Missing NaBloPoMo

For the last few Novembers, I’ve been posting at a feverish pace (for me, anyway) as part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). The goal is to post every day this month as a way to jump-start your writing and building an audience.

So this year, I’ve got too much going on, I’m afraid. Got some projects that may soon come to fruition, and I’ll be able to talk about them when we get there.

Tomorrow, I’ll be downloading a fresh copy of openSUSE Linux, now called openSUSE Leap 42.1, which I’m really excited about. I’m tidying up my current copy in breathless anticipation. This follows the (coincidental) installation of Firefox v42 today. As I tweeted earlier today (with the unforgivable error of getting Douglas Adams’ name wrong):

It’s a common lament: I wish I had more time to blog. What really bums me out is that I get a real good rhythm going during NaBloPoMo, and then I lose that momentum over the holidays. So I’m going to try something different this year, though I don’t really know what that will be yet.

Just because I’m not doing it, it’s not too late for you to start! November is a great time to start (or kick-start) your blogging habit. Click here to register. There are prizes!

If you participate, drop a link in the comments below.

Go look at some of my previous NaBloPoMo posts.

Coming Attractions

A reasonable amount of planning went into the posts for National Blog Post Month this year. Since some of them didn’t quite get done, we’ve got some good stuff in the pipeline to share in the coming weeks. As a way to shamelessly beg to keep all my new readers around, here’s what’s coming up soon at Notes from the Metaverse:

  • What’s Next for Firefox? This weekend, Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch asked this question. From one outsider to another, I’ve got some thoughts on this.
  • A more complete review of Firefox Developer Edition, following up on my earlier quick look.
  • Biosgraphy and ello: Two newcomers to the social/blogging arena.
  • Playing with text editors: Text editors are a religious matter for some developers. After using the programmable text editor Atom for a bit, I hope to have some useful things to say about it.
  • The new crop of electronic magazines covering Linux: Linux Voice, the
    English: Full Circle Magazine Logo
    Full Circle Magazine Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    crowdsourced UK-based magazine is nearing its first anniversary. I’ve recently also become familiar with Full Circle Magazine (an Ubuntu-focused title) and FOSS Force.

  • Tux, the Linux penguin
    (Sorry, can’t ever resist) Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    I’ll still look for more community-based efforts (like the KDE Gardeners) to make free software better.

  • If my ambition to use all seven openSUSE Desktop Environment actually happens, I’ll surely write about it.

Usual disclaimers apply: Forward looking statements are not hard commitments. Other topics may intervene in the meantime. Also check MichaelMcCallister.com for posts about writing, building author platforms and the like.

Hope you have a terrific December!

Lessons from NaBloPoMo 2014

And so we come to the end of National Blog Post Month ). For the second year in a row, I (nearly) managed to post something here every day in November. Technically, this is Post #29 — there’s another one coming before the end of the day., where I commit to covering some of the technical topics I touched on this month. Last year, I finished the month with some lessons I learned; I’m going to do the same here. It’s not worth completing a challenge if you don’t learn something from it.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

By the way, if you’ve participated in NaBloPoMo, especially for the first time, I humbly suggest looking at that link to last year’s post. There’s some good stuff in there.

When choosing topics, social media is your friend

English: This icon, known as the "feed ic...
This icon, known as the “feed icon” or the “RSS icon” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did a little more planning of topics this year (even though November snuck up on me again), but some of the better posts came as a result of reading other people’s stuff in my RSS feed and email. I even wrote one post that described my process, which was equal parts planning and serendipity.

While both BlogHer and WordPress.com offered topic prompts every day, I didn’t want to stray too far from the typical topics here just to complete a post. I’ll pat myself on the back, and declare that a good decision.

Y’all were interested in what I wrote

As with last year, NaBloPoMo raised the general interest in Notes from the Metaverse. The most popular posts from the last 30 days remained the technical ones:

Just one of these posts was not written this month. My Installing openSUSE 12.1 post from a while back is still pretty useful for v13.2, and I hope those who read it agree! All of these could be considered “technical,” and nearly all about open source software (though I don’t think the comet-lander was running KDE Plasma Desktop).

I also made some new friends this month. Welcome to all my new followers!

Y’all are too busy to comment

Notes from the Metaverse has always shrived to be an interactive space, where readers can comment on the material they read. It largely fails in that mission, but I understand. People are busy.

I am happy that some of you are getting comfortable with the Like button, though. Using that standard of popularity, here’s what you liked best:

Summing Up

I enjoy most of the process of NaBloPoMo, and will undoubtedly take part again next year. I think you should too. I’ll repeat myself just this once: Last year, I wrote (and stand by):

Congratulations to all those who successfully completed the NaBloPoMo challenge. To those who feel like they fell short: it’s really all about the effort. Life intervenes. But please keep on posting! Writing every day is essential for anyone who considers themselves a writer; blogging offers the opportunity to publish every day too–take advantage of this as often as you can!

 

KDE Gardeners: Community Stepping Up

Since we’ve written several posts recently about open source communities, let’s highlight one more example of community members seeing a problem and trying to solve it.

English: Logo of the KDE Project "KDE, K ...
Logo of the KDE Project “KDE, K Desktop Environment and the KDE Logo are trademarks of KDE e.V” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

KDE is the oldest graphical desktop environment for Linux, and I’ve used it since the day I installed Corel Linux in 2001 (forgive me if I’ve offered those two facts a hundred times before). It’s a big, complicated software collection (with 300+ software repositories), now undergoing its third major overhaul to KDE Frameworks 5 providing the technical underpinnings of the accompanying Plasma 5 Desktop. In all that time, there are going to be bugs that remain unsolved, and applications that grow stale.

