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Open letter for Jolla about communication

asked 2019-03-14 22:31:09 +0300

lumen gravatar image

updated 2019-03-15 11:24:08 +0300

jiit gravatar image

Let's start by saying that I'm one of Jolla superfans who's religiously following development of the Sailfish OS.

Jolla, please consider making communication better towards your community. Many of us have already in October 2017 invested in an Xperia X with expectations that most of the original functionalities will be implemented. Now we are still waiting for crucial bug fixes (mobile data is buggy and bluetooth) and some core functionalities seems to be left to rotten (i.e. NFC).

We shouldn't have to dig out such information e.g from meeting memos , like in this case: http://merproject.org/meetings/mer-meeting/2019/mer-meeting.2019-03-07-09.00.log.txt "09:31:53 Jaymzz: I got news that it is not likely for NFC support to happen for the Xperia X, but it's not 100% yet." Now it seems to me that NFC will never come, although it was originally promised. This really should be communicated to us.

In blog post 20th Nov 2018 https://blog.jolla.com/sailfish-3-day-celebration/ you have promised a roadmap for us. You say: "We are also working on a public Sailfish 3 roadmap, which we will share with you in our blog as soon as it is ready. So stay tuned!" Well, we are very much staying tuned. But how long do we need to hold and stay tuned? A decade?

You say that: "you learn as you go", blogpost comment by James Noori on February 1, 2019 at 1:08 pm. https://blog.jolla.com/sailfish-x-beta-available-for-xa2/ How can you say that you are learning, while there seems to be annoyed/frustrated/pissed off Xperia X owners all around? I'm not leaving my question into open. I can give an example of good communication by a similar small company like you who is fighting a gigantic software house head-to-head. This is an email for their customers:

Next week, we plan to launch a new Luminar update. We had initially planned to release it on February 12, but our team discovered some critical issues last week and was fixing them over the weekend. As of today, we’ve fixed 3 out of the 4 issues we discovered. But we’ve decided to take a few extra days to fix the remaining issue and double-check everything. So there’s a slight delay with the update, but we aim to deliver it to you by the end of next week. I wanted to send you this personal note and apologize for the delay. The new version of Luminar brings many essential performance improvements. Our team is working hard to deliver a quality result, and I believe you won’t be disappointed. When the new version ships, we’ll send a separate email and share the news via Skylum social channels. We have more updates scheduled for spring.

Now that's some fabulous communication. When Jolla communicates at this level, I can agree that "you learn as you go".

If you would communicate what's going on with development and give us some kind of roadmap, it would silence most of the frustrated and disappointed voices here. It would not only silence me - it would impress me. Even if there were no dates given, just a rough timeline or a prioritization list.

I happened to come across this article where we all can read why Xperia X is going forward so slowly and many functionalities seem to have been forgotten:


"The main focus for the moment is on supporting deployments to ramp up in Russia, he says, emphasizing: “That’s where we have to focus.” (Literally he says “not screwing up” — and with so much at stake you can see why nailing the Russia case is Jolla’s top priority.)"

As I read the article (which by the way gives hope to see Jolla florish in future, you've even hired 10 new people and cash flow seems to be getting a bit wind under the wings) I became happy for your success. I even forgave the lack of NFC and some bug fixes almost completely :-) But simultaneously it made me a bit sad that you can't tell us this yourself - only via an article in the internet - that one needs to stumble upon.

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+100 to this one! You speak from my heart!

Raymaen ( 2019-03-14 22:37:36 +0300 )edit

Amen brother!!

