City bikes

City bikes in Barcelona

Several cities in Spain now have a public bike system. You pay 20 euros a year and you can use any of the bikes for half an hour for free. You pay half a euro for every half an hour after that for up to two hours.

In cities like Zaragoza it is working so well that there is a waiting list to join. Cities like Barcelona have run into a few snags. Barcelona is on a hill. Turns out that people like to grab a bike to coast downtown. Nobody wants to ride back up the hill so they have to truck the bikes back up hill!

I saw lots of people riding bikes in both Zaragoza and Barcelona.

Stormy’s Update: Month of May

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? or my earlier updates.

Attended the fantastic GNOME Marketing Hackfest. Got there and back – on the way home we took a six hour detour – making it a more than 24 hour trip home – and flew by the volcano. For something that has caused so much trouble, it’s not very impressive from an airplane.

Put together a survey after the hackfest for attendees in order to help the GNOME Foundation and travel committee to make more informed decisions.

Attended board meetings. Met regularly with Rosanna. Met regularly with Brian.

Encouraged people to apply for the GNOME Board of Directors. Thanks to everyone who applied. Although it’s a lot of work, it’s an interesting and rewarding job!

Had GNOME Advisory Board meeting on finances.

Helped German update the budget. Discussed 2H (second half) budget plan.

Talked to Marina about launching the Outreach Program for Women in the southern hemisphere.

Worked with Orbitz to see if they have an account or processes that could help the GNOME Travel Committee.

Continued to ping GUADEC sponsors and work out details. Almost all finalized. Kept up on a few GUADEC details and issues, including sponsored travel plans.

Met with Jonathan Markow from Jasig and discussed how we do things and if there were opportunities to work together. Jasig makes open source software projects for higher education.

Booked travel for most of my trips this summer. Still missing a few that will be paid for by the events. Bummed that tickets to Europe are so expensive this summer as it will make it much harder for us adn companies to sponsor all the folks we’d like to see at GUADEC.

Submitted title and abstract for LinuxCon keynote.

Attended a couple of the GNOME.Asia planning meetings. It’s coming along nicely this year. You should plan on attending. 🙂

Met with James Vasile, our attorney from the SFLC, to talk about a few things.

Met with a few advisory board members to discuss projects, GUADEC, issues, etc.

Met with a potential sponsor.

Pushed for a GNOME technologies roadmap process.

Put together the list of 2009 donors for the Friends of GNOME page! Due to a Paypal “feature” this was a very manual process. Thanks to Vincent Untz for posting them. If your name should be there and it’s missing, let me know. Thanks to all our Friends both known and anonymous!

Kept the conversation moving about how best to use the Nokia money to sponsor GNOME apps on Maemo/MeeGo.

Worked with Brian Cameron and the sys admin team to launch the GNOME Developing World mailing list. If you are interested in how we can promote GNOME, the free desktop, in the developing world, please join the list.

Talked to AEGIS and the GNOME Accessibility team about having a GNOME A11y Hackfest at AEGIS conference.

Changed Amazon Affiliate accounts to pay out less often as the international checks cost quite a bit of money to deposit.

Worked at finding people to represent GNOME at events. It was more difficult than I expected and after several conversations (including some at the marketing hackfest) we will be launching a GNOME Ambassadors program to try to improve this process and get better GNOME representation.

May 31st is a US holiday.

(Remembered why I normally do these weekly and not monthly! It’s hard to go back and remember all the things you did and discussed for an entire month.)

How do you get furniture into apartment buildings?

Moving furniture in ...

One year in Barcelona we lived in an old apartment building that had a very narrow spiral staircase. And no elevator. You moved in furniture by draping ropes over pulleys at the top of the building and hauling it up and through the windows.

Now they’ve gotten high tech. I saw these guys with this huge elevator crane thing. It looked like a lot less work.

(We lived in another apartment building that had the oldest working elevator I’d ever seen. One afternoon it got possessed and started going up and down on its own. I also got stuck in it once and had to open the doors and crawl out midfloor. It’s still working today but you are only allowed to ride it up, not down.)

Libraries in Barcelona!

Barcelona Library at Sarria

When I lived in Spain, I would have given anything for a good public library – especially one with English books. Well, now they have them!

There are very nice public libraries in Barcelona. They were quite popular – people were waiting outside for the one I visited to open. Inside they were light and spacious with lots of magazines, computers, a children’s section and foreign language sections … in addition to the regular books you usually find in a library.  Every floor and section had a lot of people in it on the Saturday I visited.

