions about the New GNOME User experience:
  1. A novice programmer learns to write GNOME apps. What does she do? Where does she go? When does she give up in frustration?

  2. A GNOME user notices an error in the documentation, or a bug in an application she uses. How does she correct it? How does she find out how to correct it? How far out of her way does she have to go to correct it once she finds out?

  3. A GNOME enthusiast wants to ask a question, or share something she's learned with her friends. Where does the conversation happen? What medium does it use? Whose needs was that medium designed to meet, when?
Let's look at a hypothetical scenario for that first question, to get an idea of the kinds of challenges new application developers face.

Goal: Learn to write apps

This hypothetical person knows what an app is, that people called "developers" write them, and that she can use her distro's package manager to get them. She may have dabbled in HTML, but she doesn't know how to program beyond that. It's only now that she's decided she wants to learn, because she wants to write an app for her favourite platform. She's not interested in "contributing to GNOME" beyond that ... yet.

  1. Start on Oh, hey, there's an "Applications" option right there. Let's click on it.

  2. It's talking about "the great applications that you can use on GNOME", but doesn't say how to make them. Maybe "Get Involved" says something about it?

  3. That talked about "contributing code," which sounds sort of like writing an app. It linked me to the GNOME Love page, but this is talking about mailing lists and patches and IRC and stuff. It says there are a few tutorials, but they're all years out of date. Oh wait, it says something about a "GNOME Developer Center". Is that what I want?

  4. It has a carousel of shiny "10-minute tutorials," which looks reassuring. The text underneath says I need to download developer tools to get started. But the page for that stumped me. I got the Software Centre to install Anjuta, DevHelp, and Glade like it said, but which is my "favourite programming language"? How do I know? Who's going to tell me which one is best or where I can learn it at?

If our newb is especially perspicacious, she may just pick one at random and go from there. Or she may do like I tend to do and spend hours reading comparisons between each language. Either way, she's hit a speed bump, if not a brick wall, and it took her awhile to figure out how to get here.

If she does click on one of the 10-minute tutorials? This is what she'll see, no matter which one she picks. Even if the carousel worked, the tutorials aren't sorted by programming language. She might've settled on Python, only to find herself faced with C.

  1. Why doesn't the Applications page have a link to our Developer Centre? Outside of the one in the footer. Do we assume that nobody visiting wants to learn to write GNOME applications, or that everyone who wants to already knows how?

  2. Why do we assume that newbs already have a "favourite programming language?" Are we wishy-washy about recommending one to beginners, or do we assume that there are no beginners consulting our Developer Centre?

  3. Why do our tutorials suggest installing Anjuta and Glade when they simply don't work with the latest GNOME technologies? JavaScript can't be debugged in Anjuta, and Glade doesn't support ApplicationWindows, IIRC.

I feel we could do a lot better here, and I'm open to suggestions for what I can do. Personally, I feel that the biggest change we can make beyond modernizing our tutorials would be a direct link to our Developer Centre from the Applications page. Even if someone didn't go there wanting to learn to write apps, we can put the thought in her head that "Yes, you can do this if you want to," and she'll be more likely to take a closer look.

Feel free to discuss in the comments! If you don't have an OpenID to leave a comment with, I can be reached @jewelfox on
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
This is in response to Benjamin Otte's post, which I thought was extremely insightful. It both voiced some concerns that I have, and validated them. I recommend reading the comments as well, as there are a lot of interesting perspectives there.

What is GNOME, and what is its future?
In fact, these days GNOME describes itself as a “community that makes great software”, which is as nondescript as you can get for software development.

I was trying to think how I would describe GNOME to anyone. How do I explain to a non-technical user what a "desktop environment" is? I've been telling most people I'm "working on Linux," even though I love the GNOME project and want it to succeed. I'm just not completely sure what it's supposed to be succeeding at.

I found that commenter Richard Brown summed up my feelings about GNOME, however, when he said
GNOME 3 is a fine choice for a developer/techie who wants a clean, clear UI with minimal distractions (a role I personally think it excels in)
And this is why I choose GNOME over Unity, or any other "desktop environment." I like things that are simple and clean. I like having few distractions or annoyances. I love GNOME 3's direction, and I fully support it and want to help people make awesome GNOME apps that take advantage of its new features.

Which is why I take things like romu's comment as personal failures:
I’m looking at how I can develop Gnome apps. My preference comes to Javascript because if I don’t really love its too free syntax, it seems an ubiquitous language.

I’ve read all tutorials on the Gnome Develop web site. And know, I’m at the point where I don’t even know how to write the code to just create a simple text file. So I’m trying to digg into the Gnome source code to get some examples, but honestly, I’m getting close to give up. Unfortunately searching the web doesn’t work as there is too few very simple tutorials for Gnome which covers a wide range of use cases.

