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Looking Back at Randa Meetings 2017: Accessibility for Everyone

4 hours 33 min ago
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A software developer's life can get lonely. Developers spend a lot of time immersed in their code, and often don't get to see the direct impact of their work on the users. That is why events like Randa Meetings are necessary. They help build bonds within the community and show the developers that their work is appreciated.

Randa Meetings are crucial to the KDE community for developer interaction, brainstorming, and bringing great new things to KDE. --- Scarlett Clark

Randa Meetings are a yearly collection of KDE Community contributor sprints that take place in Randa, Switzerland. With origins dating back to a Plasma meeting in 2009, Randa is one of the most important developer-related events in the community.


View from Randa. Photo by Gilles Caulier, CC BY 2.0

This year, Randa Meetings were held from September 10 to September 16, and were centered around a meaningful theme - accessibility.

Accessibility in Free and Open Source Software

Accessibility is incredibly important, yet so often neglected in the process of software development, and implemented almost as an afterthought. Users with disabilities and impairments often find themselves excluded from using the software, and prevented from participating in activities that the rest of us take for granted. Essentially, the software makes them feel as if they don't matter.

To remedy this, many governments enforce laws requiring software to be accessible. There are also accessibility standards, guidelines, and checklists to help developers make their software accessible to all.

FOSS communities and projects have the potential to play a major role in driving software accessibility efforts because of their open nature. People with disabilities can communicate directly with developers, report issues, and request features that they need. Proprietary products are rarely this open to feedback, not to mention the fact they are often very expensive.


Accessibility Settings module in Plasma 5

Assistive technology covers a wide range of products and solutions: from screen magnifiers, screen readers, and text prediction methods to text-to-speech interfaces, speech recognition software, and simplified computer interfaces. There are also advanced solutions like 3D-printed prosthetic limbs, and those that allow controlling the mouse by moving the head or just the eyes.

The best thing about all this technology is that it benefits everyone. Although people usually associate the word "accessibility" with hearing or visually impaired people, assistive technology can make life easier for many other groups: dyslexic or illiterate people, cognitively disabled people, the elderly, anyone with limited mobility or just bad eyesight.

The analogy is clear with wheelchair-accessible spaces, which are useful to parents with baby strollers, people with bicycles and shopping carts, and delivery drivers. Likewise, improving keyboard navigation, image and color contrast, and text-to-speech tools results in satisfaction among non-disabled users. Making software accessible means making software better.

Making KDE Software More Accessible

Generally speaking, there are two ways to make software accessible: either by building special accessibility-focused tools from scratch, or by implementing accessibility features and improvements into existing applications. The latter is what the Randa Meetings 2017 were all about.


digiKam with David Edmundson from Plasma in the background.
Photo by Gilles Caulier, CC BY 2.0

The developers created a useful KWin plugin that can simulate different types of color blindness. This will help in all future accessibility efforts, as it helps developers understand what their color schemes will look like to visually impaired users.

KMyMoney was made more accessible via improvements to keyboard navigation. New keyboard shortcuts were added, and others simplified to make them easier to use.

Randa Meetings 2017 were made special by Manuel, a visitor from Italy who stayed at the Randa house during the sprint. Manuel is a deaf user, and he took the time to explain the problems that hearing-impaired users encounter with KDE software, and software in general. His feedback was extremely valuable in the context of the sprint's theme, and helped developers come up with accessibility-oriented solutions.

Meeting in Randa with other participants makes you aware of deficiencies, possibilities, and needs. For a newcomer, like myself, it was also a chance to meet some community members, see what kind of people build KDE software, and take a look behind the scenes. --- Lukasz Wojnilowicz

Apart from fixing individual applications, a lot of work was done on the Plasma desktop environment itself. Accessibility-related improvements include the ability to navigate the Plasma panel using voice feedback and the keyboard. The following video demonstrates this feature in action:

KRunner was made completely accessible, and this change is visible in Plasma 5.11. The Orca Screen Reader works well with KRunner, and can read the entered query, as well as let the user know which element of the interface is currently focused.

There was also a round of discussions on best practices for accessibility in KDE software. When testing software, the developers should try to use it only with their keyboard, and then only with the mouse. Too much customization is not a good idea, so it should be avoided, especially when it comes to colors, fonts, and focus handling.

Another good practice is to test the application with a screen reader. This experience should highlight potential issues for disabled users. In the end, it all comes down to empathy - being able to put yourself in the user's shoes, and the willingness to make your software available to as many people as possible, without excluding anyone.

More Plans and Achievements from the Randa Meetings 2017

Of course, the developers worked on so much more than just accessibility. The KDE PIM team discussed the results of their KMail User Survey, and tackled the most pressing issue reported by the uses - broken and unreliable search. They also ported the entire Kontact codebase away from the obsolete KDateTime component.


