Week 2012-05-27 in review

  • I jailbroke the iPhone 4S… now what? #
  • jailbreak for iOS 5.1.1 is now available. Why bother? Killer feature for me would be SIM unlock but it's not there http://t.co/CM7Bbh7m #
  • t.co seems to be referring -10% of traffic each week to most of my sites in the past month. Has anybody noticed similar trends? #
  • Isn't Canada in America? @carol @mynyml 🙂 #

Week 2012-05-20 in review

  • what an awesome team we have working on #OpenStack smart people, experienced, open minded… So grateful #
  • After mocking Windows' Blue Screen Of Death, Ubuntu folks aim at Apple's Spinning Beach Ball? http://t.co/AoVC5ooj #
  • Landmark bug #1000000 for Ubuntu: For every bug on Launchpad, 67 iPads are sold http://t.co/Yk6VWiYq #
  • I wanted to respond to the many comments about !GPL decline and I realized now that I already did over a year ago http://t.co/KjUvbkJq #
  • The perfect time to sell your house in the bay area is coming: Facebook employees have 6 months to cash in http://t.co/mSv0kceJ #
  • the series #Alcatraz is probably as stupid as Lost. I skimmed through it on Hulu+. Waste of time. #
  • I finally installed git-review and committed a patch to one of OpenStack projects #bragging #cheating #

Week 2012-05-13 in review

Planning an International Community Portal for OpenStack

With the large growth of OpenStack internationally comes the need to have a better system to list the international resources for new users of OpenStack. At the moment we have a couple of wiki pages, a mailing list for a team hosted on Launchpad and the map
the /community page on openstack.org. All that content is available only in English. We’re at the point that this is not enough.

I’d like to discuss the needs of the international community and get a new system in place in the next few weeks. The basic needs are:

  • A directory of OpenStack user groups (OSUG) that can host content in different languages: new visitors should be able to find easily an OpenStack User Group for their local area/language. If such group/language is not available, there should be an easy pointer to instructions, tools and policies to create one
  • A system for the community  managers to contact the members (all members or just the coordinators/leaders?) of the international communities to coordinate activities.

Requirements

  • Register users using SSO: as a user I would like to be able to associate my profile from Launchpad, Linkedin or Google to the site
  • Support content in multiple languages (switch list and automatic recognition via browser agent configuration)
  • Support roles: managers of the groups can add resources to the directory, members can sign up as members, anonymous can read all content
  • Show activity from all groups in my own language on the portal home page
  • Directory of OSUGroups, with geographic representation (be able to view the groups on a map and display also the full list of groups on a page)
  • Manage content (pages) of generic interest (to host content like how to start a group, general, policies, trademark stuff, generic icons, etc)

Per each user group:

  • allow users to add events, each group will expose its ical feed
  • show to list additional resources for the group: mailing lists, forums, wiki pages, home page, url of blogs,
  • import RSS feed from blogs to aggregate content on groups page
  • display photostreams from flickr and such on the home page

Open questions

  • is this all we need?
  • do we want to host and provide web apps for any of the local groups (mlists, blog, forums, etc)? And if yes, should these be part of the such portal?
  • can we reuse code from Ubuntu Loco portal? The code is tightly integrated in Launchpad, local teams need to be created as Launchpad Teams, it uses Launchpad as OpenID provider (bugs included). But it’s already there, it’s fairly simple and it’s a django app
  • What other tools can we use for this and do you volunteer to manage such tool?

I’m interested in your opinions: join the OpenStack International Community Team on Launchpad  to discuss this further.