Glitchard ( 2019-03-14 23:03:48 +0300 )edit

It's something I also don't entirely understand. Someone investing, let's say, 1 hour a week to write clear and concise updates to the community should not cost Jolla that much and showing some love to us, who stayed with them though good and bad could generate some positive buzz as well.

spag ( 2019-03-14 23:05:04 +0300 )edit

@lumen I am afraid that the regional partner Jolla focus on in Russia is indirect the Roskomnadzor No developer here and no one who enjoy at least a bit the freedom of the web, can like that partnership. I would really like some informations from Jolla about that. Is there something to worry about? If so, I will prefer to support Mr. Sundararajan Pichai instead of Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Glitchard ( 2019-03-14 23:23:34 +0300 )edit

Yeah, nice one, it needs to be said, but honestly, what do you think will come of it?, Jolla is run for profit, we do not generate the profit required to advance things, let alone keep it going - OFF down the corporate gurgler goes SFOS.

Despite my little whinges every now and then, I'm largely happy with my Jolla1, but progress is damn slow, but then with around 50 or so staff members working on it, it is amazing that we have as much as we do.

I don't often give credit to the devs, ploughing away behind the scenes and I realise its way too easy to complain and be wholly negative, especially when in a down mood and your phone is pissing you about....so with that said;

Thanks to all the boys and girls at Jolla, past & present, for what we have so far, as an independent OS; KITOS!! ..........don't mind me, I can barely make a decent patch, let alone do what you guys do. I look at some of the pages of code in my device and my brain turns to spaghetti trying to comprehend it at any level, so yeah, keep it up!!........oh and if you can, say a few words every now and then to let us know you do give a sh*t at some level about 'our' community, thanks!

Spam Hunter ( 2019-03-14 23:55:48 +0300 )edit

5 Answers

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answered 2019-03-15 03:26:18 +0300

butler gravatar image

updated 2019-03-15 03:29:51 +0300

Well Jolla is in a tough position to be in.

Imagine this kind of newsletter:

"We need a decent money flow to keep staying alive. We tried to do consumer-oriented phones and nearly died like several times. Currently we are betting on local adaptations for Russian goverement that needs to have an own independent smartphone OS. So in order to deliver we massively cut resources on Xperia phones.

We don't want to close consumer-oriented area of business completely yet, so we have to have an adaptation for a recent phone. That's XA2. There are no resources to support both Xperias, so X is EOLed and will receive only trickle-down bugfixes intended for other phones. It's buggy as hell, but sorry guys. Even if we'll bill yearly for support, that's peanuts and won't make any difference to our bottom line. We want to try better with XA2, but honestly don't expect much, it'll probably go in the same way. The only hope is that we make it big with Russian deployments and then have enough resources to take Xperias seriously again. Though timescale is about a year and we can't grow our team instanteniously, so probably that'd happen when XA2 is irrelevant too.

So if what you want is a phone with solid support, you should come back in a year or two and see if sutuation has changed. It's hard to tell ATM how things turn out. Though if you are content with a buggy phone and want openness of a real linux-based os, go ahead and buy XA2, we are happy to sell it.

We are a small startup and have to use any means to stay afloat, and we do what it takes. Things change fast, and maybe we'll even finish our b2b stuff early and will make XA2 less buggy that X is now, but no promises!"

So... I'll guess they think that they'll lose like 70% of feature retail customers if they make this public. So right now strategy is "fake it until you make it", try to keep a good face and keep us in the dark.

IMO they are actually damaging their own image, in my book behaving like this is somewhat dishonest. It may have short-term benefits, but in the long term things are starting to get sour. Because info leaks, community string it piece by piece and whole picture is coming into view. They can't really hide it. They can only defer it like half-year max or year max, and after that they'll have to deal with both original problem and accumulated slashback. I'd hope that they learned that during indiegogo fiasco, but no...

(And I now wonder if it's a cultural norm in their country of origin? It's an honest question, not to flame... Here where I live the norm is: "you want support? Nah, but I can show you my behind" though it's slowly changing luckily).

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You are right, Jolla's position is hardly enviable, the company has accepted an enormous challenge when trying to have their share when giants like Google and Apple are your competitors. With that level of competition and the economy of the company, it is hardly a surprise there may be a lot of difficulties. Not publishing everything that causes trouble is very understandable, but I still believe that even some not so fancy and informative communication is better than lack of communication. Of course it is tough to go public when you don't have nice things to say but sadly other options are sometimes even worse.

