If you're still wondering what happened during the Usability hackfest, then you clearly missed a lot of blog posts. The good news is that you can catch up with all the links being collected on the Hackfests, or you can cheat and go read Máirín's coverage, since she did an amazing job writing about what was being discussed.

I was there only for the last two days; the original plan was to attend a bit more of the event, but the travel from France to London took an unexpected 12 hours. I still had some good and useful time there, that I mostly used to get a good overview of what people are working on, and how this can be integrated in a GNOME roadmap. Here are some highlights:

  • While I missed the discussion about nautilus, it seemed most people at the hackfest agreed on streamlining the nautilus user interface. I'd love to try the prototypes that were worked on: most of the proposed changes make sense to me. But getting rid of tabs and/or the split view will certainly trigger various reactions, and that's something that we cannot ignore...
  • Thomas je parle français couramment Wood was kind enough to let me use his laptop charger nearly all the time — I had one, but not for the right laptop...
  • Charline reported about a usability review of empathy, and this was definitely instructive. It's always fun to look at a user interface and finds what's wrong and what can be improved. In some way, it reminded me of some usability reviews that the usability team was doing for various applications a few years ago. That's an effort that we've been missing lately, and I'd love to see someone revive this!
  • The work on the new control center seems to be moving along nicely. We should see the results in the next development cycle; don't be afraid to help Thomas if you're interested in this!
  • While discussing preferences, and removing some of them that we think most (as in a huge percentage) people don't use, we mentioned the fact that when we remove some settings from the various configuration tools, a lot of people get unhappy, to say the least. This is understandable, but we also always pointed out that it should be easy to write a small tool to enable people to change those settings graphically again. That never happened, but we'd like to avoid further unhappiness. This is how the idea of GNOME Plumbing was born. And I foolishly proposed to implement this.
  • It was funny to see Garrett breaking his openSUSE installation. Except that it shouldn't break this way when using GNOME:Factory on 11.2. Oops.
  • I had a good chat with Jon about GNOME 3. There's so much we can deliver during the whole GNOME 3.x cycle... We're focusing on 3.0 right now, but we need to prepare the following releases too. It was motivating to get reminded of the various areas we should explore, and motivation is something that was most welcome :-)
  • It was good to catch up with Lucas, just a few days before Julia magically appeared :-) He's still one of my heroes.
  • On Friday morning, Bastien told to Mairin, Garrett, Jakub and Hylke: okay, you want tools for designers; we're a bunch of hackers here, but we need you to design the tools you need. This resulted in a good discussion. Except that now, we really need some people to sit down and implement this. I guess this could be an interesting Summer of Code project!
  • Seeing Willie get hopes for usable accessibility support in GNOME Shell was a real pleasure. It's been a hard topic for months, and knowing that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel is already good news.
  • Matthew invited me to a card sorting session about settings and how to group them. It was a new experience for me, and seeing someone struggle to organize settings was eye-opening: I got the feeling that even with just one person doing this seriously, we can improve the overall experience for many users. I'm intrigued how usability people deal with different people having conflicting behaviors, though.

Many thanks to Canonical and Google for sponsoring this hackfest, and also thanks to Klaas and Novell for letting me go on a short notice :-)

I have high hopes that putting all those designers and usability people in one room together during one week will also make the GNOME Usability team move forward again. Usability is an essential part of our DNA, but we've been slowing down our efforts there, instead of accelerating as we should have done. This hackfest should put us back on track!