[IAEP] [Sugar-devel] Deployment feedback braindump

Daniel Drake dsd at laptop.org
Mon Aug 10 12:53:58 EDT 2009

Hi Tomeu,

2009/8/10 Tomeu Vizoso <tomeu at sugarlabs.org>:
> Hi,
> some thoughts follow. Please keep in mind that these are just my
> personal opinions and that not everybody at Sugar Labs share the same
> idea of what SLs is or should be.

Thanks for the response.

What you are saying makes sense -- it is indeed a nice idea to keep
SugarLabs as more of a loose structure, as a place for collaboration
on anything that might further the general mission.

It is a sensible idea to keep SugarLabs away from doing too much work
on the OS building and deployment implementing side of things, because
as you point out, even when you exclude those broad topics there is
still a lack of resources on the bits that remain.
That said, in a way, the "gap" that we're discussing is in some ways
more important than any of the Sugar features currently being worked
on, because the large majority of sugar users are currently a long way
away from even having access to the features that were finished 6
months ago. Difficult.

I disagree about local labs being key to filling the gap. While a nice
idea, I think it is necessary for there to be a central and
location-independent deployment-focused upstream, otherwise there will
be a lack of coordination accompanied by lots of duplication of work.
Local labs need to feed into something bigger, which doesn't currently
exist, although it could probably sit under the realm of sugarlabs if
the right people were to step up.

Also, when talking of scale, I am a little wary of local community
efforts because they have previously proven disruptive to deployments.
The sad reality is that you absolutely require more of a NGO or
business setup to be working with the relevant authorities. And when
this happens, the community efforts automatically become a bit
distanced. For example in many of these places, the "official"
organisation receives permission from the government for their staff
to enter government schools - but only their staff (not community

You mention lack of involvement and feedback from deployments -- why
do you think this is?
Here are some of my thoughts:
- The majority people we're working with are alien to the idea that
they might be able to talk to the people who are writing the software
that they are using. Since when has anyone been able to do that? Us
open source people are still the oddities in the world.
- People are afraid or mythed by the idea of this stuff being public
and global ("why would I want my feedback to be public?"), and are
confused/challenged by mailing lists.
- The people most able to give the kind of feedback you are looking
for are the teachers, who are probably even more distanced from these
ideas. Many will lack connectivity and english language skills.
- Many people who support the project with technical skills (e.g.
Linux) come from purely academic backgrounds which means they
understand the technical stuff well, but have little interest,
experience (and sometimes ability) to become good community members.

To put it plainly: in my opinion, wishing for substantially more
involvement from deployments is not realistic. SugarLabs would benefit
from being proactive here, especially by using the telephone rather
than email to contact deployments, but this is of course subject to
the "where are the resources?" question. Hopefully over time a
proactive approach from our side would likewise encourage a proactive
approach to communication from the deployments, but I suspect we'll
have to be patient. and yes, this makes your job pretty difficult.

> On Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 19:41, Daniel Drake<dsd at laptop.org> wrote:
>> At least from what I have seen, this kind of clarity seems to be
>> missing from discussions that define the Sugar platform nowadays, as
>> well as in the code that is flowing through the system. Does SugarLabs
>> still have a high degree of interest in bigger-than-you-can-believe
>> deployments in remote and really difficult parts of the world on
>> low-spec hardware, or are we moving towards looking at occasional
>> 30-student deployments on powerful computers in schools along the
>> Charles? Or are we trying to do both?
>> Are we still focusing on 6-12 year olds or has that changed?
> How do you expect that the SLs volunteers know what OLPC deployments
> need if they don't voice their needs? If you look at the Sugar commit
> logs, you will see that almost all commits are from someone sitting in
> a room somewhere in Europe, working on their free time. By which kind
> of epiphany do you expect them to know what's best for OLPC
> deployments?

I think you misunderstood my position here. I am personally having
trouble trying to formulate this kind of feedback because I no longer
know what is important to Sugar. Maybe it is a personal
misunderstanding, but after seeing some recent discussions and
features I feel that some of the core goals that formed the project in
its earlier stages have been lost. I am glad to see your response
which suggests that these things are still important to you at least,
so this will help me gather my thoughts.

> That's an interesting statement, do you think we are grossly
> overestimating the capacity of our users?

In many cases, yes. We are also missing various opportunities to
automate things which would really make basic system usage much
smoother in a classroom. At the same time, most of my experience has
been in classes within the first month of usage, so I'm not too sure
how their skills develop.  But really the classroom use of these is
often limited by the teacher who usually does not pick up things so

> You mean that you cannot open that library bundle by clicking on its
> journal entry?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but none of the methods that could be used by
deployments to distribute materials this way in mass would result in a
journal entry appearing for their users. These methods are installing
through a package into /usr/whatever/library or unzipping into

>> So I guess my wishlist from this email would be these items:
>>  1. for SugarLabs' aims to become as clear as OLPC's 5 principles
> Why is the current mission statement not clear?
> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_Labs

Because it's a mission statement. It's fluffy by design. It doesn't
answer basic questions like what kind of computers are being targeted,
which classroom environments  (if classrooms at all?), which learning
models, target ages of children, if the focus is on code or content,
if good infrastructure is important, how or if it is different from
the other efforts of ICT for education, etc.


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