Some Highlights From 2008
2008 will undoubtedly be remembered most often as the year we moved from the era of KDE3 into that of KDE4. The 4.0 release was made in January with an accompanying release event at Google's HQ in California, USA. While 4.0 was a widely misunderstood release, it was also the release that set the pace for the rest of the year ... and what a pace it was.
The KDE team managed 9,000-12,000 commits each month as we tore into a KDE 4 codebase where the libraries were no longer shifting under our feet and for which there were binary packages for both early adopters to poke at and application developers to quickly set up development environments for their porting efforts with. The release brought users which brought testing which brought improvements both in terms of features added and bugs fixed.
The bug fixing story is an interesting one, actually. KDE has always enjoyed an active community where people find and report bugs as they find them. While our code base grew dramatically throughout the KDE3 series, it also matured and the bug report rate went down. Still, the total number of open reports continued to climb and climb. Were we just not concentrating enough on bugs.kde.org? Were too many of our applications without maintainers? Were the tools we had to work with not good enough to route out the bugs? Were there simply not enough developers to be had? I don't think we'll ever know for sure, and it was likely a combination of factors, but the numbers just grew and grew. It felt like walking uphill closing bugs only to see the total numbers rise and rise ever upwards. There were a few weeks where we made progress .. but most weeks we were in the red.
With the KDE4 series just beginning we released onto the world a huge amount of very new and relatively untested code. Anybody could have predicted the bug report rate would go up compared to the ever mellowing and stabilizing KDE3 code base. Indeed, this is exactly what happened:
The rate of bug reporting has been phenomenal. Hats off to our testers around the world (though perhaps a few less duplicates would be nice ;) and their 370+ bugs per week this year. Since 4.2 beta 2 has hit, we've been inundated with over 500 reports per week, and that's not counting feature requests.
Here's the cool part though: the bug overall count has been dropping. Why? Well, we did shave a few hundred off by putting aRts and KDesktop out to pasture and marking their reports with UNMAINAINTED, but that's only about a week's worth of reports at our current rates. The real heroes have been the bug squad and a new-found fire for quality in the software where many project snipe reports as they come in.
A few years back it was easy to crack the top 10 bug closers for the week by dusting off just 10 reports. These days you often have to do twice or more that number, and often the top spots in a given week are held by people closing over a hundred bugs, sometimes even in excess of 200! The bug squad and their planned and coordinated weekend bug krushes were an excellent success and have really helped drive our attention towards the bug count. In the Plasma team, we set release time bug count goals and often close numerous reports per day with commits fixing legitimate issues.
New Stuff, And Lots of It!
2008 was also the year of new stuff in KDE. We've been working on refining today's incarnations of new comers like Dolphin and Plasma, implementing important sets of functionality in existing apps like compositing in KWin and groupware scalability via Akaonadi, pounding on the Pillar frameworks that address everything from hardware and networking to multimedia and threading and watched as some of the Big Apps like Amarok and Digikam successfully roll towards their first KDE4 releases.
The artwork in KDE4 along with the usability improvements made thus far (on a much longer road) has also been huge. KDE's upstream design is currently in state that one can not only push out that design in downstream packages, but look good doing so.
The number of new game and educational apps was also impressive, and we finally got to witness the wheels rolling on KDE integration with things like ConsoleKit, PolicyKit and PackageKit. The advances in localization in KDE that brought with it a new translation application, a whole slew of new i18n mechanisms such as improved plurals, phrase context, etc. and the font advances that come with Qt4 were similarly impressive and will help us open Free software to ever more people, just as will the new accessibility opportunities opened up to us with Qt4.
Of course, also new in 2008 were also the first important steps to new platforms, MacOS and Windows, while finding new found energy in some of the old ones that had fallen by the wayside, such as Solaris. What's most significant about this to me is that KDE apps on these platforms don't look like odd, foreign transplants: they look quite native and behave as one would expect there. For heterogeneous environments, this will likely be a significant advancement for KDE. There simply is no other suite of software out there that is this broad and comprehensive that spans the platforms as seamlessly as KDE4 can.
There has been so much new stuff in 2008 that communicating the breadth, scope and pace of change is perhaps one of the biggest challenges the marketing team faces right now.
Speaking of the marketing team, 2008 was also a landmark year for the non-technical aspects of the KDE community. The marketing team found its feet, grew more finesse and continued to impress us with its adaptability, commitment and quality. When things happened in the KDE world, the rest of the F/OSS world heard about it. The marketing team also unwittingly birthed our North American event through the success of the 4.0 release event; now we have Jamaica looming next month and that's a direct result of that success.
KDE also gained a Code of Conduct paired with a Community Working Group to help keep the community in balance and healthy. While Techbase grew with technical information in 2008, Userbase was created by the Community Working Group to help our users get more accurate and timely information.
Without these efforts, our community and ultimately the project would founder and fade. Instead, we had a terrific number of new svn accounts in 2008 (nearly one per day), we had a record number of attendees at our heavily technical annual Akademy conference (somewhere around 350), KDE could be seen well represented at pretty well every interesting F/OSS event (and then some) around the world and a healthy number of people joined KDE e.V in 2008.
