[Sugar-devel] Private vs Public conversations.

Sameer Verma sverma at sfsu.edu
Thu Oct 31 14:10:40 EDT 2013

On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 9:04 AM, David Farning
<dfarning at activitycentral.com> wrote:
> I just wanted to bump this line of questions as, it is the critical
> set of questions which will determine the future viability of Sugar.
> If anyone as more informed, please correct me if I am sharing
> incorrect information:
> 1. The Association has dropped future development of XO laptops and
> Sugar as part of their long term strategy. I base this on the
> reduction of hardware and software personal employed by the
> Association.
> 2. The Association is reducing its roll within the engineering and
> development side of the ecosystem. I base this on the shift toward
> integrating existing technology, software, and content from other
> vendors on the XO tablet.
> 3. The Association is shifting away from its initial roll as a
> technical philanthropy to a revenue generating organization structured
> as a association. I base this on the general shift in conversations
> and decisions from public to private channels.

So, with regard to the points above, several concerns along these
lines were voiced at OLPC SF Summit. Most of these were in private
corridor/coffee conversations, but I got to hear a bulk of it, being
the lead organizer. Opinions and concerns varied from "I'm confused by
what OLPC is doing", to "Are we not doing XOs anymore?" to "What about
Sugar?" to "It was good ride, but it's over. Time to move along". Two
other points to note for this year's meeting: The attendance was the
lowest it's ever been, and we barely saw anyone pull out their XOs to
work with. Neither observations were encouraging, to put it mildly.

My understanding of the XO Tablet project was that it was designed as
a revenue generator ($x per unit sale goes to OLPC A) so that work on
the XO-4 could continue. In my own conversations with OLPCA, I was
always reassured that the XO continues to be the pedagogical machine.
However, I'm not seeing the evidence to that end from OLPCA. Pretty
much all the staff that worked on the XO are either laid off or have

There were other conversations at OLPC SF Summit, where the concern
was that OLPCA is quietly trying to convert requests for XO-4
purchases into XO Tablet purchases. I've raised this issue of device
cannibalization with OLPCA. If the real plan is to keep both lines
going, then the devices should have separate marketing and sales
plans. Keep in mind that the XO4 has had close to zero marketing, and
all the media I see about OLPC these days usually positions the XO
Tablet as the new thing.

Today's Wired article makes the intentions clearer:

So, is the XO-4 dead? My first reaction would be "No", although I'm
still to very confident of my own assessment. We are seeing continued
adoption of the XO in Rwanda (I hear Rwanda is 1.75, but not 4) and
Australia. They must see some continued value in it, and perhaps that
will help in continuing to foster the ecosystem around it. We also
have the approx. 3 million machines around the world, and many are
still chugging away. Personally, the move within the Sugar community
to web services and HTML5 is very encouraging.

However, if all that OLPC remains is a vendor of cheap, proprietary
Android tablets wrapped in green silicone, then what motivation
remains to continue to plug for it? We all have different motivations
for working on this project. I'd like to hear more from others.

Here's OLPC's mission, as a reminder:

Mission Statement: To create educational opportunities for the world's
poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost,
low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for
collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.

Does the current stance at OLPCA help in furthering this mission?


