Last Friday I rode the train down from Sacramento to Yorba’s main office in San Francisco, California. I spent all day talking to the folks there about our respective missions and goals as well as open source in general and our ideas of a perfect desktop.
I decided that I wanted to be at their office first thing in the morning and really take advantage of the whole day. So I woke up bright and early and walked from my Midtown Sacramento apartment to the Amtrak station that’s only a few blocks away. I boarded the train and headed to Richmond where I transferred to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (known to locals as BART) for the rest of my ride. Remember, gentleman, that when riding light rail you should be a Good Guy Greg and give up your seat to standing ladies. All in all, it was about a two and a half hour commute to San Francisco’s Mission district. The weather outside was a beautiful sunny 70 degrees and it looked to be a great day. I buzzed Yorba’s office on the 3rd floor and was greeted by an excited Adam Dingle.
Adam is one of those guys that always looks happy to be where he is and do what he’s doing. If he isn’t smiling, he looks like he just may at any second. A self-proclaimed early riser, he was the only Yorba member at the office when I arrived at 8:45 AM. We shook hands, I set down my things, and we headed off to get a cup of coffee before starting the day. While on the walk and when we returned to the office, I recounted the story of elementary icons and the slow evolution from little blue folder to complete operating system. We talked about the apps that will ship in Luna such as BeatBox, Marlin, and Pantheon itself. He asked if we were shipping Shotwell, which of course was a yes. We talked about what happens to development when apps try to go cross platform and we both agreed that in order to provide the best experience we had to concentrate on the free desktop and let Mac OS and Windows fend for themselves.
We continued to talk about toolkits and languages and elementary’s dedication to our chosen tools. Slowly but surely, the other fine Yorba employees filed in and settled into their work stations. Adam let me know that at Yorba the rule is you needed to be in by eleven, but since it was Friday and the weather was beautiful we’d not see a couple of developers that would be out enjoying what California’s Bay Area has to offer. As lunch time crept up on us, we decided to take a walk down the street to Yo Yo, an excellent Japanese restaurant. We each ordered a Bento box and continued our general discussion over tempura, gyoza, teriyaki, sushi, and the like. We talked about Granite and Contractor and the OS’s responsibility to provide a strong platform. I heard about the sometimes-painful struggle to get social services integrated into Shotwell and the lack of existing mechanisms for smoothly adding this kind of support. I was warned about the dangers of the “when it’s ready” cycle and encouraged to ensure that the desire to create a great product doesn’t lead to another Duke Nukem Forever. I took in all this advice, answered all the questions I could, and by the end of lunch I had a strong feeling that Yorba felt we were doing things the right way.
After lunch, it was time to curb the philosophical discussion and get to business. We’re both interested in building an awesome email experience and we’d like to work together. I was given a demo of Geary and I have to say I was impressed. The work they’ve done on Geary looks great. The first thing I noticed was it’s speed, to which Adam responded, “I’m not sure I’m happy with it. I think we can make it faster”. Needless to say, faster is good. The design of Geary is strikingly similar to Postler. They even use our infamous AppMenu. When we started to talk about the back end (what they refer to as the engine), I found out they’re using SQLHeavy for the message store, which is the same great library that BeatBox uses to manage it’s music. It all sounded fantastic. After the demo and some discussion we all seemed to “agree to agree” on just about everything. We decided that the only thing to do was dive into the code, for which we needed Christian Dywan.
Of course, Yorba is well known for its popular photos app, Shotwell. I spent some time talking to Adam about the app, where its design was headed, and what I could do to convince him he didn’t need that menubar. I registered myself on Yorba’s redmine and promptly began to make reports about the smaller design issues present in Shotwell. Adam seemed really excited to see the 10 or so reports I filed and was quite open to the suggestions I made. He seemed skeptical about the menubar though and told me he’d be impressed if I could come up with a design that meant he didn’t need one. I took it as a personal challenge: the good kind of course. He was also really receptive to the idea of adding CSS classes to Shotwell’s widgets to make it fit more nicely into our theme. Things like the sidebar styling and the bottom toolbar are the small details that make a big difference.
We finished the day off with a bit of a happy hour (I sampled some peach vodka from their fine selection) and when it was time to catch BART back to Richmond I felt as if the day was far too short. I shook hands with everyone there, said my thank you’s and goodbye’s and then headed out on my way. I can’t help but feel like this is the beginning of a fantastic relationship and a bright source of hope for fantastic third-party apps on elementary.