Idea Handling

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This wiki page describes an effort to handle and present ideas generated by the community. The whole community will be able to post, judge and discuss ideas related to both the office suite and the community infrastructure. The most important findings could be used as input for further development.

The main goals for this "idea handling" effort is to provide an information source for development, ease the participation of individuals, improve the transparency of decision making inside the project, and improve the visibility of the whole project.

Most presumably, the proceeding will be similar to other open source software projects which have similar requirements and established processes. It is planned that the "idea handling" effort will be subsidiary to currently used methods (e.g. user surveys, usability tests) and tools (e.g. Issue Tracker, User Feedback Extension). This means that selected ideas will be used in further development steps like developing specifications or further activities like Project Renaissance.


Please note that in this case there will be no detailed requirements process. Most of the requirements are very similar to the ones in other open source projects like Ubuntu Linux. Consequently, the next sub-sections try to provide basic information why good "idea handling" is important.


At the moment, feature enhancements and improvements to are based on the following sources:

  • ideas by the community
  • feedback by the customers of companies which participate in the development
  • competitive analysis of other software applications

The first source, the community, may use different tools. In mailing lists, the ideas are hard to describe and lack visibility concerning the people who are able to implement such ideas. In the Issue Tracker, the ideas may be published as enhancement requests, but the handling of the tool is very complex and consequently only few users participate. In both cases it is hard to judge how important the idea is in reality. This importance is required to trade benefit vs. effort for the development teams.

Example of Use Cases:

  • A "simple" user has an idea how to improve but both lacks the skills for working with the Issue Tracker and develop the feature for himself. So he promotes his idea on the easy to use "idea handling" platform.
  • An extension developer wants to improve and picks one of the most requested features, implements it and provides it to the community at the Extension Website.
  • The User Experience team wants to know what the most requested features are - from the user's perspective. The analysis of the idea voting is input for the requirements process which identifies the shortcomings of Based on that information, an own solution is developed to serve the user's needs.

Assumptions and Constrains

  • There will be only minor changes for the IT infrastructure of the project. It is not likely that e.g. the CollabNet portal will provide idea handling functionality in the near future.
  • There will be sufficient support by the community to establish the idea handling (e.g. creating a theme, handling the administration of the web site and moderating the ideas).
  • For the first phase, it will be assumed that it is sufficient to publish ideas in English only. Support for other languages may be added later.

Definition of Terms

Term Description
Idea The idea describes the innovation or novelty by using text and/or other media (e.g. graphics, animations).


The goal of the "idea handling" effort is to provide a highly visible web presence, so branding is an important factor to gain acceptance and visual identity with the rest of the project.

The following lists contains proposals how to name the "idea handling" tool. This may have impact on the URL of the web presence, e.g. being available at, where 'xxx' represents the name.

Name Logo Description Comments Brainstorm IdeaHandling LogoProposal Brainstorm1.png

Note: The logo is not final and only represent the structure.

The meaning of the term "brainstorm" differs according to the Wiktionary Brainstorm. As a noun, it describes "a sudden thought, particularly one that solves a long-standing problem" (US), but also "an unexpected mental error" (UK). As a verb, it means "to investigate something, or solve a problem using brainstorming", or "to participate in a brainstorming session". The group creativity technique brainstorming is described in the Wikipedia Brainstorming entry.

The term is used in other open source software projects (e.g. Ubuntu) and may be known by the public.

(No comments yet) Brainwaves 2008-08-31v3_UX-BrainWaves.png

Note: The logo was initially created for the UX project, so this is only an example and will be updated soon (hopefully).

The Wiktionary Brainwave entry describes brainwaves to be e.g. a "sudden idea, understanding, or inspiration".

The logo comprises the physiologic point of view, "brainwaves" are somehow continuous (like a idea flow) and vary in intensity (similar to rating and comprehensiveness of the ideas).

(No comments yet) Idea Pool (no logo yet) (no description yet) (no comments yet) Idea Tracker (no logo yet) The terms "idea tracker" may provide consistency with the issue tracker. On the one hand, this proposal may provide high consistency across the tools, on the other hand it may also lead to confusion. (no comments yet) Suggestion Box (no logo yet) The terms “suggestion box” provides a metaphor consistent with the “Office” one (see Wikipedia's page about suggestion boxes.)

Moreover, the term “suggestion” is more precise than “idea,” and it should give the users a good understanding of what the service is for, and how to use it.

On the other hand, a “box” is generally something closed and we don't expect its content to be easily accessible, so maybe “suggestion wall” (or any term suggesting a full access to suggestions) could be better.

(no comments yet)

Proposed Solutions

Proposal: Website based on IdeaTorrent

A popular way to publish and rate ideas is the use of the IdeaTorrent platform which is used by e.g. Ubuntu Linux at [1]. IdeaTorrent is a module for Drupal (currently available for version 5 only), which requires PHP and PostgreSQL. With a domain, this option is available to us (please see email by Drew Jensen)

The author of IdeaTorrent responded very positively to our request at email by Nicolas Deschildre: "Presenting and Rating Ideas", 2009-01-02 (Start of Thread).

One (among other) advantages is that the stability and scalability of the system has been proven (about 50000 user/day according to eMail by Nicolas Deschildre: "Presenting and Rating Ideas, 2009-01-06). There you will also the corresponding technical requirements.

