Tag Archives: Community

A-Team contribution opportunity – Dashboard Hacker

I am excited to announce a new focused project for contribution – Dashboard Hacker.  Last week we gave a preview that today we would be announcing 2 contribution projects.  This is an unpaid program where we are looking for 1-2 contributors who will dedicate between 5-10 hours/week for at least 8 weeks.  More time is welcome, but not required.

What is a dashboard hacker?

When a developer is ready to land code, they want to test it. Getting the results and understanding the results is made a lot easier by good dashboards and tools. For this project, we have a starting point with our performance data view to fix up a series of nice to have polish features and then ensure that it is easy to use with a normal developer workflow. Part of the developer work flow is the regular job view, If time permits there are some fun experiments we would like to implement in the job view.  These bugs, features, projects are all smaller and self contained which make great projects for someone looking to contribute.

What is required of you to participate?

  • A willingness to learn and ask questions
  • A general knowledge of programming (most of this will be in javascript, django, angularJS, and some work will be in python.
  • A promise to show up regularly and take ownership of the issues you are working on
  • Good at solving problems and thinking out of the box
  • Comfortable with (or willing to try) working with a variety of people

What we will guarantee from our end:

  • A dedicated mentor for the project whom you will work with regularly throughout the project
  • A single area of work to reduce the need to get up to speed over and over again.
    • This project will cover many tools, but the general problem space will be the same
  • The opportunity to work with many people (different bugs could have a specific mentor) while retaining a single mentor to guide you through the process
  • The ability to be part of the team- you will be welcome in meetings, we will value your input on solving problems, brainstorming, and figuring out new problems to tackle.

How do you apply?

Get in touch with us either by replying to the post, commenting in the bug or just contacting us on IRC (I am :jmaher in #ateam on irc.mozilla.org, wlach on IRC will be the primary mentor).  We will point you at a starter bug and introduce you to the bugs and problems to solve.  If you have prior work (links to bugzilla, github, blogs, etc.) that would be useful to learn more about you that would be a plus.

How will you select the candidates?

There is no real criteria here.  One factor will be if you can meet the criteria outlined above and how well you do at picking up the problem space.  Ultimately it will be up to the mentor (for this project, it will be :wlach).  If you do apply and we already have a candidate picked or don’t choose you for other reasons, we do plan to repeat this every few months.

Looking forward to building great things!

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A-Team contribution opportunity – DX (Developer Ergonomics)

I am excited to announce a new focused project for contribution – Developer Ergonomics/Experience, otherwise known as DX.  Last week we gave a preview that today we would be announcing 2 contribution projects.  This is an unpaid program where we are looking for 1-2 contributors who will dedicate between 5-10 hours/week for at least 8 weeks.  More time is welcome, but not required.

What does DX mean?

We chose this project as we continue to experience frustration while fixing bugs and debugging test failures.  Many people suggest great ideas, in this case we have set aside a few ideas (look at the dependent bugs to clean up argument parsers, help our tests run in smarter chunks, make it easier to run tests locally or on server, etc.) which would clean up stuff and be harder than a good first bug, yet each issue by itself would be too easy for an internship.  Our goal is to clean up our test harnesses and tools and if time permits, add stuff to the workflow which makes it easier for developers to do their job!

What is required of you to participate?

  • A willingness to learn and ask questions
  • A general knowledge of programming (this will be mostly in python with some javascript as well)
  • A promise to show up regularly and take ownership of the issues you are working on
  • Good at solving problems and thinking out of the box
  • Comfortable with (or willing to try) working with a variety of people

What we will guarantee from our end:

  • A dedicated mentor for the project whom you will work with regularly throughout the project
  • A single area of work to reduce the need to get up to speed over and over again.
    • This project will cover many tools, but the general problem space will be the same
  • The opportunity to work with many people (different bugs could have a specific mentor) while retaining a single mentor to guide you through the process
  • The ability to be part of the team- you will be welcome in meetings, we will value your input on solving problems, brainstorming, and figuring out new problems to tackle.

How do you apply?

