Category Archives: Design

Things to see and experience

Sub Hub hubbub.

Have you seen Máirín Duffy’s post on the Fedora Design team’s next-generation design for the Fedora Project website? It’s a brilliant design based around the idea of a “sub hub.” These screens help customize the website to fit different sub-communities, initiatives, teams, or projects.

Máirín published this post with the design mockups a few weeks ago and they’re still open for feedback. I love the concept and the mockups, and the way it brings the site a little closer to the functionality people expect for interaction in other communities. The sub hub design offers a sites not just for promotion, but also for bringing people together for communication and information.

I’m sure the Design team will move forward at some point to bring these concepts into reality. But before they do, I know they’d appreciate hearing from community members. Even just offering feedback that “This is awesome!” is useful, so the designers know there is a solid mass of people who like the work. You can visit the site here to offer your constructive comments.

If you don’t, that’s OK too! Just be polite and specific in your comments. Rather than saying how to fix something, talk about why something doesn’t work for you. Designers are good at figuring out how to solve usability problems once they know more about the effects on the user. Those of us without a lot of design and usability experience often suggest solutions that seem like they’d work, but really might cause more problems for other users. So it’s best to concentrate on symptoms.

So if you haven’t checked out the post and offered some constructive feedback, please feel free. I’m really looking forward to seeing how things move forward with these designs and hope you’re excited about them too.

If you’re excited enough about the work to get involved and help, the Design team would love your contributions. There’s also more information about how to contribute here. There are several repositories set up where you can test existing ideas, change them with your own, and contribute changes back to the team using a pull request. Getting involved is easy, and the Design team is famous for their friendliness and willingness to help people get started contributing. So don’t be afraid to jump in!

Insight into Insight.

As you may remember, Gentle Readers, not too long ago I changed roles in Red Hat to work more on management and administration within the platform engineering department, where I work for Tim Burke. Even if you haven’t run into Tim at one of our Fedora Users and Developers Conference (FUDCon) events in North America, you can see him in a recent customer testimonial video he did for the Fedora 14 release, as well as some of the media around the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

Tim and I joke about being in a battle royale to see who can be the biggest camera hog in Red Hat media. I have to admit he’s probably pulled ahead this fall season! With my new role, I’m a lot less likely to be on camera saying wonderful things about Fedora, even though I have a lot to say. If you have ideas for how I can remedy this inequity, comments are open.

One of the Fedora related things I’m still involved with is Fedora Insight, a Drupal instance I and a few others are trying to learn and launch. We want the capability to pass on interesting tidbits from the Planet, Fedora Weekly News, and even original media in a simple way.

And we love Drupal, especially because it’s packaged in Fedora and EPEL, and because of its very practical and compatible approaches to licensing (GPL!). However, we could use some help with our work.

Theme

Unfortunately our theme ninja suffered some data loss, and to add insult to injury, the work wasn’t pushed to our upstream repo. But, since we’re quick to find the silver lining in any cloud, we realized things weren’t all bad! In the meantime, the fabulous new Fedora Project web site has been launched. We’d really like our Insight appearance to match the updated look of fedoraproject.org, so we see this as an opportunity, not a setback.

We could use the help of one or more web design ninjas to help us visualize the new theme. Then our coders can turn it into working CSS, just as they’ve done with other web sites. Actually, if you have the ability to do mockups and CSS, you’d be twice as ninja-ish, and we’d bake you twice as many cookies! Basically, the things we are working on now are:

  1. Mockups for a site that complements fedoraproject.org
  2. A set of CSS files, maybe a subtheme based on Zen or NineSixty, that make that dazzling mockup a reality

Plus, you get to work with really friendly people from around the world. And we may actually send you cookies, no kidding.

Administration

We are learning as we go when it comes to subjects like Drupal Views and CCK. I actually bought a bunch of Drupal books and (slowly, in my shrunken spare time) I’ve been making my way through them to understand the system better. I actually created my own module to allow our Drupal instance to authenticate to the Fedora Account System — and it works well, believe it or not! Drupal has a powerful system of hooks that allow you to customize almost every step of input and output, and I took full advantage of their ample documentation to learn how to use those hooks.

For a lot of what we need to do, we could use more experienced experts to advise us. So if you’re an intermediate or expert Drupalista we could use your participation! In some cases, we might be asking you to teach the uninitiated about how some of the powerful functions of Views or CCK might help us achieve our goals. In others, we might ask for module suggestions or implementation hints. But no matter what, you’d be lending a hand to fellow FOSS champions.

