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Plasma 5.13, a new version of KDE's desktop environment, is here

Wednesday 13th of June 2018 06:46:07 AM

Optimized and less resource-hungry, Plasma 5.13 can run smoothly on under-powered ARM laptops, high-end gaming PCs, and everything in between.


Control play back, rewind and volume even if your browser is not visible.

Feature-wise, Plasma 5.13 comes with Browser Integration. This means both Chrome/Chromium and Firefox web browsers can be monitored and controlled using your desktop widgets. For example, downloads are displayed in the Plasma notification popup, so even if your browser is minimized or not visible, you can monitor the download progress. Likewise with media playing in a tab: you can use Plasma's media controls to stop, pause and silence videos and audio playing in any tab – even the hidden ones. This a perfect solution for those annoying videos that auto-start without your permission. Another Plasma-browser feature is that links can now be opened from Plasma's overhead launcher (Krunner), and you can also send links directly to your phone using KDE Connect.

Talking of KDE Connect, the Media Control Widget has been redesigned and its support of the MPRIS specification has been much improved. This means more media players can now be controlled from the media controls in the desktop tray or from your phone using KDE Connect.


Blurred backgrounds bring an extra level of coolness to Plasma 5.13.

Plasma 5.13 is also visually more appealing. The redesigned pages in 5.13 include theming tools for desktops, icons and cursors, and you can download new splash screens from the KDE Store directly from the splash screen page. The desktop provides a new and efficient blur effect that can be used for widgets, the dashboard menu and even the terminal window, giving them an elegant and modern look. Another eye-catching feature is that the login and lock screens now display the wallpaper of the current Plasma release, and the lock screen incorporates a slick fade-to-blur transition to show the controls, allowing it to be easily used as a screensaver.

Discover, Plasma's graphical software manager, improves the user experience with list and category pages that replace header images with interactive toolbars. You can sort lists, and they also show star ratings of applications. App pages and app icons use your local icon theme to better match your desktop settings.

Vaults, Plasma's storage encryption utility, includes a new CryFS backend, better error reporting, a more polished interface, and the ability to remotely open and close vaults via KDE Connect.

Connecting to external monitors has become much more user-friendly. Now, when you plug in a new external monitor, a dialog pops up an lets you easily control the position of the additional monitor in correlation to your primary one.

Want to try Plasma 5.13? ISO images for KDE neon will probably be available tomorrow or on Friday. Check out our page with links to Live images to download the latest.

We look forward to hearing your comments on Plasma 5.13 - let us know how it works for you!

Full announcement.

Claudia Garad, Executive Director of Wikimedia Österreich: "We want to create a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers"

Tuesday 29th of May 2018 12:00:00 AM


Claudia Garad, Executive Director of Wikimedia Österreich. Photo by Stepro.

Claudia Garad is the Executive Director of Wikimedia Österreich, Wikipedia's Austrian chapter. Claudia will deliver Akademy's second keynote on Sunday, 12th of August.

Claudia graciously met up with us (Ivana and Paul) to tell us all about her job, how the Wikipedia community works and the challenges it faces.

This is what she told us:

Paul: Welcome, Claudia, and thank you for joining us!

Claudia: Thanks for having me :-)

Ivana: Hello Claudia!

Paul: So you are the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation Austria, correct?

Claudia: Correct. Since 2012. It's actually called "Wikimedia Österreich". The Foundation is only the organization in San Francisco

Paul: Thanks for the clarification. Tell us... What led you to this job? Did you do something similar before?

Claudia: I used to work as Head of Marketing and Communication for a major applied science organization in Germany. We were pioneers in the field of online science communication in the German-speaking world. Beyond the focus on online communication, I think the common denominator of those two jobs is making knowledge accessible.

Paul: Of course. What does a typical day at Wikimedia look like for you? What do you do there?

Claudia: I'm not sure I have a typical day. We work closely with volunteers, so our working hours vary. We often work in the evenings or on weekends when our Wikimedians are available. I also not only work from our office, but frequently remote when I travel for work.

Paul: So do you oversee their work? Make sure the rules for editing articles are respected? Organize events? All of the above?

Claudia: Wikimedia staff does not intervene into the work on the Wikimedia projects. The community decides about the rules and how to enforce them; we do not have any direct influence there.

But the task that follows me everywhere and at any time is to secure funds for our organization, i.e. fundraising, grant-making and reporting. Apart from that, one of my main tasks is to build partnerships within the Wikimedia movement, but also beyond. With like-minded communities, cultural institutions, potential donators, and so on.

