Sunday, September 25, 2016

Great first year at LAS GNOME!

This was the first year of the Libre Application Summit, hosted by GNOME (aka "LAS GNOME"). Congratulations to the LAS GNOME team for a successful launch of this new conference! I hope to see more of them.

In case you missed LAS GNOME, the conference was in Portland, Oregon. I thoroughly enjoyed this very walkable city. Portland is a great place for a conference venue. When I booked my hotel, I found lots of hotel options within easy walking distance to the LAS GNOME location. I walked every day, but you could also take any of the many light rail or bus or trolley options running throughout the city.

I encourage you to review this year's conference schedule to learn about the different presentations. I'll share only a few highlights of my own. I also live-tweeted through many of the presentations, and I'll share some of those tweets here:

Alexander Larsson gave a great presentation ("Taking back the apps from the distributions") about Flatpak. I'd followed Flatpak before, but until Alexander's presentation, I never really grokked what Flatpak can do for us. With Flatpak, anyone can provide an application or app anywhere, on any distribution.

Today, you may be comfortable installing whatever application you need through your distribution. But what if your distribution doesn't provide the application you are looking for? And what if you want to run an application that a distribution isn't likely to want to provide (such as a commercial third-party office application or game)? In these cases, you either hope the person providing the application can provide a package for your distribution, or you go without.

With Flatpak, you can bundle an application to run on any Linux distribution, and it should just run. I see this as a huge opportunity for indie games on Linux! Imagine the next version of PuzzleQuest also being available for Linux, or a version of Worms for Linux, or a version of Inside for Linux. With Flatpak, these indie developers could bundle up their apps for Linux—and sell them.

Also, a great thing about going to conferences is the opportunity to finally meet people you've only chatted with online. Ciarrai was one of my interns during the May-August cycle of Outreachy, and we finally got to meet at LAS GNOME! We had been emailed back and forth in the weeks ahead of time, since we knew we'd both be there. But it was great to finally meet them in person!

LAS GNOME had scheduled talks in the morning, and "unconference" topics in the afternoon. With an "unconference," people suggest topics for an impromptu presentation or workshop, and attendees vote on them.

In the afternoon of day 1, I hosted an informal workshop on usability testing, at the same time my friend Asheesh gave an unconference presentation on web app packaging in Sandstorm. I was surprised to see so many developers at my how-to presentation about usability testing. Thanks to all who attended! Scott snapped this selfie of the two of us:

On day 2, Asheesh Laroia gave a presentation ("How to make open source web apps viable") about Sandstorm. Asheesh and I have known each other for a few years now, and I've followed his work with Sandstorm. But it was great to see Asheesh walk us through a demo of Sandstorm to really show off what it can do. In short, Sandstorm provides an open source software platform that helps people collaborate over the web.

And Sandstorm is designed with several layers of security, so it's very locked down. Even if you can "break out" of one web application, you can't get elsewhere on the system. As Asheesh put it during his talk, it's like Google Docs, but more secure:

On day 3, Stephano Cetola shared a wonderful story about how he got involved in open source software and made it his career ("Endless Summer of Code: Getting Involved in OSS"). I loved how Stephano talked about his experimental nature, and how he learned about technology by letting the "magic smoke" out of things.

Because of his eagerness and willingness to learn, Stephano found new opportunities to grow—eventually landing a position where he works for Intel, working on the Yocto project. A great journey that was a joy to experience!

Finally, I gave my presentation on usability testing for GNOME ("GNOME Usability Testing"). I opened by talking about different ways (direct and indirect) that you can test usability of software. From there, I gave an overview of the Outreachy internship, and what Renata, Ciarrai and Diana worked on as part of their internships.

I was thrilled for Ciarrai to share their part of usability testing from this cycle of Outreachy. Ciarrai's project was a paper prototype test of a new version of GNOME Settings. Renata conducted a traditional usability test of other ongoing work in GNOME, and Diana worked on a User eXperience (UX) test of GNOME.

I think my presentation went well, and we had a lot of great questions. Thanks to everyone!

Again, congratulations to the LAS GNOME team for a successful first year!
image: LAS GNOME
photo: Scott


  1. When next session of this conference is going to take place? Can individuals or I.T company representatives join conference as observers?

  2. Hi Harrison!

    This was the first year of LAS GNOME. We hope to have it again next year, probably summer! Yes, anyone can attend, and companies are encouraged to support LAS GNOME by becoming partners.