Free(ing) web games

In the past weeks I added loads of fun to the collection of free web services. Many great modern web games are not licensed and there are several contests and platforms that showcase open web technologies but don‘t bother about freedom. So I contacted the developers – with great results:

Soon to be freely licensed are:

All these are added to the already existing fantastic free and open source web-based games:

Thanks to all the developers and to Mozilla Labs Game OnMozilla Demo Studio & Chrome Experiments for providing such great platforms! There are still many applications without license information on the list.

If you know any more freely licensed web-based applications or develop one and have licensing questions – don’t hesitate to contact me.


Students for Free Culture conference

Without question, this year’s Students for Free Culture conference at New York University was an exceptional experience. So interesting to hear about fashion copyright, problems of textbook access in Brazil and who really let the dogs out. I enjoyed the lively panel discussion and the convenient backchannel for the audience.

But the best was meeting all the great people. Getting to know projects that are being worked on, initiatives driven forward in an effort to spread free culture and how everyone does their little big things which are all insanely awesome:

In fact, the unconference day turned out to be my most favorite part. It was my first one so I didn’t really know how it would be organized (or unorganized for that matter). The discussion rounds were really refreshing in the broad spectrum of views from people who know their stuff but also from newcomers interested in the topic. The lightning talks gave quick insight into aforementioned projects and much more. That definitely inspired me to do something similar for the chapter I will be starting next month at Stuttgart Media University in Germany. If you’re in the neighborhood, let me know!

Also, all the great feedback regarding the collection of free web services greatly motivated me to improve upon it. I got loads of suggestions and input to clarify my mission statement, set a structure and make everything more understandable. It wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding projects in the first place!

A major point I got from the conference was how important the interplay of usage and service quality is for web services, especially when we as a free culture activist group utilize them. On one hand, proprietary web services are used by more people, which makes them important for outreach. On the other hand, there should always be a similar free platform to provide that service for those not comfortable with non-free software. We advocate what we use, if we want it or not – we need to select carefully and go the extra mile to lead by example. With more users come more developers, and with a better platform come more users. You are welcome to comment on that or continue this discussion on the mailing list.

By the way: Dan, Rafi and Ilya (no Maxwell) of Diaspora, the decentralized social network, were also there and gave a presentation on it. You should totally get an account for it at or – you’re in for some pictures I took of New York City and the conference! (I found that you can actually also view them without an account. You should still get one though.)

Lastly, a big thanks to Adi, Aditi, Parker, Kevin & Andrea from the board as well as the sponsors who generously made it possible for me to get there! And of course Parker, who made me aware of SFC and the conference in the first place. I am excited for a hopefully upcoming free culture conference in Europe and will gladly help out with that.

As for closing words, Isaac of the Free Network Movement really put it best:

»The people I met this weekend will be my peers and colleagues for a lifetime. I cannot adequately express the degree to which this thought excites me.«

Danke / Thanks

English version below

Die Jimmy-Wales-Taktik hat anscheinend funktioniert: Das Verzeichnis freier Projekte ist eins der 8 Projekte, die von Wikimedia Deutschland für ein Jahr finanziert werden.

Wow. Danke an Wikimedia, die Jury und alle, die dafür abgestimmt haben!

Wer mithelfen möchte, freie Alternativen bekannter und erreichbarer zu machen, ist mehr als herzlich willkommen!

Turns out the Jimbo method worked in luring people to vote for the directory of free projects (German description): It is one of the 8 projects that will receive funding from Wikimedia Germany throughout the next year (German announcement).

Thanks to Wikimedia, the Jury and everyone who voted for it!

If you want to help make free alternatives more known and findable you are welcome to join in!

Please read: A personal appeal from free culture activist Jan-Christoph Borchardt

I am going to build a directory of projects that enable living freely. Not only free software as mentioned in my last post but also communities like BeWelcome, text repositories such as Project Gutenberg and all kinds of other good stuff. At least for the software part I will focus on finding the most widespread and easy-to-use option because often there are many alternatives to choose from (which is great).

