The main part of GUADEC 2014, the premier annual GNOME conference, has just ended in Strasbourg, France. The core days are made up of talks, keynote presentations, as well as the GNOME Foundation Annual General Meeting.
The GUADEC core days have been packed with exciting, interesting talks. There were presentations on important initiatives in GNOME, such as Wayland and continuous performance testing. GTK+ had a strong presence, with talks on GTK+ dialogs, CSS, and the GTK+ Scene Graph Toolkit. There was also a whole day of talks on GTK+ applications.
The final core day ended with an enthusiastic lightning talk session (these are short, five minute talks on a subject of the presenter’s choosing), followed by a conference closing which included a standing ovation for the local organising team. The final day also included the third GUADEC keynote, delivered by Matthew Garrett, on the future of the desktop.
GUADEC would not be complete without social events, of course, and this year’s event was no exception. Highlights included a a snooker and pool evening and the regular GUADEC football match, which was followed by a picnic.
Another regular feature of GUADEC is the annual pants award, where one individual is picked out for their special efforts over the year. This year, that award went to Alexandre Franke, who was the brains behind this year’s GUADEC, and who also works to coordinate GNOME’s presence at FOSDEM.
GUADEC has been fantastic, as usual. There have been a lot of important, exciting discussions and talks, and the conference has been an opportunity to make important plans for the future. Though the core days are now over, the GNOME community will be busy in Strasbourg for three more days, as the schedule switches to working sessions (known as BoFs, or Birds of a Feather sessions).
Many thanks to the sponsors of this year’s GUADEC: Google, Red Hat, Igalia, SUSE, Ubuntu, Seafile, code.csdn.net, and GitCafe. This wonderful event would not have been possible without your help.
The curtains are up on GUADEC 2014, and the first keynote was delivered by Jim Hall. Jim is the Director of Information Technology at Morris, University of Minnesota, and he presented his work on usability in GNOME. We took some time to talk to Jim about his keynote and about his research on GNOME.
Nowadays many designers are interested in user experience rather than usability. Do you believe that usability alone is still relevant?
Usability and user experience are related, but different. Usability is about getting something done; user experience is about the user’s emotional impression. Lots of things can affect the emotional experience of a graphical desktop like GNOME. Colors, fonts, location of elements, and window decorations are just some of the things that can influence how a person feels about using GNOME. That’s the user experience.
Usability focuses on the user. The general rule about usability is that people use programs to be productive, and they are busy people who are trying to get things done. Through usability testing, the user decides when a product is easy to use. Because if a program is hard to use, no one will want to use it. And if they don’t use the software, then they won’t have an emotional experience about it.
So I believe that usability and user experience go hand-in-hand. Programs need to be pleasant (user experience) but people need to be able to use them, too (usability).
In your experience, what are the biggest difficulties you can incur in arranging an user testing?
It is critical to plan a usability test around the users. Who are the users? Do you only expect programmers to use it, or is it intended for a general audience? With GNOME, that means everyone, so any usability test of GNOME must be designed for “general users with average knowledge.”
The next step is to decide what tasks those users need to do in GNOME. What are these general users trying to get done? In this usability test, we wanted to focus on new design patterns, but we first had to work out a set of tasks that real people would probably do: manage some folders and files, browse the web, take some notes, and so on.
Once you figure out what the usability test should cover, the hardest part is to make sure the tasks are realistic. You want each task to be something a real person would probably do in GNOME. But avoid using words or terms that actually appear in the program. That would only test if the user can match your task description to a menu item. Instead, you want to describe things using general terms. For example: when I asked testers to increase the font size on a website, I didn’t use the word “font.” Instead, the task was:
“You don’t have your glasses with you, so it’s hard to read the text on the website. Please make the text bigger on the website.”
You have done a lot of work on improving usability in GNOME: what was the hardest issue you found and the biggest satisfaction you have got?
I was really glad to see Allan and the other GNOME folks create entries in the GNOME Bugzilla. It’s really satisfying to see GNOME developers taking usability seriously.
In doing the usability test, it is hard to watch someone struggle to complete a task. You can’t give hints; you almost have to sit on your hands to keep from saying “the menu item you’re looking for is right there.” You must let the tester explore for themselves, in order to understand how users interact with your program.
I was surprised by some of the test results. For example: installing a program using Software. When testers searched for the program (“Robots”) they got a list of programs that matched the search, and a convenient “Install” button they could click. But if they navigated through the categories to find the program, the “Install” button was in the upper-right corner, and users didn’t see it. Instead, they clicked on the link to visit the program’s website, which got them totally off track. So testers either completed this task very easily, or they were not able to do it at all.
What do you expect from this GUADEC?