The Business Side of Life
Which brings us to the business side of 2008. The standout business moment of the year perhaps happened right at the start of it when Nokia purchased Trolltech and renamed it Qt Software. Many people wondered just what this would mean for KDE, and I don't think we've seen the final answers just yet. It takes a while to integrate companies and align agendas, but the level of embracement of Qt within Nokia has been tremendous. We have seen Qt speed up in development and the release of things such as Qt Creator. KDE's relationship with Qt saw new levels of cooperation in such things as the development and adoption of Phonon, one of KDE4's Pillars, within Qt itself.
KDE e.V. itself continued to grow and become increasingly sophisticated. We ratified a Fiduciary License Agreement which should actually be available soon for people to sign so that KDE e.V. may play a stewardship role in protecting their rights and their code. KDE e.V. had its first full year with an employee, whom we then hired full time due to the benefits we saw with Claudia on at half-time hours, became an associate member of the Free Software Foundation Europe, took on a number of new patrons, funded numerous developer sprints and continued to release our quarterly reports to document it all. KDE e.V. also took brave steps in discussing and creating movement in the community space as well.
Meanwhile, the level of success in KDE related companies around the world has been visible to those watching as well. It was also a year that we heard about huge new deployments like the public school system in Brazil which will end up servicing some 50 million students across that country, a country which is part of a region where a few million retail units are sold with KDE on them every year.
Indeed, 2008 was a nice step in the right direction on the business side of life.
The End Is The Beginning
2008 may have been a great year, but looking forward I see a year that stands a good chance of completely overshadowing the exciting 12 months behind us.
We have both Camp KDE, our new North American event, in January and an Akadmemy in Gran Canaria that will be co-located with GUADEC in an unprecedented move of F/OSS desktop unity and coordination. Given the financial situation in the world right now, it looks down-right prescient on our part to have done this as merely a cost efficiency measure, but I feel the real benefits will be seen at and after the event in July as developers will come together as never before.
2009 will also be the year where we reposition the KDE brand from meaning "that desktop project" to be more inclusive and accurate as an umbrella brand for all the work going on in the world of KDE and all the people doing that work. We've been working on this plan for much of 2008, and those of you who follow the KDE promo mailing list will know exactly what I'm talking about. This kind of brand adjustment is not easy nor a small task, but will pay off in terms of greater unity throughout the project and an easier time for those who have to answer the "What is KDE?" question every day.
We're still a technology project, of course, and 2009 will see the release of both 4.2 and 4.3. KDE 4.2 is already shaping up to be a truly remarkable release, quite possibly the best KDE we've ever put out there. KDE 4.3 will undoubtedly be yet another leap up the slope towards user interface greatness, and that should be happening right around the time of Akademy this year. Such timing!
KDE e.V., flush with our new full time employee, will also march forward. There will be one significant change in 2009 with regards to the board, however: I will be stepping aside as President next year. I made my decision known to the board earlier this year and we've been working on a succession plan as well as looking at candidates to fill the vacated board position. It's been a terrific experience serving the KDE community in this capacity, and I will continue to be deeply involved with KDE e.V. as well as KDE in general. It's just time for me to focus my energies on other parts of KDE that need it right now and for new blood, thoughts and ideas to percolate through the KDE e.V. board.
One thing I am working on right now is a book publishing deal for KDE where we will be able to publish over a dozen titles in 2009 in digital and print format. Our distribution could be quite significant and I'm starting to collect people who can write for user and developer audiences so that we can put together a tentative title list in January. I'll blog more about this at the start of 2009, however.
In fact, we an expect details to emerge on all of these happenings throughout 2009 as they, one by one, come to fruition. You can also expect details on a lot more, too. There are things afoot that will rock the F/OSS world in 2009. Just as in 2008, 2009 will start with a bang as announcements get made as early as January that will leave people excited and giddy with the possibilities.
Yes, I know .. I'm such a tease. January isn't that far away, however.
Personally I'm looking forward to presenting at the Student Summit for Sustainability in Switzerland, the second Plasma Tokamak meeting in Portugal in February, OpenBossa in Brazil, Akademy in Gran Canaria and who knows what other events.
I'm looking forward to continuing to work on KDE, and Plasma in particular, with the tremendous team of people that have grown around the idea of making Free software for end users. I'm looking forward to continuing the move past Microsoft and Apple so that they get to learn what it is to see taillights ahead of them. I'm looking forward to writing code and helping to continue to extend the reach and foundations for KDE.
However, in this time of reflection, both forward and backward, I am reminded that the kernel of truth within KDE is a human one. We are people coming together to make software for people everywhere. It's not really about the business or the market numbers or the bug closure rate. It's about us: good people doing good works for ourselves and others. That is what drew me into Free software and KDE in particular, and it's what keeps many of us kicking around year after year.
The ability to balance the business with the community, the ambition with the empathy, the determination with the acceptance and the hope with the realism is what, personally, strikes me as amazing and vital to our little community of people.
I wait with excitement in my soul to just how far we will be able to take KDE in 2009. All I know is: world, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
with Love and Hugs,