Help us organize UbuConLA 2012!

While a lot of you are at UDS, several Latin American LoCos are working hard to organize a local Ubuntu conference.
Things are going really well, we’re 4 weeks away, but we’re a little short on funds. Every year the same people who organize it end up having to pay for many things themselves despite have a few generous sponsors, and this year I’d like to change it so I set up a small but valuable fund raising campaign and we could really use your help.
The site is in Spanish, so it may take a bit of blind surfing to get around but it should be fairly easy once you’ve been sent to PayPal  🙂

If you have a some spare change, head on over here:

Making usability part of the development process

For the first year and a half in Canonical I worked with the amazing Launchpad team, with the ambitious goal of building a new user interface, introducing AJAX in an established code base and rolling it all out on time. While all of that was overwhelming in itself, what was more important to me was making sure the UI remained consistent across time.
Long story short, it was a success and it’s been 8 months since I’ve left the team and the established process is still on-going.

I wrote a paper on the whole experience and presented it at the agile conference XP2010 in Norway.

Here’s the introduction:

When I started working with the Launchpad team I was tasked with designing and rolling out a new interface using cutting-edge technology on a well established product and team. The existing processes and team structure made it very hard to roll out big changes while also ensuring consistency as time went by.
While the general designs and work ow changes were being eshed out, I started to drive some change to the existing processes, enabling me to be successful at an objective that would take a year to accomplish, and unexpectedly, beyond that.
The project was 4 years old and had over 500 dynamic pages with different templates and layouts that had been left untouched at different points in time. The goal for the next year was to make the application easier to use, even enjoyable. I also had to make the UI consistent across the board, take the project from static HTML pages into the wonderful world of in-line editing, streamlined work-flows and predictable interactions. In parallel, fundamental features that had been developed were going completely unused and we needed to turn that around. A re-usable AJAX infrastructure had to be developed from the ground up, new features needed to be designed and delivered, and general navigation issues needed to be addressed.
However, this story isn’t about the success of the roll out of a new interface, but rather the success in the process changes that evolved during that year and how the project went from nobody feeling ownership over the user interface, to the developers taking strong ownership.

I feel very passionate about this subject, and hope this experience can help other projects and teams.

Here’s the paper for download: xp2010_paper.pdf

Looking for an awesome new team member

We have very exciting and challenging plans for the future of the new web+mobile Ubuntu One team (more on this soon), and we’re looking for an exceptional web engineer to join us.

The summary for this position is:

We are looking for an exceptional engineer to work on Ubuntu One’s web infrastructure with a proven track record for exceptional problem solving and integration into third-party systems. This person should help the team design, build, and deploy web and mobile applications with a high degree of quality and passion. If you’re the type of person who gets excited about delivering cutting-edge technology to hundreds of thousands of users, in a lean and friendly environment, we are looking for you!

If this sounds like you, check out the full job description and send us your CV!

Help Launchpad get better icons

We’re trying to improve the icons we have in Launchpad so they’re more usable across different cultures and types of users, and our first step is to do some user testing on our current icons.

The Canonical User Experience team has set up a survey to gather information on how users see our icons, so if you have a few spare minutes (it’s very quick!), please take the survey and pass it on to other people, especially if they don’t use Launchpad, as they will be less biased.

Survey is available at:

Launchpad is now fully open source

As promised, Launchpad has been fully open sourced (as opposed to the initial idea, nothing has been held back). Get it now, fix your favorite pet bug, and improve tens thousands of people’s experience.

Mark Shuttleworth really deserves a lot of praise for this bold and brave move, open sourcing not only the code, but all  it’s history. It’s a fantastic day today.

Update: yes, fully means including soyuz and codehosting, Mark has decided to release everything. The whole history is there.

See the loggerhead page:


User Experience everywhere

About a month ago, I went to Canonical’s office in London for a sprint, and made good use of my Sunday by visiting the National Gallery. One fantastic thing about London, is the fact that all museums are free, not just because otherwise a few years back I couldn’t of afforded going, but because the fact that they are free gives you the freedom of going to the same ones over and over again, and just calmly visit the bits you’re interested in.

As I was walking by, I saw a painting that really struck me. It was a terrible and dark dragon eating two men, one of them is in agony while it’s face is being eaten off. Quite shocking:

Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon

After looking at it for a little while, I went closer to read the description of it, which unexpectedly shocked me ten times as much:

“This gruesome episode comes from the story of Cadmus which is told in Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ (III: 1-151). Cadmus was sent by the Delphic oracle to follow a cow and build a town where it sank from exhaustion. The cow stopped on the future site of Thebes, and Cadmus, intending to sacrifice it, sent his followers to get water from the neighbouring well of Ares. They were killed by the guardian of the well, a dragon who was the son of Ares. Cadmus then killed the dragon and on the advice of Athena sowed its teeth in the ground, from which sprang up armed men who slew each other, with the exception of five who became the ancestors of the Thebans.”

This got me thinking on how much first impressions are important in the user experience, but really hit me how much more important the actual content is. We tend to relay the content creation and management to “the marketing folks”, when I feel it’s a crucial part that should be worked on together to balance off the amount of text, with the tone in which it’s written, and to ensure that we’re adding value to the users’ experience.

Yes, I’m starting to see UI everywhere.

Loggerhead 1.10 released!

The 1.10 release is mostly a bug fix release. There has been some effort to improve performance, we’ve updated the code to work with bzr 1.10, URLs are now much more user-friendly and permanent and breadcrumbs have been added to make navigation easier.

As part of the release, I have also uploaded packages to the bzr PPA:
My intention is to keep doing that in releases from now on   🙂

It has also been rolled out to Launchpad, so you will see nicer URLs like:
Quick changelog:

– Fixed some performance issues (Robert Collins, James Westby, Martin Albisetti)
– Update loggerhead to work with bzr 1.10 and the latest bzr-search (Robert Collins)
– Add startup deamon script for Linux (Marius Kruger)
– Switch navigation from file_ids to paths. Fixes bugs #260363, #269365 and #128926. (Martin Albisetti)
– Fix bug #258710 (“the /files page explodes in an empty branch”). Also minor improvements to the /files and /changes pages. (Marius Kruger)
– Added –port, –host and –prefix options to serve-branches script. (Martin Albisetti)
– Fixed broken template for project browsing with start-loggerhead (Martin Albisetti)
– Added –reload options to restart the application when a python file change. (Guillermo Gonzalez)
– Added error handling middleware. (Guillermo Gonzalez)
– Fix bug #243415 (“Tracebacks go to console but not log file”). Also minor improvements to logging in serve-branches and start-loggerhead. (Guillermo Gonzalez)

Usabilty report on Empathy and Pidgin

I just realized that Matthew Paul Thomas’ blog isn’t on the planet, so for the people who aren’t yet subscribed to his blog, he’s been doing a lot of usability work on Ubuntu, and did a very interesting evaluation on Empathy’s and Pidgin’s usability, helping the desktop team decide with all the facts on the table, whether it Empathy is mature enough to be the default choice in Ubuntu (he concluded that Empathy just wasn’t there yet).
What’s even more interesting, is the fact the he reported bugs based on his findings, to both projects, to help improve free software in general.

Personally, I look forward to seeing more of his insightful evaluations, and I’m thrilled to see usability getting more and more attention in open source!