Sunday, August 31, 2008

Branding 101

A while ago there was a big effort to make all the various "official" GNOME web sites consistent in some minimal way.  The reason for this was the reconition that "branding" is important.

So, imagine you are a potential new user or reporter trying to figure out what GNOME is all about by checking out the GNOME info-web.

Currently, if you Google for "GNOME", you get the correct result (for us): the first hit is http://www.gnome.org, check.

On this page the top line navbar elements are
  1. News (news.gnome.org), didn't load for me today
  2. Projects (www.gnome.org/projects)
  3. Art (art.gnome.org)
  4. Support (www.gnome.org/support)
  5. Development (developer.gnome.org)
  6. Community (www.gnome.org/community)
From a cursory top-level examination the potential convert or evangelist will find that
  1. There is no news (OK, maybe that's a transient error)
  2. There are a mixture of headers navigational elements in the "official" GNOME web (art, developer)
  3. The developer docs are extremely out of data
So far not good, but maybe not too bad.

But what if you Google for "GNOME support"?  Currently the first hit is http://gnomesupport.org.  Seems reasonable.  But you get to a site that at first glance looks nothing like the "official" GNOME sites.  Maybe this is a third part ("Community") site?  Who knows?  You certainly can't tell from the page itself.  The "About" link doesn't tell you about gnomesupport.org, it takes you to http://gnome.org/about; probably not what you'd expect.


All in all, not a good first impression.  And it seems so easy to fix.  We tried to fix this in the past.  Why couldn't we?

Why am I led to the conclusion that the people in control of those sites just don't care about the user-facing side of their efforts?  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but rather there seems to be a disconnect about what we say and what we do.  If we really care about the users, why do we make life harder than it needs to be for them?

Did I say "them"?  Sorry, I meant "us".

Update:

The first comment on this post shows exactly the problem with many open source and Free software developers attitude to users:

"Why do you switch from 'why couldn't we' to above accusation?

Everyone having SVN can improve. Instead of asking who does it, do it already or quit complaining, too easy."

I rest my case.  Developers don't care about users.  If a user offers constructive and actionable feedback, the guaranteed reply is "do it yourself".  Is it any wonder we haven't acheived Word Domination, or at least 10x10 by now?

But I'm not bitter.  I will stick with GNOME until I die, and weather the flames generated from trying to help.

Peace and love,

John

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

> Why am I led to the conclusion that
> the people in control of those
> sites just don't care about

Why do you switch from 'why couldn't we' to above accusation?

Everyone having SVN can improve. Instead of asking who does it, do it already or quit complaining, too easy.

AdamW said...

You're not a user. You're on p.g.o., which makes you a developer.

Most people probably don't know what you do, but there's definitely a divide between the outer and inner circles when it comes to most open source projects I'm familiar with. Useful 'complaints' from the outer circle are actually *more* likely to get a positive response than the same complaint coming from the inner circle, as it's assumed inner circle people should do something themselves rather than bitching.

You still have a valid point, but it's worth bearing in mind that you can't assume a genuine 'user' would get the same response as you do.

Besides, the comment was anonymous, which means you haven't a clue who it was.

Daengbo said...

I agree with Adam. Don't feed the trolls.

I also agree with your post, though. Debian is also trying to modernize their website and make everything consistent. Agnieszka "pixelgirl" Czajkowska has taken it on as her final project in uni.

Gnome is very serious about its HIG, and I think it should apply the same logic to the website, though not follow exactly the same rules because a website is fundamentally different than a desktop.

Pedram Azimaie said...

Well,Lots of ( like me )people are interested in contributing Gnome Project(at least,Website part),But How?

Ethan Anderson said...

People want what they want, and they'll often pay money to get it. You either listen to your users, or they somewhere else, like OSX.

It's possible this next decade will drive that lesson home very, very, very hard.

And in the end, that's a good thing. We only need enough freedom zealots to keep FOSS alive until it doesn't suck. After that point, whether it dominates or not should depend directly on how amazing it is, not how Free it is. Few care.

Frej said...

Considering the standard answer is "Do it yourself"

The front page www.gnome.org has a small tab 'Contribute' (I would prefer, "I want to help!"). The single word is just dull and actionless.

Anyway, the page goes to the somewhat wordy page.
http://www.gnome.org/community/

What about the just listing the different way to contribute. In big fat links!