More information about how Ubuntu incorporated IdeaTorrent in its processes can be found at the end of the page.


A live demonstration of the system can be found at IdeaTorrent Demonstration. There, you will have insight in the processes and roles (e.g. moderator, admin).

Visual Design

Ivan provided a first mockup how the page could look like:
This (basic) design tries to maintain consistency between other domains that run on Drupal (e.g., Templates, Extensions)


The demonstration shows that there might be potential usability issues which should be identified, e.g.: In step 2 of the submission process, there is a fixed size table of possible duplicates. After the system finished checking, the table shows "None found" in the middle (several cm space to the table heading and the bottom, table background very light and maybe not visible on certain LCDs). This message may be "hidden" for certain window sizes, or maybe the user may overlook the "Submit" button at the bottom - due to the free space, the information flow is somewhat disrupted.

As a result, an expert evaluation concerning usability issues is recommended and could by done by the User Experience team. This would also provide benefit to all the other project which use IdeaTorrent (i.e., we could contribute back to the IdeaTorrent project).

The usability evaluation will be published at: OpenOffice.org_Idea_Handling/IdeaTorrent

Proposal: Blog

Initially it was planned to provide a tool to collect ideas specially for the UX project, e.g. ideas to improve the user interaction. Therefore this proposal is kept for historical reasons, because it would not fit the needs for the whole project.

An example how a blog can be used is available at Gimp UI Brainstorm of The Gimp project. There, you will find a detailed explanation of how ideas are moderated and posted. In general, the processes seem to be well thought out and do cause only little overhead - suitable for small software (sub-)projects.

Proposal: Wiki extended by Rating Extension

Ivan proposed the JSKit Rating Extension for Mediawiki which allows ratings to be enabled on a page-by-page basis with some wiki code.

Example: {{#jskitrating:notop:view=combo}}

A detailed description can be found in email by Ivan M: "Presenting and rating ideas, 2008-12-17.

As a test of a wiki-based Idea Handling, see the UX Idea category.

Open Questions and Outstanding Issues

Question Comments
Backup How to realize a backup of the data? The information (ideas and mockups) given by our users is extremely valuable, so there is a need to preserve the data even when failures occur.

Ivanm: The database could be backed up regularly by the admins (maybe even automatically with Drupal's cron jobs?). Possibilities include a basic PHP script, or phpPgAdmin (GUI frontend for PostgreSQL).

Interaction with Other Systems Some processes/capabilities do overlap between the current Issue Tracker and the "idea handling", so the question is how the technical systems might interact with each other. This question is still open.

The author of IdeaTorrent explained that there is no direct interaction between the IdeaTorrent module and Ubuntu's Launchpad, see email by Nicolas Deschildre: "Presenting and Rating Ideas", 2009-01-06.

User Accounts (Login) In order to participate (be it submitting ideas or just voting), an account will be required to reduce abuse/spam. This would add to a growing number of logins that one can have within the domain. The possibility of integrating login with other OOo services should be investigated.
English language Currently, the official language for the communication inside the project is English. If this decision is kept for the "idea handling", then only people from certain regions and education may be able to participate.

From the technical point of view, there is the difference between the language of the tool and the languages of the content (ideas) being available. The tool IdeaTorrent will provide different languages for the user interface, but does neither enforce the use of a certain language nor provides the possibility to provide different translations of one idea.

Question: Does the use of English (only) suit our needs?

Use of Different Media How can the integration of different media be eased? The user should be able to e.g. directly upload and use own graphics.

Ivanm: Using an upload module, we may have image upload (directly to the server). However, it will take some work to integrate it into IdeasTorrent (shouldn't be too hard).

Analysis of the Ratings (IdeaTorrent) This is just a placeholder to look at the analysis capabilities of IdeaTorrent. From the user's point of view, the votes are the sum of positive (+1), neutral (0) and negative (-1) votes. The total number of votes seems not to be available.

Ivanm: We could easily create a query to count the number of votes and present it if desired.

Roadmap and Rollout What steps will be necessary to roll out the "idea handling"? Just a few keywords in more or less random order:
  • Provide the technical foundation (hardware, software)
  • Specify and/or develop required extensions to the software (e.g. IdeaTorrent)
  • Develop the visual design and the content of the web presence (e.g. help texts)
  • Develop / document the processes
  • Test the functionality of the web presence (Beta phase)
  • Advertise the new page to the public
  • Analyze and improve ... :-)
Promotion and Marketing The web presence will and should be highly visible and known to the public. So how might we promote this? Some ideas:
  • Press coverage (e.g. part of the ongoing Renaissance Project)
  • Interlink the web presence with other pages (e.g. Issue Tracker, main page)
  • Link to it from the Contributing page
  • Blog about it
  • Mailing lists
  • Integration into the User Feedback Extension

Moreover, e.g. if we use IdeaTorrent, we should emphasize the growing cooperation between the different open source software projects.

Affiliation of Idea Handling Due to the relevance to the users, it is proposed that the "idea handling" effort is coordinated from within the User Experience team.

Question: Will other projects agree to this proposal?

References and Related Information

This section contains references to wiki pages and web pages which should not get lost, but did not seem to fit perfectly in the previous text.

Idea Handling in Other Open Source Software Projects

Idea Handling for Commercial Products and Services

Personal tools