Google Summer of Code Wrap up:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Today’s Google Summer of Code (GSoC) wrap up comes from Sean McGregor at the Privly Foundation, an organization dedicated to enabling private social communication for technical and non-technical users alike.


The Privly Foundation develops the Project: a web privacy stack for social media. The privacy stack enables users to share content through social media while maintaining the confidentiality of their communications. In 2014, the Foundation mentored five students through Google Summer of Code (GSoC). Two highlights were the projects’ work on user experience (UX) and mobile applications.

Andrei-Vlad Fulgeanu: Privacy UX

One goal of the Privly Foundation is to enable non-technical users to benefit from privacy software. Since Open Source development naturally fosters systems preferred by developers, UX for the non-technical user is often an afterthought. Addressing the UX problem was Vlad's project and passion. He began his work with mentor and UX researcher, Jen Davidson, by performing a "cognitive walkthrough" that would drive his implementation plan. Informed by the UX methods, he contributed a set of improvements including a re-designed anti-spoofing glyph, a new in-context posting button, a redesign and renaming of the "History" application, and several bug fixes. Vlad has continued working on after the close of GSoC and has even won a Romanian Open Source coding competition through his contributions.

Ivan Metla and Gitanshu Sardana: Mobile Capabilities

We had two students working on the Android version of the Project. Ivan Metla worked on developing an internal API which enables developers to easily drop in more content sources such as email providers, social networks, and timeline-based sources into the application. This required changes to the way content is displayed to provide a UX consistent with the context that content is scraped from. The application now supports a thread based structure for Facebook messages and a timeline based structure for Twitter content. Ivan also
worked on porting the UI of the JavaScript applications for the mobile platform thereby displaying controls specific to the mobile users.

Gitanshu Sardana worked on a major overhaul of the application UI. The old "Activity"-based structure was replaced with a "Fragments"-based layout which enabled better UI transitions.  


He then helped add an action bar for access to application settings and improved session management, along with a navigation drawer providing the users with easier access to reading and generating new content. He also worked on adding experimental support for reading protected content from Gmail that resulted in a new threaded view for email content. Finally, he added the Index application (now called "History") to the mobile application's navigation drawer.

Lessons Learned

GSoC organizations with user-facing functionality should note the power of UX methods like cognitive walkthroughs and think alouds as a means of placing prospective students in the "I can make this better" mindset. A quick think-aloud in addition to coding tasks can establish the prospective student's ability to communicate effectively and think critically about the project they are proposing.

It was a pleasure working with the GSoC students in 2014 and we are very grateful for the opportunity to bring together a larger community developing privacy on the web!

By Sean McGregor, Privly Foundation Mentor