The Importance of Developer Sprints

Back in 2009 I was one of those lucky hackers who met in Randa, Switzerland, for a Plasma sprint. I just had started my Master Thesis, so actually I had better and more important things to do than to go to a developer sprint a few hundreds of kilometers away.

Almost half a year later we had the next Plasma development sprint in Nuremberg. I was just finishing my Master Thesis, so again I had more important things to do. I remember that I spent as much time as possible reading and correcting my Thesis.

Since then attending developer sprints no longer conflicted with my studies, but they conflicted with my work. To go to a developer sprint requires to take off days from work, spending your holidays to do work. This year I spent already two weeks – one for the sprint in Spain and one week for Akademy.

Next week I will attend the XDC in Nuremberg and I’m basically out of holidays left for sprints, because I also want to go on non-work holidays this year. That’s the reason why I unfortunately cannot attend the sprint in Randa.

Why do I write all this. Well, I want to explain that going to a sprint is nothing close to holidays. It’s actually quite some hard work and you do quite some compromises to go there. You do that, because you know how important these sprints are. Nobody benefits more from a sprint than the users. Issues which are hardly possible to discuss on a remote media like mailing lists or IRC are solved in few minutes. Developers can start hacking together on an issue to make it go away. Developers can easily see shortcomings in the software like finding anti-patterns in the software usage (yes Martin I’m looking at your systray). Last sprint I took some time to just walk around the desk with all the notebooks to study the Plasma configuration of each hacker and noticed that nobody uses a default setup. That’s quite some important finding to make Plasma better for our users, but also shows the power of configuration of Plasma.

These are just some very few examples for the importance of a sprint. And again the most important part of it is that the users benefit from the sprint. The time will be used to make our software better. If you are a KDE user, I’m quite sure that you want to support such efforts.

At the moment we are raising money to make this sprint possible. At the time of this writing just 144 people donated money. And that’s something that surprises me. KDE software may be free of charge, but the development is nevertheless expensive and the software has quite some worth: according to David A. Wheeler’s SLOCCount it would take 22 Person-Years to develop an application like KWin.

Please think about whether you want to support the efforts of the KDE hackers and make this important sprint possible. It is not a sprint for us, it’s a sprint for you. We want to deliver better software to you.

If you like me think it’s important to constantly support KDE, you could also Join the Game, KDE’s supporting member program. Although I’m donating quite some source code each year to KDE I’m also a supporting member. Oh and if you are living in Germany: KDE e.V. is a gemeinnütziger Verein.

19 thoughts on “The Importance of Developer Sprints”

  1. The reason for me not to donate is that I do not have a PayPal account, and that I do not want to have one. Would is be possible to support another option for donation?

  2. @Wolfgang: You don’t need a paypal account, just select the “pay with a credit or debit card” and uncheck the “save this information with a paypal account” box.

    1. that clearly misses the point. Some of us work for free on KDE but nobody can come for free to Randa.

  3. Maybe one reason could be that some developers communicate that they see users primarily as the people responsible for bad bug reports, and ask questions like why KDE needs users anyway…

      1. Wait, what? I never said anything about KDE standing for something… I just speculated about one reason (of many, and probably not an important one) why so few people donated. Let me get this straight: I (and certainly almost everyone else) greatly value all the work you and others are doing, but if I as a user get the impression I am not a valued part of the KDE community (to say it very, very politely), donating for a developer sprint is not exactly the first thing that would come to mind regarding how I spend my money…

        1. what I wanted to point out with the Code of Conduct is that the behavior you described is not tolerated inside the KDE community. Therefore it does not happen. I am not aware of any developer who sees users primarily as the people responsible for bad bug reports and I have never heard a developer ask questions like why KDE needs users anyway except as a joke or a thought experiment in private round.

          1. I did not say there is anyone who sees users this way, but some of your blog entries, and some of other developers communicated this – at least that was the impression I and some others got. I do remember a blog entry on PlanetKDE (unfortunately I don’t know who wrote it anymore) that had the topic of “why does KDE need users” and concluded with “users aren’t needed” (and that one was no joke IIRC), but that was some time ago.

            1. but some of your blog entries, and some of other developers communicated this – at least that was the impression I and some others got.

              And that was nothing I ever communicated. Yes, I wrote about bug reports, yes I complain about that there are too many bugs and too many which are useless. Does that mean that I consider users as some dumb people not being able to report bugs? NO! It means that I see that sending users to the bug tracker is wrong, that we need to send them to the forums. I’m complaining here about the technology, not the people. I’m pointing out that the process is broken! That’s quite some difference.

            2. I remember this blog post on Planet KDE as well. It does not represent the opinion of anyone except the author.

              When I read that post, I had just started to contribute to KDE, and I was shocked. Now I’m a bit more involved in KDE development. If a post with such a headline appeared now, I would request that the author’s blog is removed from Planet KDE immediately.

                1. in case it was about the Okular post and the terrible users in a bug report, yes could be. But from what I remember I read the bug report and was completely shocked about the behavior of the users and I completely agree that we don’t need *such* users.

                2. No Albert, not talking about you :-)

                  The post I meant had, as far as I remember, the headline “KDE does not need users”. Google doesn’t find it, so it seems that either I don’t remember the exact title of the post, or the author changed the title after complaints (I don’t remember who it was, so it’s probably noone who is still active in KDE), or that blog’s site is not online any more.

                3. OK, found it:

                  http://web.archive.org/web/20090130141302/http://troy-at-kde.livejournal.com/17753.html

                  I’m pretty sure though that the title had been edited after the initial posting. The “certain” certainly wasn’t there when I first saw the post.

                  When reading the post carefully, you understand of course what kind of users he refers to – we all know that a very small, but vocal, minority of our users causes much harm by posting destructive comments in a few bug reports.

                  However, more than 99.7% of our users are in my opinion very nice people who appreciate our work, provide useful feedback and try to help us improve the software.

                  Therefore, I think that posting something like that on Planet KDE, which is probably read mostly by nice and helpful users, is not helpful at all. When you just read the title and one or two quotes from the post, you get the impression that developers do not care about users at all. And the average user won’t even understand what he complains about because he does not provide any examples of the damage done by “certain” users.

                  That’s why I was shocked by this particular post.

                    1. Yes, these events are probably related. Nonetheless, I think that it is irresponsible to post a blog entry with such a title on Planet KDE, and not explaining the background is just unacceptable IMHO. A user who only reads the front page of Planet KDE would not understand at all what the reason for that person’s angryness are and might think that KDE developers despise KDE users for no reason at all.

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