What’s next in GNOME’s future?

The thoughts and ideas in this post are mine and not necessarily representative of what the GNOME Foundation thinks or plans to do.

Canonical will be shipping Unity as the default desktop for Ubuntu 11.04. It’ll still be GNOME technologies underneath, GNOME applications will run on it and it’s still optimized for GNOME, but it won’t be the GNOME shell. Not the traditional GNOME shell that we all know and love nor the new GNOME Shell coming out in GNOME 3.0.

Disappointing News

Many developers were really disappointed to hear that Unity will be the default shell on Ubuntu. Some are disappointed because they don’t like Unity. Others are disappointed because they feel like Canonical is doing its own thing instead of working with the greater GNOME community to reach a compromise that works for all.

I understand. We’ve put a lot of work into GNOME Shell, our next big thing, and Canonical is saying that it’s not the best thing for their users. It’s disappointing because we are excited about our new plans and expect lots of users to enjoy them. And we rely on our distribution partners to get GNOME into the hands of users, so we were expecting Canonical to help us in that. We also expected Canonical to push for any different user interfaces they wanted within our community, not to design them and announce them independently. In a sense it feels like a child who’s decided to move out of the house. We thought they were going to stay with us forever and listen to our wisdom and instead they’ve told us they’ve learned from us, they like some of what we are doing and they have grand plans for the future. They plan to use some of what we work on (like kids come home for some holidays) but they plan to do their own thing too. Perhaps they’ll make mistakes that have been made before or perhaps they’ll do something grand.

Trying New Alternatives

The beauty of open source software is that they can decide to try something new, without convincing all of us to do it too. And they aren’t forking the project. They’ll still be using a lot of GNOME technologies – the same ones we are using – with just a different shell on top.

In a way, it’s not all that different from what Moblin and Maemo did. They used GNOME technologies with a different shell. We were ok with that because they were expanding into new markets – netbooks and tablets – and because it didn’t seem like a step away from GNOME but a step forward with GNOME. Canonical’s move with Unity is similar. Except that they aren’t starting from scratch, they are moving from a traditional GNOME desktop to Unity. So we feel the change more.

Changing Open Source Ecosystem

I’d also say we are seeing a change in the open source ecosystem here.

On one hand, we are getting more companies joining us that know very little about open source or who have interacted very little with open source communities – device manufacturers for example. We have been actively working on how best to get them involved in the our community in order to improve our project and in order to ensure that they have a good experience with open source software. We want to be sure that they use it in a way that doesn’t require them to do lots of rework every time we update our product.

On the other hand, we have companies that have been using open source for a long time and are developing their own ideas for what works. We aren’t always going to agree with them. For example, Canonical believes copyright assignments will benefit open source software. The GNOME community feels copyright assignments are potentially detrimental to free software projects. But while we don’t agree, we need to find a way to best work together.

What’s next?

Canonical has a lot of work to do, but I assume they know that and I won’t presume to tell them how to do it other than to encourage them to continue to work with us on the GNOME technologies they use. I do wish them the best of luck. As one of GNOME’s partners and as a company that gets open source software into the hands of users, I hope they succeed.

In GNOME’s case, I think we need to understand what companies are looking for from us and how we want to position and brand ourselves.

What do we call projects that use GNOME technologies but aren’t a GNOME desktop? What if it’s a device that has no screen? Or a small device like a smartphone? Or a full desktop distribution? Do we want them to be GNOME branded? If so, how do we want them to be GNOME branded?

What do we want to focus on? Awesome technologies that can be used and pieced together independently? Or an awesome desktop that solves a particular problem? Or a set of user interfaces that solves a set of problems? Right now I think we are working on one awesome desktop that we hope solves lots of problems. But it’s unlikely that one desktop is going to work for a huge set of diverse people. For example you might have a developer with two 24″ screens or a student with an 8″ netbook or a mom with her smartphone. Either GNOME needs to develop solutions for all of those or they need to enable others to do so. And we need to figure out what that means for the project and how we want to brand ourselves.

We also need to continue to work on better integration between the desktop and the web. While both GNOME Shell and Unity say they are addressing the way people work today with the web, there’s still a huge gap between the applications I run on the web and the ones I run on my desktop. They don’t seemlessly integrate. Email is the best example of how things could work. Most web email services and most desktop email clients integrate very well these days. But calendars, contacts, banking systems, recipe management systems, etc. all have a ways to go.