This is my first time at GUADEC, so I really don’t know what to expect. I have attended other similar conferences, so I expect to meet lots of interesting people. I am a very friendly person, so if you see me, please do say hi.
While I’ve visited other countries, this is my first trip to France. Unfortunately, I don’t have any French, so I am hoping someone will help help keep me from getting lost. I also speak conversational Spanish and a little bit of Klingon, but neither will help me in France.
Can you give us a quick introduction to your GUADEC keynote?
My keynote will be a summary of my usability research with GNOME. This is based on my Master’s capstone project, which you can download from my blog: “Usability Themes in Open Source Software.”
The presentation walks through the usability test of GNOME. I think folks will be very interested in the “heat map” of the usability test, which shows how testers fared in the test. It’s a new way to share results of a usability test, and I think it helps to make issues more clear.
I will wrap up with a discussion of five themes from this usability test: how GNOME developers can extend this usability test to help them with other GNOME programs.
Many thanks to Jim for all his work, and for his excellent keynote presentation.
The first day of this year’s GUADEC conference has wrapped up in Strasbourg, France. As usual, there were lots of fond reunions for long-standing contributors, as well as new faces who got their first chance to meet fellow GNOME contributors face-to-face.
In the morning, Jim Hall gave a well-received keynote on his user testing work on GNOME. Jim has been working closely with the GNOME Design Team, and has been helping to identify usability issues in GNOME’s applications. His presentation described his testing methodology, and presented the results of his tests. There was a positive response to Jim’s talk, and plans are already underway to resolve the issues he found for the next GNOME release, version 3.14.
The schedule also included a range of talks, covering both developments in GNOME, as well as more general issues in Free Software. There were presentations on GNOME’s geolocation framework, the new GObject to SQLite Data Mapper, and GStreamer. There were also talks on ownCloud design, women’s participation in technology, intellectual property, and Free Software business models.
The day ended with the first part of the GNOME Foundation Annual General Meeting. Representatives from each of GNOME’s teams gave a summary of their work over the past year, including accessibility, documentation, design, engagement, the Release Team, system administration, outreach, and GNOME.Asia.
Tomorrow there will be more talks, another keynote, and lightning talks from GNOME’s interns.
GUADEC, the main GNOME conference, is about to start in Strasbourg, located in the eastern part of France. It will gather users, developers, governments and businesses to talk about the status and future of the GNOME project between the July 25 and August 1.
“More than 10 years after the first GUADEC in Paris, the French GNOME community is very proud and excited to host GUADEC once again.”
- Christophe Fergeau, member of the local organizing team
As always, the conference schedule features talks, hackfests, and social events for the attendees. Besides that, Matthew Garrett, Nathan Willis, and Jim Hall will deliver this year’s keynotes. They will discuss topics such as the place of free software in the automotive market, the future of the desktop, and usability aspects of GNOME.
GNOME.org will be updated during GUADEC, sharing the highlights of the conference with those who couldn’t be there. You can also follow what’s happening via #guadec on Twitter and Google+. More information about GUADEC 2014 is available at the official GUADEC website, including the conference’s schedule.
The GNOME Foundation wishes everyone a great conference! And a huge thank you to the local organizing team for all the time and effort they put into making this year’s GUADEC happen!
Every edition of GUADEC is organized by passionate contributors who work hard to welcome the GNOME community to their home town or country. They are part of what we call the Local Organizing Team, and they make sure GUADEC has a place and the structure needed to happen.
This year’s GUADEC is being organized by a team led by Alexandre Franke, who lives in Strasbourg. Alexandre is a GNOME Foundation member since 2010, and also a very active member of the GNOME community in France. He’s currently the coordinator of our French Translations Team, and the treasurer of the GNOME-FR group.
Alexandre has been leading the organization since 2012, when the bid for Strasbourg was accepted by the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors. With GUADEC starting tomorrow, we took the chance to talk to him about the experience of organizing the conference in his hometown:
Why makes Strasbourg a great place for GUADEC?
Strasbourg is very active in the Free Software world, but GNOME is not very well represented here. By making the GNOME community come to Strasbourg, we have the opportunity to reach out to the local community and raise awareness of the project.
I also hope the institutional role of the city will inspire our attendees. With the European Court of Human Rights just around the corner, we’re dealing with Freedom on a different level than just software.
What is the the most exciting part of organizing GUADEC?
I was born and raised in Strasbourg and have been living in the area for 30 years. I’m a bit biased, but I think Strasbourg is the most beautiful city in the world. I’m really excited to have the GNOME community in my hometown, and to have these wonderful people discover it.
What is the most challenging part of organizing GUADEC?