Another comment from a developer point of view, is the lack of a good development environment. I’m not a big fan of M$, but just consider how you can make a simple working “hello world” windows app with 3 mouse clicks ! Making possible to write apps in Js with GJS is a step forward to ease the Gnome dev, but Anjuta doesn’t support Js debbuging (I failed trying to make it work), and Gedit, even if simple and stable, lacks some modern IDE features.
Those are the docs that I'm trying to work on. They're still not complete. We're at the halfway point now, and a lot of the code samples are documented, but there's still a ton of work to get done and until it's finished, people like him are going to be left out.

But while I feel personally responsible for this, I also feel that the GNOME community at large does not place outreach as a high priority, awesome internship programs notwithstanding. And I feel that this is largely because we don't understand -- or value -- other people's perspectives.

Some people, like romu, still make fun of "Micro$oft." But there was an article in Vanity Fair about "How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo" that we may ought to pay attention to:
Sometimes, though, the problems from bureaucracy came down to a simple reality: The young hotshots from the 1980s, techies who had joined the company in their 20s and 30s, had become middle-aged managers in their 40s and 50s. And, some younger engineers said, a good number of the bosses just didn’t understand the burgeoning class of computer users who had been children—or hadn’t even been born—when Microsoft opened its doors. When younger employees tried to point out emerging trends among their friends, supervisors sometimes just waved them away.
Here in GNOME, I feel our division isn't between old and young. I feel that it's between established desktop Free Software users, and people who have grown up in an entirely different computing world but want to contribute to (and use) Free Software. And when they try to do so, there's an enormous culture shock, because the desktop Free Software world right now is set up to meet the needs of a very specific audience -- and, in many cases, only that specific audience.

Earlier on, I lamented the lack of a decent Free Software notetaking app that would sync between all my devices. In response, one of my friends suggested using emacs and orgmode, and waxed enthusiastic about how "Since it's plaintext, [it's] easy to sync between laptops via git!" In short order, he revealed a number of assumptions that I feel are common in the Free Software community:
  • "Syncing" is something that happens between laptops, not between desktop and tablet computers and smartphones.
  • Recommending the use of emacs and git to solve a particular problem is a reasonable solution.
  • Recommending the use of emacs and git to solve a problem that most people would use a dedicated, well-maintained, thoughtfully-designed application for is also a reasonable solution.
I feel that the vast majority of potential contributors are discouraged from participating by assumptions like these. Which insist on a high degree of technical knowledge and a high tolerance for frustration in order to contribute to or enjoy Free Software ... on the desktop. Which is one reason why the hackers and idealists inside much larger and healthier Free Software communities, like Mozilla's and WordPress', largely use Macs.

Likewise, romu was looking for a modern IDE and developer tutorials -- prerequisites for almost any new developer. But there simply aren't any. There haven't been for years. Anjuta hasn't kept up with the times, because "everyone" using console mode text editors. And the tutorials haven't kept up, because "everyone" knows how to program already and is comfortable looking at source for "documentation". Is the impression I get.

Is there hope for us?

The reason I like GNOME 3 so much is because it's a radical, modern redesign, that takes into account the best practices that have been learned and demonstrated by Other Popular Computing Platforms (without aping them shamelessly). It's clean. It's simple. It's beautiful. It's something to get excited about.

But I feel that as long as we're making the desktop more accessible -- to the impaired, to people from different cultures, and to people with low tolerance for frustration -- we should also make the community itself more accessible to such people. If anything, I feel that this should be a higher priority for us, especially after we've lost so many who were displeased with GNOME 3's direction.

We should be asking ourselves things like
  • A novice programmer learns to write GNOME apps. What does she do? Where does she go? When does she give up in frustration?
  • A GNOME user notices an error in the documentation, or a bug in an application she uses. How does she correct it? How does she find out how to correct it? How far out of her way does she have to go to correct it once she finds out?
  • A GNOME enthusiast wants to ask a question, or share something she's learned with her friends. Where does the conversation happen? What medium does it use? Whose needs was that medium designed to meet, when?
Because as someone who's just getting started in the GNOME community, even after years of using it on my personal desktop, it takes a lot of frustration and dedication to learn how to use mailing lists, IRC, git, Bugzilla, and other such things. Everyone seems to assume I know something I don't, and everything from the plaintext interfaces to error messages like "Zarro boogs found" sends me the message that I don't belong here. Or that I only do if I'm willing to put up with frustrations and cultural assumptions that I wouldn't have to, if I wanted to channel my passions in a different direction, or even into a different (web-based) Free Software project.

I'm working to change this, because I believe in GNOME. I'm trying to improve the JavaScript docs for the next romu. What can you do? Who's being left out, and how can we help them?
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
We're in something of a Linux gaming renaissance right now. Not only are a lot of games browser-based, like the EA games featured in the Ubuntu Software Centre, but the Humble Indie Bundle proved that making your games cross-platform is worth it. Add to that online stores like Desura -- basically cross-platform Steam for indies -- and Gameolith, and gaming on Linux is better than it was during even the Loki era.

