Tales of software craftsmanship

Tales of software craftsmanship

Social Desktop integration in KAboutDialog

extendedabout7

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.

extendedabout3

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.

extendedabout4

Finally, when the data has been downloaded, the list is completely populated.

extendedabout6

This works for contributors without author status too, with the profiles being shown in a thinner format to save space.

Social Desktop integration in KAboutDialog

This dialog is still a moving target, and I’m posting quite regular updates and screenshots on its openDesktop.org entry.

16 Comments

  • Reply Matt Williams |

    That’s really cool, I approve of making developers look more like real people (if at all possible!).

    One comment though, perhaps the “Connect to OpenDesktop.org …” bit at the top should be made to look more like a real button. Otherwise it looks more like the dialog is telling you to do something rather than it being a possibility for you to tell the dialog to do something.

    Again, a really good idea and well presented so far 🙂

  • Reply suy |

    About the feed: I administer one planet-like site, and I had always problems with wordpress feeds. The fix is add “?mrss=off” to the end of the feed URL. At least this works with the planetplanet software, don’t know about rawdog, but uses the same feedparser, so it probably is the same. You can fix it yourself changing the config in SVN (check planetkde.org).

  • Reply Dion Moult |

    This is a really good idea! Well implemented, but with one problem. This is a characteristic of open-source software that we are trying to showcase, but we hide it in the “help” menu, something I doubt many people click on. There needs to be somehow some way to differentiate this so people realise its there.

  • Reply Tsiolkovsky |

    I like this. Everything that brings developer and user communities closer is much appreciated. BTW culd it be possible to somehow integrate the Connect to openDesktop into the KDE login so that it works right away for all the applications and plasmoids that could use this feature. I can’t imagine if I would have to click it in very app and plasmoid seperately. Also what about the social data for the Translators tab in the about dialog? Is this also handled?

    • Reply Téo |

      Well I’d really like to push this about dialog to kdelibs some time soon, maybe even for 4.4 if I make it. So I’d integrate the oD.org data into KAboutPerson and KAboutData (and simplify a lot of the workaround code I currently use in Amarok). What you’re proposing is an awesome idea which also depends on the integration of libAttica into kdelibs. It should all be much easier then, right now Amarok and the plasmoid use two copies of the very same library which is not a very optimal situation. The Translators tab is not currently handled but after a commit I pushed today to Amarok’s master branch which refactors the list widget, I can estimate that it should be very easy to add translators data.

    • Reply Téo |

      Well it is possible but tightly integrating the whole thing would be overkill imho, that’s what microblogging apps and plasmoids are for. I’d rather add links to the developers’ identi.ca feeds, the same way I add icons for email, homepage and openDesktop.org profile.

    • Reply Téo |

      The widget style is QtCurve, and I like it more than Oxygen because it’s
      1) much more configurable
      2) less wasted space on thick borders and
      3) unlike Oxygen, QtCurve doesn’t ignore some important QStyle features such as setFlat() or QFrame::StyledPanel.
      So yeah, the only thing I miss in QtCurve is rounded menus 🙂

Post a comment