30 September, 2008

And how's life...

Hi web,

Haven't blogged for a while - been very (VERY) busy with work and other stuff. I've recovered from the car accident, and so has Kenny. I even bought a new car. This time not yellow (somehow that color doesn't feel right for a car anymore), but boring grey. Aaah well, at least it's corporate-compattible...

Ow, and I got a new assignment, which is interesting. I now work at a small organisation (500 employees) which distributes 2.5 billion euros to the schools & universities in the Netherlands. Yeah, each person working here distributes 50 million euro a year on average ;-)

On to KDE related stuff - a lot going on. We're discussing freedom of speech & rules of engagement - that's one heck of a topic. I always find it hard to participate in such discussions, as I generally see how both sides have a good point. And when I try to keep it simple, I have to retract or say I was sorry for what I said... Meh, I'm not good in keeping a fight going. I don't think that barfight with Sebas is ever going to happen.

Aaah, and there is the report about social innovation in KDE. Sorry guys, haven't had much time to spend on that yet, but I will. I've got a nice piece of theory ready, giving the basics - but it's still very much company-oriented, and I want to make a KDE specific piece. Thus still work to do.

Last of all, can I say KDE 4.2 is going to rock? I've been participating in some discussions here and there, most notably a dutch Mandriva forum but also at places I gave a talk about KDE. The feedback is pretty much what we've been hearing a lot: looks cool, probably a lot of potential, but I miss *pet feature X*. Why did you remove that feature etc etc. And often the "you guys are pulling a Gnome on us" is thrown in.
Hehe, they really fear the Gnome, apparently :D

But from my experience in Trunk I can tell them most issues are fixed, most features are implemented - and of course I can explain what we are TRYING to do.

To re-itterate (feedback welcome):
The reason for the missing features is not that we actively removed them, but all the work we put in the infrastructure. We heavily improved the inner workings of KDE, and now have to port, sometimes even rewrite everything. It'll take a while, but it will make KDE more maintainable, improvable and of course cool.

Then, after more questions about missing features and /me talking about 'we want to improve usability':
Don't worry, we're NOT pulling a Gnome 2.0 on you guys. Yes, we want to improve our usability, but in a Better Way (TM). If adding a feature would lower usability, we try to come up with a way of doing it SMART. We like having our cake and eating it too, and in many cases, it is possible. But when it is not, we DO implement the feature, unless it's really really obscure and almost nobody will use it. Of course, doing things this way takes a bit more time and work and experimentation. So missing features are not due to the KDE developers going the 'dumb-it-down' way, but due to a lack of time.

Meanwhile, I always mention:
Creative ideas on increasing usability while not decreasing featureset, or even increasing the featureset without a decrease in usability are MORE than welcome. Even if we're talking wild ideas here - we're willing to try things, we know that's what it takes to innovate. You've seen us do it - and we'll continue doing so.

The good thing is our users trust us, and they are often pretty big KDE fans. They do get confused by all the apparent focus on bling & clean interface in KDE, and the lack of features. But when we explain the underlying reasons for the changes, they generally understand it. And they are willing to wait a bit more. Many DO complain about the approach distributions have taken: "If you guys tell us KDE 4.2 is the release we're all waiting for, why do many distro's switch to 4.1?". I can only tell them I think the distributions are imho making a mistake - but who am I to tell eg Ubuntu, Mandriva or Suse to change their way?

What does surprise me is how big the influence is of a few missing features compared to all the cool new stuff, which seems mostly ignored. This I think is a clear proof that the few features Linux misses, compared to Windows, really hurt a lot - despite all the things we do better. Of course, part of this is familiarity as well, something Gnome does just right: incremental improvement. Unlucky for them, it gets you only so far.

Wow, that was a huge braindump, without any pictures, so I'll stop right here. Let me just finish by saying I think this community is great. The recent discussions about freedom made me realize how much we all appreciate it - something binding us together, imho. Despite (often actually fairly minor) differences in opinion.