Lukasz Wojnilowicz from KMyMoney and Volker Krause
from KDE PIM. Photo by Gilles Caulier, CC BY 2.0

KMyMoney saw some important changes. All plugin KCM modules were ported to KF5. The backup feature is, well, back up and available to use, and database loading was improved so as to prevent the incompatibility between new and old KMyMoney files.

After successfully participating in Google Summer of Code, the digiKam team gathered in Randa to further polish the new code contributed by students. They also worked on the media server functionality, which allows users to share their photo collections across different devices (smartphones, tablets, TVs...) using DLNA.


Scarlett Clark (KDE CI), Emmanuel LePage (Ring), Simon Frei
(digiKam) and David Edmundson discussing Plasma Accessibility.
Photo by Gilles Caulier, CC BY 2.0

Marble Maps now has a new splash screen, and the entire interface of the Bookmarks dialog is responsive to touch. There are plans to implement a better text-to-speech module for navigation.

The Public Transport Plasma applet has been completely rewritten as a Kirigami application. The applet's UI is now much more flexible and easier to adapt to mobile devices.

The developers of Kube worked on resolving an annoying issue with live queries which slows down email synchronization, especially when there are thousands of emails. They also discussed the possibility of implementing an HTML composer to edit emails in Kube, and made plans for GPG implementation. In collaboration with developers from other KDE projects, they explored the options for making Kube cross-platform, and looked for the best way to build Kube on macOS and Windows. Finally, they implemented a visualization in the configuration dialog which indicates when the user input is invalid in configuration fields.

Last but not least, Kdenlive received color correction improvements, and the developers worked on bringing back the popular TypeWriter effect. They also fixed the import of image sequences, worked on porting Kdenlive to Windows and macOS, and removed the warning about missing DVD tools that used to appear when starting Kdenlive for the first time.

Looking Forward to the Next Randa Meetings

With another successful Randa Meetings behind us, we can start planning for the next session.

If you like the work our developers are doing, you can directly support it by donating to KDE. You can also contribute to KDE and make an impact on the users by joining our mentored project called Season of KDE.

Who knows, maybe in the future you too will attend the Randa Meetings!

KDE's Goals for 2018 and Beyond

Thursday 30th of November 2017 12:31:34 PM

The KDE community has spoken and it has chosen the proposals which will define the general direction of the KDE project over the next three or four years.

How does the KDE community decide where it wants to take the project? Well, every once in a while, we hold a Request for Proposals, if you will. All members of the community are encouraged to submit their grand ideas which will lay out long-term targets. Proposals are voted on democratically, again, by the community. This ensures it is truly the community that guides the KDE project to wherever the community wants it to go.

This year, the three most voted proposals have been:

Top-notch Usability and Productivity for Basic Software

Nate Graham proposes improving the usability of KDE's software and making it more accessible and user-friendly for a wider variety of users. Nate argues that, although KDE apps and environments in general boast a "long list of features that are genuinely useful for normal people's typical use cases", small but noticeable inconsistencies and niggling usability issues sometimes mar KDE's semblance of maturity with casual users.

Nate reasons that focusing on irksome details of the most common and commonly used of KDE's software, such as Plasma, Dolphin, Okular and Discover, would be the first step towards polishing the whole. He mentions, for example, the annoying bug that makes Plasma require the Wifi password twice; or enhancements that can be made to Dolphin to support column view or colourised files and directories, like MacOS X's file browser sports; or improving Okular's stamp feature to make it suitable for digitally signing documents.

KDE's environments and applications are mature and usable to a great extent, but by getting small incremental improvements, we can nearly subliminally improve the overall feel of the project and increase its uptake with the general public.

Privacy Software

In synch with KDE's vision, Sebastian Kugler says that "KDE is in a unique position to offer users a complete software environment that helps them to protect their privacy". Being in that position, Sebastian explains, KDE as a FLOSS community is morally obliged to do its utmost to provide the most privacy-protecting environment for users.


KDE will bring privacy to all
your devices, including your
mobile.

This is especially true since KDE has been developing not only for desktop devices, but also for mobile - an area where the respect for users' privacy is nearly non-existent. Sebastian thinks that the intrusion on users’ personal lives is very dangerous. Users can have their livelihood and even personal safety put at risk when their confidential data makes its way into the hands of unscrupulous companies or hostile government agencies.

To make sure KDE environment and apps protect users’ privacy, Sebastian lists several measures that developers can implement. He proposes that applications not expose private data by default, asking the user for explicit consent before sending data to third parties. Other measures would involve apps using privacy-protecting protocols when communicating with the outside world; say, a widget should use Tor to collect weather information. Applications should also only require the bare minimum user information to operate and only when it is essential.