We had a bad surprise five weeks before the event, when we learned we couldn’t have the venue we planned to have since 2012. It was a crisis that led to many sleepless nights, and a huge relief when Epitech told me they’d be happy to provide the venue for the event.
What is your favorite place in Strasbourg? Which places should we check out?
There are several museums in Strasbourg, all worth visiting. My favorite one is the Museum of Modern Art. I like to go there and sit for a while in front of the 54m² painting by Gustave Doré, “Le Christ quittant le prétoire“. Once I’m done visiting, I usually go to the café on the roof, where I can enjoy the most beautiful view of Strasbourg. And while you’re there, you can go for a walk in la Petite France!
You can also add those to your checklist:
- Place de la République, in the Neustadt, built by the German Empire
- The zoo at the Parc de l’Orangerie is the best spot to see the storks.
- And, of course, the Cathedral.
Thanks for the tips, Alexandre! And, most of all, thanks so much for having the GNOME community in Strasbourg!
GUADEC 2014 is almost upon us, and we are talking to the three keynote speakers who are lined up for this year’s conference. Nathan Wills – LWN editor, typeface designer and author – is one of these keynote speakers. His talk, titled Should We Teach The Robot To Kill, addresses issues relating to Free Software and the automative industry. We caught up with him to find out a bit more about this fascinating subject, as well as his views on Free Software conferences.
The automotive industry has been a latecomer to open source software. Why do you think that is?
I guess I think there are two reasons. The first is that automotive is highly, tightly “vertical” — carmakers have long-standing relationships with their manufacturers, suppliers, and vendors that involve multi-year contracts, and each car model takes years to go from design to implementation. I mean, it’s the prototypical assembly-line industry, after all. Thus, it takes quite some time to orchestrate a major change.
The other reason, though, it that it has only been recently that consumer electronics has become an important factor for carmakers. Now that smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, not just accessories for people with disposable income, customers are asking for different things in their cars than they used to. A few years ago, your biggest concerns were DVD players in the rear seats, CDs in the front, and maybe some kind of remote-unlock/service-you-can-call. Now people want installable apps and they expect a full-blown 3G Internet connection; that means a very different software stack is expected than there used to be.
What is the most exciting improvement the automotive industry could bring to everyday life, in your opinion?
Okay; so this may sound nebulous, but I think one of the best things the automotive software market could do is demonstrate to people that software is just another component in all of the machines & things that we already use everyday. Because people have a different relationship to their cars than they do to, say, their phones and their netbooks. We change our own oil, we replace parts that wear out; we keep our cars for decades at a time and we learn every little thing about how they work (admittedly, it’s not always by choice…).
So automotive software will have to encompass part of that experience already. And, since so much of that software will be based on Linux and FOSS, I hope it will expose lots of new people to programming — as something that they can do if they decide they want to.
You attended the coolest worldwide conferences about open source. Which one has been the most exciting? (GUADEC apart, of course!)
Yikes…. It’s so hard to choose, because they’re all so different. I really love the “community” conferences like Texas Linux Fest, SCALE, and Ohio Linux Fest, because the attendees are so fired up. But I also really love developer conferences, because you get to see the connections being made and major things happening that just don’t occur in mailing-list discussions. On that side of things I would put conferences like GUADEC and the GStreamer Conference. But then I also have to single out Libre Graphics Meeting, which is a favorite of mine because it’s right in between: developers and users meeting with each other.
What do you expect from this GUADEC?
Mayhem of the highest order. But mixed in with talks showcasing interesting new work that I might unintentionally miss if I was just reading release announcements, a glimpse of where GNOME and GTK+ applications will be six months or a year from now, and, naturally, a lot of people enjoying geeking out (so to speak) about making and using software. Also hopefully some font talk….
What can we expect from your keynote at GUADEC?
Well, I hope people will come away with a clearer picture of where things stand today in the automotive Linux software realm — especially what the various projects’ goals are and what parts of the overall picture those goals cover. Then I also hope I can get people interested in participating in automotive software space, starting with where they can get involved today as a user and as a contributor.
And, finally, my ultimate goal would be to persuade some people that the free-software community can — and should — take up the challenge and view the car as a first-rate environment where free software belongs. Because there will naturally be lots of little gaps where the different corporate projects don’t quite have every angle covered. But we don’t have to wait for other giant companies to come along and finish the job. We can get involved now, and if we do, then the next generation of automotive software will be stronger for it, both in terms of features and in terms of free-software ideals.
Thanks Nathan! We can’t wait to hear your keynote.
GUADEC 2014 starts on Saturday in Strasbourg, France. To welcome attendees, and to kick start the fun, there will be a pre-registration welcome event on Friday 25th July at 18:00, at Foyer de l’Étudiant Catholique, 17 Place Saint Étienne (which is also the accommodation for sponsored attendees).
