This week is the first week of my GNOME OPW internship.  I’m honored to have been selected as a participant and I’m especially excited to dive into my project.  This will be my first formal contribution to an open source project, hopefully the first of many.

My internship project is to make improvements to, a blog aggregator.  Those involved in the internship should be familiar with this site since the interns are required to blog and our blogs are added to the Women in Free Software planet.

My degree and professional experience is in online communication, so I’m approaching this project from a communication/media perspective.  My existing tech skills are in website design & development; while I still have a lot to learn, I know enough to dive in without a steep learning curve.  My three major goals for the project are to:

  1. Improve the user experience for Planet users and enable subscribers to build community.
  2. Help people better understand the value and potential of the blog aggregator tool; how other people use it, how they might use it.
  3. Generate support for the project (donors, contributors, users).

I’m starting with a redesign that will modernize the code and make the site more aesthetically appealing for visitors.  I’ll be using Twitter Bootstrap, which has a couple of advantages:

  • It uses responsive design, which will make the site easy to read on mobile devices as well as larger screens.
  • It’s already tested for browser compatibility!  This is great because I don’t have a PC or Linux machine (yet) to test the site on, and from what I understand the various online services that do it for you are not very accurate.  It would be good to test it anyway once it’s complete just in case, so I’m open to suggestions on ways to approach this.  Perhaps this project is the excuse I need to finally install Ubuntu on my Mac, but I’d prefer to avoid Windows if at all possible.
  • It’s super easy to get started, as they’ve done a lot of the CSS, HTML, and Javascript for you.  It feels a bit like cheating.

I’m also hoping to survey current users to identify and prioritize features to add.  Personally, I’d like to find a way to integrate more social media / microblogging, since blogging is on the decline and microblogging is more commonly used these days (as discussed recently by Stormy Peters).  I am also interested in finding ways to enable the users to interact with the content in a way that helps generate more discussion.  Perhaps something like Reddit’s up-voting system where readers can identify which posts they found most interesting/engaging/useful to help other readers quickly choose which articles to start with if they don’t have time to read all of them in the feed.

Do you use one or more Planets?  If so, what improvements would you like to see?