Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sailfish OS growing pains

A pain that either forbids you from falling asleep, or aprubtly cuts your awesome dream short during the night.

It's your your junior legs that are hurting from a reason neither your parents nor doctors really know. A painkiller, accompanied with some medical jargon, is all that you're administered with. Followed by reassuring words about things getting better over time. And they do, because such are growing pains.

The Sailfish OS 2.0 demo software made its debut in Barcelona, at the Mobile World Congress. It got amazing reception from both Jolla booth visitors and media. It even landed us an award for the best tablet in show. However, our community and early adopters are not your average group of enthusiasts. Not too long after first hands-on videos reached youtube, various social media threads about missing features were open for business.

It's no wonder. That's the risk of demoing unfinished software publicly. But there's a solid reason behind us doing so. When it's your turn to be in the showroom spotlight, in-between some billion dollar companies with their competing products, you need to make everyone experience the end result. And demo software has the exactly opposite emphasis compared to something you use on a daily basis.

The demo software had to piggyback on easy and familiar features people can immediately recognize, understand and remember. Not on groundbreaking things that reboot the mobile computing or touch interaction, because those things require time to materialize during actual use. For someone already familiar with Sailfish OS, the demo software lacked many features that really add to the long term user experience.

But at the end, we didn't go to MWC just to show another product we've made. We didn't go there to show what we've done so far. We were there to represent everyone who has ever supported us. To make sure your decisions and voices count. This is a movement instead of technology. It's more human than anything else out there, so it has all the potential to grow to the right direction.

Even if it hurst a little.

I'm going to end with reassuring words about things getting better over time. And they do, because such are growing pains.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.


  1. Idea of Sailfish 1.0 UX is unique, but 2.0 is more simple and new_user-friendly.

    Only one thing on 2.0, which I don't really like is a small app tray bookmark on bottom of home screen =D

    1. Hi Naecken,

      There's two ways of making user friendly interfaces:
      1) you make something people are familiar with
      2) you make something that doesn't punish people from failure

      SailfishOS 1.0 was neither in the beginning. It wasn't really familiar, and it was brutal to people who didn't know how exactly to use it. Basically it assumed that people knew how it worked, and didn't handle incorrect user behavior at all.

      Whatever the design is, it's important that also failure feels rewarding. If you make failure rewarding, you encourage learning. In other words, you reduce the learning curve.

      Those are just different ways to approach interaction problems. Both equally valid depending on what the goal is :)

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. Take care :)

  2. Thank you again for your very interesting posts.

    There's an fundamental difference between Jolla and other competitors out there: you have a community. That's a strong advantage -- and a hard daily task.

    I think the main reason why the community reacts so widely to the recent MWC shows about SailfishOS 2.0 is that we feel it is the right time to do our first feedback, even if it is only experienced through a video. Even if it is only at "demo" stage. Because we experienced SailfishOS 1.0, on a daily basis, and we want to tell you what felt great, or what could be improved. And because if a feature has to be redesigned a little bit, the sooner is the easiest.

    It takes time to discuss with the community, to explain choices or situations, like you do very well on your blog. But it's all for the best: you have a very enthousiastic community and we want to help make the best OS ever!

    Cheers, and keep up the good work :)

    1. Hi Tofe,

      Above all I think the Jolla community is really intelligent. I've rarely found so many people who actually think outside the desktop computing and how that translated to touch screens.

      It really feels that the SFOS 1.0 was a true test of awesomeness, and now we just need to read carefully into results from that test. Short term test never give a good insight to what works and what doesn't. Many 1.0 intended features are just arriving when 2.0 develops, so sometimes it's even hard to really say where does 1.0 end and 2.0 start..

      All in all, there wasn't really communication about the 2.0 and what to expect for the demo software. I think many misunderstandings coul've been avoided, but it's still great that people are committed and show that they care.

      Thanks for your kind words. I haven't been writing as much as I would like, so I'm really glad that people find these posts useful.

      Take care and hope to see you again :)

  3. Hi Jakko,

    this is my first comment here but I've been reading your blog since the beginning, it's very interesting.

    I was a little bit disappointed from some of the "apparent" changes in the 2.0 demo, but the more I thought about what it was showed, the more I've been convincing myself that, overall, it is a big improvement. In this blog entry of yours you suggest that there were misunderstandings with the community due to the demo features showcased being not final, and with some degree of lack in communicating this fact. Can I ask you to comment on one specific issue? The only real "step back" I can find in SF 2.0 vs 1.0 is the supposed lack of the "swipe down to close an app" gesture. From what we can see in the MWC demos, the only way to close an app in 2.0 is to long tap on the multitasking view, and use the small X icons to close the apps.

    Is this one of the "not finalized" aspects of the demo? Do you plan to implement a replacement for it? There is also a thread on TJC related to this, with some interesting ideas both in the post, the comments, and some answers: https://together.jolla.com/question/1916/suggestion-new-gesture-to-close-app-made-relevant-again-by-sfos-20-ui-changes/

    No matter what, keep up the good work! I wish Sailfish the brightest of futures, I can't se me using any other mobile OS right now.

    1. Hi Orologiaio,

      And welcome to the comment section :)

      Yes, the demo software is tailored to cover certain demo cases, and it's not wise to implement everything, since some of it will be rewritten for the real software. The real version will allow you to close an application with a swipe. It's basically the same toggle in system settings that currently controls the quick closing of apps.

      Thanks for reading. Hope to see comments from you in the future as well :)

    2. Thanks for your answer, Jaakko. It's nice to hear that! May I ask you another question though (if you can answer)? Will enabling this toggle to have the "swipe-to-close" gesture disable the ambience switcher, and vice-versa? Because I can't see any other way this could work, and I think it would be a pity.

