A great deal of useful conversation during Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit 2010 (LFCS2010) earlier this year revolved around what a MeeGo community should look like. There are of course numerous aspects to this but for now I want to focus on three only: what sort of constituency would best benefit MeeGo, how could the website structure reflect, support and encourage that constituency, and what might this mean for maemo.org.
It might be helpful for the reader to browse through threads under Community Matters at the MeeGo discussion forum, as I will be referring to points raised there. However, that won’t be necessary for a high-level perspective. Regardless, a community is actually taking shape so I think it’s time to discuss a few subjects.
For members only
There’s been some debate amongst maemo.org and MeeGo community members over what actually constitutes a community in general, and more specifically, how a community arising around Maemo/MeeGo endeavors should look. Opinions range from “every one creating an account is automatically a member” to “only those actively contributing quantifiable work are members”.
I lean toward the latter (with the caveat that not all useful contributions are easily quantifiable). As an analogy, we can compare a physical neighborhood comprised of home buyers and renters. Buyers tend to take a high interest in improving the home’s value; renters tend to only reside in any given one a short while and it typically makes no sense for them to invest in that. (note: this is neither an endorsement nor indictment of either).
Planning and zoning
Quim Gil conducted a very good interactive presentation at LFCS2010 that described the roles, functions and general structure of the emerging MeeGo community. I tacked onto that recently by drawing up my own interpretation, and then refining that based on community input. The latest rendition is below:
This was met with a mixed reception and the conversation around it quickly died. The main hangup was over member groups, a feature of the vbulletin forum software. Some see value in letting community members strive for and adopt titles that suit their interests. Others see that as unnecessary or even divisive. The MeeGo Greeters program has found acceptance and I will push for a forum group supporting that activity at the very least (UPDATE: group created).
At maemo.org we tried a little experiment to see if adding resource links to forum posters’ signatures could help newcomers. We didn’t quantify the effectiveness of the effort, but participation was enthusiastic and feedback highly positive.
We just recently introducd the idea into MeeGo, where it has also been quickly welcomed. The MeeGo community is much younger than maemo.org was when we created the concept, but I think that works in our favor now. MeeGo Greeters will be seen as a natural part of the social structure and we can easily, organically grow the effort as the community grows.
A highly popular presentation at LFCS2010 was the keynote by Josh Berkus: How to Prevent Community: Making Sure Your Pond Stays Small. Josh outlined with gently sarcastic humor the sort of mistakes that poison and even kill communities, especially those built around open source endeavors.
The 2600Hz blog riffs on Josh’s theme with an article specific to MeeGo. I’ll leave it to the reader to judge the validity of the analysis there.
A place for maemo.org
The question of course remains, what is the future of maemo.org? Unfortunately that’s answered by a great big “it depends”. It’s too early to close any doors completely, but at the same time, MeeGo has been named as the future so it would only be natural for Maemo to experience a slow fade.
At the same time, though, work continues on a community distribution of Maemo 4 (Diablo) which will ensure that at least the lives of N800s and N810s can be extended. Harmattan could do the same for N900s (although at this point I question its actual usefullness). But ultimately, those devices will wear out and their replacements will be designed around MeeGo. At some point, and it’s difficult to determine when, the Maemo community will shrink to a size too small for Nokia to justify supporting with infrastructure and personnel. At that time the remaining community will have to find some way to sustain itself or, like so many predecessors, accept a slow fade into the sunset.
I’ll conclude on an optimistic note. There’s been a great deal of buzz around MeeGo’s first international conference to be held November 15 through 17 this year. The big event will of course be measured against previous examples, especially the energetic Maemo Summit 2009 held in Amsterdam, but it will certainly have its unique aspects that can’t be compared. The tone will be set by the key sponsors and develop around the accepted talks and myriad attendees. I’m confident that both Nokia and Intel are going to kick this off in a big way, and can’t wait to see how that manifests.
LFCS2010 introduced the MeeGo community. The outcome of MeeGo Conference 2010 (MC2010), along with member contributions of course, will go a long way toward shaping it.