Tag Archives: contribution

Looking for hackers interested in hacking for 6-8 weeks on a Quarter of Contribution project

Today I am happy to announce the second iteration of the Quarter of Contribution.  This will take place between November 23 and run until January 18th.

We are looking for contributors who want to tackle more bugs or a larger project and who are looking to prove existing skills or work on learning new skills.

There are 4 great projects that we have:

There are no requirements to be an accomplished developer.  Instead we are looking for folks who know the basics and want to improve.  If you are interested, please read about the program and the projects and ask questions to the mentors or in the #ateam channel on irc.mozilla.org.

Happy hacking!

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Hacking on a defined length contribution program

Contribution takes many forms where each person has different reasons to contribute or help people contribute.  One problem we saw a need to fix was when a new contributor came to Mozilla and picked up a “good first bug”, then upon completion was left not knowing what to do next and picking up other random bugs.  The essential problem is that we had no clear path defined for someone to start making more substantial improvements to our projects.   This can easily lead toward no clear mentorship as well as a lot of wasted time setting up and learning new things.  In response to this, we decided to launch the Summer of Contribution program.

Back in May we announced two projects to pilot this new program: perfherder and developer experience.  In the announcement we asked that interested hackers commit to dedicating 5-10 hours/week for 8 weeks to one of these projects. In return, we would act as a dedicated mentor and do our best to ensure success.

I want to outline how the program was structured, what worked well, and what we want to do differently next time.

Program Structure

The program worked well enough, with some improvising, here is what we started with:

  • we created a set of bugs that would be good to get new contributors started and working for a few weeks
  • anybody could express interest via email/irc, we envisioned taking 2-3 participants based on what we thought we could handle as mentors.

That was it, we improvised a little by doing:

  • accepting more than 2-3 people to start (4-6)- we had a problem saying no
  • folks got ramped up and just kept working (there was no official start date)
  • blogging about who was involved and what they would be doing (intro to the perfherder team, intro to the dx team)
  • setting up communication channels with contributors like etherpad, email, wunderlist, bugzilla, irc
  • setting up regular meetings with contributors
  • picking an end date
  • summarizing the program (wlach‘s perfherder post, jmaher’s dx post

What worked well

A lot worked very well, specifically advertising by blog post and newsgroup post and then setting the expectation of a longer contribution cycle rather than a couple weeks.  Both :wlach and myself have had a good history of onboarding contributors, and feel that being patient, responding quickly, communicating effectively and regularly, and treating contributors as team members goes a long way.  Onboarding is easier if you spend the time to create docs for setup (we have the ateam bootcamp).  Without mentors being ready to onboard, there is no chance for making a program like this work.

Setting aside a pile of bugs to work on was successful.  The first contribution is hard as there is so much time required for setup, so many tools and terms to get familiar with, and a lot of process to learn.  After the first bug is completed, what comes next?  Assuming it was enjoyable, one of two paths usually take place:

  • Ask what is next to the person that reviewed your code or was nice to you on IRC
  • Find another bug and ask to work on it

Both of these are OK models, but there is a trap where you could end up with a bug that is hard to fix, not well defined, outdated/irrelevant, or requires a lot of new learning/setup.  This trap is something to avoid where we can build on the experience of the first bug and work on the same feature but on a bug that is a bit more challenging.

A few more thoughts on the predefined set of bugs to get started:

  • These should not be easily discoverable as “good first bugs“, because we want people who are committed to this program to work on them, rather than people just looking for an easy way to get involved.
  • They should all have a tracking bug, tag, or other method for easily seeing the entire pool of bugs
  • All bugs should be important to have fixed, but they are not urgent- think about “we would like to fix this later this quarter or next quarter”.  If we do not have some form of urgency around getting the bugs fixed, our eagerness to help out in mentoring and reviewing will be low.  A lot of  times while working on a feature there are followup bugs, those are good candidates!
  • There should be an equal amount (5-10) of starter bugs, next bugs, and other bugs
  • Keep in mind this is a starter list, imagine 2-3 contributors hacking on this for a month, they will be able to complete them all.
  • This list can grow as the project continues

Another thing that worked is we tried to work in public channels (irc, bugzilla) as much as possible, instead of always private messaging or communicating by email. Also communicating to other team members and users of the tools that there are new team members for the next few months. This really helped the contributors see the value of the work they are doing while introducing them to a larger software team.

Blog posts were successful at communicating and helping keep things public while giving more exposure to the newer members on the team.  One thing I like to do is ensure a contributor has a Mozillians profile as well as links to other discoverable things (bugzilla id, irc nick, github id, twitter, etc.) and some information about why they are participating.  In addition to this, we also highlighted achievements in the fortnightly Engineering Productivity meeting and any other newsgroup postings we were doing.

Lastly I would like to point out a dedicated mentor was successful.  As a contributor it is not always comfortable to ask questions, or deal with reviews from a lot of new people.  Having someone to chat with every day you are hacking on the project is nice.  Being a mentor doesn’t mean reviewing every line of code, but it does mean checking in on contributors regularly, ensuring bugs are not stuck waiting for needinfo/reviews, and helping set expectations of how work is to be done.  In an ideal world after working on a project like this a contributor would continue on and try to work with a new mentor to grow their skills in working with others as well as different code bases.

What we can do differently next time?

A few small things are worth improving on for our next cycle, here is a few things we will plan on doing differently:

  • Advertising 4-5 weeks prior and having a defined start/end date (e.g. November 20th – January 15th)
  • Really limiting this to a specific number of contributors, ideally 2-3 per mentor.
  • Setting acceptance criteria up front.  This could be solving 2 easy bugs prior to the start date.
  • Posting an announcement welcoming the new team members, posting another announcement at the halfway mark, and posting a completion announcement highlighting the great work.
  • Setting up a weekly meeting schedule that includes status per person, great achievements, problems, and some kind of learning (guest speaker, Q&A, etc.).  This meeting should be unique per project.
  • Have a simple process for helping folks transition out of they have less time than they thought- this will happen, we need to account for it so the remaining contributors get the most out of the program.

In summary we found this to be a great experience and are looking to do another program in the near future.  We named this Summer of Contribution for our first time around, but that is limiting to when it can take place and doesn’t respect the fact that the southern hemisphere is experiencing Winter during that time.  With that :maja_zf suggested calling it Quarter of Contribution which we plan to announce our next iteration in the coming weeks!

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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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Where did all the good first bugs go?

As this is the short time window of Google Summer of Code applications, I have seen a lot of requests for mochitest related bugs to work on.  Normally, we look for new bugs on the bugs ahoy! tool.  Most of these have been picked through, so I spent some time going through a bunch of mochitest/automation related bugs.  Many of the bugs I found were outdated, duplicates of other things, or didn’t apply to the tools today.

Here is my short list of bugs to get more familiar with automation while fixing bugs which solve real problems for us:

  • bug 958897 – ssltunnel lives if mochitest killed
  • Bug 841808 – mozfile.rmtree should handle windows directory in use better
  • Bug 892283 – consider using shutil.rmtree and/or distutils remove_tree for mozfile
  • Bug 908945 – Fix automation.py’s exit code handling
  • Bug 912243 – Mochitest shouldnt chdir in __init__
  • Bug 939755 – With httpd.js we sometimes don’t get the most recent version of the file

I have added the appropriate tags to those bugs to make them good first bugs.  Please take time to look over the bug and ask questions in the bug to get a full understanding of what needs to be done and how to test it.

Happy hacking!

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