Finally, the proposal explains that KDE must provide the right tools to further safeguard users' privacy. These tools include email clients that offer easy ways of encrypting messages, privacy-protecting chat and instant messaging protocols and clients, and support for online services that can be implemented on personal servers.

Streamlined Onboarding of New Contributors


Getting more people involved with the project
is crucial for the survival of KDE.
Photo CC By-SA by Teia

Although we have made many improvements to KDE's development infrastructure and tools over the years, there are still several things we can do to streamline the access for contributors, says Neofytos Kolokotronis. Thinking of ways to get more people involved in the development, Neofytos proposes measures to simplify newcomer participation within KDE.

KDE is a living community and, as such, it is threatened if new users do not become contributors and therefore do not join its ranks, bringing in new blood and fresh ideas. To solve this potential problem, Neofytos wants the community to look at methods of incrementing user involvement. This will require analysing the available resources, especially the people and time that they can invest in this effort.

He also proposes KDE improve and standardise protocols for accepting and mentoring new users, as well as correcting issues with documentation and tools used to receive new contributions, such as KDE's bug tracking system.

The KDE community will start implementing the proposals into concrete actions and policies. The proposals will shape how the KDE community creates software and works with its members, as well as with outside users. In view of the winning ideas, we can expect a more polished KDE experience, enhanced privacy protection and a more accessible and welcoming community for years to come.

To make sure all KDE's goals are met, we need your support. Head over to the End of Year fundraiser (coming soon!) and help us meet our yearly funding target. You can contribute to the success of KDE and we will also show appreciation with karma and gifts!

KDE Around the World: FOSSCOMM 2017, Greece

Tuesday 21st of November 2017 03:31:34 PM


FOSSCOMM logo.
Source: Official FOSSCOMM Facebook page.

On the 4th and the 5th of November, the FOSSCOMM 2017 conference took place at Harokopio University of Athens, Greece. The KDE Community had a presence at the conference. Our Greek troops gave a talk on Sunday about the past, present and future of KDE, focusing on the vision of the community.

What is FOSSCOMM?

FOSSCOMM (Free and Open Source Software Communities Meeting) is an annual conference about free software organized by the Greek Free Software community. The main purpose of the conference is the promotion of free software, as well as social interaction between community members. During the first weekend of November, a great number of free software contributors and advocates gathered in Athens to discuss many interesting topics related to free software and open standards.

In addition, several Greek software communities promoted their work and values at the booths and by hosting workshops. The conference was a success, since a lot of people participated in various conference activities, confirming the significant impact of freedom and openness to the Greek society, especially among young people.

KDE at FOSSCOMM


Throughout the weekend, our KDE Community members talked about KDE-related topics, especially at the Nextcloud booth. We also sought out actions that could promote the KDE Community in Athens.

On Sunday afternoon, we gave a presentation about KDE in the main amphitheater of Harokopio University. After listing the milestones from the 20 years of KDE history, we defined what KDE represents today, and briefly presented the software that the KDE Community creates.

Afterwards, we analyzed KDE Vision. We discussed the reasons that led to its creation and the purpose that it serves, focusing on the social impact of our work and our community values.

Then, after mentioning Plasma’s vision and familiarizing the FOSSCOMM audience with Plasma’s approach of “convergence”, we introduced Plasma Mobile as well as Kirigami’s human interface guidelines.

You can find the slides from our presentation here.

Creating a Telegram Group

Regarding our initiative to improve the impact of KDE in Greece, we created the KDE el Telegram group . Before concluding our talk, we suggested to everyone interested in KDE values and Plasma software to participate in the newly created group.

We hope that this communication channel will constitute a starting point for the KDE Community in Greece to come together, communicate their contributions, and promote KDE and free software in general.

If you speak Greek and you care about free and open source software, you're welcome to join!

Wrapping Up


Although the turnout on Sunday was not as high as on Saturday, many students, contributors and free software enthusiasts attended our talk. Since the timeline was quite strict, there was no time for questions from the audience.

Nevertheless, the impact of our talk was quite positive, since several people approached us looking for more information about the material we presented. According to the feedback from attendees, the decision to introduce a privacy- and freedom-oriented mobile paradigm seems to be more than welcome.

Participating in meetings like FOSSCOMM is quite helpful for KDE as well as for the free software community in general. Talking with people from different communities, getting introduced to interesting open projects, and envisaging a world of freedom is always a revitalizing and encouraging way to keep going! Finally, we would like to thank FOSSCOMM volunteers and organizers for being so helpful and managing to host quite a successful event.

See you at FOSSCOMM 2018!

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Announcing Season of KDE 2018

Sunday 19th of November 2017 01:43:31 AM


Season of KDE encourages
everybody to help improve KDE.

KDE Student Programs is pleased to announce the 2018 Season of KDE for those who want to participate in mentored projects that enhance KDE in some way.