Ivana: I take it that you face the challenge of working with people from different time zones. Could you share some advice or tools that you use to overcome scheduling issues?

Claudia: I don't think we have super-innovative approaches in that regard. For us in Austria, it's mainly Europe and the US so far, and we found the time slots that work for most. I think the Wikimedia Foundation has probably more refined ideas, as they work with a more diverse group, but I wouldn't know the details.

Paul: Talking of diverse, I understand you also deal with diversity and inclusion issues. How do you promote these two things?

Claudia: Due to our "hands off" approach, we can only deal with diversity and inclusion issues indirectly: by raising awareness for the topic, encouraging mentorship, fostering solidarity networks among volunteers, and providing incentives and support for all of that. One example is the mentoring program we developed for the Wikimedia Hackathon last year. We wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers that is reflected in the physical space, as well as in the social interactions.

Paul: Is there a lack of diversity within the Wikipedian community?

Claudia: It always depends on the definition of diversity, and it varies between our communities. Speaking for our Austrian communities: it is diverse in some regards, like age, and not very diverse in other, such as gender or ethnical background.

Paul: So do you know what percentage of women Wikipedians versus men there are, for example? The percentage for each ethnicity? Is this information you collect?

Claudia: There are roughly 10% female contributors in the German-language Wikipedia, and that reflects what I see during offline events. Non-binary is probably around 1-2%. But the numbers are not all 100% accurate, as many volunteers choose not to disclose their gender, and we respect their wish for anonymity. That is even more true for ethnicity - we do not ask for that anywhere. This is what you can get from the information people provide on their user pages. Apart from that, we do not collect any personal data.

But there are other ways to make the diversity gaps visible: by comparing the number of biographies about females to the number of articles about men. Wikidata makes that really easy nowadays. Or by looking at the language and perspectives that are represented in articles. It becomes obvious very quickly that we have a problem there, and that should be fixed if we strive to collect "the sum of all human knowledge" as our vision statement says.

Paul: How do you solve this problem? Getting back to the activity you mentioned before, for example - how do you make a hackathon more welcoming? What do you physically do?


Wikipedia Hackathons implement special activities and spaces to encourage diversity. Photo by Clemens, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Claudia: For the first time we had mentors at such an event. Their only job was to help newcomers and to pair them with other newcomers according to common interests. Usually the mentors had project ideas that were suitable for newbies to get started. The aim was that every newcomer could be part of a team that accomplished something during the weekend, and to be able to present a project at the showcase on the last day.

To make it as easy as possible to approach people, we also had a mentoring area where people could come at any time to ask questions or get help. Our Austrian community held pre-events, so people could get to know each other in smaller, more intimate surroundings before they were thrown into an international event with 250 strangers. Finally, we had an outreach coordinator who facilitated the mentor-to-mentor and mentor-to-mentees exchange before, during, and after the event.

Other ways to make event spaces inclusive are gender-neutral bathrooms, designated "quiet zones" where people can retreat to when they need a break from social interaction, stickers to customize your name badge with information about yourself that can also include how you want to be addressed in terms of gender, etc.

Many of these ideas were adapted from a youth hack event called "Jugend Hackt" that is a project of Open Knowledge in Germany and Austria.

Ivana: It sounds like you're really taking care of new contributors, which is awesome! It's something we're trying to be better at in our community, too. Could you tell us a bit about the onboarding process - what does it look like when someone new wants to join and start contributing? Are there any "best practices" or recommended ways to get started?

Claudia: We learned that the best way to onboard newcomers is regularity; it's hard to achieve much with a single event. So having mentors beyond the event helps, or having regular events or follow-up events, where people can come back to when they encounter barriers. It can be further assisted with social media - chat groups and the like. Places where people can find help and advice on short notice online.

Ivana: Have you had any students or new contributors join Wikimedia Österreich through mentorship projects like Outreachy, Google Summer of Code or similar? Do you organize similar programs on a local scale, i.e. in the German-speaking communities?

Claudia: We have had newcomers join via local mentoring programs, but not via the global programs you mentioned.

Ivana: Do you have something like a list of "junior jobs" or easy tasks that newcomers can immediately tackle? Or if you've tried a similar approach in the past, can you tell us how that worked?

Claudia: We tried the easy task list for the Wikimedia Hackathon last year. The list was linked from the event page so people could check it out beforehand. Apart from that, there were also other tasks to help around the event that were not related to coding: writing blog posts, making a podcast, taking pictures, helping the organizers on site...

Ivana: Getting back to the topic of helping newcomers, you mentioned potential barriers they can encounter. In your experience, what are the most common barriers, or obstacles that newcomers have reported? And how have you worked on resolving them?


