Linked by Kaj de Vos on Tue 8th Jun 2010 22:07 UTC
Syllable, AtheOS

The Syllable project is pleased to announce that the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated, and that the new version 0.4 of Syllable Server has been released. This release focuses on maturing existing functionality, improving security, ongoing system restructuring, and making the system a suitable base for third-party package managers. Although the project admits it hasn't brought its unicorn factory online yet, extensive work was done on the nitty-gritty, so the full change log is quite long.

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RE[5]: Cool, I guess...
by Kaj-de-Vos on Thu 10th Jun 2010 19:17 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Cool, I guess..."
Member since:

So what would you suggest non-developers do in terms of helping out Syllable Desktop? File bug reports for things that just don't get fixed? :-)

Well, they could report bugs that do get fixed:

For example, you contributed testing information which helped us to get the OpenSSH server running on Syllable Desktop. Don't you think that is progress?

The bug reports list on our forum occupies five pages, while the fixed bugs occupy three pages. So this rough estimate suggests that three out of eight reported bugs are fixed. This does not include fixed bugs that were reported on our previous web sites and bug trackers, and does not include all the bugs we continuously fix among ourselves during development.

I think you know all this, but at the risk of stating the obvious:

- Software projects have bugs.
- Large software projects have many bugs.
- Any change can create new bugs.
- As in nature, bugs come in all sorts and shapes.
- Bugs take effort to fix.
- Bugs are made by people, so they need to be fixed by people.
- Some bugs are easy to fix, some bugs are very hard.
- Ambitious and large software projects tend to have hard bugs.
- If you run out of cooperative people before you run out of bugs, some bugs are unfixed.
- Some bugs are annoying, some bugs are showstoppers.
- Showstoppers can, well, stop the show, meaning they delay releases.
- Annoying bugs can be ignored by those who can stand them.
- One man's annoyance can be another man's showstopper.
- In a commercial project, someone pays others to fix his showstoppers and annoyances.
- In a volunteer project, people are in the first place expected to fix their own bugs.
- If one volunteer wants another volunteer to fix his bug for him, he needs to figure out something to make him do that.

We are entering the social realm here, but this can take many forms. One way to make someone help you is to make other contributions yourself. On your question how non-developers can help, here's how people have helped us over the years. I'm sure I forgot several:

- Write new system code.
- Write new Syllable applications.
- Port existing programs.
- Test code.
- Report problems.
- Fix code.
- Build code.
- Release code.
- Write documentation.
- Set up web sites.
- Set up communication systems.
- Set up download sites.
- Maintain sites.
- Set up web magazines.
- Write articles for the web sites and magazines.
- Create artwork for Syllable.
- Create artwork for the web sites and magazines.
- Translate Syllable and its applications.
- Translate documentation.
- Translate the web sites.
- Buy our CDs.
- Contract us for a Syllable-related project.
- Download Syllable by BitTorrent and leave it open so others can download from you.
- Donate money.
- Donate used hardware.
- Buy us new hardware.
- Provide us food when we don't have any.
- Provide us shelter when we don't have any.
- Promote the project elsewhere. Elsewhere is big, so there are many opportunities here.
- Write articles for other magazines.
- Write articles about Syllable on your own web site.
- Show Syllable locally.
- Spread our CDs locally.
- Help others install and use Syllable.
- Organise conferences.
- Setup a Syllable booth at some other conference.
- Provide space for a conference.
- Provide equipment for a conference.
- Drive us to a conference.
- Sail us around the country in your ship so we can have a nice conference.
- Make photos of our conferences.
- Film our conferences.
- Pay us a compliment.
- Thank us for offering the gift of Syllable.
- Be nice and understanding.
- Stimulate someone else to do these things for us.

It's really not that hard to think of something anyone can do to support the project.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[6]: Cool, I guess...
by adamk on Fri 11th Jun 2010 17:00 in reply to "RE[5]: Cool, I guess..."
adamk Member since:

I've done any number of those things in the past (buy CDs, download the torrent and leave it open, donate hardware, open bug reports, and probably one or two others).

