Where People fits in GNOME

July 20, 2008

Right after our GUADEC presentation, Ali Sabil and I met with Owen Taylor, Marina Zhurakhinskaya (both from Red Hat’s Online Desktop project), Robert McQueen (Telepathy) and Travis Reitter (Soylent). The goal of that quick meeting was to define how to integrate all those pieces of technologies together. Even if People aims to define a data model and a D-Bus API to be used on all the free desktops, we are also part of the GNOME community, thus particularly eager to see People integration with GNOME technologies happening.

It’s been always difficult to make people understand what People is. Moreover, our project is quite unknown. We are not present on GNOME’s main communication channel (Planet GNOME) and that’s something you feel also at GUADEC when the conference room isn’t very populated. In that blog post, I’ll try to explain what is People and what it will be for GNOME.

The best explanation I can give to begin with is maybe that People is actually like “libsoylent”, which has been announced few time ago. The main goal is the same: provide first-class people objects to applications. Our approach is different: we designed People from the backend to application level, which allows us to consider whatever contact source, while libsoylent, based on what is done in Soylent, only uses Evolution Data Server and Telepathy as sources (for now). I think that our development is more advanced and our solution wider, hence even Soylent should use People.

On the next diagram, you can find several components that are part of the GNOME ecosystem. It is based on the GUADEC after-talk meeting result and is not meant to be exhaustive.

  • Green boxes are what we call contact sources. Any application, service or data source handling and exposing objects referred as contacts, friends, persons, people is a potential contact source. Those contact sources are plugged into the People framework through a backend system. That interaction is represented as dashed arrows on the diagram. Each contact source provides partial information about some contacts to People.
  • The blue box is the framework. It contains the backend system, a mechanism to gather partial contact informations into high level contact object (often called meta-contacts) and a D-Bus daemon to expose those high level contacts to applications. At some point, we’d also like to expose backend directly to allow synchronization solutions to use them.
  • Yellow boxes are a few possible applications that could use the framework.
People in GNOME

People in GNOME

Concerning Empathy, the current contact list could be turned into a people list, where each item wouldn’t be an instant messaging contact anymore but just a known person, that you may reach using instant messaging. That list would contain some friends you have in Facebook and you could actually subscribe to them on Jabber directly from Empathy, as People would provide to Empathy the information saying that your friend has a jabber account.

This is what People does, it provides contact information to application, and then applications should know how to use that information. People won’t tell you to launch Evolution to write an e-mail, it’ll just tell you that you can reach a certain contact through e-mail. We then need sort of an “activity launcher” and I think that’s what Soylent should be. Using the people list provided by the Empathy widget set, Soylent should allow you to start activities with the people you know. At some point, maybe Empathy’s client and Soylent are meant to be the same application.

Our demonstration at GUADEC was an application containing a list of high level contacts built from local (sqlite database) and distant sources (lastfm and friendfeed web services). The list exposed contact information such as the full name of the contact, a picture, an e-mail address, a phone number, an icon per social network he’s susbscribed to, all those information being provided by People. At some point, Ali brought his mobile phone next to the laptop and his phone’s addressbook automatically became a contact source (over bluetooth) for the application, adding contacts from the phone in the list. This was supposed to show how flexible the backend system is and how cool are the things that People enables :).

Yesterday we set up www.people-project.org which is currently a wiki that will be useful to collaborate on stuff that are not code. We are also releasing 0.0.5 “Smelly hotel lobby” (tribute to our hotel in Istanbul, where people still smoke in public places and People don’t) today, as dictated by our sprint schedule. We are currently developing more backends (Online Desktop, Telepathy, EDS, …) and trying to improve what we have for now. The backlog is huge but considering all the possible cool applications, will is around.

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4 Responses to “Where People fits in GNOME”

  1. shivan Says:

    I have a small question about the use of a jabber client relying on Peolple.
    jabber contacts, for me are highly tied to a server, either mine or theirs, like a server for work, and another one for personal stuff.

    Empathy for example would expose a list of contacts that would be a mix of all your jabber accounts, right? What if you want to connect with only one of your account? Will People only expose contacts of said account, or is it Empathy’s responsibility to just dump the one it doesn’t need?

    sorry if the question is stupid/unclear, I may not have read enough about People, but I can’t figure that out by myself.

  2. [...] Blog « Where People fits in GNOME [...]

  3. Guyou Says:

    I’ve just discovered People project. I’m quite interested in it because the giggle project has “web social” feature: it displays avatar while browsing the Git history. Currently it uses Gravatar.

    Giggle can certainly become a client to People in order to remove explicit reference to Gravatar.

  4. Eric Says:

    You should apply to be on planet.gnome.org !!!

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