OLPC talk:Support gang


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Communications mode

I'm just curious about this - not a binding vote or anything... but what format do people prefer to participate in group discussions (sometimes known as "holding meetings") in?

I prefer Phone

  • Cbigenho I'm not very good at IRC. I type slowly and there are always several conversations going on. In 3 weeks I will be back to dial-up internet access unless I can can find an ISP who will be able to serve my (rural) house. That is one of the reasons I prefer the phone. BTW...I didn't say the phone is "best". I said it works best for some of us and the irc is needed for others. Ergo...we need to continue with both.

See my comments below under "Other"

I actively non-prefer Phone

  • Sholton Phone not preferred. S/n ratio typically too low. Conference calls generally don't work well without significant dependent requirements: (all participants need a high-end wireless headset, mute button, speaker phone and dedicated, quiet room, high-quality CODEC and adequate bandwidth, etc). Difficult to get transcripts, subject to high-jacking, language locked.
  • Mchua I'm hearing-impaired and rely on lipreading for communication. Even if I weren't, I don't often find myself in environments conducive to conference calls... I tend to work in shared open-space offices and live in tightly cramped apartments/dorms, and travel often to places where the time zones are appreciably different from Boston's.

I prefer IRC

  • Mchua (vote is for a private chat). I'm hearing-impaired and can't understand conference calls, period. Also, IRC has the benefit of automatic logs for ease of meeting-noteness. I will personally volunteer to clean-up and post (to teamwiki and the SG mailing list) IRC meeting notes.
  • Seth The sound quality on the phone system is awful. Phone meetings are fine for non technical people, or for groups up to 10 or 12, but 20+ is far too much. IRC is logged, much faster, generally preferable to me.
  • Ian_Daniher Phone quality is awful, hogs the line for extensive time periods. I would sooner (have my parents counter-)sign an NDA then resort to security by obscurity. The biggest argument against IRC meetings is that there's a risk of things being reposted. As global G1G1 approaches and SGers are talking about a restructure with commitments, then an NDA may make sense. Also, SILC (secure IRC) may make sense for really sensitive topics.
  • TTown My phone connection dropped out about 12 - 15 times within little over an hour. VoIP and the AT&T server don't seem to cooperate too well.
  • iXo My neck hurts holding up the phone. My phone drops out once or twice during session. Alot of noise/static in background, makes hard to hear.... and identify who is talking. Once something is missed, hard to backtrack to make sure everyone gets it. (Lots of repeating the same message/point over and over again. Several times, 'discussion' turns into 1-on-1 off-topic, which could be sent to private chat. I can appreicate the human aspect, but maybe a combination, of start of meeting people are on and say hi, with quick summary. But other conversation/details can be done via private channel IRC.
  • scorche I prefer IRC for several reasons: It is much easier to comprehend and follow along due to being able to go back and re-read what has been said. It is much clearer due to no issues with static, loud noises, and other phone-related interference. No one can talk over another person. It is easier to get your thoughts in due to the aforementioned point. Due to the nature of phone conversations, I find it much harder to speak as you need to wait till others are done speaking and there is an empty space and making sure to not talk over anyone and to make sure you use the time properly and etc and etc. It is much easier to cultivate notes from. It is *MUCH* easier to multitask around as well as splitting off one-to-one talk. In the end, I think phone meetings are good for a low number of people (although they still do not have some of the benefits of IRC, however IRC would be much better for our purposes. ...Although I doubt any sort of vote like this will change anything...

I actively non-prefer IRC

  • Sholton IRC not preferred. Requires real-time participation. IRC channels typically blocked for corporate work environments and work-around tools severely lacking in features. Is there a way to search IRC discussions which occurred when one is not logged in? If not, then while it's easy to convert an IRC discussion to a wiki page, it seldom happens.
Whoa, I did not think about the port blocking at offices and schools. Thanks for pointing it out, Steve. I think the "no way to search IRC discussions" is more of a policy issue than a technical one - it's easy to log a channel and post the logs somewhere with good search indexing capabilities, but there's a long delay for public release of transcripts because they have to be approved for privacy first (which is also important). Mchua 10:06, 5 May 2008 (EDT)

I prefer email

  • Sholton I'm an asynchronous-threads person


  1. allows participation by those who cannot be present at the given time.
  2. allows participation by those who cannot 'keep up'.
  3. allows participation by those who are polite enough to not interrupt.
  4. tends in favor of researched responses and against 'shoot from the hip'.
  5. maintains a written record, which becomes searchable.
  6. encourages proper spelling/grammar and a unified 'language' (agreement on what to call things) which encourages searchability.
  7. can be post-translated to other languages.
  8. easy to identify the author/speaker for a suggestion or opinion.
  9. easy to move off-topic conversations into that 'cone of silence'.
  10. fairly universally supported, even by those with low bandwidth links.
  11. low participation costs.