I think you can understand, though, that even someone who has been following the project for a long time might be discouraged by the lack of progress in some very important areas :-)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[7]: Cool, I guess...
by Kaj-de-Vos on Fri 11th Jun 2010 20:17 in reply to "RE[6]: Cool, I guess..."
Kaj-de-Vos Member since:

Yes, you're one of those people that we have known for a very long time, and that's very much appreciated.

However, you're not on AltME, our most efficient communication system. Since this seems very hard to get through to people, I'll spell it out one more time as clearly as I can:

If you're not on AltME, you have an extremely incomplete picture of what's going on in Syllable. Heck, so much is going on in AltME, that I regularly find out that even our contributors who frequent it haven't been able to keep track of all developments.

The reason we're doing this in AltME is because it's too much to fit into other mediums, such as our forum or IRC. In fact, we have never really used IRC and email has finally become so inefficient that our mailing lists have completely dried up (as they have with many projects similar to Syllable in the past two years, I have noticed).

We would have liked very much for AltME to have a gateway to more popular mediums, but it hasn't. I have lobbied for this for years with the makers, but they haven't proceeded with it. Hence, for many years, the groupware plans that we have for Syllable, anyway, have included a goal to build our own, more open groupware platform to replace or at least complement AltME. This hasn't happened yet because we always gave core Syllable development priority. After six years, and in hindsight before the complete email dry-up, I decided two years ago that it was time to proceed with this. Since then, I have been stepping on the gas to realise this. So far, we have a base Linux server to run it on and a CMS for multiple-language web sites with news, downloads and RSS feeds. As I said earlier, we're working towards exporting information out of AltME to the web.

I have worked on these subprojects by myself, so if this has meant that other Syllable development has slowed down, that's quite possible, but it hasn't slowed down anyone but myself. To give you a perspective on this, look at our code activity graphs:

The slump in my core Syllable activity until half a year ago was due to working on the CMS and the web sites. The CMS has now reached a level that I can shift back to other subprojects again. Of course, while it was in heavy early development, some publications could be hindered, but it was necessary because I started it when we lost our entire web sites two and a half years ago. If you take the effort to compare to archived versions of the old sites, you'll see that they were a far cry from the current sites.

I'm only human and I haven't figured out a circumvention yet to the limitation that I can spend my time only once. Until I do, I have a strategy of letting my time count for as much as possible. That's why I have made sure that as much as possible of my work on Syllable Server also directly applies to Syllable Desktop. I know that many people don't believe this, but that's where I have to leave it at. I can't change other people's emotional convictions through reasoning, and I don't have time for it.

In conclusion:

- The good news is, there's much more Syllable development going on than you think. Both development that you don't see, and development that you may not believe there is.
- The way Syllable is developed, even more so than in life in general, if you don't look for developments, you're not going to find them.
- If you don't believe development is there when we present it, we can't help you.
- We are working on presenting more of our developments in more popular ways, but this takes time. If you don't accept this, we can't help you, either.
- The bad news is that, the way Syllable is developed, as an extremely ambitious project with extremely little resources, and with several subprojects, when we need to focus on one subproject for a while, you're right that other subprojects are going to slow down.
- However, we have a strategy. We're not chasing butterflies. When one of our subprojects gets up to steam, it's designed to reinforce the other subprojects. For example, have you noticed this?

- Finally, there's nothing really new here. For the entire decade, the entire life of the project, we have been dealing with the ebb and flow of resources; contributors, third-party projects, audience, media attention, competitors, hosting providers and what not. Obviously, the continuous coming and going of major code contributors is one of the most disruptive things to happen, as you can see in the Ohloh graphs, and it's having clear effects, but look at our long-term behaviour:

The project as a whole has been remarkably stable over the years. Syllable is not going to roll over and die. To suggest otherwise, I consider that an insult to the volunteers who are doing good work for us right now.

This is as good as it gets, until we get a bag of inflatable volunteers for our birthday.

Reply Parent Score: 1