Rather than being quite as directly task-oriented, this work would be more a matter of just camping on our mailing list and maybe responding to an email or two if you find a problem you can help solve. We also hang out on IRC Freenode at #fedora-mktg if you are hip to IRC.

Other stuff

Of course, we’re also looking for good ideas for making use of the platform. To me, that’s not so much about just bringing in random modules that we might think are cool. Instead, it’s looking for ways that Drupal could be made to serve the Fedora community. Then together we can figure out the best, most scalable, most open, and most effective way to make that happen.

The opensource.com staff worked with Acquia on their Drupal instance and I think that site turned out wonderfully. You can see Drupal in use all over the place, including everyone from the White House to Warner Bros. artists (talk about a wide range!). It’s not as steep a learning curve as some content management systems, and has a fantastic community backing it. So we’re looking forward to doing more with it, and we’d love to have others join us on the team.

How we work

We work in an open, transparent way — that means we prefer talking to each other on the list, not private email. Talking to each other publicly is a lot like having a party in a common area. Anyone can come by and become part of the conversation and join the team. By having public conversations we can keep each other informed about what we’re doing and the issues we run into. That also makes it easy for us to help each other, which is what free and open source software is all about.

My friend Mel often says, “If it didn’t happen on the list, it didn’t happen.” Collaborative communication is a powerful tool for teamwork. Even if you’re a little shy, don’t worry — we don’t bite and we are happy to see newcomers! Just ask Peter Borsa, who just joined us. He’s already becoming a valuable team member of our team and I know he would love to have help too.

What to do

Join the logistics mailing list and introduce yourself. It’s that simple! We have regular meetings but you can usually find some of us in our IRC channel, #fedora-mktg. See you there!

Cosmetic surgery you can be proud of.

I had a great time on Friday collaborating with Máirín Duffy on a new look for fedoraproject.org. This is somewhat related to the changes we’re making to the get.fedoraproject.org (also called “get-fedora”) and spins.fedoraproject.org sites. For those of us who are involved in Fedora all the time, it’s easy to take for granted how easy and fun Fedora can be to use and get involved in. Our page should capture the spirit I see every day in our diverse and talented community, and make it easy for people to get started.

Although my Westford visit was overall quite enjoyable, this was by far the highlight of my visit. I love getting involved in design, as long as there are other people around to bounce ideas around with me (and occasionally wave me off from silly ones). Máirín is really great at this work, not only because she’s about ten times faster at Inkscape than anyone I’ve seen, but also because she’s great at listening for subtext. I sometimes use lots of adjectives to describe an experience, or I’ll go off on a tangent about emotions we want the viewer to have. She was able to pick up on that context really quickly, understand the concepts behind the emotions, and refine it into something concrete. Not only that, but she came up with the rockin’ panda. 🙂

You can look at the mockups for the full story. Some of the ideas we tried to capture in the design (don’t shoot me if this gets too gooey):

  • The emotional lift of freedom, starting with the top banner. Lots of happy, smiling people enjoying free software and feeling good about their choice.
  • The one huge download button that yells, “Click me, I’m awesome!”
  • A simpler way of telling people what they’re getting, without getting in their way.
  • A showcase for simple, fun things that anyone can do with Fedora, and a link to how to do them. (“Anyone can do it.”) The Hulk thing was Mo’s idea, I swear!
  • A way to showcase different people in the Fedora community and how they got started. (“You can too.”)
  • Reducing the “link farm” feel by demoting the less important stuff to the bottom of the page, while making it more neatly organized.

As someone commented on the FAB mailing list, our pages should feel like invitations to become part of our community. There’s no better way to do that than by showing how fun and exciting Fedora can be, and by making it as easy as possible for people to get it. Something not shown on Mo’s blog is what happens after you click the big download button. The afterpage is so much easier to understand than our previous pages, and makes it a snap for people both to get the help they need, and to learn more about our community and how to get involved.

From the comments on Mo’s page, I think a lot of people are as excited about this redesign as we are. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Talk FAD?

I’ve been thinking of a FAD to upgrade Fedora Talk, our project voice-over-IP system. So I started by putting a skeleton of planning information on this wiki page. What I really need to do is gather a few people there with insight and skills in one or more of the following:

  • Asterisk
  • Python
  • TurboGears
  • GStreamer

These people would work on a couple basic application style upgrades, and associated backend support on our Asterisk server. We might need the services of a designer, but I’m not sure yet.

Additional thoughts appreciated — write them in the wiki page, or on its associated discussion page. This event is just a brainstorm right now, and I’m not even sure yet whether it will actually happen — but you have to start somewhere, so that wiki page is a scratchpad for now.