We are doing the groundwork to enable that integration between the desktop and the web in projects like GNOME Shell and WebKitGTK+ and many other projects. There’s still work to be done to maximize the entire user flow including the 7 applications they have open on their desktop and the 15 tabs the currently have open in their browser. Fortunately we have many smart people working on it.

Over 106 companies have contributed to GNOME and over 3500 individuals have made contributions. While we may have lost a distribution channel for GNOME Shell, Canonical will still be using and building with many GNOME technologies and working with the GNOME Foundation. And we still have all of our substantial technical resources working on GNOME Shell and other GNOME technologies.

Time, and our strategy, will determine what the free and open source software user interfaces of the future look like.

Stormy’s Update: October 4, 2010

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation?

I interviewed the final candidates for the system administration position, we made an offer and … welcomed Christer Edwards as our new system administrator! He’s already done great work in just the past couple of weeks. Thanks to our interviewers Jonathan Blandford, Bradley Kuhn and Brad Taylor and a special thanks to Paul Cutler for putting it all together.

Kicked off some work with InitMarketing to do some of the template presentations for GNOME folks to use when presenting about GNOME.

Attended a few of the GNOME a11y meetings. Had conversations about GNOME a11y with the team, the FSF and others. There’s lots of good stuff happening there and people are working out how best to get things done and collaborate across projects and organizations. I wish I was at the GNOME a11y hackfest at AEGIS this week! (Speaking of which I feel terrible that Bryen Yunashko got robbed in Barcelona before his trip even really started. Terrible because I feel like Barcelona is my home town and crime has been climbing as fast as unemployment and I didn’t warn him. And terrible because his computer and his camera are part of the way Bryen communicates with the world and now he’s on a two week trip without them. If you’d like to help Bryen get set back up again, there’s a Pledgie campaign where you can donate.)

Had a GNOME advisory board meeting where we updated them on all the things going on and asked them for feedback. We had discussions about hackfests and events (including plans for the Desktop Summit 2011), the Outreach Program for Women, 2011 budget planning and GNOME a11y. The advisory board meets once a month; let me know if you have suggestions for meeting topics.

Talked to a CiviCRM contracting company about getting some of the integration and customizations done that we need, like integrating it with Paypal and Friends of GNOME. If there are any CiviCRM experts in the GNOME community, let me know!

Met with Peter Brown from the FSF and Brian Cameron from the GNOME Board of Directors to discuss areas where we might collaborate, like accessibility.

Put together the Free and Open Source Software booth for Grace Hopper with lots of help from these awesome women and all the organizations (Canonical, Red Hat, Novell, FSF, GNOME and Oracle) that sent us goodies to hand out. And thanks to the Grace Hopper folks who gave us the booth space!

Free and Open Source Software Booth at Grace Hopper. Sitting: Leslie Hawthorn, Amber Graner, Deb Nicholson. Standing: Stormy Peters, Selena Decklemann, Cat Allman, Terri Oda, Carol Smith, Corey Latislaw.

We handed out 180 fliers about the GNOME Outreach Program for Women program too. I also helped out with the Open Source Track and that was a great success finishing with a Sahana codeathon. Thanks to Jennifer Redman for making the track and the codeathon happen. Thanks to the NSA for sponsoring it!

Both the attendees and the conference speakers at GHC were all extremely motivating. I got to meet with lots of interesting people including Heidi Ellis whose class is working on Caribou as part of GNOME’s a11y and HFOSS program.

Kept up to date on the Desktop Summit 2011 planning. A big thanks to Andreas Nilsson, Dave Neary, Reinout van Schouwen, Kat Gerasimova and others for representing GNOME at the Desktop Summit 2011 planning meeting.

Sent out the notice about the 2010 Q2 Quarterly Report. (It was published in August.) Thanks to all the teams that are already sending out a call for the Q3 report!

Reviewed the GNOME 2.32 release notes. Thanks to Paul Cutler for keeping the release notes going! He could use help with writing and with screen shots.

Put together email and website for launching the GNOME Ambassador program. Need to launch it now!

Announced that the GNOME Foundation and LWN will be giving an LWN.net subscription to all Friends of GNOME subscribers! Thanks, LWN! Sent out a call for people to help with our end of the year subscriber campaign.

Exchanged a few emails with women who applied to the GNOME Outreach Program for Women that are interested in marketing. Thanks to Marina Zhurakhinskaya for answering all the rest of the mails (even a few difficult ones) and making the whole program happen!

Met with Phil Robb from HP. Talked about Palm, GNOME and Accessibility.

Worked with the marketing team on a GNOME ad for Linux 92. Thanks to Joey Ferwerda and Máirín Duffy.


