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The VDG




Hello team,

Given recent events and decisions (https://mail.kde.org/pipermail/plasma-devel/2018-June/086117.html) I feel it important to bring more to the table.

Martin’s decision is an unfortunate one. Martin has been with KDE through thick-and -hin and has earned the respect and love from many members in the community. He has also earned my respect.

I can’t help but think that the VDG is a tremendously influential group within KDE. I personally take this as a huge responsibility and a call to do even better in our approach. We ourselves have also seen the departures of many influential members. We have lost leaders one after the other and we have tried to cope with that. Martin’s and others’ comments about the VDG are welcomed and noted in this regard.

I share the feeling. The VDG has strived to bring design back to the table after we started the Plasma 5 cycle, discussing design, debating direction, etc. However, the VDG has no leader, no vision, no strong direction. I took these thoughts seriously last year when I first attended Akademy. I realized that the VDG has a strong voice, but it was just that, a voice.

I think we are still feeling the fallout from Aaron Siego’s exit from the community. He provided strong vision, made developers excited once again for their work, designers rallied behind the visual vision we had. It felt as though nothing could stop us because we had a guide to follow. Nothing else mattered.

I think the VDG needs vision and guidance desperately. I am guilty myself of not providing this. However, I have taken steps to mitigate this problem. Last year, I decided to engage myself in revamping System Settings. We are still working through it but strong work has been done in this past year from me that I have ever done before.

My basic idea was to provide an easier way to interact with the thousands of options that System Settings provides. By doing this work, I discovered that much more could be sprung up and done for the entire interface. I also discovered that I cannot take a hard line on everything that I do. We have been able to deliver more KCMs by steering design rather than dictating design. My affiliation with developers in the team has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I feel the VDG will do well in approaching our developer team the same way. Don’t be married to a design, learn from technical challenges to your work, adapt quickly and move on. VDG members will see that by doing this, we open the door to even more possibilities than we ever thought.

Our developers are the ones putting out thousands of lines of code, reading on a computer screen all day, and Plasma ones do this all night as well. They are the foundation of the project. Without our developers, the VDG can never hope to deliver anything to the public. Our developers area cautious, full of ideas and a guiding voice for contributors. We will do well in partnering with a developer as we work and listen carefully to their counsel.

I feel that our team in the VDG generally receives many newcomers to the world of Linux and Open Source communities. This is a challenge for the VDG as we must be open to new contributors but also need to curve contributions to the right places. For some, this makes it feel to them that “anything goes”. This is simply not the case. We ask that if you are a new contributor to the VDG, start small, learn from others and ask questions. We cannot take the hard line that our designs are above the project. They are simply not.

The VDG also gathers a crowd that is passionate about design but doesn’t always provide direction. I will take fault for that. Having been here a while I feel it is my responsibility to provide more direction to new contributors. I have opened doors, but I have not learned how to shut them. If our dev team has anything they want to say, please bring this to me and I will work with you.

If anything, I feel that our developer team, the VDG and the Plasma team in general currently lacks “visual direction”. I say this very carefully of everyone’s feelings. We maintain our software without stretching ourselves too far. After all, major changes also mean major work. By the same token, sometimes as VDG, we don’t dimension that a graphic design that took us 2 hours to make will take 6 months to deliver. We must think deeper, less like a graphic artist and more like a project manager. This will bring perspective to our work.

I ask that instead of diving into power struggles and control over code and design, let’s direct that energy into developing a visual direction. We worked hard on this a couple of years ago. We developed “simple by default, powerful when needed.” I love that motto. It drives my thinking when designing for the project. However, we needed more than that. We started working on developing our human interface guidelines and the team delivered a strong set. After the advent of Kirigami, the team needed to revise our HIGs, a new website container was created for this purpose and every day we work to modernize and adapt our guidelines. We need to catch up to the great work that is being done in Kirigami. You should start seeing more direction from the VDG in this regard soon.

We are working hard toward a visual direction and less ambiguity.

Again, we must all work in this. The entire community.  If you want to point a finger, do it at me. I am at fault for not guiding sooner. I am here to help with that and welcome feedback.

Thank you,

Andy (anditosan)