A few years ago when I still wasn’t an Amarok developer, the development team appeared to me like a bunch of uber-l33t geeks with mad sk1lls locked up in some ivory tower, performing their arcane incantations. Obviously it’s not the developers’ fault, the issue was that no matter how hard you try to reach out to the wider community, there is always a not so blurred line between users and developers, and this social distinction raised the barrier to entry for me probably even more than my lack of coding skills did.
I’m trying to change this, by bringing the Social Desktop to one of the most prominent places where users learn about the development team of a program: the About dialog. By tying some openDesktop.org profile data into a modified KAboutBox, it’s much easier to convey the message that the project is developed by real people, with a new potential channel of user-developer interaction right inside the app. For users, the advantage is that developers are now easier to reach, and I also hope that this might increase the quality of the communication by making some potential trolls realize that they are not talking to nameless nicks on IRC. For contributors, this might also be a nice recognition of their accomplishments: many of us do this unpaid, for fun and for love, and it’s nice if at the end of the day one can at least get a pretty dialog with a picture and a few rows of credit.
But what does “integrating Social Desktop features” really mean? Well, it can mean everything and nothing, in this case it means a new dialog called ExtendedAboutDialog for lack of a better name. Contributors have additional extended entries with data downloaded from openDesktop.org that can be viewed if the user has internet access and an openDesktop.org account. The About dialog becomes a small social desktop client.
The implementation is currently based on Amarok, but I’m keeping it as generic as possible. It uses the OpenCollaboration Services API, through the Attica library. Attica is a library, not yet independent, as I understand originally developed for the OCS dataengine and currently in kdeplasma-addons. Though the dataengine with Attica is already in 4.3, the Attica library may land into KDE 4.4. Until then, I have crudely copied over libAttica into Amarok’s source tree.
This dialog is already integrated in Amarok’s master branch on Gitorious, and my work on this about dialog can be tracked on my Gitorious page http://gitorious.org/~teo.
What follows is a screenshot of the dialog on startup. We can’t try to download data right away because the user has to sign into openDesktop first. So we just show the old style credits, with a button on top.
When the user clicks on “Connect to openDesktop…”, a login dialog appears and the data is fetched from openDesktop.org. Meanwhile, authors who don’t wish to use openDesktop.org are already added to the list.
Finally, when the data has been downloaded, the list is completely populated.
This works for contributors without author status too, with the profiles being shown in a thinner format to save space.
This dialog is still a moving target, and I’m posting quite regular updates and screenshots on its openDesktop.org entry.