As most readers already know, Nokia’s Maemo operating system for handheld devices and Intel’s Moblin for netbooks are merging into MeeGo. I’ve already covered the introduction to MeeGo and what I think it means for the future of mobile devices, so it’s time to delve into what’s going on to make that future happen.
There are numerous aspects to cover, but I’ll highlight a few big ones.
Stronger than Gossip!
maemo.org has had a healthy Talk forum, in one incarnation or another, since soon after the Nokia 770 was released. Originally a refuge for bleeding-edge device enthusiasts, Linux hackers and the highly curious, the scope steadily grew to accomodate thousands of interested parties from all directions and levels. The Maemo platform’s open-source-meets-consumer magnetism has been a true cross-spectrum draw.
Current discourse around the move to MeeGo.com isn’t over the need for a forum there, but whether we start fresh or bring the talk.maemo.org legacy across. There are pros and cons to either approach and I lean toward starting new but keeping the existing forum open for some time.
Nokia representative Quim Gil has started tackling the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt monster beginning with this thread at talk.maemo.org. Amazingly, the usual naysayer resistance was almost nonexistant and for the most part the thread has been extremely productive. New maemo.org community member Mandor stepped up and started a wiki page with the goal of collecting and getting answered the many questions that have contributed to confusion.
Intel rep Imad Sousou along with his Technical Steering Group counterpart from Nokia, Valtteri Halla, are using their MeeGo blogs to do the same. Both have been very forthright and responsive in clearing the air, although there are certainly more questions (like the stubborn “will there be a consumer version of MeeGo for the Nokia N900?” ) desperate for answers.
Passing the Test
Another problematic aspect of the Maemo experience has been in application testing. A skimpy process combined with little true oversight led to a frustrating situation where immature apps escaped into the wild while stable but less glamorous ones found themselves stuck in Quality Assurance limbo.
Thankfully, maemo.org council chariman Valerio (VDVsx) and a handful of leaders have seized control of this hydra and started us down a path toward a strong and effectively-managed process. This sets the stage for a best practice we can bring over to MeeGo and thus avoid repeating that experience.
Bugzilla is of course a hot topic. Intel employee Michael Shaver has assembled a small, diverse team to brainstorm and test a preliminary deployment for MeeGo.com. Although concern has been expressed that this first phase was not fully public, Mike has explained that he thought it best to work with a small but knowledgeable group to get the ball rolling and I can’t fault his reasoning. Hopefully the process can be opened soon.
So far I haven’t been able to help much here other than to offer some suggestions, such as benchmarking against Nokia’s Pilots Bugzilla, but at the same time I’m working this subject from another angle. I’ve put together what I call the MeeGo (formerly Maemo) User Experience Framework with the goal of getting user feedback mechanisms onto the devices themselves and in more helpful contexts. As of this writing the presentation is still in draft form and contributions of all kinds are welcome. This is also being discussed on the Maemo and MeeGo email lists and I’m looking for someone to help me with setting up a working group on the MeeGo wiki (I can’t find a way to add new pages).
The email lists were initially aflame with the RPM-vs-Deb application packaging battle, but that controversy has since settled into a mostly civil discussion– albeit with some discomfort still poking the pro-Deb crowd who felt there should have been more open dialog prior to this packaging mode being settled.
More recently, needs like these have been highlighted:
- public git tree with nokia development kernel available (Marcin Juszkiewicz)
- code, obviously. Mainly policy though (Carsten Munk)
- what the rules are around what <code> is in/out (Graham Cobb)
- and too many more to list
Standards are crucial to facilitating fruitful efforts of this magnitude and it’s good to see that recognized this early on in the new venture.
If there’s been one truism about community-based development, it’s that task vacuums form quickly and fill slowly. More often than not, the biggest hurdle is the common hesitancy of a champion to step forward and drive the effort. Community input is necessary for robust solutions to nearly any problem, but they can be hard to achieve without a single person or small group managing that input and channeling it into such solutions. Fortunately we seem to have crossed a threshold in that regard and see that many have emerged to make things happen.
As noted here at MeeGo.com, there are numerous needs looking for fulfillment. Talk is good for starting things off, but we’re already into the Get Stuff Done phase and it’s time to roll some sleeves up and make MeeGo happen!