  1. Not appropriate when immediate group decisions need to be made.
  2. difficult to ensure one email account == one person paradigm when group size becomes large.
  • Mchua While I'm a junkie for immediate feedback and thus enjoy chat, the margin by which I prefer IRC over email is so slight as to nearly vanish after reading Steve's points above. I don't think the "one email account, one person" paradigm necessarily needs to be enforced as long as people don't double-vote or otherwise assume multiple personas with multiple addresses. I do think that making decisions over email would mean we'd need to set a reasonable minimum time period (perhaps 4 days) between the time when someone can make a proposal and that proposal can be turned into a decision, so that everyone would have a chance to read and respond even if they don't check email obsessively.
  • Chih-yu email > IRC/IM >> phone. I prefer something I can spend some time to compose, and something I can erase or undo.
  • I agree with Steve's observations, and I tend to prefer email to get stuff done so that other things can be learned or exchanged at a meeting. Sandy

I don't care

Lainnya (khusus)

Computer conferencing software

Computer conferencing software was great years ago for managing topics and meetings across time. I am not up on open source web based conferencing software but would likely prefer that to IRC or stacks of list email Sandy

Both phone and IRC

CBigenho: I would like to see us continue to use a combination of conference call and irc for a variety of reasons:

The conference call is important because:
  • Shorter presentations and Q&A sessions by phone are helpful, especially as new interest areas, new activiites, new locations and countries emerge. Sandy
  • Some of us have internet issues (eg no access while traveling down the freeway as I was last week, also the possibility of having to use dial-up).
    • Does this happen often? I would guess (but I can't really say without data) that "I don't have internet" tends to be a fairly rare/intermittent thing for SG members, a special case that happens when someone is traveling or such. It seems like it would be hard to be an active SG member without fairly consistent access to internet in the first place. However, all this doesn't mean that there might be a substantial number of SG members who consistently cannot access the internet (but can access the phone) during meeting times. Mchua
    • Also, IRC is super-low bandwidth; it came into being in 1988, when basically everyone with "internet" was using dial-up, so it works pretty well on lousy 'net connections. Mchua
  • A conference call humanizes the meeting and group for those of us who are working from a distance.
    • +100 on this one. Mchua
  • A conference call allows the use of presentation graphics or other visuals via the internet while a presentation or discussion is going on.
    • How often does this actually happen, though? I can only think of one instance (Ric Holt's presentation), and I handled that by splitting my screen (which is 12" - so not too big) between a very small chat window and a somewhat larger slides window. The presenter just types whatever they would have said about the slide. Mchua
  • Nuances can be picked up from the conference call that would be missed on irc.
    • It's kind of hard to pick up nuances on information you can't get to in the first place, though. Mchua
The irc is important because:
  • Some key people are unable to participate in the conference call.
    • A larger number of people are able to participate in the conference call, but find it more difficult than text chat (see "IRC" section above). Mchua
  • Sometimes the phone connections are of poor quality.
  • Phone calls are inconveniently scheduled and/or expensive for people with time zomes far outside of Boston, particularly those abroad. Mchua
  • Rapid, overlapping, multiple conversations in English can be difficult to follow for those who aren't native speakers of the language, who have trouble processing auditory information rapidly, etc.Mchua
To make all this work, we need to:
  • Make sure that the irc is up and running with folks there when the meeting is scheduled to start.
    • And make sure the phone call is up and running with folks there when the meeting is scheduled to start, too! Mchua
  • Have someone at 1cc who is an excellent typist post the phone comments as they are made and read the irc comments aloud for the people on the conference call. If there is no one...try to recruit one.
    • This is a ton of work - how can we make sure that the person who volunteers to do this isn't excluded from participating in the call, and that they don't go insane? Mchua
  • Moderate the call so that people in both groups are included equally.
    • I would love to see this. It would be a difficult job as well - who would moderate, and what kinds of ground rules (if any) would we set to help with this inclusion/balance? Mchua
We can all help make this work by:
  • Being on time to the conference whenever possible
    • +infinity - maybe having an easy way for people to check in and say they're here and see who's there already Mchua
  • Having an agenda to follow
  • Allowing the moderator to "direct traffic."
    • This goes along really well with the idea of setting some basic ground rules for the conversation. Mchua
  • Trying to get a better phone connections and/or equipment that will allow use of the speaker phone feature so folks can have hands free to use the internet as a resource while on the call.
    • Would the burden for this be on individual volunteers? Mchua

