Bazaar2 Monthly Report - November 2016
In November, we started in earnest implementing the big overhaul of the user experience of the F-Droid client app. That also lead to the beginning of overhauling the server side to provide an updated app index format that supports localization, screenshots and other graphics, as well as synchronizing all the data formats from where apps are initially submitted to f-droid.org (aka fdroiddata) to where they are parsed and included into the index (aka fdroidserver), to finally, the index that the Android app receives and displays to the user (aka fdroidclient).
Objective 1 Simple multi-pronged distribution
Finished development work to support building and distributing “Over-The-Air” (OTA) update ZIP files as part of the whole F-Droid system. This is useful for distributing not only the F-Droid Privileged Extension, which lets F-Droid operate like Google Play, but also other apps that need to run with system privileges, like the MicroG Project’s Free Software replacements for the proprietary Google components of Android. This new build process is already live and working, we are just waiting on the final integration of the publishing procedure:
Media files can be included into F-Droid repos now, the client does not yet install them. The client will fully support downloading media as part of the full UX Overhaul.
Objective 2 Curation Tools for Organizations
No notable progress on this.
Objective 3 Modern App Store with Built-in Circumvention
We posted the first alpha version of the new UX as a preview of the overall architecture. The design files were finalized and handed over to the developers. One last piece was added to the designs: a flow for installing an alpha version or older version of an app from the app details view.
The totally new index format to support localization and graphics was fully prototyped and is functional. It will be integrated as soon as the final kinks are worked out.
We reviewed the results from the tests executed in Vienna
Prepared the testing plan for Zimbabwe
Made improvements to the nearby design in the prototype
Reviewed screen records from the field tests deployed in Zimbabwe
Objective 4 Partner Deployments
We discussed specific distribution approaches with two potential partners for environments with very limited internet access.
Objective 5 Usability Research on In-country Developers
Mr. Tuohy conducted in-depth remote interviews with eight software developers and technologists from seven different regions where the internet is heavily monitored and filtered. This will make up a majority of the interviews that will be conducted. In total we have interviewed 11 developers/technologists from closed and closing spaces and anticipate one or two additional Interviews before the end of the interview period. While analysis of the interviews will occur over the next month there are some initial findings.
Culture has a deep impact on how developers perceive and respond to the challenges that they face.
In areas where the cost, speed, availability, or censorship of the Internet is a challenge local developers have strategies and technical systems in place for sharing software libraries and documentation among themselves.
Pseudonyms and operational security are the primary strategy used by developers who fear that they will be targeted for the software that they develop.
The lack of localized/translated guidance on software development and developer documentation for security/circumvention libraries are some of the greatest barriers to the development of security and circumvention software in repressive environments.
Local developer access to, and interactions with, members of the international security and circumvention technology communities was commonly referenced as highly valuable by many of the developers spoken to.
Mr. Tuohy is in the process of building a developer survey based upon the initial findings from the interviews. This survey will be short (consisting of at most 25 questions) to increase the likelihood of developers spending their time to fill it out. This survey aims to reach a larger audience of local developers to test if the findings from the survey are broadly applicable. With support from localization lab this survey will be localized to ask about the impacts of censorship and surveillance on developers in a way that is culturally appropriate for a ”non-radical” developer audience and in their local language.
1.3 User Testing
One of the key findings from the interviews was how important it was for software documentation to be easy to navigate and read. Developers around the world often have learned to read technical English as a second language. This language barrier means that developers often can only read english, and do not actively engage in English language development communities. As such, documentation is often the only avenue for these developers to understand if the software meets their needs, and is worth investing time into. Sadly, documentation is often sub-par in the open-source security and circumvention software space.
In response to this we are developing one of the two components of the upcoming user testing to test the ease of navigation and understanding of the F-Droid documentation. The other component of the user testing will explore the process of setting up and using an F-Droid app repository to publish and update existing applications. This testing will be done with technologists who speak English as a second language.
Conducted in-depth remote interviews with 8 software developers and technologists from seven different regions where the internet is heavily monitored and filtered.
The Localization Lab is working with the project to localize survey questions to be appropriate for a broad developer audience in the targeted regions.