Week 2012-05-06 in review

  • following @sameerverma suggestion I just got a PogoPlug Pro on ebay for $20. Will need help rooting it and make good use of it 🙂 #
  • Just signed-up on @engagio to manage my online conversations & entered #sfnt iPad draw. Check out http://t.co/VIYk4g6Z and engage with me! #
  • Power to open standards or new set of shackles? Google Wins $35 Million U.S. Government Contract Over Microsoft http://t.co/wNwETUYO #
  • RIAA may not sue you for using BitTorrent anymore but paved the way for hundreds of copyright trolls to harass people http://t.co/JZwCduxW #
  • Got excited for Vanillaforums email integration but it's not in the GPLv2 version 🙁 Bummer http://t.co/LnLICnZi Open Source as a badge #
  • .@EFF mixes cats, robots and code hoping this video will go viral and you'll join EFF too http://t.co/oaXcdWld #
  • Things change in the Yahoo vs Facebook patent dispute: there is hardware involved http://t.co/TpTlI5Iw #
  • In case you missed the latest OpenStack Conference the recordings of keynotes and many of the sessions are on http://t.co/RwVp88ld #
  • In Debian Wheezy OpenStack and XCP are one apt-get install away http://t.co/Sn0TK4gm #
  • Maturità a 21 anni per Bossi jr. Non avevo dubbi che le sue fossero braccia rubate all'agricoltura http://t.co/FXED9q8i #
  • You wanted more #OpenStack drama? There you have it: beancounter arguing who contributes more to the project http://t.co/xCwO0hAd 🙂 #
  • Checking tides and wind forecasts, looking very good weekend I'm coming 😉 #
  • I can't believe we capsized. Good thing it's warm out #

In search of a modern way to hold discussions online

The OpenStack community decided at the Design Summit to create new lists and consolidate all of them on a new service so I decided to lay down the specifications for the new system following the desiderata from developers and users. The basic need is to allow developers to discuss freely using the tool they prefer (email clients, in this case). I as community manager  need also to be able to measure discussions and allow easily for new developers and users to join the conversations. The desiderata for the messaging system are:

  • Must use email messages as primary mean of communication
  • Must allow tagging/topics for easy inbox filtering
  • Must be easy to manage (dealing with spam, delivery, moderation, etc)
  • Must have good looking archives, skinnable, with search capabilities and SEO friendly
  • Must allow measuring activity, natively or with tools like mlstats
  • Nice to have:
  • SSO integration with OpenID and more
  • Post new message (reply or start a new thread) via web
  • Offer archive via RSS

With these in mind I started looking into Mailman, the typical answer for mailing list management. The software is known and solid although the latest stable release is old.  Mailman 2 has the advantage of familiarity: we know how it works and its limitations. Mainly I know the limitations: the web UI is scary and I can’t find a way to teach Firefox’s password manager to save the passwords for each list (it associates the password to the domain, not the full url, so I can only have one password associated to lists.openstack.org –am I doing something wrong?), the default archives are also ugly and primitive forcing us to use other archivers, like Markmail.

Mailman 3, the upcoming release, is … not there yet. I could only see mockups for the new web management UI  (called Postorius, is a django app, a client of the new Mailman REST API) and it seems that Mailman 3.0 will be shipped without an official archiver.

I looked at Sympa as an alternative to Mailman, since Rackspace uses it internally. It has most of the features we need, including the nice-to-have but it seems to be lacking the Topics (although, we should say that we’re not using the Mailman topics feature at the moment anyway). I don’t think that mlstats supports Sympa and I’m not sure about its tracking capabilities (but it stores lots of metadata in a SQL database so it shouldn’t be too hard to get information from it).

Since the mailing list archives I know all look too ugly, I expanded my search to forum software hoping that in the past years there was some progress in it. The only new thing I found is Vanilla Forums, a GPLv2 forum engine. It mixes features of the old bulletin boards format with the newer question/answer concept, embracing tags and categories. The first page of Vanilla has more meaningful content than the silly topics seen in most bulletin boards and in general I found Vanilla having a better UI than most forum software. The hosted version of Vanillaforums sports also a nice integration with email but there are no plans to release such feature under the GPLv2. The view of a thread with many responses is not exciting though: it has no hierarchy, failing at readability like all bb/forum software … and I think it’s a crucial feature that enables following long discussions. This deserves more thoughts: I know Twitter gave up trying to represent threaded discussions in a single page (but Twitter was never meant for discussions), identi.ca used to have the conversation view with grades of colors but got rid of it, Gmail doesn’t bother either and shows conversations as flat, time based sequence of messages: is it just too difficult to thread discussions like any email client used to do or what else is going on?

To me it seems that Mailman is still the best we can do at the moment even if it leaves me in a pretty sad state, stuck in 2001. I would start looking into Mailman 3 and expand the search to an archiver that we can host (like CSLA) but Mailman 2 is probably the best we have at the moment. Other thoughts?