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Answering the question: "How do I develop an app for GNOME?"

During the GNOME Developer Experience Hackfest this week, one of the major goals we identified was the need to pick a single language to give a simple answer to "how do I write a GNOME app?".

Right now, if you ask that question, you'll get about 8 different personal-preference answers, which drives people away from our platform. Having to potentially evaluate several different languages and their stacks gives potential developers a lot of unneeded extra work.

There was broad consensus in the hackfest for this goal because it allows us to:
  • It allows us to focus when we write developer documentation, fixing bugs in the development environment and the development of tools. This reduces our maintanence costs and enables us to be vastly more efficient.

  • It enables code and knowledge sharing to occur, so that people can easily copy and paste code from existing applications, or find information about common problems and challenges.

  • It provide a coherent and easy-to-follow path for new developers.

  • It allows us to include the full GNOME framework within the language itself.

We spent a long time discussing the different options that are available to us, and there were a variety of opinions. However, at the end of the day, we had to recognize that no language is perfect and there will always be disagreement. The important thing was that we had to make a decision.

It's critical that everyone understands this decision as a plan to elevate the language, bindings, tools, and documentation to a level of quality we have not yet achieved. It is not a decision to abandon any other language bindings. We will continue to distribute other bindings and documentation as we do now and compatibility for the other languages will continue to be developed as they are today by the developers involved with those modules.

Our decision is to support JavaScript as the first class language for GNOME application development. This means:
  • We will continue to write documentation for other languages, but we will also prioritize JavaScript when deciding what to work on.

  • We will encourage new applications be written in JavaScript.

  • We will be working to optimize the developer workflow around JavaScript.

C will remain the recommended language for system libraries.

Why JavaScript?
  • Our language of choice needs to be dynamic and high level.

  • There is already momentum in the GNOME Project for JavaScript -- it's used in GNOME Shell and GNOME Documents.

  • There's a lot of work going into the language to make it especially fast, embeddable, and framework-agnostic.

  • JavaScript is increasingly being seen as a first class desktop programming language -- it us being used in Windows 8, mobile platforms, and for local web applications.

  • JavaScript is self-contained -- it doesn't come with its own set of core libraries, which makes it more convenient for us when integrating it into the platform.

This is the start of a process and there's obviously a lot of work ahead of us. However, prioritizing a single language will enable us to turn GNOME into a compelling platform for application developers in a much more effective and efficient manner.

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Thank you for taking the heat on this. >.>

Tell me what I or others can do to help with writing the developer documentation going forward, and how much of my and my mentor's work can be reused for it.

Hey! Thank you for volunteering! Much appreciated. I found someone else who is also interested in writing.. I bet we could come up wtih a good crowd to do this kind of stuff.

I know that Jakub was working on switching the documentation platform to using Mallard. We should probably figure out how to properly do this work. I'm clueless, but I can help coordinate.

Well, I had an outline here based on the work my mentor and I did last year, but they kinda haven't mentioned it at all and I'm feeling kind of depressed at the moment like nothing I did in the internship matters.

Their plans on the hackfest wiki pages sound better thought out, I just want to know what I can do to help and whether I have to start everything over from scratch.

Reposted as my LJ account because it flagged my OpenID comment as spam.

Hey jewel fox! The material you created for your internship looks excellent. I'll definitely give it a prominent place in the redesigned developer.gnome.org. As for the future, I think we need to figure out what documentation is missing and work from there. It would be fantastic if you could help with this. We should probably get together with the documentation team to work this out; I'll be sure to invite you to any discussions we have.

Hi, thanks for volunteering! The Gnome Documentation Team's page seems to be accurate in the information for getting involved.

I'm not involved with docs, but if you've still got questions, please let me know and I'll try to pair you up with some of the docs people.

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