Questions & Answers with Inkscape's Alexandre Prokoudine

1. Packt: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you and Inkscape on your success in the 2010 Open Source Awards - Open Source Graphics Software Category. You were supported quite vociferously by your passionate community. How important do you think the various communities of Open Source projects are to the progression and growth of its software?

Alexandre Prokoudine: Thank you! Well, we really wouldn't go far without community; it gives us the drive to continuously improve Inkscape and community gives the drive and shapes development.

 

2. Packt: For those that do not know, how long has Inkscape been around? How did the creation of Inkscape come about?

Alexandre Prokoudine: We've been around since 2003, and much of our project was initially built on top of Sodipodi — a free vector graphics editor by Lauris Kaplinski who had different goals and different vision for his project. Sodipodi itself was based on Gill — an even earlier project by Raph Levien. We positioned Inkscape as SVG (a W3C standard for vector graphics) authoring software, as well as generic vector graphics editor.

 

3. Packt: How would you describe the Inkscape community?

Alexandre Prokoudine: We have a rather diverse community. All the time we stumble upon unique uses of the application. For example, there is a strong interest raising in the manufacturing community lately: CNC, laser cutting, embroidering etc. We're trying to meet this demand by shipping GCode extension with the next version of Inkscape. However in most cases, people use Inkscape for graphic design, branding, web design, illustrating, diagramming, and technical drawing. Inkscape is also the standard de-facto tool for icon design on Linux.

 

4. Packt: What would you describe as the current strengths and weaknesses of the Inkscape community?

Alexandre Prokoudine: We are blessed to have brilliant artists in the community who use Inkscape for their day jobs, which is very motivating to both continuously developing the application and trying to draw something yourself. However we don't know of many uses of Inkscape, because sometimes people don't feel like wanting to be part of communities, so they simply take Inkscape and use it as means to end, and sometimes they just don't know that we'd like them to tell us about all the great work they do using Inkscape.

 

5. Packt: How many code contributors does the Inkscape project receive on a monthly basis?

Alexandre Prokoudine: We have 5 to 10 developers a month (from a team of about 50) who commit their own code, but apart from them a varying amount of people send one-time patches, from small fixes to actual new features.

 

6. Packt: How has Inkscape encouraged its community to evangelize the software?

Alexandre Prokoudine: There are several ways we go about that. From time to time we do deviant art-based design contests: a contest of About screen for every new release and, most recently, a website redesign contest. Since users post submissions in their accounts, everyone can see what they can do, and it broadens the user base. Some of our active community members like Máirín Duffy, Donna Benjamin, and Cedric Gemy organize classes for users in USA, Australia and France respectively, so really we rely on each other.

 

7. Packt: 2010 was a big year for the Inkscape community, how does the project expect to improve in 2011 and build on the growth experienced?

Alexandre Prokoudine: There are several things happening all at once or at least expected to happen. To begin with, we are currently working on a whole new website that will help new users to get accustomed with Inkscape faster, and for new developers it will provide better introductory information. Another thing that will hopefully happen is participation in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2011. Thus far GSoC has been great in helping to grow our developer community and bringing our code closer to state of the art technologies. We also expect to fully switch to Cairo based rendering which will significantly improve performance — one of the acknowledged Inkscape's weaknesses.

 

8. Packt: As you may know, we’ve recently announced that Packt has hit the landmark of donating over $300,000 to Open Source projects, how important are donations of this kind to the Inkscape community?

Alexandre Prokoudine: We mostly spend donations on trips of developers to various conferences like Libre Graphics Meeting, where they can meet fellow developers of other free applications and work together to bring consistent user experience to our communities. In many respects donations are a way for users to get better software in the end.

 

9. Packt: We specialize in refining and distilling advice provided by the community around Open Source projects, into easy to follow specialist information. How important is the sharing of information for the Inkscape community? How do you plan to improve on your role as the hub of distributing information for the Inkscape community in 2011?

Alexandre Prokoudine: Sharing information is another definition of community :) In the past our communication channels were somewhat fragmented. This year we intend to fix this, even though it's never possible to consolidate all community-driven projects.

 

10. Packt: Thanks for your time Alexandre, lastly what projects, if any, are you/Inkscape working on at the moment?

Alexandre Prokoudine: The big plan is to release a new 0.49 version later this year. This version is supposed to give a lot of polish to the existing feature set, as well as improve usability and performance. We consider addressing some of existing issues as important as new spiffy features, so there will be a fair share of work on both. We are also working on better SVG compliance and expect to have better support for CSS which is one of most popular user requests.

For more information on Inkscape, go to http://inkscape.org/

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