Claudia takes part in the "Internet Policies and Activism in Europe" panel at the Elevate Festival 2016.

Claudia: I think for most newcomers the hardest part is to see where they could help and how. So the task list and mentors can help with that. However, we also still have room for improvement: After the hackathon, many newcomers complained about how long it took to get a code review. Often keeping people engaged after an event is the hardest part. For newcomers and mentors alike.

In the end, it is a question of resources. If we want new people, and especially underrepresented people, we will have to invest resources into this endeavour. Half-assed approaches usually don't work in the long run, and I'm afraid that this is something we still have to internalize as a movement.

Paul: What about problems from the old-timers? Is there any resistance from the existing community towards the effort to promote more diversity?

Claudia: Of course there are parts of the community who are indifferent, and some who openly work against such topics. So the art is to find the people who support the idea and include them, to address justified concerns, and ignore, or if there is no other way, get rid of people that display toxic behavior.

Paul: What sort of problems do you see a lack of diversity causing?

Claudia: For Wikipedia it is clear: the sum of all knowledge can not be gathered and represented by a small homogeneous group. Furthermore, quality and objectivity of knowledge are also important values in our movement that can only be achieved by including diverse perspectives.

Paul: For somebody who wanted to join in the Wikipedia effort... What advice would you give them? What should they read? Where can they start?

Claudia: Most Wikipedias have extensive guides on how to get started. Too extensive sometimes :-). I would see whether there is a mentoring program on your Wiki project and sign up, or whether there are local Wiki meet-ups in your home town. In Vienna, for example, we have a Wikipedia clinic for newcomers every first Tuesday of the month.

Paul: A Wikipedia clinic! What do you do there?

Claudia: It's basically where you can come to discuss and find help for common problems. I think there are code clinics at some events too. It's a peer approach to exchange best practices around common issues or challenges.

Paul: Is there a trend? Like problems that new contributors come up with again and again? If so, what are they?

Claudia: I think the challenges for newcomers vary between the projects. In the German language Wikipedia, the biggest issues are certainly the complexity that results from an elaborate rule set to ensure quality of content; the fact that most topics of general knowledge are fairly well covered so you need to find your expert niche to contribute; and the often not very newcomer-friendly atmosphere and aggressive interactions.

Paul: I suppose people feel possessive about what they work on. Is there any sort of regulatory body that helps resolve disputes or reprimands antisocial behavior?

Claudia: There are community-elected arbitration committees to solve conflicts on projects. But in some cases, especially when there is also offline harassment involved, the Wikimedia Foundation has to take steps to ban those people from events, the projects, or both in order to protect others.

Paul: I guess it is normal that in such a big community you will have all sorts of people...

Moving on to happier topics. Apart from actually writing or expanding Wikipedia articles, what are other things contributors can do to help Wikipedia grow and thrive?

Claudia: Other ways to contribute to Wikipedia are to help build the software behind MediaWiki, or to take freely licensed pictures for Wikipedia & Co and upload them to Wikimedia Commons. There are also all the other sister projects such as Wikivoyage, Wiktionary, or Wikidata.

Paul: I guess donations also help, right? Where can we go and donate?

Claudia: Of course - to keep Wikipedia ad-free and independent, that is probably the easiest way to contribute. You can either donate to the Wikimedia Foundation, that distributes the money among the global communities or, if there is one, to your local Wikimedia organisation.

Paul: Claudia, thank you so much for your time.

Ivana: And we look forward to your keynote at Akademy!

Claudia: Thanks! Looking forward to meeting you in person!

Claudia will be delivering the keynote at Akademy 2018 on the 12th of August. Come to Akademy and find out live how you too can make your community more diverse and inclusive.

About Akademy

For most of the year, KDE -- one of the largest free and open software communities in the world-- works on-line by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities.

You can join us by registering for Akademy 2018. Registrations are now open.

For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

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2018 KDE Connect Development Sprint

Monday 28th of May 2018 12:00:00 AM

Between the 23rd and 25th of March, KDE Connect developers gathered in Verse's offices in Barcelona to work together for a weekend. It was the first meeting KDE Connect had in a while, and it was very productive!

It's been some time since the sprint, and the work carried out there has already started to trickle down into our devices. Nevertheless, we wanted to shed some light on our accomplishments, and encourage everyone to participate.

Holding discussions and making decisions is much easier in person. We kicked off the sprint by going through our backlog of ideas to decide what was worth implementing. That helped us set the focus for the sprint and resume some blocked tasks.