My friends say they also see more people reading in public places like the metro.

Are you really solving a problem?

Often we get so caught up in our new ideas that we forget to stop and ask ourselves if we are really solving a problem and if so, which problem.

Head snugglers solve a problem. But it’s not for kids’ necks. (When have you ever heard about a toddler complaining about a stiff neck?) Head snugglers solves parents’ needs to feel like they are doing the most possible for their kids’ health and comfort. Many companies profit from that desire.

Needless to say, we will not be buying any head snugglers even though we often comment that the kids look really uncomfortable sleeping in the car! They always wake up just fine and able to flop their heads over to our shoulder to be carried into the house.

(Are you supposed to stop the car and slip this on once the kid is sleeping? Or are you supposed to get them to agree to wear it when they are still awake? I’d like to see that battle!)

Crime in Barcelona

Crime appears to be up in Barcelona. Many of the local residents blame the economy and the huge number of foreign immigrants.

It’s affecting people’s behavior. At dinner at a nice restaurant, a friend told me not to leave my bag on the chair next to me. While visiting a friend on her rooftop terrace, we ran downstairs to grab a camera and we locked the rooftop door for the 60 seconds we’d be gone.

The anecdotal evidence I heard (in one day!):

  • My friend’s mom had her car tires slashed – while she was driving – and people on mopeds approached on both sides and took her purse from the passenger side.
  • Another friend’s condo building has had 3 breakins in the past month through the rooftop patio door.
  • A guy I spoke to at the airport had lost his blackberry at a restaurant and his wallet at the entrance to his hotel. (He was not very savvy. He left his blackberry on the restaurant table when he went to the bathroom. He handed his hotel card key to someone standing outside the hotel dressed like a hotel bellhop to help him unlock the exterior door.)

I don’t pretend to know all the causes or even concrete numbers but it makes me sad that crime is growing in the city. While there’s always been pickpockets and robberies from parked cars, I have never heard so many people talking so much about it.

How does a free software project do marketing?

Typically free software projects have lots of very smart developers. Large projects like GNOME might also be lucky enough to have lots of great translators, designers, artists and writers working on the project.

However, marketing is not typically an area free software projects have worked much on. GNOME is changing that. Over the past couple of years we have really increased our marketing activity from fundraising to spreading the word about GNOME. One way we’ve done that is through the marketing mailing list. Another is by getting together at GUADEC and having marketing hackfests.

We just held our second GNOME marketing hackfest and it was a huge success.

Why was it a success?

Who went?

We had a really good mix of people from the release team (who could tell us what really was in GNOME 3.0) to the art team (it’s really hard to do any final marketing product without a designer!) to marketing experts.

The Zaragoza Marketing Hackfest Team. Photo by Jason Clinton.

They all blogged about the event and you can read what they worked on.

  • Dani Baeyens. Dani was our resident local. In addition to doing marketing stuff all week like helping Jason with the videos, discussing how to do a GNOME 3 demo that people at conferences can use and helping me make slides in Spanish, he also answered all our questions about “where can I …”, “how can I …”
  • Jason D. Clinton. Jason has been working on videos to promote features of GNOME 3. He’s not just working on the videos but working on a way to make it easy for others to make videos of their own. He also actively participated in the discussions.
  • Paul Cutler. Paul leads the marketing team and helped out in a number of discussions like the webpage and the demo technology. Along with Vincent and I, he also met with lots of the local teams and politicians.
  • Licio Fonseca. Licio worked on the GNOME Ambassadors wiki.
  • Sumana Harihareswara. Sumana gets the prize from me. She stepped up and led the whole hackfest, created the GNOME 3 marketing roadmap and offered to project manage GNOME 3 marketing!
  • Bharat Kapoor. Bharat brought his mobile and marketing expertise. He worked on a series of brochures for events and interviewed many of the local leaders on how they use GNOME.
  • Andreas Nilsson. Andreas brought vital design and art skills to the hackfest. With his help we were able to design websites, brochures, business cards, tshirts, etc.
  • Stormy Peters. I worked with Agustín Benito Bethencourt, Ignacio Correas and Alberto Capella to plan the hackfest. During the hackfest I led a couple of the discussions, worked on the GNOME Ambassadors material and plan to encourage more people to speak about GNOME and met with many local teams and politicians to talk about how we can work together in the future.
  • Ryan Singer. Ryan brought marketing experience to our discussions. In addition he helped write the talking points and brochures, worked on the website and was one of the drivers behind getting more speakers to promote GNOME.
  • Vincent Untz. Vincent really helped us with his knowledge of GNOME 3.0 from the release team perspective. In addition to answering lots of questions he also met with the local teams and politicians, participated in the discussions, worked on the business card template and the GNOME 3 demo technology.

