OLPC: what now?

With great changes come great opportunities.

As anyone who’s been following OLPC knows, the failure of this year’s Give One Get One program left OLPC with a huge budget shortcoming, and OLPC responded by laying off a lot of really good people.

Including, unfortunately, the vast majority of the OLPC software development team.

So where does that leave us? It’s the question I spent almost my entire FUDCon considering and discussing with people. Here’s where I think we are.

* * *

First, let’s talk about the OLPC software platform beneath Sugar.

The software on the OLPC has been based on Fedora since its inception. For a very long time, though, the Fedora community and the OLPC community basically ignored one another. When I first visited the OLPC offices in Cambridge, over a year ago now, I was surprised by how little OLPC knew about the Fedora community, and vice versa. Many of OLPC’s problems were effectively being solved by the Fedora community, and vice versa. It seemed obvious that the two communities could create a lot more value by working with one another. Ever since, I’ve worked hard to bridge that gap — with some success, I think.

Now is the time to capitalize on that success. We’ve already been working towards the important goal of reducing deltas between OLPC packages and stock Fedora packages (with an extra-special thanks to Peter Robinson for taking such a strong lead on this). Now that OLPC has lost the vast majority of its software engineers, it’s crucially important to complete that work.

OLPC had been working towards their 9.1 release. Remaining OLPC engineers will now be working instead, with our help, to roll those changes into the Fedora 11 release. They will therefore inherit the benefits of the tried-and-true Fedora release process, including mechanisms for QA, beta releases, spin creation, download mirroring, et cetera, et cetera.

Over the three days of FUDCon, a bunch of OLPC and Sugar folks sat down to create a comprehensive list of the remaining deltas between OLPC and Fedora packages, with explanations about the nature of the deltas and recommended steps to resolve them. That list, built using Gobby, is now available on the Fedora wiki, at OLPC packages for F11. The weekly Fedora/OLPC meeting will now focus entirely on integrating these packages in time for the F11 freeze in early March. We may reschedule this meeting to make it more attractive to the packagers who choose to work on this problem.

Expect to hear more about this work in the coming days. I’d like to extend an offer guaranteeing an XO to any Fedora volunteer willing to take an OLPC package and maintain it for the next couple of releases. If you’re willing to do this, please let me know as soon as possible. (gdk at redhat dot com, as a reminder to those of you who don’t have my email address tattooed on your forearms.)

* * *

Next, let’s talk about the evolution of Sugar itself.

It’s a painful reality that much of the work around Sugar was being done by OLPC employees — much, but not all.

Sugar Labs is now strong enough to guide Sugar on its path. Work may slow, but it will not stop. We only have a few full-time resources to work on the core of Sugar, so we will be focusing these resources on making the 0.84 release as awesome as it can possibly be.

Up until now, I have been leading the marketing team for Sugar Labs. In my opinion, though, the best possible marketing tool for Sugar Labs will be the best possible Sugar. Therefore, I’m going to be handing off the marketing work for Sugar Labs, and picking up the job of running the weekly meetings for the Sugar Labs engineering team. My hope is to open up the Sugar engineering process to make it accessible to as many interested folks as possible, and to focus on improving some key areas of the Sugar experience. For instance: I’d like to figure out how to showcase one activity as an example of excellence in peer-to-peer collaboration, and right now, the likely candidate is the Write activity. Rather than trying to work on all of the many things that Sugar could be, I will be using my influence to make Sugar *amazing* at a few things.

Look for more on this topic soon. Questions? Feel free to hit me with them.

OLPC: what now?

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