Work mode

Also out of curiosity and not a binding vote or anything. How do people prefer to participate/work? This is much more free-form than the above and I don't have a clear idea of how others prefer to work, so if you can just put your own preferences in a subsection below, that would be wonderful (and when there's enough data, we can try to spot patterns and see how we might adjust to best suit the preferred working style of various people).

Sample ideas (from Iain)

  • formal list of TODO items created by coordinators?
  • Free-form 'open-ness' for working on whatever you see, aka "make your own job"?
  • A direction of department/area which needs the most work, and start nibbling at tasks either found/made/assigned?
  • Help create TODO/task/project lists of things to be done, and help coordinate others on getting them done?

Sample ideas (from sholton)

  • Limit the scope of tasks for individuals, allowing them to focus; expand the authority of individuals within that scope, allowing them to be effective. (rudder and sail analogy)
  • Other ideas?


I tend to like having A Problem To Solve - this can be given to me by somebody (but I have the power as a volunteer to accept/refuse/modify as I see fit) or a problem I see/find on my own, but I prefer getting feedback on the problem before I launch into solving it, in order to make sure that what I'm working on is a good problem to solve.

I enjoy being able to define my own route/tasks to solve a problem, and to define subtasks within that problem that I can recruit volunteers and resources for. However, I really like being able to have mentors, and people to ask for help in general, since I am but an egg and get stuck and make mistakes very frequently. I prefer to spend as much of my time as possible solving problems, but realize that solutions to problems can be social/hierarchical/content-related/pedagogical/structure-based as well as technological.

More rarely, I will also take clearly defined mini-to-do items that Somebody Else has posted if I think the problem is worth solving and all the resources are at hand to do it immediately. Tickets in RT are a good example of this. This is usually during my few moments of "I have nothing to do / am too zonked out to do anything complicated but want to be productive!" so it doesn't happen often.


Either have the tasks assigned, or have the requirements/expertise listed so that I can find a spot where I fit.


  • For AO-ADD (Adult Onset ADD) folks like me, being able to pick and choose jobs and projects at will is a real joy. One day I may take trouble tickets, another work on connecting Spanish speaking volunteers in Peru, another, brainstorming alternative power sources...and sometimes just deleting spam from the rt queue.
  • As Iain says, "working on whatever you see, aka "make your own job"?
  • A project with a clearly defined goal and a definite finish is satisfying, especially if it is a project of my own design and doesn't last too long.
  • I like to do jobs within my abilities that will teach me something and make me "stretch."
  • Variety!

A bunch of support-ish issues

Hi, janitor here.

In trying to improve the wiki (see wiki cleanup) I've run into a lot of support issues. I missed the Sunday support call, so here's an ongoing list.


It seems to me these pages confuse two things: "I want a fancier media player than Totem in the browser" and "I can't ^%$#@! play .MP3 files"

So I wrote Multimedia intro. Needs help.

XO users with 8.1

Many pages describe pre-8.2. Others assume 8.2.

See wiki cleanup for ideas. See {{consider upgrading}} template.

Where's the right getting started? or manual?
laptop.org/start redirects to the beautiful but old 7.1.0 manual, and the Help activity, laptop.org/manual, downloadable PDF manual all are for 8.2.0. So earlier releases have awesome getting started, 8.2.0 have awesome more-detailed manual.
Is there a getting started or manual for 8.1 users?
A: Somewhere there's another getting started that got a little more attention after 7.1.0, can't find it.

Note some links to laptop.org/start pages broke with all the redirecting and such. E.g. Getting started#Troubleshooting link to http://laptop.org/en/laptop/start/troubleshooting.shtml broke, the link is now http://laptop.org/7.1.0/gettingstarted/troubleshooting.shtml. How many others?

Manual, help, getting started, book ???

For 8.2.0, Support mentions some, Getting started mentions others.

Are these the same? Which version is which? What are the canonical URLs?

Promoting user groups

Need to get them to list their upcoming meetings semantically, so they show up in Events.

Making wiki welcoming

All nav pages at side and from home page need to feel fresh.


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