You know this guy, right? It was hard to make a prologue for this interview because Allan talks for lots of things, but I highlight two of them. Do not compare Gnome3 with Gnome2, Gnome 3 is something completely new.. and..
Gnome OS, what is it? ;)
Hello Allan, a few words about you please
I’m a GNOME contributor and member of the design team; I’ve previously contributed to GNOME marketing and helped out with bug triage. I live in London, UK. I like boats.
In November 19, 2009 William Jon McCann printed together with Jeremy Perry a design prototype paper: “GNOME Shell -A design for a personal integrated digital work environment” which basically describes Gnome3 beta. This work had excellent critics from Gnome community and beyond, can you name the main reasons behind the radical changes between Gnome 2.90 and Gnome 3.0 ?
I wasn’t fully involved in those changes, but my understanding is that they were prompted by experiences testing the initial implementation. People tend to forget that GNOME Shell has been in a continual state of evolution since the very beginning. Some things have worked well and have become established, but we’ve also been more than willing to make changes when necessary. I’m sure that there will be plenty of other things that we’ll be improving in the future.
Gnome 3 has been working for almost 5 years and it has been released about 2 years ago. There had been many postpones (and this 1st of May joke!); these were due coding delays, or because you were looking for a better design?
Design and development tend to go hand-in-hand, so I suspect it was a combination of the two. You’d have to ask a member of the GNOME release team to get a real answer to that question. :)
Two years after Gnome3 release, do you feel that you completed your goals in relation to the time given? When do you think you will be in a point that you can say: “Ok we are done with the features, let’s do some polishing now”?
I hope we’ll never be finished with new features, because at that point you stop innovating. We’ve certainly got plenty of new features in the works right now, and we’ve got plans for many more in the future. That’s a good thing, in my opinion.
There’s no reason you can’t focus on polishing and develop new features, and those of us who work on GNOME are putting a lot of effort into refining the existing GNOME 3 user experience. We always aim to ensure that every GNOME release brings tonnes of bug fixes as well as new features.
When you’re trying to build a new design, you use some relative art from other operating systems such as Windows, iOS, Android, Lion, MeeGo, Chrome OS etc. Are you (personally) getting inspired mostly from a particular system of them?
I find it hard to single out a particular OS, because they all have their good points and their bad points. And it’s not just OSs: there are also plenty of individual applications as well as websites that are doing interesting things. We’re living in interesting times when it comes to UX design; there’s a lot of innovation occurring and it has become a very competitive field in which to operate.
It should be said that, although we do research existing work when we do design in GNOME, we are also working to produce our own distinct design style. This is something that should become more and more apparent in the future.
Many Gnome devs also work for Red Hat and RHEL will soon adopt Gnome3. Are there any priorities that are set by Red Hat towards the server use that postpone or even modify the design needs/goals of Gnome in Desktop?
GNOME is a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, so it isn’t a distraction for Red Hat. I’m excited that GNOME 3 is going to become a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and that Red Hat customers are going to benefit from all the work that has gone into GNOME over recent years. Red Hat’s investment in GNOME is good for the project and good for its customers; that’s very much the philosophy behind how the company operates.
Personally, without wanting to flatter you, I think that Gnome3 from its core infrastructure till its outer design is a work made from some very clever people, an awesome work. Looking back at it after so many years of work you have done, what you really think?
One of the amazing things about contributing to GNOME is that you get to work with incredibly smart people. I always feel very lucky to have colleagues that are experts in their fields, and I’ve learnt a huge amount from being around them. That’s one of the great things about the GNOME community, in my opinion – all you have to do is start contributing, and you’re suddenly working with all these great people.
There are people that love Gnome3, people that Gnome3 just doesn’t work for them and people that are somewhere in the middle.. “We like it but we miss this feature, this is buggy..” etc. Is there anything you want to say to this last category?
GNOME 3 is different from GNOME 2 – that’s the whole point. So if you approach it wanting to preserve an existing way of working or wanting something exactly the same as GNOME 2, then you might be disappointed. GNOME 3 does contain major enhancements though, whether it’s fast application switching, integrated search and messaging, or improved applications. My advice to people trying GNOME 3 for the first time is to treat it as something completely new and as an opportunity to evolve their working style.
That said, GNOME 3 is an ongoing project, and there are some things that we know need improving. The good news is that we are constantly listening to feedback and are working really hard to improve what we have. GNOME 3 is getting better with every release. It’s good now. In the future it’s going to become fantastic.
Gnome OS, your personal comment please.
There’s a lot of confusion around GNOME OS. People assume that it means that GNOME will be launching its own distribution, but that’s not what GNOME OS is about.
GNOME OS is important for us as a project. The first thing that we’re doing for GNOME OS is working to produce a fully testable GNOME OS development build. This will let developers, designers and testers run the latest GNOME code against specific versions of other upstream compoents. This will be a massive improvement on what we have already, and will mean that GNOME is are able to produce much higher quality releases in the future.
The other thing that is happening for GNOME OS is that we are extending the GNOME 3 experience into new areas. Some important parts of the overall user experience GNOME have been traditionally missing, and that has left distributions with the task of filling in the blanks. The problem with that is that it leads to a very inconsistent experience.
GNOME OS is about providing a complete, coherent and consistent experience, so that a whole OS can be given that GNOME look and feel. One example of the work we are doing for that is the new initial setup assistant which is being created for GNOME 3.6. It will always be up to distributions whether they take advantage of these new elements to the GNOME 3 experience, of course. What it means, however, is that GNOME will be offering a more complete package than ever before.
Gnome into OEM’s tablets, around when? :)
It’d be pure speculation for me to answer that question. :)
Anything else you feel that it should be mentioned?
There are a lot of misconceptions about how design works in GNOME, so I always try to set the record straight when I can. One thing that a lot of people might find surprising is that we don’t hand down designs on tablets of stone in GNOME, and designers don’t determine a design by themselves. A lot of the work we do is highly speculative, and is intended to fire people’s imaginations and coax them in a particular direction. Also, developers play a big role in determining what a design will be like, and it’s only when they get involved in an initiative that we can start to think about details and evolve our ideas in a substantial way.
Most people don’t realise how much iteration and discussion with different parties is involved in developing a design. Doing design in the open is all about building relationships and encouraging people to do good work. We tend to think of ourselves as shepherds rather than architects.
I think I’m done now. :)
I didn’t ask for design process and goals for Gnome because that would lead to a 100+ FAQ; but we will try to reach more members from Gnome Design Team. If you are further interested about Allan’s work, he has printed an excellent article “A New Approach to GNOME Application Design” in his personal blog which explains the new Gnome Apps User Interface Pattern.
Also I want to mention that Allan is a very polite person.