Up until last week, getting Maemo developers, Nokians and what Reggie describes simply as “enthusiasts” all together in one location, a Maemo Summit, seemed to me to be a good idea. I was wrong, I realize now: not a good idea.
A brilliant idea.
We all know the next steps in the development of this “mobile internet device” niche are critical — critical for Nokia, for the market itself, for the users, especially those first adaptors (that would be us, the posters and readers of itT forums), the recently dubbed “Maemo Community.”
At several disparate points in the summit, speakers noted how putting, say, coders and UI designers on the same team made for faster progress, fewer missteps, information being communicated with less noise.
Having the Summit took this idea of integration a level higher: instead of all the misconceptions that occur from separated contributors, whose every written note can be misinterpreted and its tone wildly misconstrued, now three-dimensional humans exist in the spot where virtual constructs and avatars stood.
In four days in Berlin — two at OSiM World (Open Souce in Mobile) followed by two at the Maemo Summit — I learned about enough interesting developments and projects to occupy a mere 10 or 12 days a week to follow completely, and participate in some.
I learned the NIT's desktop-y menuing approach — a “choice” often critiqued and -criticized over the last 3 years — was no choice at all but a justification for the tablet's creation, to allow this tiny-screen-cellphone maker to explore and learn about non-cellphone, desktop-type approaches.
I learned about apps I'd never realized existed, or not realized their full capabilities, a dozen or more I'm dying to dive into over the next months.
And I learned in vastly more specific detail about Nokia's plans, about the ijntegration of QT into the OS, about Maemo 5, Fremantle and Hamattan.
Well, OK, at any conference of technical types, revealing details about previous releases come out, we're exposed in a matter of days to a wider range of current features and apps than we've seen over months and future directions come into sharper focus and specifics of the next release are spoken aloud.
Putting information into the Maemo ether justifies a conference. Transitioning into a new Nokia/develolper/users-cum-enthusiasts relationship poses so many tricky questions that a get-together is justified just from the way it can get everyone on the same page.
What I observed at Maemo Summit, however, makes these essential accomplishments seem trivial.
More than the sum
Because the sum of all these benefits adds up to something less than what we took away from the Summit.
Partnerships are built on trust, and in big ways and small, in ways corporate and personal, professed in the abstract and expressed in the particular, the team at Nokia exhibited their trust in our community and earned ours.
I don't know if “where do we go from here?” got answered, or if “Can the Maemo Community be defined in the way that Linux, Mozilla, Apache and other communities are?” was answered either.
But now I'm not worried about those questions.
Because the trust that emerged from this summit eviscerated out such mundane concerns. The trust was like a pocketful of light that everyone held and drew out of their own pockets over and over, without end.
When Reggie Suplido, the founder of itT, described itT to the cellphone-industry attendees of OSiM World, he described us as an “enthusiasts' site.” Not just users or device-owners, but people who enthuse about the NIT.
That describes me perfectly.
And now I know it describes Quim Gil and Ari Jaaksi, too, whose enthusiasm manifests itself very different from my own, but unmistakably so.
And MaemoMappers' John Costigan, INdT's Marcelo Eduardo and Eduardo Lima, kernel concepts' Simon Budig, Maemo webmaster Niels Breet, qole (aka Alan Bruce), microB's Josh Soref , and others whom I won't name here but will identify in subsequent posts just because their enthusiasm is so contagious and I have to point to each such source I identify.
In the past, I knew that the Maemoites at Nokia were navigating in unknown waters. My belief in their good intentions was based on several startling but unambiguous actions, hints and encouraging statements dropped here and there, and a couple of face-to-face meetings, one with Ari Jaaksi and one with the then- and the soon-to-be VP whose purview included Nokia Tablets.
Over the past three years, they've earned my trust, but in less than a week my trust has been anchored in a hundred personal observations, the unconscious and nonverbal ways we measure everyone we meet, friend, employer, salesclerk and fellow passengers in a subway car.
It's impressive when a company puts it money where its mouth is. Nokia is a huge publicly traded corporation whose profitmaking goals are never to be doubted. Its devotion to open-source is always cast against its capitalist imperative — Will it make me more money? — so I want to hear constant reminders of how it counts on benefiting from Open Source (I want Nokia to be true to itself, of course, and hypocritical fidelity to OS altruism would only destroy the company's essence).
And I see Nokia becoming a gold sponsor (contributing $100,000 annually) of the Linux Foundation. See it starting its major FOSS initiative on top of existing FOSS projects (unlike Google, with its all-done-by-us approach to the “eventually it'll be open source” Android). See it responding to Apple's “only-a-benevolent-dictator-knows-what's-best-for-you” approach by giving the user community responsibilities it formerly reserved to its own development team. See it pay UI designers to work with independent developers and guide them in this area — small-screen, touch-screen, user expectations and preconceptions — that they have the least expertise in.
See Maemo's open-to-closed ratio — already higher than others' — keep climbing.
So, yes, I'd be happy to serve as a character reference for Nokia's tablet effort, were it needed. Not because I got a plane-ticket-and-hotel subsidy to attend such a key event. But because in every way I was shown that this trust is deserved.
I guess I'd have to say that my response to the Maemo Summit was enthusiastic.