[sugar] OLPC's bizarre behaviors

C. Scott Ananian cscott at cscott.net
Thu May 22 12:25:20 EDT 2008

On 5/21/08, Kim Quirk <kim at laptop.org> wrote:
>  I have been trying to understand it, explain it, live with it ,
>  and improve it for a year now. What I think is going on is a unique
>  and somewhat chaotic (perfect storm?) intersection of non-profit, open
>  source, research lab cultures with the need to ship a real product.
>  Can we use help? Absolutely. Lots of it! The hardest thing for us to figure
>  out is how to let people help us.

OLPC is not so unique and special that we can't learn from our
predecessors.  OLPC is not the first research lab which morphed into a
non-profit with a product.  I'm sure others can contribute examples,
but Firefox and Debian leap to mind.

That said, I don't think that we can (or should) point our finger at
any single person and say that we don't communicate as well as we
could because of that scapegoat.  Rather, I'd like to suggest that we
point to a person who *doesn't yet exist*: a community liason.

Fedora and Firefox both have (many!) designated 'ambassadors' whose
job it is to keep the community in the loop.  Debian has a 'Project
Leader' with similar charge.

I would like to nominate SJ and Adam for the role of interim community
liason, as they've done a fantastic job to date building and
nourishing their respective content and support communities.  What we
need is to broaden that task and embody and formally recognize it.  A
liason will be privy to inside information and continually ask "is
this public?  can it be?" and conversely, keep in touch with the
broader community and bring to internal attention worthwhile efforts
outside.  By naming and recognizing a liason (even an interim one), we
would all have a single point of contact: cc 'liason at laptop.org' to
ensure broad distribution.

This job is likely to be a bit overwhelming, and I suggest actively
seeking to hire proven community builders who have worked with other
projects to take the burden off our interim liason(s).  Liasons
should, of course, work with the community to build a broader base of
OLPC ambassadors who can share the local work.

Concrete things I'd like to see a liason take charge of:

 a) monthly  tech "mini-conferences" to present current work and wild ideas

 b) the same for deployments, to exchange success stories, challenges,
and curricula

 c) organizing local OLPC chapters, with their own charges, projects,
& focus.  Providing resources to same: http://alabama.laptop.org could
be a focus for OLPC volunteers in Alabama, for example.  (See
http://freesklyarov.org/local-howto.html for inspiration.)

 d) collecting and archiving talks and press releases for reference
and to ensure broad distribution.  (both 1cc-created content, and
locally-created content)

 e) A more broadly-focused "community news", agressively seeking out
and incorporating local as well as "offical OLPC" content

  f) coordinating blogging efforts: a weekdaily blog post by a
different OLPC developer each day, say.

 g) coordinating news releases to community sources like OLPCNews as
well as traditional press sources.  Providing access to traditional
press for noteworthly community work.

 h) To some degree involving local communities with local i18n and
support work for pilots and deployments.

 i) Hosting regular "open houses", both at 1cc and at local OLPC groups.

 j) Faciliating travel to allow different groups to interact: having
1cc developers give talks at local OLPC groups and vice-versa.

I'm sure folks here can contribute more ideas.  Note that some of
these tasks are made much easier if there is an OLPC employee
involved, while others (c, d, e, h) are good task which interested
members of the community can take the lead on w/o waiting for us.  In
fact, if there are passionate community members, I'd suggest viewing
the entire list as within your scope: I think that OLPC employees are
very amenable to badgering by the community if (for example) someone
has set up a mini-conference elsewhere and wants to get someone from
1cc to attend.

ps. Since I personally have a technology focus, I can suggest several
interesting 'research projects' I'd love to see a local group really
take charge of.  Some ideas: care & nourishment of the
Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora packaging of Sugar; maintaining a Sugar live cd
and/or maintaining a one-click-install Windows emulator of Sugar for
groups interesting in exploring Sugar or teacher training; a research
fork investigating gestures for Sugar; a research group to tackle the
best approaches for emulating keyboards on a touchscreen; research
projects in collaboration or mesh technologies (http://open80211s.org/
and http://wiki.funkfeuer.at/ are good focal points for such work);
someone to revive/review alternate flash filesystems for the XO; care
& feeding of adobe flash bundles for the XO; care and feeding of gnash
on the XO (keeping us up to date, liasoning between community content
and gnash developers); similar work for patent-encumbered codecs
(helps if you're outside the US); care & feeding of Ogg and media on
the XO (assembling good demos, optimizing encoder/decoder
performance); a research group on sound/video editing for kids; a
research group to improve interoperability with non-Sugarized
applications; someone to investigate alternate window managers for
Sugar; someone to investigate Xinerama suport in Sugar, in
anticipation of eventually running Sugar across two displays in Gen 2;
a research group developing software for school management (Uruguay
demonstrated a very nice database application tracking kids, XOs,
theft reports, and repair history, but they had it developed under
contract and the result is closed source; it would be nice to provide
an OSS alternative for other deployments).  That's just off the top of
my head.  I hope a liason would be able to nuture such local projects.

                         ( http://cscott.net/ )

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