So I applied to Wikimedia Germany for funding and the project was accepted along with 39 other great efforts to make use of and spread free knowledge (article in German). 🙂

There are only 3 days left to vote on the projects which will eventually receive funding: If you are interested and can read German, please have a look at all the great projects and vote for the ones you like!

If you can not read German just prepare for something cool. 🙂

Free Projects as Alternative

There are many great free and open source projects around which can easily be used (studied, modified and distributed) by everyone. The problem is that they are not widely known and after all, everyone else uses Facebook and Twitter.

That is why I use

And the free projects have their advantages (except for the freedom):

  • Ubuntu does not run Adobe software
  • You don’t need to log in to view your stream (useful for internet cafés etc.)
  • OpenStreetMap has an awesome cycle map!
  • does not play the same lame tunes that everyone already knows
  • EtherPad makes collaborative writing really really easy
  • NewsBlur shows the original page, not just a bare feed
  • Jappix can talk XMPP, AIM,, IRC – even Twitter and Facebook and so much more!
  • You get to know people who have similar values

So spread these great free alternatives! Talk to your friends, show them Ubuntu from a USB key, give presentations, start a Free Culture chapter at your university – but most important: use free projects and help where you can.

Thanks to Benjamin Wache who introduced me to Ubuntu in the first place and Parker Higgins who got me back on the freedom track. You’re awesome.

Shotwell usability testing

As part of the UX advocates project, I’m working together with Charline Poirier of Canonical to conduct some usability testing on Shotwell (which is scheduled to be the default photo manager in Ubuntu).

To get an idea of how we should construct the tests, I did a preliminary one: I just grabbed a friend, gave her a few tasks and watched her using the program. I’ll explain the procedure more in the next post, first up are the results:


  1. Get photos from camera
  2. Select the best, delete the rest
  3. Edit when needed
  4. Categorize
  5. Upload to Flickr

German user, advanced digital and analog photographer, Ubuntu user since 6 months. First time using Shotwell, normally uses file manager and Image Viewer, sometimes Picasa (for editing) or Photoshop when on Windows. Names folders after events (e. g. »Hamburg«) and pictures »DDMMYY (##).jpg«.


For the problems that already had a bug filed in the ticket system, I attached the corresponding one.

Get photos from camera

  • Drag & drop from device to »Photos« does not work (proceeds by clicking »Import all«): »That was shitty, I always use dragging.«
  • No automatic renaming for photo title / file name [Ticket]
  • After importing, unclear what »Behalten« means (keep photos on device)

Select the best, delete the rest

  • No delete button in the toolbar
  • Remove dialog does not have an option for »don’t ask again« (like Image Viewer)
  • Library is confusing: »If I say delete, I want to have it deleted.« (from the hard drive) »Otherwise you always have duplicate photos.«
  • Initially thought that zoom slider is a horizontal scrollbar [Ticket]
  • Hide function frightens (»Aah«),no way to view hidden photos, continues by undoing it: »I wouldn’t know any other way to recover it.«

Edit when needed

  • Edits not directly visible while sliding, only when slider stops [Ticket]
  • Plays around with sliders to see what happens [Ticket]
  • Sliders sometimes jump too far when not »correctly« clicked
  • Not obvious that the histogram can be adjusted (did not use histogram editing that often)
  • Discovers after a while that histogram changes when moving sliders, didn’t notice it before
  • Accidentally discovers that menu can be moved: »The mouse cursor did not look like it.«
  • Likes to get menu out of the picture
  • Position of »Adjust« menu is reset
  • Not obvious that »Enhance« is automatic (especially because »Adjust« is a menu), expected a similar menu [Ticket]
  • »Enhance« is too extreme: »This overdoes it a bit.« [Ticket]
  • No »Undo« in toolbar, starts to use keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Z (on German keyboards, Z is where Y normally is)
  • No function to sharpen image [Ticket]
  • »Crop« handle seems hard to use (looks like the window manager handle which is sometimes only usable in a very small area), expected a double-sided arrow
  • Drop down menu opens with all the entries below, needs to be scrolled down to see them
  • »Do I need to save after editing?« »I always think I need to save. I don’t, right?«