> Given financial constraints, these are reasonable shifts. While
> painful, the world is better of with a leaner (and meaner) OLPC
> Association which lives to fight another day. The challenge moving
> forward is how to develop and maintain the Sugar platform, the
> universe of activities, and the supporting distributions given the
> reduction in patronage from the OLPC Association.
> I, and AC, would be happy to work more closely with Sugar Labs if
> there are ways to establish publicly disclosed and mutually beneficial
> relationships. In the meantime we are happy to provide deployments
> support while seeding and supporting projects we feel are beneficial
> to deployments such as School Server Community Edition and Sugar on
> Ubuntu.
> On Sun, Oct 20, 2013 at 6:11 AM, David Farning
> <dfarning at activitycentral.com> wrote:
>> On Sat, Oct 19, 2013 at 2:43 PM, Gonzalo Odiard <gonzalo at laptop.org> wrote:
>>> I agree with your analysis about slow deployment updates versus fast
>>> community cycles.
>>> In my view, there are two alternatives:
>>> * We can slow down a little the Sugar cycle, may be doing one release by
>>> year,
>>> but I am not sure if will help. The changes will take more time to go to the
>>> users?
>>> If a deployment miss a update, will need wait a entire year?
>>> * Someone can work in a LTS Sugar. That should be good if they can push
>>> the fixes they work upstream while they are working in their own project.
>> If someone, individuals or a third party, were willing and able to
>> provide LTS support for a version of Sugar, how would you recommend
>> they go about doing it?
>> With the recent changes to the ecosystem, I am unclear about the
>> current structure, culture, and politics of Sugar Labs. My concern is
>> that in that past several years a number of organization who have
>> participated in Sugar development have left or reduced their
>> participation. When asking them why they left, the most common
>> response is that that they didn't feel they were able to establish or
>> sustain mutually beneficial relationships within the ecosystem.
>> Would you be interesting in looking at cultural, political, and
>> procedural traits which have enabled other free and opensource
>> projects to foster thriving ecosystems? Are these traits present in
>> Sugar Labs?
>> While, I understand it is frustrating for an upstream software
>> developer. A primary tenet of free and open sources software is that
>> then anyone can use and distribute the software as they see fit.... as
>> long as the source code is made available. The challenge for an
>> upstream is to create an environment where it is more beneficial for
>> individuals and organizations to work together than it is to work
>> independently.
>> To make things more concrete, three areas of concern are Control, Credit, Money:
>> -- Control -- Are there mechanism for publicly making and
>> communicating project direction in a productive manner? Is
>> disagreement accepted and encouraged?
>> -- Credit -- Are there mechanism for publicly acknowledging who
>> participates and adds value to the ecosystem? Is credit shared freely
>> and fairly?
>> -- Money -- Are there mechanisms in place for publicly acknowledge
>> that money pays a role in the ecosystem? Is Sugar Labs able to
>> maintain a neutral base around which people and organizations can
>> collaborate?
>> From my limited experience, I don't believe there is an single holy
>> grail type answer to any of these questions. Instead, the answers tend
>> to evolve as situations change and participants come and go.
>>> On Sat, Oct 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM, David Farning
>>> <dfarning at activitycentral.com> wrote:
>>>> For phase one this openness in communication, I would like to open the
>>>> discussion to strategies for working together. My interest is how to
>>>> deal with the notion of overlapping yet non-identical goals.
>>>> As a case study, let's look at deployment and developer preferences
>>>> for stability and innovation.
>>>> The roll out pipeline for a deployment can be long:
>>>> 1. Core development.
>>>> 2. Core validation..
>>>> 3. Activity development.
>>>> 4. Activity validation.
>>>> 5. Update documentation.
>>>> 6. Update training materials.
>>>> 7. Pilot.
>>>> 8. Roll-out.
>>>> This can take months, even years.
>>>> This directly conflicts with the rapid innovation cycle of development
>>>> used by effective up streams. Good projects constantly improve and
>>>> refine their speed of innovation.
>>>> Is is desirable, or even possible, to create a project where these two
>>>> overlapping yet non-identical needs can be balanced? As a concrete
>>>> example we could look at the pros and cons of a stable long term
>>>> support sugar release lead by quick, leading edge releases.
>>>> For full disclosure, I tried to start this same conversation several
>>>> years ago. I failed:
>>>> 1. I did not have the credibility to be take seriously.
>>>> 2. I did not have the political, social, and technical experience to
>>>> understand the nuances of engaging with the various parties in the
>>>> ecosystem.
>>>> 3. I did not have the emotional control to assertively advocate ideas
>>>> without aggressively advocating opinions.
>>>> Has enough changed in the past several years to make it valuable to
>>>> revisit this conversation publicly?
>>>> On Sat, Oct 19, 2013 at 12:43 AM, Gonzalo Odiard <gonzalo at laptop.org>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> > David,
>>>> > Certainly is good know plans, and started a interesting discussion.
>>>> > In eduJam and in Montevideo, I was talking with the new AC hackers,
>>>> > and tried to convince them to work on sugar 0.100 instead of sugar 0.98.
>>>> > Have a lot of sense try to work in the same code if possible,
>>>> > and will be good for your plans of work on web activities.
>>>> > May be we can look at the details, but I agree with you, we should try
>>>> > avoid
>>>> > fragmentation.
>>>> >
>>>> > Gonzalo
>>>> >
>>>> >
>>>> >
>>>> > On Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 2:56 PM, David Farning
>>>> > <dfarning at activitycentral.com> wrote:
>>>> >>
>>>> >> Over the past  couple of weeks there has been an interesting thread
>>>> >> which started from AC's attempt to clarify our priorities for the next
>>>> >> couple of months. One of the most interesting aspects has been the
>>>> >> interplay between private/political vs. public/vision discussions.
>>>> >>
>>>> >> There seem to be several people and organizations with overlapping yet
>>>> >> slightly different goals. Is there interest in seeing how these people
>>>> >> and organizations can work together towards a common goal? Are we
>>>> >> happy with the current degree of fragmentation?
>>>> >>
>>>> >> I fully admit my role in the current fragmentation. One of the reasons
>>>> >> I started AC was KARMA. At the time I was frustrated because I felt
>>>> >> that ideas such as karma were being judged on who controlled or
>>>> >> received credit for them instead of their value to deployments. We
>>>> >> hired several key sugar hackers and forked Sugar to work on the
>>>> >> problem.
>>>> >>
>>>> >> While effective at creating a third voice in the ecosystem, (The
>>>> >> association has shifted more effort towards supporting deployments and
>>>> >> Sugar Labs via OLPC-AU is up streaming many of our deployment specific
>>>> >> patches) my approach was heavy handed and indulgent... and I apologize
>>>> >> for that.
>>>> >>
>>>> >> --
>>>> >> David Farning
>>>> >> Activity Central: http://www.activitycentral.com
>>>> >> _______________________________________________
>>>> >> Sugar-devel mailing list
>>>> >> Sugar-devel at lists.sugarlabs.org
>>>> >> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/sugar-devel
>>>> >
>>>> >
>>>> --
>>>> David Farning
>>>> Activity Central: http://www.activitycentral.com
>> --
>> David Farning
>> Activity Central: http://www.activitycentral.com
> --
> David Farning
> Activity Central: http://www.activitycentral.com
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