Here are some thoughts what I believe are useful considering communication on Jolla's point of view.

Think of iOS about ten years ago. It was really feature-lacking, buggy and unfinished. I have very little experience on iOS, but I think Sailfish OS is currently far superior to early releases of iOS. If you think how specific hardware iOS developers can focus on and what kind of resources they can use, and bearing in mind how unfinished it was for several years after publishing it, isn't Jolla actually doing fairly good job compared to this?

In the group of operating systems to Google's or Apple's even with all the flaws and slowish development and some "near-death experiences", Sailfish OS is still pretty much the king of the hill. Let this show in the communication. Instead of silence, say something every now and then even when having trouble, but keep in mind you can be satisfied with many things you have achieved and what has been learned, even if it has taken its toll.

kkarioja ( 2019-03-15 09:36:18 +0300 )edit

+1 from me
For the point with buggy, we should show it with a little bit distance.
there is bugs, and bugs.
What is really top here with jolla. there is no major bugs which make the OS experience impossible.
All main functions are stable, and that is what it is expected from all.
No one has to tell about this point, and that a noticeable point.
Until now, all my sms/ calls calendars made their primary function stable. great.
There are many many other bugs, but they are not as blocker one. Maybe some critical for some usages, but not for the system which might have an impossible experience.

cemoi71 ( 2019-03-15 11:49:17 +0300 )edit

@kkarioja I agree that Jolla is doing well considering it position as total underdog in established duopoly. A lot of larger players has bailed out: Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, Ubuntu phone, Firefox Web OS, I think Samsung's Bada and Tizen too. Looking from this perspective it's a miracle that Jolla is still alive. Well, it's no miracle actually, there are 3 things that are going for them: Android emulation, it's a main cornerstone that makes their phones usable. Inherited community of hackers, activists and open source fans from Nokia is another (and now they are slowly poisoning it). And the third, Russia wants independent smartphone OS and Jolla happened to be in the right time in the right place. For Russia it's a national security issue, so they will invest to get what they want but not much more than that.

@cemoi71 I wouldn't say that basic functions are stable for me. Last Feb I went to Finland. No roaming. Bought a local prepaid SIM for cheap internet. No cell connection at all. Ok, it's new and beta, I understand and accept, they'll fix it soon. Half a year later went to Latvia, August 2018. No roaming, local SIMs do not work. The same SIMs worked in Jolla 1 just fine, so I ended up walking with Jolla Sandwitch everywhere. Also in my homeland phone lost network often enough for me to keep terminal open with service ofono restart ready. The workaround entails reflashing X to android and then setting up Sailfish anew and likely do it for every sim you pop in. It's "are you f*ing kidding me" level of bugginess. Like I have half a day to spend on reflashing my phones back and forth while travelling. It's a well-known bug and there was an entry in FAQ on Jolla's zendesk for it, but seems they removed it because it's too disgraceful. Another one: I've managed to connect to 5GHz wifi only once, it worked for a while and then stopped. Then there is email client... Should I use android K9 instead, like I already have to use Firefox for Android as a browser? And then they say that they won't upgrade Aliendalvik on X... I can go on and on...

butler ( 2019-03-15 19:14:56 +0300 )edit

+1: I am also travelling with a backup phone, since the XA2 is too buggy to trust it 100%. One I can say: the hotspot function works perfectly :-) I had a N9 (recently dead), a J1 (sleeping in its box), a JC (also sleeping in its box), the tablet (my joyful gagbook companion), and the Xperia X (my son destroyed the display). Now I have an XA2 Ultra. At the moment, the implementation running in the XA2 Ultra is the worst of all. I know android is still in beta, but the ofono bugs (like @butler said) and the unstable browser start to be very very annoying. I paid the SFOSX license for Xperia X and paid again for XA2. I could have transfered it, but I prefered to support Jolla. I hope in the near future the bugs are somehow solved, since I think this will be (again) the last opportunity I will give to SFOS.