      In the TJC thread I linked in my previous message the are some, imho, reallt interesting suggestions to modify the "swipe-to-close" gesture so that we can have both a quick and practical way to close apps AND the new, gorgeous ambience switcher. I'll resume them here:
      - when peeking, an overlay area at the bottom of the screen also appears (with "close", or a big X, or something else clearly visible on it); if, while the peeking gesture is still ongoing, the users drags its finger onto this area, the active app closes
      - variant of the above ("power user version"): same as before, but without the overlay area: if, while the peeking gesture is still ongoing, the user drags its finger down (without necessarily reaching the bottom of the screen, but long enough to avoid accidentally triggering this); the app closes (if an app is going to be closed, the white "X" indicator appears on it, just like now, so the user can revert the action if desidered; this may also apply to the first variant)
      - in both the above cases: when an app has been closed, instead of immediately killing its cover, user the remorse timer (like in the Gallery app when deleting media, not with the top bar); this would give the user a chance to change its mind.

      What do you think?
      I think these are all great, efficient and clever suggestions (note that I didn't have any of these; I was going to post the first variant on TJC only to find that another user already proposed it more than one year ago, so that makes me at least one year dumber than him :P). What I'm afraid of, though, is this kind of "two-step" gesture may be considered too difficult for beginners. I've been using Sailfish for more than one year, and I had an N9 before that, so they just totally make sense to me, but I can see some people complaining.

      If you've gone this far, thanks for your patience ;)

    3. Hi Alessandro,

      Sure, no problem. That's what the comment section is for. I'll be happy to answer :)

      Yes, activating the app closing shortcut, it currently disables the power key menu (that includes ambiences) when inside an application. The wor is still ongoing, but I'm sure the behavior could be pathced later on.

      I've also read those suggestions and think they all ar potential solutions to the issue you mentioned. As I also wrote in my previous post about edge gesture design, edges should always perform the same thing to boost learning and software simplicity.

      I don't think the learning curve is an issue, as the toggle is anyways for advanced users and not on by defult. As long there's adequate feedback (the (x) graphics, and some first time hints), there shouldn't be any problems.

      The remorse pattern for to-be-closed apps has also been discussed earlier, and would definitely work as both a indication and a confirmation. User could close an app, jump to another one, and the closing would then happen behind the scenes. Inadvertent closing would also be easy to prevent that way.

      Thanks a lot for summarizing the TJC thread. You also did a great job understanding the dilemma related to using two edges to control application window (one to minimize, other to close). Using side edge for controlling app window makes a more ergonomic experience in the long run.

      Thanks for commenting, take care and hope to see you soon :)

  4. Hi,

    I was a fan of the N9 but I jumped on the Jolla as soon as it was announced! So promising. During months I was desperate because I feel the UI was way behind the N9. I found particularly painful the fact that the events view is so limited and that there is a dead end when going from a view to another.

    Now, with what I saw in some videos of Sailfish 2.0 I know the situation is completely different, I love it! Everything is right under the finger, mainly because the different views are organised like in a "carousel".

    What I'm also waiting now is the ability to change the size of the font, my aging eyes need this...

    Congratulations to you and the Jolla Team for your work.


    1. Hi Jordi,

      Your comment was for some reason tagged as spam (I have no idea why), so I noticed it only just now. Apologies for that happening.

      I'm happy to hear you feel more at home with SFOS 2.0 design. Many shortcomings of the previous one were simply due lack of time, not designed to be limiting :)

      N9 events view was made during the time when Facebook and Twitter got looser regulations, if any, about how to display their content. Today, I understand that it's not good to mix and match content from both, because the whole social media has turned into something completely different. We're working with both companies to get the experience on a better level.

      I would also appreciate a larger font size. In mobile context, larger is better since your attention is many times divided with several things.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. Have a great weekend :)

  5. "However, our community and early adopters are not your average group of enthusiasts."

    It kinda hurts to read this. Really.

    Anyway, thanks for your (very interesting) blog posts, for your work and for your communication.

    1. Hi François,

      Let me open that sentence a bit. When people support a company that provides value for them, the value should come directly from a product or interaction with the company. The idea of support gets distorted if the value comes from just belonging to a group and supporting something just for the heck of it.

      When I talk with people from Jolla/SFOS/mer community, I have a feeling that people think with their own heads and feel with their own hearts. To me, that's much more honest and healthy relationship, when compared to many big consumer electronics brands.

      I never intended my post to be derogatory, demeaning or offending towards our community. On the contrary, I think very highly of you. If I made you sad or hurt you, I'm sorry. It was not my intention. Have my apologies.

      Thanks for reading and your support. It's good to have also negative feedback to keep the balance. Take care :)

    2. Hi Jaakko,

      Thanks for your answer and thanks for clarifying things. Reading it, I think I just misunderstand this sentence :-/ Sorry for this.

      I'm glad to see how you consider the/your community.
      I think it means a lot for a community to be considered not just as consumers/customers/fanboys but rather as real people with respectable ideas, opinions and voices.

      Respectfully -

    3. Hi François,

      No problem at all, mistakes happen :) I'm glad you came back to read my explanation. It means a lot to me.

      Thanks for the trust. Rock on! :)

  6. Nice article, bro
    I hope Jolla would be comes to Indonesia
    I miss that things. :)

    1. Thanks a lot. New regions are always exciting, but usually take some time to arrive. I'll mention that Indonesia is waiting.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Take care :)