[Sugar-devel] State of Sugar?

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Fri Oct 30 07:56:08 EDT 2020

On Thu, Oct 29, 2020 at 4:57 AM Bastien <bzg at bzg.fr> wrote:
> Dear all,
> I hope you're all doing well, in every corner of the world.

Nice to hear from you. It has been much too long. Hope you are well.
> After participating to a survey called "State of Emacs", and thinking
> about the various "State of X" that you can find in the software world
> (State of Clojure, State of the Octoverse, etc.), I was wondering if
> you would find it useful to launch a "State of Sugar".

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

> The survey would target users and contributors and the results could
> help the community better know itself -- and the casual reader better
> understand how Sugar works in general.
> I find myself in this position of "casual reader" about Sugar today,
> and I have a few naive questions for which I don't have answers when
> browsing the website and the docs:

I think that for the most part James has already answered these
questions, so I will jump right into my personal reflections below.
> - Is Sugar still actively *developed* or just maintained?
> - If the former, is there a roadmap somewhere?
> - Does Sugar have a "maintainer" or a group of maintainers?
> - Who gets paid for doing what in the Sugar community?
> - How large is the Sugar contributors community?
> - What are the interaction between Sugar Labs and Sugarizer?
> - Is the Sugar Labs community still supporting OLPC deployments?
> - Is the Sugar Labs community supporting new "deployments" in new
>   countries?
> ...
> That's what comes on the top of my head right now.
> Maybe I'll get some answers for these questions by just asking them on
> this list, but a State of Sugar could answer other questions of course.
> Thanks,
> --
>  Bastien
> _______________________________________________
> Sugar-devel mailing list
> Sugar-devel at lists.sugarlabs.org
> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/sugar-devel

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

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.

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.

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.



Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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