lupastro ( 2019-03-17 11:57:15 +0300 )edit

Google's Android and Apple's iOS were never meant to be the competition. Jolla said that themselves. Sailfish was meant to be an alternative OS for the alternative to the mainstream. However, that has become lost because of the reliance to support (via Alien Dalvik) critical killer apps exclusive to the bigger OSes. This is the one of the major reasons Jolla obtained the market share of users they did. The offer of an alternative OS but still able to use the apps you know and love. In regard to the work for the Russian Government, once again, it sounds like Jolla have bitten off more than they can chew. They didn't learn this lesson from the tablet fiasco. Now that Jolla's head has been turned by bigger, more lucrative deals, without an increase in resources, it is inevitable the loyal diehard fans and smaller end users will suffer vying for Jolla's dev time. The crucial point is, how Jolla communicates their position and priorities to their users. Personally, I think users prefer the company to be honest (even if it is not the answer they hoped for) so they at least know where they stand (so they can start making preparations for migration to another OS).

jimjamz ( 2019-06-09 11:53:11 +0300 )edit

answered 2019-05-30 02:31:48 +0300

Fuzzillogic gravatar image

Bumping this thread. Since the question was asked, we did get the technical blog on Hossa, which imo is very welcome. This is the kind of information I'd like to see. Explain the struggles, celebrate the victories, show the direction of development.

Unfortunately, that was about it. What triggered me today to post this, was today's release of For XA2 it lists "improvements to Android Support of XA2". Thanks, I guess. What does this even mean? Also, does this mean the 3.1 release is still far away? If so, why?

The Purism guys and galls have had some setbacks as well, but they communicated about it. If Jolla is learning, please learn from that.

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would be neat to get a working google calendar for the XA2 so as to replace the X.

danfin ( 2019-05-30 13:11:34 +0300 )edit

answered 2019-06-09 02:37:04 +0300

rozgwi gravatar image

updated 2019-06-10 23:36:12 +0300

I'd like to understand, that's all.

The way it seems from the outside there are too many construction sites at the same time. TJC has questions for loads of tiny bugs and missing features/polishing. Things work only halfway and at some places I even get the same impression I always had on Windows and MS's office products: The developers don't use their own products, otherwise they'd be annoyed as hell.
Small example: An issue with the backup page in settings was fixed in a way that makes the confusion even greater. I thought that's what QA and EA were for, to prevent this?
And TJC itself is at least contended regarding it's own contribution to good communication (feedback, bug and progress tracking).

Also, most bigger changes to the OS seem to be under the hood and for business clients only.
The significant UI / UX changes for 3.0 (like those for 2.0? But that's been before my sailing days) had neither a heads up (i.e. a non-commital user survey: 'what do you think of these changes?'), any background on the reasons that motivated the UI/UX changes (other than publicity slogans) nor any plans to offer more configuration options. The latter one was left to enthusiasts' patches.

Comments, suggestions and feedback in general seem either too numerous to respond to or are intentionally treated more passively according to Jollas policies.

But: This is only my point of view and I 'm well aware that it's very subjective. Some people like their OS very differently than I, wish for different features, get annoyed by different issues.
As many before said: Thanks! I'm grateful for the OS. Despite its few shortcomings it's a wonderful piece of work.
I'm not Jolla, I am not in their heads, don't have to keep a company running and work against this huge competition.
Also I'm aware that I'm not entitled to any comment by Jolla. I don't think that the community has a right to judge or demand accountability beyond what the license of their device grants. At least from a legal standpoint. The rest is literally 'none of our business'

And yet:
In the end 'no one knows why' and 'no one understands'. That makes it hard to be supportive or patient. I'll stay on board untill my Xperia X shipwrecks and no replacement can be found.
But the market principle 'if you don't like it, buy somewere else' will have it's effects, I'm afraid.

