Stormy Peters has been a champion of the GNOME platform since 2000, and in 2008 became the executive director of the non-profit Foundation that oversees GNOME development. She chatted with us about the future of GNOME, the history of the project and how computers can change the world even in places without power or internet access…
How is development of GNOME 3 coming along? What are the big features? Any more delays expected?
The goal with GNOME 3 is to make it easy for users to focus on their tasks by minimising distractions. For example, instead of distracting pop-ups, you’ll get a notification that displays for a few seconds and goes away. Applications will be brought up with a few keystrokes; things you use often will be even easier to reach. Desktops are easier to manage – they’ll be created as needed and easy to sort by activity.
In addition we’re making a lot of changes in the developer infrastructure. We’re adding things like Clutter and geolocation. We’re integrating some of the external dependencies, moving the bindings closer to the platform and creating a staging area for libraries. And we’ll release when it’s ready!
And the GNOME development processes – any changes afoot?
The whole idea is to continuously improve the process. We’ve been making it easier for developers who want to work on GNOME. It wasn’t hard before, but there were terrible stats. We’re trying to make it easier for people to make GNOME applications. One of our missions has always been to be a development platform first. You could argue we’re a development platform first, then a user platform second.
We listened to a lot of web developers out there. They said we should make it easy for them to develop for the desktop. With GNOME on a lot of different types of devices, we need to attract developers who are trying to develop for things like phones and tablets.
Are you dealing with Canonical to co-ordinate with Ubuntu releases at all?
We keep our six-month release cycle so that our downstream partners can count on when GNOME will be released and plan accordingly. We were the first project to this and we continue to get lots of positive feedback from our downstream partners about how this allows them to plan and serve their users best.
How do you successfully manage an open source project that’s so big?
I don’t. 🙂 Seriously, I run the GNOME Foundation which supports GNOME. The community runs GNOME. The release team co-ordinates the six-month releases, decides what goes in them and what the release date will be.
My understanding was that there was a contest a long time ago and the foot won. Well, actually I think Miguel de Icaza and others picked a foot and then there was a contest to design the actual foot logo using GIMP, sponsored by Red Hat. The logo you see now, that resembles the letter G, is the one
Ever play a gnome in World Of Warcraft?
Nope. I avoid games like Word Of Warcraft. I find them too addictive to be compatible with work and family. And food and life.
Any difference you can see in the styles of coding in the US and Europe?
I have to admit that I haven’t read very much code in a few years, so I do not know… Certainly there are cultural differences. One of the things I really like about GNOME, and other large free software projects, is how people from around the world, from different time zones and different cultures, work effectively together. Without taking any corporate classes on working in virtual teams! As an example, our board of directors is made up of seven people that live in five different countries on three different continents in six different time zones and speak six different first languages.
What’s interesting about working with GNOME?
It’s always interesting to tell the person next to you on the plane what you do. The part that’s new to me is the non-profit. 40% of the community is paid to work on GNOME by another company, like Novell or Red Hat. Most or all are doing it because they’re passionate about GNOME. The non-profit part means we have more control.
How is GNOME working to increase adoption in developing worlds?
It is something we’re working to promote. We have a strong presence in Latin America, especially in Brazil. We’ve been working to promote GNOME in Africa. We sent a couple GNOME team members to Ghana. They held training classes and a booth at a conference.
One of the problems in Africa is that there aren’t any internet connections. So they have a lot of good observations for us. People in Africa couldn’t even download the source code, for example. We were showing them how they could use their phones to send email. Also we have been pushing really hard in Asia. We had our third annual GNOME Asia conference in Taiwan this year. It’s fun to do because each year you see it expand in new ways you wouldn’t see here. In Vietnam they recruited women from the college to be translators. There were more women at that conference than at any other technology conference, anywhere, ever.
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