Every year since 2013, KDE Student Programs has been running Season of KDE as a program similar to, but not quite the same as Google Summer of Code, offering an opportunity to everyone (not just students) to participate in both code and non-code projects that benefits the KDE ecosystem. In the past few years, SoK participants have not only contributed new application features but have also developed the KDE Continuous Integration System, statistical reports for developers, a web framework, ported KDE Applications, created documentation and lots and lots of other work.

For this year’s Season of KDE, we are shaking things up a bit and making a host of changes to the program.

Schedule

The 2018 Season of KDE will have more flexible schedule options for participants. They will now have the opportunity to choose between a shorter sprint project where the working period lasts 40 days or the usual full duration project with a working period of 80 days.

The timeline is:
1st - 26th December 2017: Participant and Mentor Application Period
30th December 2017: Projects Announced
1st January 2018, 00:00 UTC: Official SoK Work Period Begins
9th February 2018, 23:59 UTC: End of Work Period (40 day projects)
21st March 2018, 23:59 UTC: End of Work Period (80 day projects)
25th March 2018: Results Announced
31st March 2018: Certificates issued and sent out
Beginning of Q3 2018: Merchandise and Schwag sent out by courier

Teams

For the first time, we are now welcoming applications from teams of up to 2 people to participate in the same project. Teams may only participate in full 80-day projects. Shorter sprint projects are still only open to individual participants.

Cross-Organisation Projects

Do you want to see KDE software work well on other operating systems? Do you want KDE applications to integrate better with another desktop environment? Do you want to see applications from elsewhere integrate better with KDE?

In the 2018 Season of KDE, we are specially looking out for projects that can help integrate KDE better with other free software projects. We welcome mentors from other projects who’d like to help our participants in their efforts and encourage applications from participants who’d like to work on such a project. Participants will need to have a fairly reasonable grip on both KDE and the partner organisation’s projects, as well as a point of contact in the other organisation that can offer support throughout the duration of the project.

If you are from another FOSS Project, have a concrete idea of something SoK participants can implement and would like to mentor them for it, please get in touch with us directly.

A Grand Prize

The 2018 Season of KDE will accept a maximum of 6 projects. We will score each project based on objective criteria, and after completion of the project, the one with the highest score will win this year’s Season of KDE.

The participants from the winning project will have a chance to attend Akademy 2018, KDE’s annual world conference, which will be held in Vienna from August 11th - 17th, 2018. All travel and stay expenses will be paid for by KDE. At Akademy, you will have the chance to meet people from all around the world who make KDE possible, present your project to them, mingle with some of the brightest minds in the world of free software, and lose yourself in one of Europe’s historic centers of music and culture.

Getting Started

Prospective participants are advised to get in touch with us even before the application period begins to discuss possible projects. You can connect with us at #kde-soc on IRC, via our mailing lists, or contact the maintainer of an application you want to work on (or the specific team) directly.

If you’re looking for project ideas, you can find some on our Google Summer of Code 2018 Ideas Page. Prospective mentors are requested to add ideas to this page, so that we have a central repository of project ideas that may be used for both the 2018 Season of KDE and GSoC 2018.

Participants and mentors can apply here once applications open.

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Akademy 2018 - Vienna, Austria - 11-17 August

Friday 17th of November 2017 02:50:15 PM


A View of Vienna.
Source: Bwag/CC-BY-SA-4.

Vienna Calling! This is not only a song by the famous Austrian singer Falco, but could also be the motto for next years Akademy.

In 2018 Akademy will be held at the University of Technology (TU Wien) in Vienna, Austria, from Saturday 11th to Friday 17th August.

The conference is expected to draw hundreds of attendees from the global KDE Community to discuss and plan the future of the Community and its technology. Many participants from the broad free and open source software community, local organizations and software companies will also attend.

Akademy 2018 is being organized with Fachschaft Informatik (FSINF). Apart from representing and counseling computer science students, FSINF engage in diverse political activities, such as FOSS activism, privacy and social justice, and so on.

Akademy 2018 Program

Akademy 2018 will start with a 2-day conference on Sat 11th of August and Sunday 12th of August, followed by 5 days of workshops, Birds of a Feather (BoF) and coding sessions.

Vienna and Akademy

Vienna, the capital of Austria, has around 1.8 million inhabitants. It is located in the middle of Central Europe, on the banks of the river Danube. With it's rich history that stretches back to Roman times. It was once the capital city of the Habsburg Empire ans is now a modern city, rated number one in diverse studies on quality of living.

TU Wien and Akademy

Almost all buildings of TU Wien are very close to the city center. From the venue a 10 minute walk will bring you directly to the inner city. Around 30,000 students study at Tu Wien, of which 6000 study Computer Science.

About Akademy


Akademy 2017, Almería.

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. For more information, please contact The Akademy Team.

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