I read the new Neal Stephenson book, Anathem, last week. There was one line I cannot resist sharing with the Sugar community. Raz, our hero, is a young mathematician who leaves the nest to solve any number of problems. At one point, he asks why he is the one upon whom everyone is leaning.
Another book I read over the holidays is a new biography of Andrew Jackson. He remains a pretty controversial figure, but he knew the importance of "staying focused on the things that matter most and not dwelling on the things that pull us apart."
In the case of Sugar Labs, the things that matters most are creating a great learning platform and making it available to learners everywhere.
I am confident that in 2009, we will see Sugar in the hands of many more children and teachers. We'll see an accelerated pace of development and deployment across a diverse set of platforms under an even more diverse set of conditions.
While we debate the various means towards our goals, we need to keep in mind that the most important metric we can hold up to our work is the impact on learning. On the one hand, we need to flexible and inclusive; on the other hand, we need to adhere to the core principles that make Sugar of value to the learner, putting an emphasis on quality over quantity. So while we shouldn't be overly zealous, we need to constantly remind ourselves and those whom we are trying to reach of the value of learning to learn: the authentic appropriation of knowledge, learning through expressing, debugging, reflection, and critique. If it does not impact the learning, we shouldn't be doing it.
Community jams, meet-ups, and meetings
FUDConF11, which will be held this week (9–11 January) at MIT (Cambridge, MA).
Christian Marc Schmidt has been working on a static landing page for Sugar Labs. (The wiki is a powerful tool, but not the easiest place to get started from when you are new to Sugar.) Christian has uploaded a build onto a server (See beta sugarlabs.org). This version is fully dynamic, based on an XML->XSL translation using PHP 5 and Libxslt. Christian has tested it in all major browsers where it seems to work fine, but please exercise it some more.
Christian is ready to concentrate on gathering content for the gallery and the activity sections. There is other content that needs to be prepared as well.
As far as internationalization, we are thinking of adding a simple CSS dropdown underneath the links on the top-right edge of the page. We should decide how best to handle the translations, whether through Pootle or some other mechanism.
One specific area where we are seeking help is in regard to illustrations. One project we have in mind is a comic-book-like narrative about Sugar to be featured on the static site. If anyone is interested in taking on such a project, please come forward.
There are some Activity updates to report:
Gary Martin has generated another SOM from the past week of discussion on the IAEP mailing list (Please see SOM).
Gary has also made some significant changes to the text-metric extraction code; he is trying to fully normalize the frequency of each term. He hypothesizes that this will allow the maps to more clearly show the finer details that are otherwise drowned out by heavy terms like "Sugar", "Work", "Use", "Project", "Want", etc. He'll be posting some examples in the wiki.