You don't need to promise anything, or justify. Just talk to us, help us understand. Let it show that you noticed the community's concern. And if you can't help the situation because you're having a difficult time with resources or your hands are tied by other commitments: so be it.
At least then we know and can keep our fingers crossed and continue to root for you.
But the foundation for this support is yours to keep solid.

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answered 2019-03-17 07:52:32 +0300

LordRooster gravatar image

100% agreed. Isn't there a community manager working for jolla? Especially when the situation ain't good, u need to talk and keep ur fans/community up to date. The community is an important part of the success of jolla/sailfish os and if they don't keep us informed, they might loose more users. Sure its important to work on ur project every minute and its important to do what u can, to make ur baby fly, but don't u want to be seen, when its flying? Yes? Then u need ur fans/tjc! We are here to watch and we want to see this project succcessful like jolla itself, but if they don't talk to us, we might run out of patience and look for sth. else.

I work as developer myself and i have to talk to my users every day to make them understand, whats going on and why things are the way they are. This time pays off in patience and sympathy and gives me the time to do, what i need to before i can deal with their issues. The difference is: My users can not decide to use an alternative software/hardware, but i do this anyway!

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Sepehr does a wonderful job as community manager, I'm sure if he had any updates to share he would in a heartbeat; but at the end of the day if he isn't getting anything from above he can only read and send feedback to the bosses.

Allstar12345 ( 2019-03-17 20:57:19 +0300 )edit

seriously ? wonderful job? check again please and point us to any important answer provided by him.Of course he is doing his job and provides only whats considered acceptable by his management, but at this point he is just a social media employee who is allowed to respond to comments and queries like : 'well done Jolla' ,'thank you Jolla' or 'i made a mistake and bought the license of xperia x instead of XA2'.Any real and valid information could not be provided by this poor man unfortunately(with all respect to him and his work). I can understand that we are only some pocket money for Jolla right now (xperia x&xa2), but we are the community who supported this company since its startup and still doing so(yet, so far) but we deserve some basic features and reliability using our daily drive or at least some crucial and reliable information regarding development. Many of us are still supporting this company because we belive in its goal and purpose.I even bought a licence of Xperia X knowing that will never buy this device (and never have) just to support them.But I believe many of us will lose patience soon enough.

babo ( 2019-03-18 10:47:48 +0300 )edit

@babo, I agree with you. Jolla remembers always to praise the community and how we are extremely important for Jolla and how Jolla is community driven and so on.

lumen ( 2019-04-10 09:50:18 +0300 )edit

answered 2019-05-30 14:07:56 +0300

sunburnedpenguin gravatar image

While it may be true that Jolla is focusing most of its attention on customisation for its Russian government/industry customer(s), improvements and breakthroughs there should be something which can be shared with the community and leveraged to advance the pure consumer Sailfish OS adaptation. Or is their an agreement that all code which is developed for the Russian customers is proprietary and cannot be re-used?

Regardless, communication is really poor, both officially through the blog and unofficially through Twitter and other media.

Microsoft has always developed a pretty crappy product, but at least in part because of good marketing and communication, they were able to generate excitement for the next iteration of their garbage OS. While I don't want Jolla to follow in M$'s footsteps, there is a valuable lesson to be learned about success being tied to successful communication.

C'mon Jolla, help us help you! :)

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I don't understand...if Jolla is now getting financed from the Russian gov and is putting a lot of resources on a Sailfish adaptation for them, this should also mean improving the development of this OS in general, or not ? Could it be that the Russian Sailfish is so much different from the commercial one we're getting ?...

And I bet that they can now count on Russian development resources, so any improvement done to Sailfish by the Russians should also be adopted for the commercial version...

So why a slowdown ? It should have meant a development speedup instead...

Igor71 ( 2019-06-10 09:13:35 +0300 )edit
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Asked: 2019-03-14 22:31:09 +0300

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Last updated: Jun 10 '19