The event will be a chance for attendees to collect their conference badges ahead of time, all while having a drink, eating and chatting in a friendly mood.
GUADEC couldn’t happen without the help of volunteers. These are attendees that dedicate part of their conference experience to help the organizing team. They are there to make sure things run smoothly, and are always available to help.
Shivani Poddar was a volunteer during last year’s GUADEC in Brno, her first GUADEC both as an attendee and a volunteer. The experience was so remarkable Shivani is now back to volunteering. She’s coordinating the volunteer activities for this year’s GUADEC — and she guarantees it’s not too late to sign up to help!
We chatted with Shivani about volunteering at GUADEC, and how you can also help:
Volunteers can help with a number of different things. They can assist at the information desk, where they answer questions about the conference events, and help with registration and swag handling. They can also become a Session Chair, which means moderating the talks, making sure they start and end on time, and that attendees can ask questions. Another way volunteers can help is by, literally, running around and helping as needed — we call these the “runners”.
All of this happens during the conference, but there’s a lot to be done before it as well. Volunteers are welcome to help us with the pre-conference setup, which includes putting things in place, folding badges, and solving last-minute troubles.
You were a volunteer during last year’s GUADEC. How was the experience?
I personally loved the experience. Firstly, as interns [Shivani was a Google Summer of Code intern last summer], we don’t have to worry a lot about organizational tasks. So volunteering was a great way to contribute my bit to the conference. I not only learned about how things work (including running, being Session Chair, etc) but also got to meet a lot of new people because of it. I saw the effort people put in, and felt like contributing a lot more in the following year (read this year!).
How can attendees volunteer? Can anyone help?
Yes! And thanks to all volunteers, it means a lot!
If you want to help, all you need to do is the follow these steps:
- Add yourself to the Volunteers list, and read about the different volunteer roles carefully.
- Add yourself to the timetable. Make sure to only sign up for slot you will be available to cover.
- Make sure you are subscribed to guadec-list — all important announcements are communicated there.
- Make sure to attend the volunteer meetings.
If you want to volunteer (or are already one) and have any queries, ping me at #guadec on IRC. I will be happy to help you.
Thanks for the interview and for coordinating the volunteer work at GUADEC, Shivani!
GUADEC 2014 is just around the corner, and three exciting keynote speakers will be presenting during the conference. We took the opportunity to speak to Matthew Garrett, who will be giving one of those keynotes, about his keynote and about this year’s GUADEC.
I learned about the importance of implementing security in a way that respects a machine owner’s freedom. The risk was that UEFI secure boot would end up as what the FSF call Restricted Boot – a mechanism that restricts what the user can run on their system in the name of security. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and instead we ended up with systems that allow the user to choose their keys.
The great part of this has been seeing other companies express interest in ensuring that the devices they manufacture respect user freedom in the same way. I’ve spoken to people who are working hard on rolling out similar functionality on other devices, allowing users to run the software they want to without having to give up security in the process.
What can we expect from your keynote at GUADEC?
I’ll be talking about why a free software desktop is still vital, and why GNOME should be that desktop. Commercial desktops are inevitably going to compromise user freedom for the benefit of proprietary software vendors or governments, but many users are still going to be willing to accept the lost of those freedoms if it improves their productivity. We need to produce something that’s not merely more free, but actively better.
You have been contributing to Free Software for some time. What is your perspective on the new open source generations, who are starting out with the web and GitHub?
The sheer prevalence of free software means new developers may be less aware of the struggles previous generations went through in order to build the current ecosystem. The risk is that we’ll slide back towards a more proprietary world, and we need to keep paying attention to attacks on our freedoms.
You have attended to several GUADEC: how is to be a keynoter this time with a FSF Free Software Award in your pocket?
It’s an honor. GNOME was the first free software project I became heavily involved with, and I still have many good friends in the community. I’m proud to be able to speak in front of an audience so committed to providing high quality free software for the benefit of all users, not just those with a technical background.
What do you expect from this GUADEC?
I expect to spend time with a wonderful community of smart, driven people. I expect to hear about inspiring projects, exciting features and meet a variety of new people. And, being France, I expect to find some excellent food and wine.
We’d like to thank Matthew for taking the time to answer our questions, and look forward to his keynote at GUADEC.
Their goals include: making further improvements to accessibility support, implementing tiling support to allow infinite zoom, improving the support for PDF annotations, revamping the comics back-end and reviewing and integrating pending patches.
The hackfest brings together members of the GNOME Accessibility team, and Evince developers. It also involves a number of Google Summer of Code students.
The event could not have taken place without the support of the GNOME Foundation.
You can learn more about the Evince Hackfest on the event wiki page.