Get in touch with us either by replying to the post, commenting in the bug or just contacting us on IRC (I am :jmaher in #ateam on irc.mozilla.org).  We will point you at a starter bug and introduce you to the bugs and problems to solve.  If you have prior work (links to bugzilla, github, blogs, etc.) that would be useful to learn more about you that would be a plus.

How will you select the candidates?

There is no real criteria here.  One factor will be if you can meet the criteria outlined above and how well you do at picking up the problem space.  Ultimately it will be up to the mentor (for this project, it will be me).  If you do apply and we already have a candidate picked or don’t choose you for other reasons, we do plan to repeat this every few months.

Looking forward to building great things!

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community hacking – thoughts on what works for the automation and tools team

Community is a word that means a lot of things to different people.  When there is talk of community at an A*Team meeting, some people perk up and others tune out.  Taking a voluntary role in leading many community efforts on the A*Team over the last year, here are some thoughts I have towards accepting contributions, growing community, and making it work within the team.

Contributions:

Historically on the A*Team we would file bugs which are mentored (and discoverable via bugsahoy) and blog/advertise help wanted.  This is always met with great enthusiasm from a lot of contributors.  What does this mean for the mentor?  There are a few common axis here:

  • High-Touch vs Low-Touch
    • High-Touch is where there is a lot of time invested in getting the current problem solved.  Usually a lot of bug comments, email, irc chatter to solve a good first bug.  Sometimes this can take hours!
    • Low-Touch is where a person comes in, a patch randomly appears and there is little to no feedback for the patch.
  • High-Reward vs Low-Reward:
    • High-Reward is where we have contributors that solve larger problems.  A rewarding experience for both the contributor and the mentor
    • Low-Reward is where a contributor is fixing useful things, but they are little nits or polish.  This isn’t as rewarding for the contributor, nor the mentor.
  • Short-Term vs Long-Term:
    • Short-Term – a contributor shows up for a few days, fixes however many bugs they can and disappears.  This is a common workflow for folks who are on break from school or shifting around in different stages of their lives.
    • Long-Term – a contributor who shows up on a regular basis, continues to contribute and just the fact of them being around has a much larger impact on the team.

We need to appreciate all types of contributions and ensure we do our best to encourage folks to participate.  As a mentor if you have a lot of high-touch, low-reward, short-term contributors, it is exhausting and de-moralizing.  No wonder a lot of people don’t want to participate in mentoring folks as they contribute.  It is also unrealistic to expect a bunch of seasoned coders to show up and implement all the great features, then repeat for years on end.

The question remains, how do you find low-touch contributors or identify ones that are high-touch at the start and end up learning fast (some of the best contributors fall into this latter category).

Growing Community:

The simple answer here is file a bunch of bugs.  In fact whenever we do this they get fixed real fast.  This turns into a problem when you have 8 new contributors, 2 mentors, and 10 good first bugs.  Of course it is possible to find more mentors, and it is possible to file more bugs.  In reality this doesn’t work well for most people and projects.

The real question to ask is what kind of growth are you looking for?  To answer this is different for many people.  What we find of value is slowly growing our long-term/low-touch contributors by giving them more responsibility (i.e. ownership) and really depending on them for input on projects.  There is also a need to grow mentors and mentors can be contributors as well!  Lastly it is great to have a larger pool of short-term contributors who have ramped up on a few projects and enjoy pitching in once in a while.

How can we foster a better environment for both mentors and contributors?  Here are a few key areas:

  • Have good documentation.
  • Set expectations up front and make it easy to understand what is expected and what next steps are.
  • Have great mentors (this might be the hardest part),
  • Focus more on what comes after good first bugs,
  • Get to know the people you work with.

Just focusing on the relationships and what comes after the good first bugs will go a long way in retaining new contributors and reducing the time spent helping out.

How we make it work in the A*Team:

The A*Team is not perfect.  We have few mentors and community is not built into the way we work.  Some of this is circumstantial, but a lot of it is within our control.  What do we do and what does and does not work for us.

Once a month we meet to discuss what is going on within the community on our team.  We have tackled topics such as project documentation, bootcamp tools/docs, discoverability, good next bugs, good first projects, and prioritizing our projects for encouraging new contributors.

