What can I say other than "that was a very, very fast four days in Darmstadt". I had expected to have the time and energy to blog more during the event, but that was obviously not to be. There were only three people working on the actual code there, but we managed to make over 60 commits over the course of the event, not counting backports and similar janitorial efforts. That isn't a huge rate of commits given the people who were there, however, though it is certainly respectable. So what else were we doing?
The first thing we did was review all open bugs for Plasma Active, turned our draft agenda into a kanban board on the wall and then torture tested the user interface on both MeeGo and OpenSUSE to identify issues that need addressing. We sorted and prioritized these items into the kanban and got to work on them. I will be spending some time today creating new bugs.kde.org reoprts for the items that remained on the wall at the end of the event. We focussed these efforts on the main part of the tablet shell: activities, recommendations, the running-applications peak area and the application launcher. We had an "other" category as well, and it become rather well populated, but we want to make sure that the core components work very well in our first release.
One outcome of this was that recommendations are getting too much work done on them this close to release to include the recommendations UI by default in Plasma Active One. The recommendations system will remain in place, so when the UI is revealed there will be things you can immediately use it with. However, we just didn't feel that we had enough time to ensure the quality of it when a major code drop happened just a couple weeks before release. The recommendations are, thanks to Ivan, working better than ever and proving more and more useful. They will be the key feature addition to the tablet UI in the next release, in fact.
This decision was one consequence of us clearly defining and examining the release engineering needed to get Plasma Active One out. We have a new release manager, Javier (who also works at Basyskom), who will be providing additional oversight on that process. Improvements made in the code are being reviewed so we know that they are really done (or not), tagging dates have been set (release tag on the 3rd of October) and packaging details were sorted out. We cut down the number of branches in git specific to Plasma Active to zero, allowing people to build Plasma Active using standard branches of KDE modules (KDE/4.7 of kdelibs, kde-runtime and kde-workspace; master for plasma-mobile and kactivities). This meant we had to adjust our packaging as well, which got done thanks to the tireless efforts of, among others, Maurice (aka "Pirate Moe": he does the best pirate "arrrrrr" I've heard in a long time).
We put together plans for a website that will support the release to be unveiled on release day, along with a messaging plan that includes writing, screenshotting, filming (video-ing?) and reaching out to the press. We also came up with a naming scheme that we will use for at least this and next year that is wonderful simple: Plasma Active One, Plasma Active Two, Plasma Active Three .. I'm sure you see the pattern. ;)
The first release is still scheduled for October 9, 2011 (9-10-11) and we will be doing our next release prior to Christmas so that people can have an early gift from the Plasma team and play with it during the December holidays that are traditional in many areas of the world.
It wasn't all about the technical side of Plasma Active either. We worked on plans for how to bring more effectivity and formality to our business ecosystem development around Plasma Active, for instance. We will be sharing more on that later in the year.
Finally, we also looked into the future and asked ourselves what we would like to work on in the coming year. A major take-away for me is that we don't want to concentrate too much effort on simply playing around with the base tablet shell. We like the design of it and it works very well in terms of driving an activity-centric experience. Once we've (re-)integrated recommendations and a couple other small UI bits (such as re-introducing the category tag cloud in the launcher), we'd like to shift our focus slightly to the workflows we want to see enabled. Since we had not one but two interaction designers at the workshop, they did some extensive story-boarding for a few target workflows. We also gathered requirements for applications we want to see fulfilled for use in Plasma Active and will be spending more time on meeting those goals in future.
Some of these tasks will improve the Plasma Desktop and Netbook experiences as well as they are not tied to or only applicable to tablets. Things like having an application-neutral mechanism for recording (and accessing) your online accounts, better workflows for transfering information to and from removable devices (or online services), sharing and synchronizing Activities (both between devices and people), no-config cross-device cooperation (assuming they all have Plasma on them), Share Like Connect plugins and more elegant application interfaces are efforts that will land on all of the Plasma workspaces in tandem .. but that's the future, and we're still in the "now" that includes making it across the finish line for Plasma Active One.
To that end, I have a bunch of bugs.kde.org forms to fill out, new images are being worked on, more testing is underway and a heck of a lot of documentation and public communications writing is going on. The #active and #plasma channels on irc.freenode.net are going to be busy, as will the active@ and plasma-devel@ kde.org mailing lists. See you there :)