  • Cat Allman gave me the good news at Grace Hopper that Google has some funding for the GNOME Outreach Program for Women!
  • Mozilla is funding the Snowy hackfest! Snowy is the server side of Tomboy Online.
  • Working with several organizations on some funding for a11y. Worked with Joanie on a write-up of goals.

Pinged a lot of people about a lot of things. Extremely grateful to the GNOME community for all the hard work they do!

How do I raise enough money to work on my project full time?

“How do I raise enough money to be able to spend all my time working on my favorite free software project?” is a question I hear often.

I have a few ideas and I’m very interested in hearing others as I think the world would be a better place if we all could afford to do work we loved and thought useful.

  1. Focus on the difference you’d make. First off, I wouldn’t approach it as “I need to raise money to pay myself.” Unless you are raising money solely from people that love you, whether or not you get paid is probably not going to sway them one way or the other. You need to tell them what $100,000 a year would do. How would your project be great then? Who would it help? How would it make the world a better place? How would it help this particular type of sponsor?
  2. Believe it. You need to truly believe your project would benefit from the money and your work. If you aren’t convinced, you won’t convince anyone else.
  3. Figure out how much you need. It helps to have a goal. Would you quit your day job if you had $20,000 in funding? $100,000? $200,000? (Don’t forget costs like health care, vacation time, etc.)
  4. Identify different types of sponsors. Are you going to raise money from developers? Or software companies? Or philanthropic grant givers? Also think about how much money that type of sponsor is likely to give. Be realistic. Maybe they gave a project $100,000 once but they gave five other projects $10,000. You are probably going to get $10,000 if you get anything. Then figure out how many sponsors you’ll need. Figure out where those people are and how you are going to get introduced to them.
  5. Create a pitch. You need a really good web page, a good email, an elevator pitch and unfortunately, you probably need a slide deck too.
  6. Tell the world. Don’t ask everyone for money. But tell everyone about your project and what your goals are. (Hint: your goal is not to raise money but to make your project better. The money is a means to an end.) Use your elevator pitch. Listen carefully to their questions, their skepticism, their ideas. Evolve. Make your pitch better. Figure out how to pitch it to different types of people.
  7. Sell your project. Don’t forget to talk about your project. You aren’t just asking for money, you are selling the potential of your project.
  8. Collect stories. Studies have proven that people are willing to give more money to save one child identified by name and ailment than they are to save 100 kids. Personal stories are moving. Find a couple of stories of how your project has made a difference.
  9. Learn about them. You are not going to get any money from someone whom you don’t understand. Know them, know their business, know what they care about, know how they view you.
  10. Work with an organization that can help. For example, maybe you want money to work on your favorite project and you found companies that are willing to sponsor it but they don’t want to manage it. Would they be willing to funnel the money to you through a nonprofit organization that also supports your type of project?
  11. Ask. Talk to lots of potential sponsors, ask them for money, apply for grants, look for opportunities. If you don’t ask for the money, you will never get it.

What else would you recommend?

P.S. If you are looking to raise money to work on GNOME, please consider the GNOME Foundation your ally.

Stormy’s Update: August 30, 2010

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation?

During the week of July, I was at GUADEC 2010! There I attended the GNOME Board of Directors annual meeting, ran the GNOME Board of Advisors annual meeting, put together the Getting Things Done lightening talks and met with lots of people. It was a great GUADEC in a great venue with lots of good talks and conversations – we’ve been getting lots of good feedback. Kudos to the local organizing team! You can see all the videos of the talks at Flumotion’s website as it was streamed live and recorded! The videos are licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 so please use and share them. (Flumotion was nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award for them. You can vote for them here.)

During the first week of August, I went on vacation.

Since then I’ve been trying to catch up on my Inbox, follow up on conversations, and generally make sure that I’m helping make great things happen in GNOME.

Attended LinuxCon in Boston and made a call for free (as in free software) web services. Pointed out several of the ones GNOME is working on. Ran into lots of interesting people but not enough time to talk to them all as much I’d have liked.

I met one on one with Rosanna. And Brian.

I attended board meetings. I think the new board is still figuring out who’s doing what and who’s good at what but they are coming together and their talents balance nicely.

Met with Nokia about the money they are providing to GNOME Mobile.

Tried to attend a webinar about Finances and nonprofits put on by our insurance company but had some technical difficulties. Will try again next time.

