Quim, I can’t do anything but agree on what you’ve just said.
I’ve been involved on the GNOME community since 2002 when I needed to write a small app on pygtk for a job. Since then, most of the time I’ve spent on it has been spent on trying to figure out things. I needed to figure out what Object Oriented programming is, I needed to improve my English skills to be able to perform a good communication with the whole community, I needed to figure out how CVS and bugzilla works, I needed to figure out what C pointers are for, I needed to figure out what usability really means. I tried to surround myself on the GNOME culture, and improve my programming skills.
One of the things more frustrating for me is, after all this time spent in understanding how the culture and philosophy works, if I try to solve a problem (write a patch for example), I need to spent few days solving a lot problems that has anything to do with my initial one. I need to set up and have an updated jhbuild environment, and there is no one-way to do it, and if often crashed for obscure reasons. Then I need to get used to the internal app API reading it, then I have to look at the GTK tutorial and reference and finally start writing the patch. I know that this is a very spare explanation, but my point is not this.
But in order to setting up all this things with none around to tell me step by step what should I do, I should take a look at 10 different websites at least that the only way to reach is through google, for me this is not only frustrating but I also get exhausted once I figure out what do I really need to do to solve my initial problem.
Part of this situation comes from a low simplification of the toolchain, but most of the problem is about how we are organizing our documentation. I think that the wiki approach is good, but when people get into http://www.gnome.org, is really hard to figure out that the up-dated and most-cool documentation is inside that "wiki" link, instead, people goes to the documentation site.
I think that in this sense there is a lot to learn from the trolltech guys, but also from other models like the Gentoo wiki, where the wiki is the "natural" way to document and learn, and the Ruby on Rails/TurboGears screencasts, that give users an exhaustive and enjoyable way to solve problems and a low entry point to our platform.
So, as performance hackers does, I think that we must improve the bit that takes most of the time for newcomers, we must improve the documentation bit in order to be less time-taking.