Enter the gardeners

Spanish KDE developer Albert Astals Cid came to the annual Akademy conference with an idea: Put together a team to name and find people to fix longstanding bugs and important, but unmaintained projects. What became the KDE Gardening Team.

The Gardeners are different from the project’s quality assurance team, though it chooses a “Bug of the Month” that needs some attention. It’s really kind of a triage or rescue squad for KDE applications. As described in both Cid’s introductory blog post and the Gardening Team’s main page:

The mandate of the team is to:

  1. Find *really* important bugs and ping people to fix them
  2. Find stale reviewboards and ping people to review them
  3. Bugzilla gardening, close old products etc
  4. Find projects that need love and give them some

I love this description from the Gardeners’ page on the KDE Community Wiki of what qualifies as the “Bug of the Month”:

Those bugs often raise endless discussions from frustrated users about how KDE developers do not care. The truth is, most developers are not even aware of them, because the issues do not happen on their system.

The current “Bug of the Month” is a fun one, dating back to 2011, with 65 comments: “When I opened my laptop from sleep, and … logged in and saw my desktop this crash report was there.”

First sign of progress: K3B has a new update

The Gardeners’ first “love project” revived the venerable CD manager, K3b. Version 2.0 was originally released in 2010, and v2.0.2 came out a relatively short time after that. Since then,  developers had worked on v2.1, fixing some bugs plaguing existing users, but never getting released.

After the Gardeners’ applied some love to the project, K3b v2.0.3 came out a few days ago!

Next in line for some love is KRecipes. This recipe manager works pretty well by all reports, but was last released in November 2010. Incidentally for any technical writers reading this: the KRecipes Handbook (user guide) is not yet complete for the KDE 4 version of the software. Should you be inclined to help, see the current text here.

Once this project makes progress, KTorrent is likely the leading candidate for the next Love Project.

Got some free time?

The KDE Gardening Team is now composed of around a half-dozen contributors to the Team mailing list. You can view the archives and subscribe to the list on this page.

I’d like to spotlight other communities’ smart activities here at Notes from the Metaverse in the future. If you’re participating in something cool, or know of a similar project to the KDE Gardeners, let me know, either by email, or commenting on this post.

John J Jacoby: Making a living scratching your itch

It’s one of the mantras of free and open source software (FOSS): Software is born when one developer tries to solve their own personal problem. That is, the developer is “scratching an itch,” not being assigned to code something after some corporate marketing department spends weeks/months/years trying to figure out what the world (or at least a significant market share) needs or wants.

A more difficult problem is when a project becomes popular, scratching a lot of people’s itches. The software gains features, develops more bugs, attracts more users (each of whom may have their own ideas of what the software should do), and … takes more time to work on. Time that the volunteer developer(s) just don’t have, because they have to pay the rent/mortgage, feed the family, and similar daunting tasks.

One solution to this issue is for companies to assign coders to a particular project full- or part-time. But sometimes the needs of a company change (as when Canonical reassigned Jonathan Riddell, Kubuntu’s lead developer, away from the project), and the developer has to return to volunteering for the labor of love.

Getting Community Support

BuddyPress Logo
BuddyPress Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We now come to a most interesting potential solution to this problem: John James Jacoby’s Indiegogo project. JJJ (as Jacoby goes by on the Twitterz and elsewhere) has been the lead developer with BuddyPress (a social networking layer over WordPress) and bbPress (WordPress-based forum software) for nigh on to forever. As a result of his talent and skills, he got hired at WordPress’ parent company, Automattic, and worked there for some time. Over time, BuddyPress, bbPress and a sister project, GlotPress (translations for WordPress) begin to suffer from lack of attention.

English: Logo of the software "bbPress&qu...
Logo of the software “bbPress” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making a long story shorter, John believes that with six months of sustained, concentrated attention on these three projects, he can make a difference in these areas:

  • Query and caching performance improvements to both BuddyPress and bbPress (to help them power the almost 20 million user profiles and the immense amount of activity going into them from all the support forums)
  • Media & Attachment support in BuddyPress
  • Per-forum moderation in bbPress to help with plugin & theme moderation on WordPress.org.

This piece at WPTavern shares more of the story. My favorite quote:

WordPress is more community than software, yet the software that powers the community has nobody working on it full time

 

 

At WordCamp San Francisco in October, he was encouraged to seek community funding for this project. After some thought and planning, on November 11, the 30-day campaign went live at Indiegogo.

As happens so often with crowdfunding projects, JJJ hit 80% of his $50,000 goal in 48 hours. Since then, it’s been a little slack. Now he’s got another $6000 to go for the full six months.

Valuing open source developers

Just last week (before I knew about this campaign), I wrote about the value of open source communities. Now the WordPress community has the opportunity to prove its value in concrete put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is terms: Can it fund a developer (or more than one) to complete essential tasks without having to sacrifice on his/her standard of living? Can you make a living just scratching your itches?

John James Jacoby lives pretty close to me, and we’ve met a few times at WordPress Meetups and WordCamp Milwaukee. He is a terrific guy, and unquestionably devoted to the success of BuddyPress and WordPress. We should be able to come through for him in the coming days. I also hope that this followup idea from Josh Strebel from Pagely to make this type of crowdfunding project more formal and more permanent makes some headway in the process. Yeah, I’m going to kick in a pittance too, right after payday in 7 days. Maybe you have a payday coming up too? What is WordPress worth to you?