Had several interviews for magazines and blogs. Trying to push them towards other interesting GNOME people! (I do the same with speaking invitations, by the way. Which is why I’m really looking forward to the GNOME Ambassadors program.)

Had brief meetings with our attorneys and our accountant to get some clarifying information.

Attended the FSF’s women’s group meeting. (I don’t think it’s called that – that’s how I think of it. It’s a group of women in free software that are trying to make sure women know about opportunities in free software and to get more girls involved.)

Worked on the Free Software booth for Grace Hopper. Booked hotel for that.

Booked travel for Ohio LinuxFest.

Worked on getting GNOME representation at board and community level for the Desktop Summit 2011.

Finished the Q2 quarterly report with help from all the teams, Vinicius Depizzol and Vincent Untz!

Worked with LGM to help them get their reimbursements in order for LGM 2008, 2009 and 2010. (Rosanna is double checking them and processing them.)

Debating future travel. Latinoware, GNOME Forum Brazil, Desktop Summit 2011 planning meeting (how much of a role should I play in GUADEC – is it changing?), Boston Summit, … already going to Ohio LinuxFest and Grace Hopper and I’m enjoying being home for a while.

Had a meeting with LiMo, Samsung, Ryan Lortie, Alberto Ruiz and Vincent Untz at GUADEC.  To talk about GTK+ and upcoming related events.

Reviewed actual budget numbers for the year in preparation for helping with our 2011 budget. The year starts in October so now is the time to get in your requests for community events or other things you think GNOME should do in the next year.

Connected several people with great ideas with people I thought could help move them forward.

Pinged the MIT folks a few times, as did J5, and we now have rooms for the Boston Summit!

Following up with marketing team and others on numerous offers to give us pro-bono ads in magazines.

Met with a couple of advisory board members. Hoping to meet up with those I missed via phone soon.

Putting all the Hackfest pieces together

Planning a hackfest is not an easy process. You need an:

  • organizer – someone willing to put some time into making the whole thing happen
  • topic – what are you going to be hacking on, what do you hope to accomplish
  • attendees – this is usually a particular group of people that work on a specific project or team
  • date – have you ever tried to schedule a multi-day meeting with multiple people? Agreeing on a week can be really hard.
  • place – a place with affordable lodging and food with a comfortable place to hack with great internet. Preferably some place easy and cheap to travel to.
  • sponsors – flying a group of people to the same place often costs quite a bit of money

Luckily we’ve had people and companies willing to invest the time and resources to make this happen. During the past year we’ve had a record number of very productive hackfests and we have even more coming up!

And we have more opportunities! Not only are a lot of teams looking to have hackfests in the near future but we have people offering up venues!

  • Dave Richards from the City of Largo is interested in hosting a hackfest. Many of you know Dave from his participation in the Boston Summit. The City of Largo is a big GNOME fan – they use a lot of thin client solutions.
  • Daniel Siegel has once again offered up Bolzano and the Free Software Center of South Tyrol as a GNOME hackfest location in conjunction with their annual event in November. It’s a beautiful location and we’ve had several successful GNOME hackfests there over the years like the Zeitgeist one. This year all of the groups that I’ve contacted can’t make the dates work, so if you know of a team looking for a venue, this might be right for you!

So if you are interested in organizing a hackfest, please let us know. The GNOME Foundation is here to help – we can help find sponsors, venues, mentors, checklists, etc. The Board of Directors have even offered to act as mentors for any one planning a hackfest!

GNOME Foundation hosting free web services

The GNOME Foundation is hosting free web services.

As you probably already know, the GNOME Foundation is hosting Tomboy Online which is in an invite only alpha right now.

We also have a public instance of a Gobby server running, so you can edit documents real time with others by pointing Gobby at gobby.gnome.org! When we update to the new protocol, you will also be able to collaboratively edit in gedit. Gobby runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and other Unix like operating systems.

For those of you that easily host your own Gobby servers, this may not seem like a big deal. But for those of us that groan at the thought of figuring out how to host a server of any kind, keep it running and answer questions from others, well, this makes it a lot easier for us to use the free software services that are out there!

How are you helping GNOME to be web aware?

Thursday I’ll be giving a keynote at LinuxCon. I’m talking about your desktop, the web and your data. If you are working on a GNOME project that integrates the web with the desktop (or plans to), and would like to spread the word about it, please let me know!

Ideally you’d send me:

  • a brief description of your project and how it interacts with the web or web apps
  • a screen shot
  • issues or concerns that you’ve had either about how the desktop, the web and data integrate or about how user freedom is preserved

I can’t promise to include them all but I’d love to highlight what GNOME people are thinking about and working on.