One of the most requested features for KDE Connect is the ability to send SMS from the desktop. We already supported SMS to a certain degree with the ability to reply to a message. Some people have even set up Kontact to be able to send texts using KDE Connect from there, but it can be annoying to use without conversation history. During the sprint, Simon and Aleix started working on a fully-featured interface for sending SMS easily from the desktop that includes full conversation views and a full contact list.

Aleix and Nico polished the Run Commands interface to make it more discoverable, so that we can easily configure KDE Connect to do anything we want.


You can now see album art
in your phone's lock screen.

Matthijs improved the functionality of multimedia controls - now it's possible to display the album art from your desktop on your Android devices (both on the lock screen and in the new multimedia notification). Meanwhile, Aleix and Nico started paving the way towards better integration with PulseAudio control, sharing some code between KDE Connect and the Plasma volume control.

A less visible but crucial part of what makes KDE Connect so useful is its integration with the system. Albert Vaca worked on a KDE Connect plugin for Nautilus, so people who don't use Plasma and Dolphin can also have a great user experience.

Another very important but often-overlooked task is documentation. Matthijs invested some time in improving the onboarding process for new contributors. Hopefully we'll get more people involved in the future!

Last but not least, we fixed some ugly bugs during this sprint. Albert Astals fixed a long-standing crash in KIO, the KDE Framework used by KDE Connect for transferring files. Simon and Albert Vaca took care of some compatibility problems with Android Oreo, while Matthijs fixed a connectivity issue and even made some progress on Bluetooth support.

All in all, the sprint was a pleasant event, and I'm really happy we all got together. It was nice to meet the developers working on KDE Connect, to connect faces with nicknames, and generally agree on a common path we will follow in future development.

Big thanks to KDE e.V. for sponsoring the travel - without their help, this sprint wouldn't have been possible.

Don't forget: you too can help KDE Connect by donating to KDE!

Story written by Albert Vaca, creator of KDE Connect.

Promo Sprint Report: What We Did and How You Can Help Us

Friday 25th of May 2018 12:00:00 AM

February was a big month for the Promo team - we held a long-awaited sprint in Barcelona, Spain from the 16th to 18th. The aim of the sprint was to look at information we had collected over the prior years, interpret what it meant, and use it to discuss and plan for the future. The activities we came up with should help us accomplish our ultimate goal: increasing KDE's visibility and user base.

Nine members of the team made it to Barcelona: Aleix Pol, Ivana Isadora Devčić, Jure Repinc, Kenny, Łukasz Sawicki, Lydia Pintscher, Neofytos Kolokotronis, Paul Brown, and Rubén Gómez. We met at Espai 30, an old factory converted into a social center for the neighborhood. Coincidentally, that is one of the places where the Guifi.net project started -- rather fitting for a meeting that comprised Free Software and communication.

Day 1: Informal Afternoon Meeting

Although Friday was "arrival day" without an official agenda, we could not resist talking shop over pizza and beer. Discussions gravitated towards the KDE.org website, which will be migrated from an old and clunky backend to a Wordpress framework. The improvement to the framework got us thinking on how we could improve the content, too.

The consensus was that we want to inform the general public about what KDE is - not a desktop, but the community that creates, maintains, documents, translates, and promotes a large body of multi-purpose software. Our software collection does include a desktop environment, but it also offers utilities, games, productivity applications, media players and editors, an environment and applications for mobile phones, development frameworks, and much more.

We should also make sure the website caters equally to the tech savvy and unsavvy, since KDE's software is meant for everybody. The new site should clearly direct users to our products, allowing end users to simply download and use them. At the same time, the website should ease the way for potential contributors to join the community.

Day 2: Espai 30, Stats stats stats, and Improved Communication

At the break of dawn the next day... well, actually, at 10 o'clock, sprint sessions started in earnest. Ivana gave a recap of Promo's main activities over the last year or so, revisiting funding campaigns we promoted and communication tactics we implemented.

Next we looked at hard, cold data, collected from social media accounts, web statistics, and distro popcons (application popularity contests). The bad news is that visits to our main sites have gone down over the last year. The good news, however, is that followers and interactions on social media have seen a significant increase. Although data collected from popcons are partial, it also looks like Plasma's user base is growing steadily.

*/ Want to help us with data-collecting and processing, or have ideas about where we can collect more useful information? Send your suggestions to our mailing list and we'll look into it.


Paul made the team look at bar charts
for the better part of an hour.

