[Sugar-devel] State of Sugar?

Bastien bzg at bzg.fr
Mon Nov 2 13:33:49 EST 2020

Thanks Walter for your thorough answer!

I'm well, thanks, and I hope no one here suffers too much from the
Covid-19 crisis.

Walter Bender <walter.bender at gmail.com> writes:

> I am still an Emacs user. Would be completely lost without it.

Same here ;)

> I think that for the most part James has already answered these
> questions, so I will jump right into my personal reflections below.

Yes, I've got all my questions answered by James (thanks again), so
maybe the initial idea of a "State of Sugar" is not a good idea.

> I remain passionate about Sugar, but we missed some important
> opportunities over the years that would have led to mass adoption
> rather than niche use. For example, being forestalled in working with
> Nokia -- they were trying to position us as an alternative to Android.
> In large part OLPC kept Sugar Labs at arms length from their
> deployments -- hence we had very little direct contact with our end
> users -- with some exceptions, e.g., Paraguay Educa -- which is still
> active. Our involvement has been maintenance, which I think confirms
> the analysis of James. (I remain convinced that Sugar would be a great
> environment for the platforms like RPi, especially if we
> develop/support some activities that more directly support the Maker
> community.)

Yes, these are missed opportunities in terms of outreach for Sugar.

When Sugar was standing on giants' shoulders (OLPC), outreach was not
the first big issue. And when this giant retired, perhaps it was like
a natural move to look for other "giants" (Nokia, Raspberry, etc.)?

> That said, even though it is a bit long in tooth, I think Sugar is
> still an important expression of many ideas that have yet to find
> their way into the mainstream and can and should be used as a way to
> promote these ideas -- whether or not they are ultimately realized in
> Sugar deployments. The Journal/portfolio, the collaboration model, our
> approach to FOSS -- providing scaffolding to exercise one's freedoms,
> and more.

I agree, and that's the reason why I have been a strong supporter of
Sugarizer since the beginning.  It was not just because I know Lionel
and I knew he would do a wonderful job at developing it (always easy
to say this in retrospect), it is also because I thought it would be
good to have a more generic incarnation of these powerful ideas that
Sugar was promoting in education.

> And some of the Sugar activities are still quite viable and are seeing
> a new life -- either rewritten for Sugarizer or repackaged in Flatpak,
> where they are then available on any GNU/Linux desktop.
> Several topics James did not mention:
> The bulk of my personal contributions over the past 5-6 years have
> been to Music Blocks, one of the most active Sugar Labs repos. I focus
> there in part because I wanted to have my efforts reach a wider
> audience -- anyone with access to a browser can use it. (Like
> Sugaroizer, it is also available in the Google Play Store, and in
> Flatpak. Ironically, it does not work inside Sugar itself at the
> moment.) But there are several other reasons. Since "you cannot think
> about thinking without thinking about thinking about something", I
> wanted to work on a "microworld" that was about something and I had
> long wanted to scratch a particular itch: music. I seized the
> opportunity when I met Devin Ullibari and it has been a vehicle for
> lots of personal learning. As a stand-alone activity Music Blocks is
> getting a lot of traction -- including wide-spread adoption in Japan
> and Peru. And we have 100+ contributors -- new ones popping up all the
> time. But Devin and I also have another agenda. We think that Music
> Blocks could provide a vehicle for musicians to expand their
> repertoires into programming and hence expand their job prospects --
> most musicians moonlight and why not moonlight teaching music through
> the lens of computation? We've also been developing a body of
> collateral material in support of this goal -- largely in the form of
> lesson plans.

I was not aware that Music Blocks was that active and useful, I will
definitely have a closer look!

> Finally, I still think of Sugar Labs as a place where people can come
> to learn. We've been very active in programs such as Google Summer of
> Code and Google Code-in (alas no more). And while some of the
> participants have stuck around, almost all of them have learned
> something along the way -- about programming, about FOSS, about
> engaging a community, about pedagogy, etc. Supporting Sugar Labs as a
> place of learning motivates me.

I wholeheartedly welcome such an open "conclusion".  As a *place to
learn*, I also think Sugar Labs is doing great, especially with the
steady commitment to the Google Summer of Code / Code-in initiatives.

But is this vision readable for newcomers and potential contributors
on the Sugar Labs website?  The homepage is all about Sugar as a
product, not Sugar Labs as a place and a community.

What about moving the focus away from the product and toward the
community and the place to learn?

What about insisting on the community and the core values, those being
alive and "implemented" through many great products like Music Blocks,
Sugarizer and Sugar itself and... new products anyone can contribute,
if she/he wants to join this "place of learning"?

What about:

  Sugar Labs is place for learning how to develop sustainable free
  software for learners.  Discover the way we envison how LEARNING
  works, how to do FOSS for learners and what you can DO NOW.

  [Capitalized words where to put links.]

I'm aware this proposal comes a bit out of the blue, but I've been a
long-time lurker here (hello Christopher!) and I still believe in
welcoming new energies and new initiatives around powerful ideas such
as the Journal, the portfolio, collaboration, etc., and I think these
ideas would prove even more stronger if they were not implemented in
just one platform.

I hope everyone can read this as a constructive proposal.

Have a nice day!


More information about the Sugar-devel mailing list