While that sounds good, it is the work of a few people.  There is a lot of negative history of contributors fixing one bug and taking off.  Much frustration is expressed around helping someone with basic pull requests and patch management, over and over again.  While we can document stuff all day long, the reality is new contributors won’t read the docs and still ask questions.

The good news is in the last year we have seen a much larger impact of contributors to our respective projects.  Many great ideas were introduced, problems were solved, and experiments were conducted- all by the growing pool of contributors who associate themselves with the A*Team!

Recently, we discussed the most desirable attributes of contributors in trying to think about the problem in a different way.  It boiled down to a couple things, willingness to learn, and sticking around at least for the medium term.

Going forward we are working on growing our mentor pool, and focusing on key projects so the high-touch and timely learning curve only happens in areas where we can spread the love between domain experts and folks just getting started.

Keep an eye out for most posts in the coming week(s) outlining some new projects and opportunities to get involved.

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Say hi to Kaustabh Datta Choudhury, a newer Mozillian

A couple months ago I ran into :kaustabh93 online as he had picked up a couple good first bugs.  Since then he has continued to work very hard and submit a lot of great pull requests to Ouija and Alert Manager (here is his github profile).  After working with him for a couple of weeks, I decided it was time to learn more about him, and I would like to share that with Mozilla as a whole:

Tell us about where you live-

I live in a town called Santragachi in West Bengal. The best thing about this place is its ambience. It is not at the heart of the city but the city is easily accessible. That keeps the maddening crowd of the city away and a calm and peaceful environment prevails here.

Tell us about your school-

 I completed my schooling from Don Bosco School, Liluah. After graduating from there, now I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in Computer Science & Engineering from MCKV Institute of Engineering.

Right from when it was introduced to me, I was in love with the subject ‘Computer Science’. And introduction to coding was one of the best things that has happened to me so far.

Tell us about getting involved with Mozilla-

I was looking for some exciting real life projects to work on during my vacation & it was then that the idea of contributing to open source projects had struck me. Now I have been using Firefox for many years now and that gave me an idea of where to start looking. Eventually I found the volunteer tab and thus started my wonderful journey on Mozilla.

Right from when I was starting out, till now, one thing that I liked very much about Mozilla was that help was always at hand when needed. On my first day , I popped a few questions in the IRC channel #introduction & after getting the basic of where to start out, I started working on Ouija under the guidance of ‘dminor’ & ‘jmaher’. After a few bug fixes there, Dan recommended me to have a look at Alert Manager & I have been working on it ever since. And the experience of working for Mozilla has been great.

Tell us what you enjoy doing-

I really love coding. But apart from it I also am an amateur photographer & enjoy playing computer games & reading books.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years’ time I prefer to see myself as a successful engineer working on innovative projects & solving problems.

If somebody asked you for advice about life, what would you say?

Rather than following the crowd down the well-worn path, it is always better to explore unchartered territories with a few.

:kaustabh93 is back in school as of this week, but look for activity on bugzilla and github from him.  You will find him online once in a while in various channels, I usually find him in #ateam.

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Some thoughts on being a good mentor

I have done a good deal of mentored bugs as well as mentoring new Mozillians (gsoc, interns, employees) on their journey.  I would like to share a few things which I have found that make things easier.  Most of this might seem like common sense, but I find it so easy to overlook little details and forget things.

  1. When filing a bug (or editing an existing one), make sure to include:
    • Link(s) to getting started with the code base (cloning, building, docs, etc.)
    • Clear explanation of what is expected in the bug
    • A general idea of where the problematic code is
    • What testing should look like
    • How to commit a patch
    • A note of how best to communicate and not to worry about asking questions
    • Avoid shorthand and acronyms!
  2. Spend a few minutes via IRC/Email getting to know your new friend, especially timezones and general schedule of availability.
  3. Make it a priority to do quick reviews and answer questions – nothing is more discouraging when you have 1 thing to work on and you need to wait for further information.
  4. It is your job to help them be effective – take the time to explain why coding styles and testing are important and how it is done at Mozilla.
  5. Make it clear how their current work plays a role in Mozilla as a whole.  Nobody likes to work on something that is not valued.
  6. Granting access to Try server (or as a contributor to a git repository) really make you feel welcome and part of the team, consider doing this sooner than later.  With this comes the responsibility of teaching them how to use their privileges responsibly!
  7. Pay attention to details- forming good habits up front go a long way!

