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RE: [DotGNU]The DotGNU FIXIT at LCA2004

From: Eric Butler
Subject: RE: [DotGNU]The DotGNU FIXIT at LCA2004
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 13:51:49 -0800

If you look through the past IRC logs, I was part of a discussion about
updating the website. I made several suggestions directly related to what
you mentioned in this email, all of which were almost instantly shot down.

As I recall, my suggestions were:

- Don't put all the news on the main page
  End users don't care when things happened, they just want to know about
  All information listed under news, such as pnet running on the PS2 should
have it's own page on the website with an explination, screenshots, an
explination reguarding how it was done, and someone to contact for more

- Mention .NET on the main page!
  The only time microsoft is mentioned on the main page (aside from some
news stories) is in a sentence bashing the company and promoting freedom of
software. While free software is great, the end user and most windows
developers are going to care a lot more about the words "A Cross-Platform
.NET Development Platform" than a phylosohy lession. In addition to that,
the main page should have a downlod link in plain view, as well as getting
started documents and tutorials like you mentioned in your email.

- An easy to understand page (for windows developers, not unix kernel
hackers) explaining which namespaces work, an example on how to test/use
them, screenshots, contact information, etc. While the Library Status page
may offer this information, its not in a very usable form (What's the
difference between TODO and Missing?), and does not say if someone is
already working on that class that a developer could coordinate with to
finish the class.

- Re-structure the navigation
  The navigation needs to be seporated into two groups, "Users" and
"Developers". For example, searching for the word "Download" when viewing
the main page returns only parts of words in news articles. There are
certain words that users are going to look for that I can think of right
now; "What is <BLANK>?", "Downloads", "Screenshots", "Help".

Having a page that explains in plain english, with easy to under stand
examples (such as mentioning similar more well-known projects) what each
aspect of DotGNU does is essential in my opinion, since I still have no idea
how to use this DGEE thing. As a developer, "The DotGNU Execution
Environment is an application framework for managing the execution of
Webservices for the  DotGNU system.", tells me absolutly nothing. What
languages do I write these web services in? Does this require a web server?
What about ASP.Net? etc.

- Don't use BugZilla!
  While I don't see BugZilla on the site currently, for some reason it seems
to be the instant choice that open-source projects pick for bug tracking.
BugZilla is an end user nightmare. It's user interface is as far away from
friendly as possible. This is instantly apparent in the number of duplicate
bugs on any given project, since it's such a pain to search for an existing

- A new layout & color scheme
  It could use some work.

I don't mean to insult anybody's work at all, I'm just throwing out a list
of ideas that I think would benefit the project. I honestly think that if
DotGnu is able to make their website an effective resource for Windows .NET
developers, we will start to see a lot more people using it. I certainly
look forward to having Linux and OSX releases of the software I am currently
developing. I really appreceate all the hard work everyone has put into
dotgnu, and look forward to seeing how the project progreses in the near

I look forward to hearing everyone else's thoughts on all this.


Eric Butler

-----Original Message-----
From: Rhys Weatherley [mailto:address@hidden 
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2004 2:02 PM
To: address@hidden
Subject: [DotGNU]The DotGNU FIXIT at LCA2004

The DotGNU FIXIT was held at LCA2004 on Friday, January 16, 2004.
In this message, I am going to describe some of the things that were
discussed and their outcomes.  Representing DotGNU were Chris Smith, Andrew
Mitchell, and myself.  There were about half a dozen other attendees.

The purpose of the "FIXIT" sessions at the conference was to identify
problems in a particular area, and potential solutions.  So, I started the
session with a quick 10 minute overview of where we are now and then opened
it up for comments from the room.

The first issue to be raised was HOWTO's and the initial impression.
When people visit our Web site, it isn't immediately apparent how to get the
software, install it, what it is good for, etc.  The lack of Mac OS X
packages and HOWTO's was identified as a particular problem here.
Mac OS X people are very interested in pnet, but simply don't know where to
start.  DGEE has similar "how do I get started" problems to pnet.

This is a very fair comment to make.  We have a lot of knowledge on how to
install, fix problems, etc, scattered throughout our mailing list archives
and the source trees, but we haven't bothered to collect it up into HOWTO's
on the Web site.

The second issue raised was about general advocacy.  We need to get a lot
better about getting the word out.  And once again, this has to start with
our Web site.  It does no good to announce something on Slashdot or in .NET
Magazine if users are still left bewildered when they visit the site for
more information.  There's a lot of talk about "why" we are doing this
(freedom, etc), but little on "how".

We also lack success stories.  Which doesn't necessarily mean customers.
It also means describing what will work out of the box so potential end
users know what they can do with it now.  A suggestion was made to change
pnetlib-status' report structure: instead of showing just what is broken,
also show what works!  e.g. "85% of System.Drawing is implemented" or

One person commented that some GNU/Linux people are interested in learning
C#, but are not interested in using Microsoft's tools to do it.
We don't have any beginner tutorials for newbies to the C# language.
We can point people at the spec, but that is no substitute for a well
written tutorial, and then a pointer to the spec for more info.

There were a number of technical comments.  People would like to see
Winforms "look like Unix, not like Windows"; i.e. theming to fit in with
KDE/GNOME desktops.  There was a positive response to our plans for a
"Compact Framework for GNU/Linux handhelds".  And they are interested in our
language integration plans to allow other languages to run on the engine, or
be accessed via PInvoke callouts.

One attendee mentioned that a WinCE 3.0 version would be nice.
Apparently Microsoft didn't bother to backport their Compact Framework to
older versions of WinCE, leaving developers on those platforms out in the
cold when it comes to C#.  We have an opportunity to provide infrastructure
on commonly-used Microsoft platforms that Microsoft themselves don't

One of the questions I raised was whether we should put a lot of effort into
the Whidbey and Longhorn API's.  A response was that most customers are
using the .NET Framework 1.1 and it will be quite a while before they bother
to change.  So we should make that work in a "just drop it in and it works"
sense first.

In conclusion, the number 1 "FIXIT" that we have is to fix the Web site.
I didn't expect advocacy to be our biggest problem, but in hindsight, the
FIXIT attendees were right.  There's no point us being the best .NET
alternative if no one knows how to find us, install it, and use it.



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