After the initial culture shock of attending my first Linux conference (let's just say the dress code was casual), the annual GNOME conference was highly informative and productive.
Tor: Anonymity Online – Jacob Appelbaum
Jacob explained the Tor project, the necessity for network anonymity, and onion routing. Arab Spring resulted in a huge spike for Tor usage in affected countries.
At the same time, Jacob stressed the necessity for more Tor exit relays in the network. Even if you can't contribute exit relays to the Tor project, simply using Tor to browse regular websites helps the project.
OCR Feeder – Joaquim Rocha
Given the problems with paper (accessibility, organic degradation), people want to create a digital copy of documents. While OCR engines are a great tool, but they only translate text and the end result are digital documents that have lost all of the original formatting.
Joaquim Rocha built OCR Feeder to create files that retained layout information from scanned documents using existing OCR engines. In addition, OCR Feeder recognizes image blocks and tags them as such.
Gnome Bazaar – Daniel Siegel
Daniel studied the history and layout of many FOSS projects for his thesis.
Projects tend to start from a single individual or a small group of contributors growing rapidly at start before tapering off to a more reasonable pace.
He described the typical hierarchy of a project, then went on about the GNOME project and current challenges with a missing leader and vision.
Crowdfunding Applications – Jim Nelson, Adam Dingle
Yorba had quite a few attendees this year, with the aforementioned two giving a talk about crowdfunding and the state of funding for open source projects. A significant portion of Yorba's funding comes from the founders and contract work. However this financial is not fundamentally sound and they believe more projects need to be crowdfunded.
One of the primary issues with using Kickstarter to fund open source projects is that a lot of necessary code is inherently unsexy. It's difficult to get end users to consider donating or contributing to a library development when there's no immediately tangible result.
Adam pointed out that Humble Bundle does quite well and perhaps a similar financial model could be incorporated into package managers. With package managers such as Ubuntu's app store, perhaps end users could be incentivized to donate to their favorite packages with an slider distributing some of the donations to back end developers.
However I'd had to say that the best thing about GUADEC and GNOME are the attendees and the community. Although this was my first, it definitely won't be my last. Everyone was approachable and great to talk to. Being able to put a face to names I've only seen on internet can't be underestimated, and really humanized the GNOME project to me.
Exploring the streets of A Coruña with GNOME'ies and other GSOC interns made the whole trip special. Until next year, salud y si si!