Monday, June 29, 2009

LinuxTag WrapUp

The LinuxTag in General

From 24th to 27th the LinuxTag, “the most important place for Linux and open source in Europe”, took place in Berlin. I was able to join the other German community members on Thursday, the second day of the event. So there were still two and a half day to go; filled with (strong) discussions, presentations … and fun.

The fun (first). What luck, I was on time to join the LinuxNacht (the Linux night) – yummy dishes, live music (very good but also a bit loud for people who wanted to chat). Professional pictures of that event can be found – among others – in the press pictures corner. Here is one example...

The work. Besides providing help and support for everyone at our booth, there were numerous talks given by our community members. In the whole program, there were 10 presentations planned for Remarkable, I think.

Unfortunately, I missed the change to attend other projects' presentations. The one which I remember best was the one I held ;-)

Project Renaissance

The presentation itself did run rather well, except the application which demonstrates the dynamic prototypes. It froze completely – before I was able to demonstrate anything. Fortunately, one of the attendees tried it for himself and announced that it works smoothly; except the button I clicked on :-) Besides this little issue, the software is absolutely amazing – try it!

After the presentation, there has been an interesting Q&A session – one question by a representative of the administration of a German city should be mentioned. It seems that there is some uncertainty for both large businesses and government what kind of influence Project Renaissance might have on the re-training effort of their users. Why is that important? Many people rely on what they know from previous software versions, so changes in general might have influence on the people's efficiency. If the change is huge, then re-training is necessary – costly in large scale deployments. I answered that it is currently planned to integrate interface elements step-by-step. So we will be able to provide a well tested system which will improve the efficiency in the long run. Even if these organizations upgrade the software after years (it is usual to stick with one version for a long time), then the improvements intended for all users will have a positive impact on their employees.. Fortunately, I got the feedback that the question was “well answered” - which hopefully is an indicator that the Renaissance really cares about things that. We definitively should not forget about that.

Another feedback I got from one of our own community members was about the goal being communicated a bit unclear. Although UX loves to be precise, being a bit less abstract might help here – when compared to mission and goal statements . Maybe we should include the Design Directives (which Andreas developed some months ago) in all future presentations:

  • Discover essential functionality at first glance: a clearly structured UI with self-explanatory icons and labels
  • Gain in experience on the fly: explore and use more advanced features with less mouse clicks
  • Create eye-catching documents in less time: don't feel like struggling with styles and formatting, just pick a beautiful template
So these directives might be a nice complement to the presentation slides (German) which are now available at Project Renaissance presentation page. Also available is a short article about Project Renaissance which was written during (!) the talk by a nice guy from the German Linux Magazin.

Other Projects and Contacts

Of course, one of the central ideas of such an event is to meet other people. There were numerous very interesting people... For example, there was Björn from We talked about e.g. how to promote OSS so that more usability expert join these projects. A real pleasure to talk to him, so I hope we will stay in contact!

Other nice contacts have also been established with people from KDE. André and I visited their booth to have a look at KOffice 2.0 which has been released recently. Although the underlying technology seemed to be very capable, we wondered whether the software is intended for end-users. An example: The software lacks some features although the buttons are there. It “halted” once and behaved a bit strange – when looking from an end-users point-of-view. Later, it was explained to us that the 2.0 codeline is a “platform release” which means to be targeted at developers. Okay, that cleared things up... (By the way, further information in given in the blog post "starting the 2.0 series".) Personally I have to say that the KDE folk is absolutely nice and I'm really much looking forward to meet them again.

UX in the Physical World

Similar to one of my blog posts of the last year's OOoCon, I noticed two nice UX related real-world-examples. First, the urban railway service in Berlin did chose a nice label for their recycle bins for collecting paper...

Did you notice it? It seems that the symbol for paper wasn't clear enough, so they added the word “Newspaper”. Due to the space restrictions, the seem to have it shortened to “New”. Looking at it now, it seems that only new paper is accepted. The good thing is, there is no need to ever empty the recycle bins :-)

Another thing we discovered were the salt and pepper shaker at the LinuxNacht. Some weeks before, a good friend of mine told me about the problems to identify the salt – is it the one with one or more holes? A simple problem for somebody having a job in the scientific research. So how could this be addressed?

Still having salt and pepper in mind, I would say that the current LinuxTag was well spiced. I would like to express my deepest thanks to the “LinuxTag Crew” and the LinuxTag e.V. (a non-profit organization) for managing the whole event together with Messe Berlin. See you next year!


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