The data also helps us pinpoint wins and fails in our approach to communicating with the outside world. We found a direct relation between the traffic to our news site (dot.kde.org) and to the main kde.org website. Therefore it makes sense to seriously work on increasing the traffic to kde.org first, in order to improve the visibility and effectiveness of our announcements and campaigns. We also identified ways to make our social media posts more attractive, which should help them garner more re-tweets, boosts (the equivalent of re-tweets in Mastodon), shares and upvotes, and spread our messages further.

Another way of reaching more people is through events. We discussed Akademy and our plans for promoting the 2018 edition before and during the event, so that news coming out of Vienna in August can reach as many people as possible.

We also talked about visiting other technical and even not-so-technical events. By showcasing our applications and letting users play with them, we think we will be able to increase our user base. In any case, we need to be well-prepared for all types of conferences, so we made a list of essentials based on our previous experiences.

We noticed that even within the FLOSS community, there is a large portion of businesses, organizations and developers who are unaware of technologies that KDE develops. Speaking and setting up booths at technical, but non-KDE/Qt events (like the upcoming Embedded Linux Conference organized by the Linux Foundation), could help solve this problem and even attract contributors for KDE.

*/ Do you have suggestions for events we should attend? Join the Attend External Events task and tell us about them.

This brought us to the discussion on how Promo can help with the long-term community goals, especially the goal of streamlining the onboarding of new contributors.

One of the things we have started doing, for example, is creating a list of simple tasks for beginners. We are also trying to identify where people struggle in the process of joining Promo, and working on eliminating obstacles. On a more one-to-one basis, we want to be able to identify people's skills so we can direct them to teams they can join. This was one of the topics we tackled during the last day of the sprint.

Day 3: Teams, Market Research, and Publicity Stunts

We already noticed there are wide variety of jobs for our team, and agreed it would be more efficient to classify them and assign them to smaller groups of people with the best skills to carry them out.

For example, we'd like to have a smoother communication channel with developers, so that we can better understand their work and advise them on how to promote it. The best way to do this, we thought, would be to recruit developers already in the Promo group as liaisons with their colleagues.

Likewise, experienced YouTubers and videographers can create promotional videos for product releases; journalists and editors can write or help improve blog posts and news articles; and people with a background in marketing can use their knowledge to do some serious market research.

That last thing is important because the Promo team must discover what technologies people use, how they use them, and what they like and dislike about them to be able to market KDE products. We decided to take a step back and work on a market research project that will provide us with solid information on which to base our actions.

*/ Got experience in marketing? Join the effort!

At the same time, we can entice people to use Plasma and KDE applications with straightforward advertising, or rely on the more subtle art of product placement. Regarding the former, we looked at publicity stunts that had helped other community projects in the past, like full page ads in prominent newspapers, or messages on public transport. For example, ads at bus stops in university areas may help encourage students join the community.

*/ Got an idea for advertising campaign which is both effective and cheap to carry out? Share it with us!

As for the latter, it turns out that TV shows and movies sometimes have a hard time when they want to show a flashy computer or mobile device interface. Because they can be endlessly customized, Plasma, Plasma Mobile and the applications that run on them are perfect candidates for the likes of The Blacklist, CSI Cyber, Mission Impossible 7... Okay, maybe we will have to start more modest, but remember that KDE tech was already featured on Mr Robot, albeit as the choice of the villain.

We discussed other ways of indirectly increasing the popularity of KDE, including working with journalists, bloggers and vloggers from outside of our community. We started brainstorming a list of "influencers", journalists and publications.

*/ Do you know somebody with a solid audience on the fringes of open sourcedom that could influence a large group of people? Go and add them to the list.

We also want to improve our presence in businesses. To do that, we would first have to approach businesses and contractors that already work with KDE/Qt-based technologies. The idea is to get them on board and create a marketplace/support network that other companies can rely on when considering a migration to desktop Linux.

While brainstorming other ways to increase awareness, we realized we could improve videos and help them reach a wider audience by adding subtitles. If you would like to help creating subtitles in your language, sign up for the video group and tell us what you can do.

Conclusion


So much stuff still needs to be done...

This was an intense and intensive sprint. The full list of topics we discussed is longer than this report, but we managed to devote enough time to the most pressing issues. We came up with ideas for targets and ways to work towards them that will translate into real results. We are now progressively implementing tasks that will help us reach those targets, but we need your help.

If you think you can help us achieve our goals, please join the Promo group. We have a mailing list, IRC channel, and a Telegram group. You can also take a look at our workboard and leave your feedback on tasks that are in progress.

Developing KDE's software is super-important, but so is spreading the message that the software exists and that everybody, regardless of their level of computer-literacy, can and should use it. That is what the Promo team is all about, and we will keep practicing what we preach.

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