"I want to translate"
"I can't code yet, help me learn"
And something similar about art/icons.

Maybe explaining basic requirements. But the links to a specific problem (art/code/translations) should help you get started EASILY! Otherwise we have a problem.

And yes, i'm not going to do anything about it, shoot me.

Anonymous said...

I said it as:
1) You're on Planet GNOME. Don't pretend you're still an outsider / user. If you consider that is the case, please ask Jeff to remove you from Planet GNOME (it is for GNOME hackers and contributors, always said that).
2) You are on marketing-list (you should be at least as you talked about marketing). Where www.gnome.org was discussed quite recently. It is pretty low to make this post and ignore the info from marketing-list or all the stuff you can find on live.gnome.org.
3) I'm far from flaming. Your the one who is accusing. 'We do not care and stuff'. If you do not see how bad it is to write that, don't say I was flaming you (I replied *because* of the way you said things).

Oh and regarding the anonymous stuff: I'm bkor and I don't like blogger.com.

Anonymous said...

Why do you say that the developer documentation is out of date. developer.gnome.org is clearly not ideal, as it now mostly consists of just links to library.gnome.org, and a few archived documents. But those first few links are not to out-of-date stuff:
http://developer.gnome.org/


Or am I misunderstanding you? Specifics would be helpful. Then we can fix whatever it is that is bothering you.


However, we should indeed think about replacing any links to developer.gnome.org with links to library.gnome.org, if we don't find a good use for it,


Murray

Anonymous said...

Also, if you would have done your homework, you would have noticed gnomesupport.org was registered to Luke Stroven. The name doesn't immediately ring a bell here, but apparently he also owns gnomedesktop.org.

Anyway, point in case: why on earth do you expect the gnome community to keep sites which are not even under our control consistent? Sounds to me like you noticed something, and decided to go on a random whine against it without doing your homework properly.

Bob said...

As said before, shouldn't we use library.gnome.org instead of developer.gnome.org ? Are they still important docs on developer.gnome.org ?

Maybe we should open a thread on the corresponding ml (infrastructure or marketing maybe) to talk about that (with a blogpost on the planet to recruit volunteers). It's a more appropriated place to have the opinion of gnome-people.
I don't know anything about html/whatever but I'm willing to help.

Anonymous said...

As a user I'm grateful to see post like this. Criticism should be welcomed, not taken as a personal affront.

Claus said...

Hi, John!

I basically agree GNOME's sites are in a sad state.

To give you another example: I learned today that GNOME files was hacked and Eugina has no intention to re-animate the site.

This is unfortunate: Is there a better way to "sell" the basic desktop other than letting people them find out what great applications exists for it? It's a necessary marketing tool.

But now it's gone. That's the problem if GNOME lets third-party manage major marketing tools.

Concerning the critical comments: Many of the pages linked by the central GNOME site are not in SVN. GNOME files is one example but there are others.

For some of these sites, it's just not easy to change something.

In fact, there was a long discussion (over the last five years or so) on the GNOME web and marketing lists to update the central site to a CMS so that more people can contribute (without having to check out SVN and hack HTML files manually).

This is a site where changes would be possible.

But it seems it lead nowhere: Just last week, Stormy Peters opened a Google Docs account to improve and layout a new Friends of GNOME page. If the CMS would work, why is there a need to use Google Docs for collaboration?

Contributing to the GNOME web is not just a matter of having SVN access; it's also needs help from the sys admins and the web team.

An additional problem is control: Some GNOME contributors seem to over-emphasizes the meaning and influence of words and, thus, they want control.

I can't recall how many times I've seen Havoc Pennington complain on Planet GNOME about the GNOME short description on the front page. Since I wrote it, this is of course disappointing. He could have changed it but he didn't. So much for making improvements instead of complaining.

However, this example teaches something about the problem of control: With so many people contributing to GNOME, everybody has a different idea what it's all about and how it should be presented. But hardly anybody is willing and capable to produce a solution to the problem. I believe, there's none; very much like there's not one interface design that satisfies the needs of all users.

As a result, the GNOME's website(s) look so much like a patchwork. Maybe, other activities -- such as the friends of GNOME campaign -- suffer from these issues as well.

The core problem is that many existing contributors don't want to leave their comfort zone. I wouldn't say they don't care. They just didn't became used to any other way of working with users and marketing their software. It's a matter of habit, not motivation.


Cheers,
Claus

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