"Inspired by its big brother, the MeMenu (now obsolete). Designed with the community in mind."
Short Statement of Goal
Attention is scarce... Make discovery of one's community obvious.
Create a WeMenu. Make it prominent. Connect it to the Ubuntu community. Over time, expand it to include additional social connections: family, friends, neighbourhood, city...
The WeMenu is the focal point for community on the Ubuntu desktop. It is a highly visible place containing persons and groups that are central to the Ubuntu experience and ethos of "Our Shared Humanity". It is outward looking, but human-centric. It focuses our attention on people, beginning with those closest to us.
This is purely a proposal for discussion and refinement. None of this specification has been implemented. UDS-N may be our opportunity to begin working on parts (or all) of this.
The modern computer desktop lacks a focus on community. As a result users are swept away into an endless sea of of data, trivia, and distractive content from the instant their computer is connected to the net. One might argue that the net has become a solvent for true community, flooding us instead with loose affiliations and data smog.
I've seen this first hand. Perhaps you have too. Walk into any major public library and observe what most users of public computers are doing. Facebook, YouTube, Farmville, some free web mail, and maybe a few other "amusements". Is this the net sum of all the work that we've done to build the internet and associated infrastructure?
Ubuntu is a human-centric project and system. Its desktop should provide a richer experience than that offered by the competition. It should endeavor to strengthen the ties between a user, her family, her close friends, and her true community. Ubuntu's desktop should not only be an expression of self ("Me"), but also an expression of our connectedness and our humanity ("We"). It should allow us to find and connect easily with others nearby in meaningful and sustainable ways. Ubuntu should help ensure that local community flourishes.
Enough philosophy. Here's the detail:
The appearance and title of the menu should be an easily recognizable icon representing the community (the Ubuntu fish bowl is ideally suited for this purpose) followed by your location, in my case, Vancouver. (By default your location will be the one you've specified when setting up your computer i.e. your own city/town.) The advantage to including logic that ties in location is that if you're traveling, or move, some WeMenu items can automagically adapt once you have reset your location.
The menu placement is specified to be prominent, ideally right beside the MeMenu as that is the place on the Ubuntu desktop where users are likely to be looking with regularity. Other items on the panel can shift to the left to give the WeMenu screen real-estate.
Install By Default?
Although the most powerful scenario is the one where the WeMenu is included by default and installed on the standard Unity desktop, it could also begin (in Ubuntu 11.04) as an optional item available from the Ubuntu Software Centre, to allow us more time to add functionality and polish, without the immediate spotlight.
Lens? An Alternative?
When the WeMenu concept was first introduced at (UDS-N), the Unity interface for Ubuntu and the concept of Lenses was not yet announced. It is worthwhile to examine the possibility of creating a CommunityLens either as an alternative to the WeMenu or as a supporting function. At a high level, we'd need to determine what is and isn't possible using a Lens, and whether a Lens has sufficient prominence on the desktop. If you're interested in that, please head over to the CommunityLens specification.
The menu items are ordered (top to bottom) from "strongest ties" to "weakest ties". This order promotes local focus and directs our users' attention to those people and groups most important (and nearest).
Each menu item expands when highlighted. (Optional: allow the expanded item be torn off when dragged to another location on the desktop.)
When the user clicks the WeMenu icon they are presented with menu items that group different aspects of the community into immediately recognizable categories.
The entire WeMenu is depicted here.
Items at the top of the WeMenu are naturally where users go more often. An "Other" item is presented as a catch-all for the people that don't neatly fit into any of the other categories.
(Suggestions? Please add to the comments page.)
Ubuntu Local Community
(An immutable menu item.)
This is considered the "strongest tie" item in the WeMenu as everything that powers the Ubuntu desktop (design, processes, code, translations, testing, art, etc.) originates from people in the Ubuntu community. The importance of Ubuntu Community in the ongoing health of the Ubuntu project cannot be overstated.
The Ubuntu Local Community item provides valuable entry points to the Ubuntu project itself, and to the broader global Ubuntu community. Each sub-item corresponds to different aspects of the Ubuntu community based on user goals.
