Some months back, the KDE forums were re-launched under a community banner (they had previously been run by a third party), with a new and enthusiastic admin team. One of the first things the team achieved was the release of the forum software under a Free Software license (it was previously proprietary). And they haven't sat still since.

One of the signs of the professionalism of the forum admin team (professionalism in the sense of upright behavior, reporting, being responsive end friendly and having a clear sense of purpose even in a volunteer organization) is the forum staff blog which posts staff goings-on or highlights particular topics. It's missing the notice that one of the team needs to leave (for personal reasons), so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Rob L. particularly for his work in re-invogorating one of the communication channels KDE users have amongst themselves and with developers.

Personally I've never liked forums. I remember using the phrase "loathe and abhor" in some discussions around running a KDE forum at all, but that doesn't take away the fact that many people do like using forum software for discussions (instead of mailing lists or usenet). But one of the things the team has done really well is to make the forum useful even to grumpy old farts such as myself, by managing the forum and reporting on the results of forum discussions -- that's professionalism again.

A cool feature that results from this is the KDE brainstorm (announcement on the dot). Here's a place to hammer away at ideas and mold them into something sufficiently concrete that it makes sense to push into KDE's bug tracker as a wishlist item. Bug trackers are not a good place for conversation, after all. By consolidating "discussion for new features" in that place, we can add structure -- and avoid having the same discussion elsewhere, like in response to release announcements (all of mark's wishes on that page make sense in the brainstorm or as specific wishlist items in the bug tracker, but they'll get lost as comments to a news item).

Best of all, there's a monthly summary which adds review, statistics, triaging and some meta-comments to the results of a month's brainstorm: this is a really good way to "listen to the people" (for developers) without getting bogged down in discussions. In a sense we are reaching (for) the point where we have a sales dude (e.g. Sayak) who is canvassing the customers for features and returns to the product development team and says "we should do this, because people are asking for it." Then we follow the still traditional Open Source development model to see if it actually gets done, but the difference is in the channels used to get ideas.

:So congratulations, forum team, on building up something vibrant and useful.

[[ One last thing, though: good ideas are in far more plentiful supply than time and developers and artists to implement them; twenty ten-minute jobs will, in spite of the naive math, chew up a whole week of developer time. There comes a point when even the best of ideas will get stalled for "no time" -- so roll up your sleeves and exercise your Free Software rights (for instance as granted by section 2 of the GPLv2). ]]