I began playing with OF about a year ago, and have a few observations I’d like to discuss. As a beginner, I was frustrated by a lot of dead ends and wasted time, so now that I’m not quite a beginner (though still pretty close), I’d like to try to help address some of those problems.
I want to stress that I do not in any way mean to be critical of any developers or people who have put in hard work for oF. I am only trying to help improve oF by compiling a wishlist of updates and changes, with the hopes that we can divvy up the work and get some cool stuff happening.
In general, these suggestions feel somewhat trivial taken one by one. However, I’d like to point out a difference I felt when learning Processing vs. learning openFrameworks. For some reason, I felt like I ‘got’ Processing much, much sooner than openFrameworks (I still don’t quite feel like I ‘get’ openFrameworks development). This could be a simple extension of the difference of the relative ease of Java vs. C++, but if we’re honest, there are some things we can do as a community to make openFrameworks easier for beginners.
Also, I want to make a note that I think there seems to be a specific need for documentation for people who are not quite beginners, but not quite experts either. In other words, people who have installed one of the IDEs and gotten a program to compile and run, but don’t know what to do next. Maybe they’ll learn to include an addon into a new project, but then it’s not clear just how cool openFrameworks can be. Perhaps a good set of offcial tutorials (much like the “Learning” section of Processing.org) would be helpful for this reason.
Finally, I want to find out how to stay up with cool working going on in the openFrameworks community. For example, version 007 seemed to just appear one day; how can a community member keep up with current work? Who are good people to follow and how can we follow them? Where does the ‘real’ activity take place (IRC, forums, private, etc)? In other words, I would say that more transparency would be ideal, so that outsiders can gather recent information and get a sense of that the OF community really is active.
Front page of website has not changed in about two years
Last update to “news and updates” was from December 27th, 2009, and the video was uploaded 4 years ago! It gives the (false) impression to newbies that oF is not a very active platform.
about > news page is outdated and seems to have some formatting issues
addons section has many issues, and is hard for newbies to figure out
- “overview” page mentions that “each addon page will include detailed instructions”, yet every addon that is listed is not linked to anything. Also the list seems to be missing several current addons like ofxAccelerometer and ofxSynth
- “contributed addons” page seems quite incomplete, with many of the links going to a confusing page stating that the addons page is not being maintained any longer, and that developers should host their addons and add them to…the addons page that isn’t being maintained? James George and Greg Borenstein have created a really sweet website for oF addons at ofxaddons.com, but newbies would have no idea it exists from interacting with the site.
- “installing & using addons” video is quite helpful, but could really use a text version as well for situations when users just want to quickly skim or reference something and not play a 7 minute long Flash video. A text description of the currently correct way to add addons into the common IDEs, which can be quite confusing to a beginner.
docs pages are functional, but could use more examples
This is something that can really be inspired by Processing’s approach - as a beginner, knowing how to call a function and what parameters you pass isn’t always the most helpful. The examples at Processing.org serve to demonstrate plainly what exactly the function does, and provides some context about when to use the function and where it fits.
gallery is interesting, but not very comprehensive or detailed
Seemed to me that there is a lot of content that is dangled out there, but not explained very much, or at least it can be hard to see exactly how openFrameworks was involved. This isn’t really a critical section, though, so its not a big deal.
community section could use some TLC
- “people” page lists some astoundingly important people (arturo, theo, Golan Levin, etc). However, if you don’t know who any of them are, you have to hover over every single one to see the name and decide whether you want to click and see a tiny bit of content or not. It might be a good idea to put all of the content on one page. Names and bios float next to all the images, so you can browse through the whole thing at once, or even search for a person by name more easily.
- “meetings and workshops” page…is this being maintained? Seems like it might be dead
rss feeds don’t seem to be working
The “news” and “projects gallery” feeds are dead links for me, but even if they did work, has the content been updated enough to warrant an RSS feed?
Once these issues have been discussed for a while, I think some discussion needs to take place about actually doing something about them. It would be unreasonable to heap any of this “extra” stuff onto the core developers of OF, so I’d like to suggest that a team of trustworthy volunteers in good standing in the OF community be assembled to tackle the issues discussed.
It’s obvious that OpenFrameworks is an extremely powerful and valuable tool, and the community works quite well, and yet the platform doesn’t have as strong of a following as something like Processing. While it cannot be expected to really reach that level of involvement, maybe some thought should be taken to reaching out to educational contexts, as Processing has done. Its becoming more and more common for Processing to be used in teaching basic programming to undergraduate students, so what about developing a support system in the community for educators looking to teach their students about C++ and the unique things that openFrameworks can do well? What do you think?