The top-most position of the Ubuntu Local Community provides a prominent entry point (on-ramp) for every Ubuntu user on the desktop and in plain view that makes them notice a way to "enter" the project, potentially increasing the number of people that do decide to get involved.
Because of this, the "Ubuntu Local Community" item should also be the first WeMenu item that we develop/implement. Other menu items can be worked on in upcoming releases if necessary.
The "Ubuntu Local Community" menu item is depicted below.
The first (and hence, nearest by geography) sub-item "My Local Group" represents the people in your city/town/village that are part of the Ubuntu community. It is a place to meet other Ubuntu users, developers, or maybe to get community assistance locally.
The "I have a question" sub-item represents communities that are committed to providing user assistance.
The "I found a bug" sub-item represents communities where Ubuntu bug reporters, testers, and QA people gather.
The "I want to participate" sub-item represents communities where all contributors gather (i.e. designers, developers, artists, and translators.)
The "I want general info" sub-item represents communities (and resources) where Ubuntu information is shared.
Each sub-item shall be represented by an appropriate icon.
The expanded "My Local Group" sub-item is depicted below.
Each resource shall be represented by an appropriate icon.
(Exact resources and placement subject to change. Let's discuss what will work best.)
Your relatives. (They are nearest to your heart, and therefore at the top.)
When configured, this item will display a sequence of tiles with the avatars of your nearest family members. The avatar order will be user configurable but should default to a sort by geographic proximity.
Those people that you enjoy associating with.
When configured, this item will display a sequence of tiles with the avatars of your nearest friends. The avatar order will be user configurable but should default to a sort by geographic proximity.
People that live near you, usually within a short walk or bike ride. (i.e. A few city blocks.)
When configured, this item will display a local map with the avatars of your neighbours as discovered wirelessly through services such as Avahi (bonjour), through mapping services, or by manually adding them. The avatar placement should depict approximate geographic proximity. (See the Sugar Mesh View item for an example of how we might do this.)
City (or Town)
People that live a little farther away, but still within your city/town limits.
When configured, this item will display an Open Street Map (or similar) local map view with dots (that expand to avatars) of people you want to see.
People that aren't necessarily near you, but that you still associate with. (Needs further definition. This is a future.)
How Do Items Expand?
A highlighted menu items should expand/magnify to a window that shows avatars or icons that represent the components of the item. These components should sort geographically from nearest to farthest.
(Yes, the graphic quality sucks. I'll make a better one soon.)
Possibly Useful Technologies
These are projects that have useful ideas or code to potentially use as building blocks. Some of these are futures.
Power parts of the "Ubuntu Local Community" item from the LoCo directory. Possibly an RSS feed that gets parsed and presented to the user when they hover over an item in the "Ubuntu Local Community".
libfolks is a library that aggregates people from multiple sources (eg, Telepathy connection managers and eventually evolution data server, Facebook, etc.) to create metacontacts. http://telepathy.freedesktop.org/wiki/Folks/Roadmap
Sugar "Mesh View"
The user interface present in (OLPC's) Sugar has a notion of "zooming" to relate four discrete views of nearby people. They are: Home, Groups, Neighborhood, and Activity. The interface permits zooming in and out on the mesh community. (Source: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/OLPC_Human_Interface_Guidelines/The_Laptop_Experience/Zoom_Metaphor)
Pull updates from people you follow into the respective WeMenu items.
"FreedomBox" (and similar concepts)
Projects like the FreedomBox and Diaspora are working towards liberating one's social data from Facebook and similar proprietary services. We should support this idea and ensure that we build interfaces to free social networking projects. Items in the WeMenu should have the ability to interface with open social applications.
Ubuntu One and/or UEC
With the liberation of personal data there is a natural requirement to host one's personal data somewhere. Ubuntu One is a natural fit. UEC may be a useful way to not only host the data but also the server instance. (Diaspora calls it a "seed")
Useful for pre-populating the Neighbourhood item.
Useful for sorting (expanded) items from nearest to farthest.