My Desktop Summit

No, I didn’t queue for the exo-pc. More on exo-pc’s and tablets in an¬† earlier post. But I am very glad I came to the desktop summit. Had a great time with lots of people, met many people from the Calligra project, including Summer of Code and Season of KDE students Siddharth, Shreya and Aakriti, and even had some hacking time. We even went to an Indian restaurant with Shreya and Shaantanu.

And I gave two presentations. The first was together with Thorsten Zachmann from Nokia.

The Calligra Suite of applications has been going places. First came FreOffice, the open source first mobile office suite, later renamed to Calligra Mobile when it was ported to the WeTab and MeeGo. Calligra Mobile is based on QWidget technology.

Then came Calligra Active, part of the Plasma Active project. The development of Calligra Active was sponsored by Nokia. Calligra  Active is written using QML.

And Nokia, together with the Calligra community and KO GmbH, developed the successor of Calligra Mobile: Harmattan Office. At the Desktop Summit, Thorsten Zachmann revealed Harmattan Office for the first time. We would have shown it in a life demo had the beamer been compatible with the video out port on the N950. Harmattan Office not only uses Calligra, but also Poppler and will be made available under a GPL license when it ships.

Calligra really has been going places and one of the topics of my presentation was to show how a company-community collaboration can be a success. All in all, Nokia has been involved in the Calligra development for several years now, spanning two generations of mobile office applications.

They spend time (and money) to integrate in the community. They joined sprints, sponsored sprints. All the development on the calligra engine was done directly upstream, in first the KDE subversion and then afterwards the KDE git repository.

At first, bugs were registered in the maemo bugzilla, but all those bugs were pretty soon moved to the KDE bugzilla, and that’s where we work with them.

Nokia hired testers to test Calligra. Not just their own gui frontend, but also the backend. They assembled a huge repository of test documents — and all those are in the open.

Nokia made a lot of effort to grow the community, for instance by sponsoring more than a dozen students to do an internship inside Nokia working, in public, on new features for FreOffice.

It cost effort and was something everyone had to get used to, but as much as possible, everyone used the same communication channels, notably the public irc channels, except for things more tied up with internal process, like the daily scrum meetings. If I would change one thing, I would propose to also do this in the open irc channel.

Like any community member, Nokia scratched their itch. They mostly needed a viewer application, so they were interested in loading office document files, both OpenDocument and Microsoft Office, as well as PDF. And they were interested in rendering fidelity. That’s where they put their effort, and not in the desktop gui which they didn’t need.

What Nokia also did was develop their gui on top of the calligra engine in-house, so it would be a surprise when they released their new systems — and then FreOffice was released under GPLv2+. The community had a choice to accept this code-dump or not, and we accepted it. The same will happen with Harmattan Office.

All in all, I consider that the cooperation between Calligra and Nokia has been an example of doing everything right. And the result is impressive: in many, if not most ways, Harmattan Office is more capable of loading and rendering complex office documents than any other mobile office suite.

Then — after the break, provided by LibreOffice’s Michael Meeks, it was my turn again, this time to talk about Krita!

I perhaps over-prepared my Calligra Everywhere presentation — and underprepared my Krita presentation. In the background, I had gwenview running with a slideshow of all the great art people have created with Krita, and in the foreground I told my story…

Mostly about where Krita came from — a Photoshop/GIMP clone — where it went (everywhere, but without focus — to where we want to take it now — a really good digital painting application.

I also touched lightly on why Krita seems to be flourishing right now. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but some of the things in the mix are these:

  • Focus: instead of trying to do everything, focus and try to be very good at only some things.
  • Friendly: new developers are welcome. We spend a lot of time mentoring, and we don’t go ballistic when new code isn’t perhaps as tight and nice as some other code. Some parts of Krita code might look like a dungheap — but don’t forget this: a dungheap is alive, and a marble statue is dead.
  • Not afraid of taking money: when Lukas found himself with the choice of taking a boring web developer job before he could finish at university, or working on krita full-time we decided to do a fund raiser for him. And he neatly separated funded and non-funded work. Funded was bug fixing, non-funded was brush engine coding. And everyone was happy.
  • Say “thank you” for bug reports. Really. Even if the report is abusive. A “thank you” is the beginning of a productive relationship!
  • And users can be part of the team. Are part of the team. If users do cool art, discuss your work and your problems with us, they’re not on the other side of some mythical line. If users engage, they belong just as much as people writing documentation, doing video tutorials and coding!