  • How to rename pictures? Did not discover / expect »Titles« in view menu [Ticket]
  • Photos can not be reordered by drag & drop
  • Expected »Sort Photos« in »Photos« rather than »View«
  • Created an event from photos and wondered why they were sorted the other way round, (previously edited sorting order while trying to reorder)
  • About the tag function: »I never use that. Everybody always says I should but then I would have to do that for all my photos.« [Ticket]

Upload to Flickr

  • »Publish« does not work if no photo is selected, not obvious
  • Has problems selecting specific photos (uses Shift instead of Ctrl)
  • Need to choose if one comes from the program or from a sent link: »Why doesn’t it know that I used the program?«
  • Flickr site in English, likely because my account is configured to English (used mine because user forgot the password)
  • Label of »Publish« button is truncated for German translation »Veröffentlichen«Wants to go to the library because the upload takes long, does not work [Ticket]
  • Visits Flickr site to check uploaded photos [Ticket]
  • Normally does not give photos on Flickr titles (removes them after uploading)


  • Found welcome popup not overly helpful: »Better than nothing but it is obvious that you need to get photos from somewhere.«
  • Sees right-click context menu as unordered: »Lots of weirdly chosen items from the menus.«
  • Double-click good (»Like on YouTube«) but inconsistent: Switch between grid and single, but not exiting slideshow
  • Button for »Leave fullscreen« not obvious: »Maybe an ›X‹?«, expected the button to just make the slideshow smaller
  • Slideshow has settings only for one setting
  • Delay slider behaves weirdly [Ticket]
  • »Fotos« whereas in home it’s »Bilder« / »Photos« whereas in home it’s »Pictures«
  • Accidentally clicks help, browser opens: »Oh no!« »I don’t like that at all.« [see below]
  • Help contents open a browser, English only: »The address already looks fishy.« »That’s exactly what I imagined! Everything in another language, unordered and everything is called differently.« »I expected something like the help window in Word, that would have been ok.« »While searching in the help I could instead search for the function myself.« [Ticket]
  • »Zum Schlüsselfoto für dieses Ereignis machen« / »Make Key Photo for Event« not obvious, does not know what it does
  • After discovering it: »Maybe ›Album thumbnail‹ would be better.«
  • Can not figure out how to adjust date and time, tries to click on the left pane, right-click on the event dates
  • Sees »Exposure time will be shifted …« as nice to know, but not necessary
  • Did not discover star after marking a photo as favorite
    Likes »Adjust Date and Time« function as good for scanned photos
  • Likes that empty events are deleted automatically

Hey GNOMEs, I’m the barefoot guy :)

Even though GUADEC just ended, here are my 5 answers as a quick introduction:

1) Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Jan-Christoph Borchardt from Germany, student of information design and interested in all things usability & user experience. My current projects are usability testing for the photo manager Shotwell (as part of the UX advocates project) and Cardapio, an alternative to the main menu inspired by Do and Spotlight.
I am also working on Ubuntu’s German translation team, trying to establish general standards for all desktop environments.

2) How did you get into GNOME?

Benny got me interested in Ubuntu and I started it using it full-time in January 2010. As soon as I understood the whole structure and discovered that GNOME was even more widely used, I became interested in it as well.

3) Why were you at GUADEC?

To meet up with all the great people working on a free desktop. I didn’t imagine it to be so full of idea-spawning discussions and truckloads of awesomeness.

4) In 1 sentence, describe what your most favorite recent GNOME project has been. (Doesn’t have to be yours!)

SparkleShare, a git-based open source alternative to Dropbox, made by Hylke Bons.

5) Was this your first time visiting the Netherlands?

No, about two years ago I toured the Netherlands by bike with my sister, spending some time in The Hague as well.

6) Bonus: Did you have a good time?

It was so much fun getting to know all the people like Allan, Jon, Andreas, Vinicius, Bastien, Hylke, Jakub, Ruben, Charline; Adam, Jim and Lucas from Yorba; Eitan, Calum, Peter, Benjamin and and and – I had a great first GUADEC!

For the next half year I am going to be in Berlin to intern with relevantive, the company that conducted the comparative KDE / Windows XP usability study and founded the OpenUsability project.

So, hit me up when you’re there!