[Sugar-devel] [IAEP] stepping down as maintainer

Tim McNamara paperless at timmcnamara.co.nz
Tue Oct 26 06:42:06 EDT 2010

On 24 October 2010 17:42, David Farning <dfarning at ubuntu.com> wrote:

> Sugar Labs lost its lead developer.  [...]

At the risk of angering pretty much everybody.... Sugar Labs has three
> fundamental problems.  Sugar Labs is optimistic to the point of
> untruthfulness.  Sugar Labs is lead by veto rather than vision.  There
> is a lack of accountability to stakeholders.


Thank you for your bravery and frankness with which you have raised these
concerns. My main desire from these discussion is that contributors will
feel like they are contributing to a project with momentum by the end of

I would like to address your three points. However, I would also like to add
some more context to the discussion as I see it:

Sugar faces several up-coming technical challenges that will test the
resolve of Sugar Labs.
 - a move to a touch-based interface
 - change in hardware infrastructure for the XOs (e.g. ARM processors)
 - Move to GNOME 3.0
 - Move to Python 2.7 & eventually to 3.x

>From the pedagogical side, I'm sure that an increased emphasis on
standardised testing (at least in the developed world) means that there will
be an increased expectation for standardised teaching tools.

*Issue 1*: over-promising

This is a tricky problem. Sugar is enticing. I think that we will not be
able to contain people's enthusiasm, nor do I think that Sugar Labs should
stop aspiring to provide the world's best educational platform. Instead, we
should focus on improving the technology.

*Issue 2*: veto

We have a small cadre of experienced and highly able contributors.

*Issue 3*: lack of accountability to stakeholders

I don't agree that Sugar Labs is unresponsive. Nor do I agree that a change
in the leadership structure will be beneficial.  WB has provided excellent
service to the team. We have engaged with OLPC, Fedora and provide support
several deployments. For a volunteer driven organisation, it's highly

Here are some of my reflections over the last few days:

The list of challenges does look overwhelming. There is probably a lack of
developer capacity in our community to deal with them. At least, I'm fairly
intimidated. Sugar is a very large project, with hundreds of interdependent
parts. However, we should remember that each of these challenges is
surmountable. They will also present developers with the possibility to
innovate and interesting solutions.

It would be good to quantify the risks that the project faces. Are the list
of challenges I've written up valid things to worry about?

I think Sugar Labs could create an informal mentor system to enable more
contributions from current 'lurkers'. This proposal is  I think the
development teams needs to draw on IAEP & others for support. I think that
once everyone feels like that a degree of momentum has been reached, the
community will grow and our educators will be able to go back to just

Sugar Labs does lots of its own infrastructure. Is that the best use of
contributors' time? (Why don't we use Canonical's Launchpad?)


Tim McNamara
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