With those things said, just try to put yourself in the shoes of a new Mozillian.  Would you want honest feedback?  Would you want to feel part of the larger community?

Being a good mentor should be rewarding (the majority of the time) and result in great Mozillians who people enjoy working with.

Lets continue to grow Mozilla!

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Vaibhav has a blog- a perspective of a new Mozilla hacker

As I mentioned earlier in this year, I have had the pleasure of working with Vaibhav.  Now that time has passed he continues to contribute to Mozilla, and he will be participating this year in Google Summer of Code with Mozilla.  I am excited. 

He now has a blog– while there is only one post, he will be posting ~weekly with updates to his GSoC project and other fun topics.

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Hi Vikas Mishra, welcome to the Mozilla community!

I remember right before the winter break where I was off for a couple of weeks to end the year, A new person showed up and started working on some of my bugs. This was Vikas and he was eager and motivated to do a lot of great things.  Fast forward to today, and I still chat with Vikas weekly in irc.  When he gets a break from school and other activities of interest, he will be hunting for bugs to fix and usually knocking them out 3 or 4 at a time. In fact, I was surprised when I did a query on bugzilla, and on github to see that he is involved in a variety of projects at Mozilla such as Phonebook, Marionette, Talos, and test automation.

I wanted to learn more about Vikas, so I asked him some questions

Tell me about where you live?

Currently I live in Goa, India which is famous for its beaches and attracts many tourists from both India as well as foreign nationals. The best thing about this place is my campus which feels like a home away from home now. I like this place for its beautiful weather, its beaches and ever friendly nature of people living here. This place has brought  a lot of changes in my personality and has given me a chance to make some new friends who are always ready to help.

Tell me about your school?

I am a first year undergraduate student at Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani, Goa Campus (popularly known as BITS Pilani Goa) pursuing Msc.(Hons) Economics. I am enrolled in a dual degree scheme offered by my college where in I get an option to take a B.E degree depending on my first year’s performance and I hope to get a C.S major. My favorite subject so far has been Computer Science as I’ve always been fascinated towards computers and love to code

How did you get involved with Mozilla?

My first interaction with the Mozilla community was when I started using firefox few years back. Last December I decided to start contributing to some open source organizations and searched for organizations to start with and decided to go with Mozilla. I started with Mozilla since its a very large community so there’s always lots of help available. My experience with Mozilla community so far has been absolutely great, I had no idea how the open source community works and was afraid to ask silly questions as I thought people wont have time to answer those questions. I remember when I was assigned my first bug and Joel Maher was my mentor, while setting the local environment I kept on getting errors and used to pastebin those to him and it took me hours to set it up but he was totally cool with it even though I  myself was annoyed with those ever lasting errors. Even now I get stuck at some places but he’s always there to help me. Besides him there are other members too who have helped a lot and are always ready to help if required. My experience so far has been brilliant and am looking forward to learning new things and meeting some great people in the future as well.

What hobbies and activities do you enjoy doing?

Nowadays I spend most of my time coding and learning new stuff. I love the concept of open source software and love to interact with the community and gain valuable experience. Besides coding I enjoy playing football, cricket, and am a complete movie buff. I also love to hang out with friends and spend time with them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Down the lane in 5 years I see myself as a software engineer working for Mozilla (preferably in the Ateam) solving problems and developing new tools.

What advice would you give someone?

Although I don’t see myself as someone who can advise about life but If someone asked me I’ll advise him/her to enjoy life to the fullest and do whatever he/she loves to do no matter what others expect them to do and if they are related to the software industry obviously I’ll advise them to contribute to the open source community :)

 

I have enjoyed watching Vikas learn his way around Mozilla.  If you have worked with him, you probably already know why I have enjoyed my interactions with him, if you haven’t had the chance to work with him, say hi in irc, his nick is :mishravikas.

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