There are the generic reasons, which make not only Akademy but all KDE face-to-face events worth attending: building personal bonds with people in our community, working out answers for the hard questions that can take hours (or even minutes) in person instead of weeks or months (or never) by email and irc, trying new ideas out in a collaborative environment, pushing hard to put polish, finish and completion at the end of a long push of development.
Each Akademy has also had, at least for me, some special reason to:
- Ludwigsberg: the first one, held in 2004. (C'mon, you can't miss the inaugural!) There was a lot of "so, where do we go from here?" where "here" was KDE3; usability, multimedia, desktop search, improved C++ ABI. A lot of what got started there ended up setting directions for KDE 4.
- Dublin, 2006: KDE 4. This is really where a lot of the firming up of the "what will KDE 4 be" discussion took place
- Glasgow, 2007: Getting KDE 4 out the door. Lots of talks and discussions about what we'd come to call the Pillars of KDE and work on getting these pieces into place in our apps.
- Belgium, 2008: KDE 4.0 is out the door, how do we take that first step and get it ready for production use? What are the missing bits that still remain?
That list glosses over a lot things that went on at each of the Akademy events. It's really impossible to completely capture what it's like to spend a week with a few hundred people all eager to move KDE forward to the next plateau. The meetings, the talks, the good times, the cool hacks ...
... so what's in store for Akademy 2009? What will be the one line summary for Gran Canaria a year from now? In other words: why should you want to be there? Obviously there are the generic reasons; those are constant and not to be lightly dismissed. If they were the only reasons for beign at Akademy it'd still be worth going ten times over, but they aren't the only reasons and that's what keeps Akademy so special year after year and why it grows in participation and usefulness as measured by results year over year.
My input would be this: make it about where we are headed with KDE 4.5. Yes, that's two releases out and it's certainly not realistic to put detailed feature lists together, but we ought to be picking our heads up again at this point and looking a bit forward.
If you look at the Akademy retrospective list above, you might note that we started looking at KDE 4 when it was way over the horizon and we were still working on KDE 3.4 each and every day. As KDE 4.0 approached, our line of sight grew shorter and our focus more intense. Then as we crossed the start line, marked by 4.0 being released, we started looking pretty much right at our feet instead of the horizon. None of this was wrong or bad, it was exactly what we needed to do at that point in time.
What we ought to avoid, however, is getting in the habit of looking at our feet exclusively. That's really easy to do once we've hit our groove and are into the business of polishing (stabilization, feature fill-ins and performance improvements). It's what happened to the project sometime early on in KDE 3 and the result is that by the time we got to 3.5 we had a big pile of features and nowhere clear to go with them.
KDE 4 has the potential to not end up as a "big pile of features"; it can instead embody clarity in direction and harmony in purpose.
We have some really clear pathways that we drew out for ourselves: beauty (advanced graphics, solid visual design), usability (simple as possible, but no simpler), environmental awareness (think: Solid), desktop search and semantics and other advanced functionality. These are not things a project achieves over night or even over the course of one year. They are a journey, one that is so enjoyable to take that it's just fine that we keep extending the end points for ourselves no matter how far we get. We need to make sure we are still on those paths, and maybe even come up with some new ones if we've discovered that, having come this far, we have some missing tools in our toolbox.
That won't happen if we stare exclusively at our feet, however.
Akademy 2009 is the perfect opportunity to lift our heads up and look into the near distance. We don't need to look out as far as we did from the perch of KDE 3.3 into what would become KDE 4.0, but we need to look beyond the impending release of 4.3 as well.
- How far along the various paths we set out for ourselves are we? This is the question where we pat ourselves on the back for what we've accomplished thus far and then use that energy to draw big red lines around the bits yet missing.
- Where do we need to put more resources and focus? (Personally, I'd put Nepomuk up as a good, though certainly not only, candidate)
- What goals do I have for my project in the next year?
- Let me hear your goals for your project in the year...
- What is the role of $PROJECT in the larger context of KDE? Who uses it, relies on it, contributes to the bits underneath it?
- Now that we've arrived at this point, what new audaciousness should we add to the mix? (Personally, I'd add "innovative netbook experience", "social desktop" and "support the new financial applications module to become the best in breed set of F/OSS apps in that category" as three of them)
I sent around an email to a number of projects in the KDE universe asking a series of questions for a "KDE 2009 Introspective". I had planned on releasing the results of that within the next week or two. Instead, it seems that a keynote at Akademy 2009 might (it hasn't been confirmed yet, so I might be jumping the gun a bit here ;) be given about it. In which case, I'll extend the findings, do some follow up rounds, harass the projects who haven't responded and try to hit up even more projects than I did in my first round of pestering .. er .. emailing.
(On a side note, even if it is approved, I won't be delivering this presentation since, for personal life reasons, I won't be at this Akademy. It tears me up inside that I will be missing Akademy this year, the first one I won't have been at, but it's the Right Thing(tm) to do right now in the bigger picture. You can put money on it that I'll be at Akademy in 2010 though. :)
My hope is that everyone who comes together for Akademy 2009 helps craft in a collaborative fashion this heads-up snapshot that we can use together to lay down another year or three of KDE awesomeness. My hope is that we take the time to identify topics which people can then hold sessions on to form consensus based directions that we then execute in the next year.
As someone who will be waiting for the results on the outside, I hope that those who are there can exit with a clear and focused message of "what we saw, what we decided, where we're going".
To accomplish that, Akademy 2009 needs you to be there. Your attendance will be an opportunity to not only hang out with one of the coolest bunch of people going in software today but to also help draft the exciting future of our project by examining where we were, where we are and where we want to be. World domination awaits.
Here is the registration page, you know what to do. :)