[SoaS] Sugar on a Stick Changing Engineering Direction

Sebastian Dziallas sebastian at when.com
Fri Mar 19 22:19:00 EDT 2010

Some of you may have overheard activity in #sugar-meeting today 
discussing the upcoming beta freeze for SoaS, and the engineering 
capacity we have to work on things for the upcoming release (in May, 
since as a Fedora Spin we are tied to the Fedora release schedule).

The short version is that we'd like to try something pretty drastic - 
prior SoaS versions have included large numbers of Activities, which 
weren't always maintained and didn't always work, so we propose shipping 
a slimmed down version of SoaS with a small number of known-to-work 
Activities with active upstream maintainers (that we'll have the 
bandwidth to thoroughly test between now and May's release, and the 
bandwidth to relay deployment feedback back up to) and creating 
resources on how to find other excellent material at 

Here's a draft kickstart file of what a slimmed-down SoaS release might 
look like. It includes a few core Activities that will help you get, 
debug, and ask questions about more Activities (Browse, Log, and IRC), 
as well as a few well-tested Activities with active upstreams that we 
think tend to "demo well" for a variety of audiences and contexts 
(young/adult audience, large/small audience, dev/user/teacher audience, 
hands-on-lab/demo-on-projector audience, etc).


And here's the image it produces - we haven't had time to download and 
test it yet, but are working on that right now, so you may beat us to 
finding out whether it works or not. ;-)


In comparison, here's the old kickstart file with a large number of 
Activities, and the image it produced - if you try it out, you'll find 
that many of the Activities don't work, the quality of experience is 
inconsistent, and... well, we hope you'll see why we'd like to narrow 
the scope of this release's features to the amount of work we can 
comfortably maintain.


The rationale behind this is as follows:

1. Our ultimate goal is to produce a rock-solid deployment image with a 
wide variety of many Activities with active upstream maintainers, plus 
resources to engage users with those upstream communities and with 
communities of other learners. This was clarified in the earlier Sugar 
on a Stick Mission Statement: 

2. Since we don't currently have the resources to do this, we think a 
good intermediate step is to produce a rock-solid deployment image with 
a SMALL variety of many Activities with active upstream maintainers, 
plus resources to engage users with those upstream communities and with 
communities of other learners. This sets the bar for both the quality of 
the Activity and maintenance, and the level of interaction that Activity 
upstreams can expect from users.

3. Saving a good number of known-to-be-awesome Activities for 
http://activities.sugarlabs.org and creating (kid-tested and 
teacher-tested) resources on how to get stuff from ASLO sets a dynamic 
of experimentation, trying-stuff-out, and user community engagement that 
we want to see.

We don't know if this is a good idea or not. We think so, and we don't 
have much time to decide as Beta Freeze is this upcoming Tuesday, March 
23. Feedback? Questions? Comments? Firestorm?

We'll be tinkering further on this over the weekend - we can do another 
kickstart on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, so we have 3 drafts left to 
figure this out with. Please join us (sdziallas & mchua on #sugar) and 
ask questions if you have any, or join in and help if you have ideas on 
how to improve this.


--Mel and Sebastian

PS: We're going to ask more specific questions on the marketing and 
activities lists about this in a moment, for those of you following 
those sections of SL as well - and send a general iaep notification that 
these conversation threads are going on. One second...

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