Stormy’s Update: June 14th-July 12th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation?

My weekly update routine has been broken. I used to write my update every Monday morning. However, now when I sit down on Monday morning I usually have several hundred unread messages. So I am working on a new routine for writing my updates. (And trying to figure out if I’m getting more email than normal or more email on weekends or what.) In the mean time, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Had an interview with James Turner as a prelude to my OSCON keynote.
  • Participated in several GNOME Asia Summit planning meetings. The conference is coming along well!
  • Had regular 1:1’s with Brian Cameron.
  • Had regular 1:1’s with Rosanna Yuen.
  • Attended board meetings. Participated in board discussions.
  • Worked on setting up lightning talks on web services and free software for OSCON.
  • Worked on setting up lightning talks on Getting Things Done in GNOME for GUADEC.
  • Helped with GUADEC planning stuff mostly budget, sponsors and some general planning. We had some last minute staff changes as one staff member got too ill to continue.
  • We did a joint press release with Sugar Labs as the new OLPC will also have GNOME on it. (Sugar also uses GNOME technologies.)
  • Contacted all the groups that submitted bids to host the Desktop Summit 2011, sent them our questions and asked them to update their bids and make them public. Ended up with two bids. The boards (KDE and GNOME) will now interview them.
  • Had a couple of meetings with GNOME advisory board members. I hope to catch them all in person 1:1 during GUADEC.
  • Sent out several emails about the GNOME Training at GUADEC to our advisory board members. Several expressed interest in getting it incorporated in their regular corporate training.
  • Attended the Transfer Summit. Gave a talk on GNOME, attended a Foundations BOF and lots of interesting discussions.
  • Worked on signing up a new GNOME advisory board member. To be announced later. 😉
  • GNOME was accepted into the YouTube nonprofit program. Stay tuned for what we do with that space. Probably starting with GUADEC and taking off with GNOME 3.
  • And answered the kazillion emails, IMs and IRCs. So feel free to ping me if you have questions!

Free *software* training, *free* software training, or just GNOME Training!

We are holding GNOME Training at GUADEC this year!

The title says “Free software training, free software training, or just GNOME Training!” because a couple of our most popular Google Adwords for it are free software training and free software class. Since none of those clicks have resulted in sales, I’ve been wondering if the clickers were looking for free training or free software training. I supposed I’ll never know. But we have GNOME training!

It’s taught by GNOME experts Fernando Herrera, Alberto Garcia, Claudio Saavedra and Dave Neary. (Dave is teaching and making the whole thing happen.)

The training is for developers and it’s split into four modules. You can sign up for the whole thing or for just the modules you are interested in.

  1. Developer tools and development environments. Source control, autotools, dependencies, compliation environments, debuggers, etc.
  2. The GNOME Platform. Glib, GObject, GTK+, Clutter, Glade, GtkBuilder, DBus, GConf, GStreamer, Telepathy, etc.
  3. A hands-on practical workshop. Set up a GNOME development environment, write a complete GNOME application in Python and integrate with the GNOME desktop.
  4. Community development. Community communication forums, effective community participation, getting changes upstream, getting to maintainer and building a vibrant community

As for cost … it’s not free. (But it is free software!) The trainers and organizers need to eat. And the GNOME Foundation hopes to be able to expand where we offer training to places like … Cambodia. (We did get pinged about someone in Cambodia interested in attending.)

This training should grow the GNOME developer community and the use of GNOME within organizations.

Check out the brochure (pdf), ask questions or just sign up!

Share how you got something done in GNOME!

I am organizing the Getting Things Done in GNOME lightening talks at GUADEC. If you have gotten something done in GNOME, please come share your work! It can be something as simple as figuring out how to get a new hackergotchi to some thing as momentous as planning a new conference like GNOME Asia. If it took you some work (and some guts) to figure out how to do it, chances are others are also wondering how to do similar things.

The Getting Things Done in GNOME talks will take place on Thursday, July 29th, at GUADEC. Each talk will be 5 minutes in length. You can use slides which you will need to be sent to me ahead of time in PDF format.

If you are interested, send mail to guadec -at- stormyscorner -dot- com with the word “Getting Things Done” in the subject line, and include the following information. Please take a minute and submit your idea now!

Full Name:

Cell Phone Number:

Title of Talk:

One Line Description:

Your Blog or Website:

Other Talks I’m Giving at GUADEC:

Feel free to nominate people that you think I should invite to give a lightening talk about Getting Things Done in GNOME!