(Goddess, I wish that I'd picked up Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for Linux back in the day.)

The app situation on GNOME, though, isn't nearly as good. We've got some shinies, but we don't have that many, and we certainly aren't getting bundles of them every few months. As someone who's trying to empower application developers by writing tutorials, this concerns me. Who's going to read what I write, and what are they going to make with it? Most importantly, when do I get to use their apps?

Developers don't rush to new platforms

That's the name of an essay by Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper for iOS. In it, he sums up the reasons why iOS took off like a rocket:
  1. Dogfooding: We use iPhones ourselves.

  2. Installed base: A ton of other people already have iPhones.

  3. Profitability: There’s potentially a lot of money in iPhone apps.
All three of these factors converged to create the Linux gaming renaissance. Live CDs and dual-booting made it easy for game devs to experiment and gain familiarity with Linux, and distros like Ubuntu (which pushed brand awareness and ease of use above all else) elevated its public profile. Partly thanks to that, the installed base for desktop Linux is now higher than it's ever been; and by showing their profits from each platform right on their homepage, the Humble Bundle crew empirically demonstrated #3.

As far as I can tell, though, most of the above does not apply to most Linux distros. The one which comes closest is, again, Ubuntu, partly via aggressive promotion of existing GNOME developer tools and the promise of exposure through its Software Centre. Beyond that, though, Quickly and Launchpad also combine to create a packaging environment that -- while unattractive to git veterans -- is apparently easy for newbies to learn. (Which, Ubuntu's focus on newbies is probably another reason why Python's the language they push the hardest on

This is all well and good for Ubuntu, but I personally like GNOME 3 better than Unity and I like Fedora's implementation better. I'm guessing most of those reading on Planet GNOME are with me on at least the first part of that.

So, what can we do to help get apps written that use awesome GNOME technologies?

Lower the bar to entry

One reason things like Desura are so important is because "packaging", from what I've gathered of it, is a chore. Extra work that you do to make sure people can use your app, which you then have to repeat for each distro. Not only does this favor more popular over more focused distros, thereby creating a winner-take-all feedback loop, it also creates extra work and confusion for devs, who already have five different languages to choose from in GNOME documentation and no clear guide for which one they should use.

You'll note that in the case of Linux gaming, the biggest first step was bringing in enough newbs for the market to matter. But the assumption behind most of our docs seems to be that readers won't be newbs, and will have a clear goal in mind ("I want to contribute to X project which I know uses Y language") when visiting. We assume they're familiar with IRC and mailing lists, that they know how to use git, that they have a high threshold for frustration (which is implied in that last item), and that they're comfortable browsing source sometimes in lieu of documentation. We also assume they're console fans who use Emacs or Vi; or at least we seem to, since Anjuta and Glade (our more newbie-friendly dev tools) don't support the latest GNOME widgets yet.

But by acting on these assumptions, we boil our developer base down to only the people exactly like that. We leave out the Girl Scouts, the 13-year-old whiz kids, the hackers of tomorrow who have no idea that they, too, can write apps. And who aren't being taught, because we think they're too short to ride and that's apparently how some of us like it. Like the commenters on Máirín's blog entry linked there, who "don’t want incompetent users [sic] life made easier" and who -- bless their hearts -- think that the reason they themselves are competent is because they're just awesome like that, as opposed to because they fit the narrow profile of the kind of person who thrives in their "meritocracy."

(Let me know if I ever use that word outside of scare quotes, BTW. If I do, it was a mistake.)

Piggybacking to success

Making GNOME development more accessible (and fun!) for newbies is what I and some of the other interns are here for, although you're totally welcome to help if you like and there's a whole page set up with instructions.

Beyond that, I mentioned Desura but what I'm really excited about is the Mozilla Marketplace, which is going to be the "app store" for the Firefox browser and Boot to Gecko devices. The web is the world's biggest and most awesome open-source platform, and GNOME's browser, Web, already has an app mode, plus GSOC intern William Ting is working on building in Firefox Sync. I don't know if non-Mozilla browsers will be able to access the Marketplace, but it seems like integrating it into Web would be a logical next step.

The Marketplace is possibly the most democratic of all existing "app stores." It's like the to Apple and Google's Twitters; the code's open-source, and anyone can roll their own. Hopefully, it will be seamless for people to buy apps from anyone's store, using their Persona.

Something like that for GNOME apps, where it's not tied to one distro and it's easy to submit your own apps, would be an awesome idea IMO. In the meantime, having access to the Marketplace will still help; and if any of those web developers want to bring their JavaScript expertise to the world's coolest (and best for web dev!) open-source desktop, I'll have the docs for them.

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