Most all of these people attended a week long event on their own time, taking vacation from work.

We are also all supported by the GNOME Marketing team and the GNOME community. They actively watched what we were doing, participated in the IRC discussions with us and we will now all work together to make the GNOME 3.0 marketing roadmap a reality.

In addition we got to meet with many people in Zaragoza. We met with the:

  • Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza. The Zaragoza city government to talk about how GNOME and Zaragoza can work more closely together. Zaragoza is interested in promoting software industry in their city, in particular around free software, and they are interested in working with GNOME to make that happen.
  • Gobierno de Aragon. The regional government is also interested in promoting software industry and free software and interested in working with GNOME to grow their local community and industry.
  • Technological Institute of Aragon (ITA). They are working on several free software projects with others in the EU and would like to figure out ways we can work on them together.
  • Lorenzo Gil Sanchez and J. Félix Ontañón about the accessibility work they are doing in Andalucia.
  • Heidi Vilppola and Ignacio Correas from eBox about communities.

What’d we do?

We met every day from 9 or 10 until 8:30 at night when the building closed in this really cool government building that used to be an old convent, the Water Library.

GNOME Marketing at the Water Library in Zaragoza. Photo by Jason Clinton.

We worked on all the stuff mentioned above:

  • GNOME 3.0 marketing roadmap. This is our plan for marketing GNOME 3.0 and all the steps left to do between now and then.
  • GNOME 3.0 talking points. Lots of people talk about GNOME and GNOME 3.0 and they want to tell people about it. These talking points will give them specific things to highlight and demo.
  • GNOME Ambassadors and speakers program. We want to make it really easy for GNOME community members and fans to promote GNOME. We created everything from talking points to tshirts to business cards. We talked about how to make it easy for people to represent GNOME (like providing travel assistance and talking points.)
  • website – coming soon!
  • GNOME 3 videos. Jason has been working on 30 second videos that promote GNOME 3. They will feature lots of community members and many good highlights of GNOME 3!

The last day we had a GNOME Event at ITA. There were presentations from ASOLIF, CESLA, the City of Zaragoza, Aragon, GNOME folks and GNOME Hispano.

Sponsors and Local Organizers

The idea to host a GNOME hackfest in Zaragoza came from Agustín Benito Bethencourt from ASOLIF. Together with Ignacio Correas and Alberto Capella, they put together the event. Not only did they find the funding from local government organizations like the Zaragoza Municipality, Aragon Regional Government, ITA, ASOLIF and CESLA, but they also found us a great venue, very nice hotel and made sure we were very well fed! (Don’t go to Zaragoza if you are on a diet – the food was awesome!)

Many, many thanks to our sponsors:

Thanks to all our sponsors and to all our participants for making GNOME Marketing a success!

10 skills to master to get things done online

I’ve recently watched a few people struggle to get things done in online projects. I’ve written and spoken on 12 tips for getting things done in the open source community but now I see that people also need to learn how to work with mailing lists and virtual teams.

Skills you should master if you plan on working in a virtual environment. I’m interested in any other skills you’d add to the list.

  1. Master your email. You will get a lot of email. There are few in person meetings and there’s a large group to coordinate, so email is the most popular method of communication. Email will become a knowledge base. You need to be able to handle hundreds of emails a day without complaining that they are too many. (You don’t want to be cut off from the knowledge base do you?)
    There are lots of ways to master managing your email. Here are a few of the most common:

    • Touch each email once. If you read it, think about what you need to do with it and do it right then. If it’s something that requires action outside of email, add an action item to your todo list and then tag the email or file it in a special folder. Get it out of your inbox.
    • Use a threaded email client. It’s much easier to catch up on conversations if you can read the whole thread easily at once.
    • Use filters. Many people filter mail from different lists or about different topics to folders. (I personally do not do this. I find I never look at them if I do this.)
    • Dedicate certain time periods to checking email. I spend the first couple hours of every day responding to email. I don’t look at it as “doing email” but rather as communicating and following up with people.
    • Research and try. There are lots of methods and tips for dealing with incoming email. Try a few of them and figure out what works for you.
  2. Learn online tools. You should know how to use mailing lists, IRC, Skype, Twitter, IM, wikis, etc. Each team will use a different set of tools, but you should know the basics of most of them. That way if someone says, let’s have an IRC meeting in a hour, you won’t be googling “IRC” to figure out how to join at the last minute. Or looking for a headset in order to join a Skype call.
  3. Know where to find things. People that work online usually deal with a lot of information. Learn how to search your email archives effectively, how to search the mailing list archives, where the project stores documents or information online and how to search. If you need to ask for information, also ask how the person found it. Often they are simply searching for it. Do not ask for information that you can find easily yourself. Above all, do not ask for the same information twice! If you asked for it and got it, you should be able to find it again. Feel free to ask someone how they found the answer to your question. I learn a lot that way.
  4. Observe how things get done. Every virtual or online team is different. Watch how things get done. Do people present ideas before they are done? Wait for consensus? Present final products for review? If nobody ever responds to your email, it’s likely you are not following the project’s culture.
  5. Be prompt. With people working in different timezones and with different priorities, it’s important to respond to emails and to finish action items promptly. Each delay seems to multiply across the project.
  6. Keep the group informed. If you have a discussion off list, be sure to let the rest of the list know. Don’t be afraid to have the discussion on the list. If you make decisions or agree to something on the group’s behalf, be sure to let the rest of the group know.
  7. Know when to take it off list. Sometimes it’s best to have a discussion offlist first and then tell the group the outcome. For example, if you think your idea is controversial or too vague, you might want to run it by a few trusted people first. But remember, to get buyin and build consensus, some of the discussion has to happen on the list – it can’t be all polished decisions!
  8. Rethink conference calls. If you have conference calls, make sure everyone has access to good technology and make sure everyone is on the phone, not just some people. I think Nat’s Everyone Dials In policy is an excellent one. Also be aware that conference calls are particularly difficult for people that have to dial an international number to join and for people who’s first language isn’t English. While you may think conference calls are the most effective way to get things done, if half the team can’t hear or communicate well, IRC may be a much better choice.
  9. Learn how to read silence. Sometimes you’ll post a great idea or a question to the mailing list and nobody responds. Does that mean nobody liked your idea? Or that they couldn’t understand it? Or that they are all busy on the release that’s going out the day after tomorrow? In the absence of body language, you will have to be more aware of everything else that is going on.
  10. Know what’s been done. When you join a project you should spend some time observing, asking questions and reading the archives. If you suggest a multitude of projects that already exist or have already been proposed, people are going to think you aren’t willing to learn the project.
  11. What else would you add?

For suggestions on how to get things done in virtual teams, see 12 tips for getting things done in the open source community.

Stormy’s Update: Week of April 26, 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? or my earlier updates.

GNOME Asia meeting. The GNOME Asia team is planning GNOME Asia 2010. While the exact event hasn’t been announced, I can tell you it will most likely be in Taiwan and they are already looking for potential speakers.

I attended several GNOME A11y & HFOSS meetings. We are working with several universities this summer that will have students working on GNOME a11y projects. The GNOME a11y team is coming up with potential projects and mentors for the students to pick from.

Board meeting. The board met. The minutes will come out soon. Brian’s doing a great job of taking minutes and making sure we all track and update our action items.

Rosanna. Met with Rosanna for our regular weekly meeting but the meeting was eclipsed by our discussion of the fake check that someone tried to cash against the GNOME Foundation. Everything’s fine but we are working with our bank to make things as secure and safe as possible.

Silicon Flatirons Patents and Free and Open Source Software event. Spent Thursday afternoon and evening at the CU law school at a legal event about patents and free and open source software. I was on a panel that talked about some interesting data that shows most startup software companies don’t pursue patents but they think VCs value them. The VC on our panel, Jason Mendelson, said he didn’t.

1:1 with adboard member concerned about GNOME 3.

Wrapped up a few last minute details around the marketing hackfest. Many thanks to Agustín Benito Bethencourt, Ignacio Correas, Alberto Capella for organizing it. Thanks to the Zaragoza Municipality, Aragon Regional Governmen, Technological Institute of Aragon (ITA), ASOLIF, CESLA and the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring.

Travel to Zaragoza for the marketing hackfest.