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From Ross Gardler <>
Subject Re: [Proposal] Refining our Development Process
Date Wed, 03 May 2006 17:59:40 GMT
Ferdinand Soethe wrote:
> The following borrows quite heavily from an earlier proposal called
> "[Proposal] Development process and a stable trunk". I hope I can put
> this across more clearly this time.
> I'll try to make it short :-)
> Different Approaches to Development
> -----------------------------------
> There are two major approaches to software development represented in
> the this project at the moment:
> - the evolutionary coding approach where concepts are developed while
>   coding and
> - the classic approach of developing and discussing a concept in
>   theory that is then coded and refinded.


> Different Users
> ---------------
> From a user's perspective. I can see at
> least three different approaches:
> 1. Very Early Adopters (VEA) will be happy to always work with the latest
>    unreleased version to try all the new features before
>    they are even released.


> 2. A second group, let's call them Early adopters (EA), is also
>    prepared to try and use new features in their projects, but for some
>    reason cannot run sites with a bleeding edge version.


> 3. A third group are users of released code (URC). For what ever
>    reasons they are happy to use a released and documented version and
>    have neither skill nor urge to use anything else.

In open source projects there is a fourth type of user. This one sits 
somewhere between your type 1 and type 2, lets call them type "one and a 

These people are very technical and are able to work on experimental 
parts of the code base where that code adds benefit to their project. 
However, they may not want to work with other experimental parts of the 
code base.

> As far as I can tell, we are currently doing ok for groups 1 and 3,
> while group 2 is quite often unable to work with trunk in their
> projects. As a result we are loosing valuable input and participation.

Agreed. The plugin system should make it possible to accomodate the type 
"one and a half" people. Just develop new experimental code as a plugin 
and leave it up to the adopters to choose whether to use it or not. This 
can work well, witness the fact that dispatcher work, in the main, did 
not affect users of core.

> Different ways of Participation
> -------------------------------


> We should design a development process that will allow both to
> follow developments, to participate and contribute.

That's a tall order, lets see how well you do...

> How to achieve all that?
> ------------------------
> My idea is actually quite simple and it basically extends the
> white-board concept already in place.
> I'll try to explain it in a few headlines:
> 1. Freedom of choice
>   If a group of people get the itch to develop something for Forrest it
>   should be up to them to choose the development method that works best
>   for them.
> 2. Whiteboard
>   Any new development starts in whiteboard and will not become part of
>   trunk until it is internally released (will define that in a moment).

Let me expand on that a little - new *feature* development is in a 
whiteboard plugin, or if this is not possible in a branch.

>   Being in whiteboard means:
>   - people are completely free in how they approach development, if and
>     how they document it and how often they change their concepts.
>   - they are encouraged to develop and document their concepts early and
>     discuss it with the whole of the project (to make sure everybody
>     agrees with their architectural views) but there is no obligation to
>     do so.
>   - up to the point of internal release committers and other developers
>     are welcome to but not expected to follow discussions on such a
>     development or to involve themselves in the development process.
>   - clear indicators will help to tell group internal threads from normal
>     project-wide discussion so that people can safely ignore group
>     internal mails if they chose to do so.

There are a few problems with this:


The strength of Open Source development is the many eyes concept. To 
encourage people to ignore parts of the development we are removing 
this. We need to be very careful what we mean by "safely ignore". From a 
  quality perspective we cannot "safely ignore" since important issues 
may be missed. However, since everything is in a plugin and that plugin 
may never make it out of the whiteboard we are protecting the core 
project. So I'll play along for now - I'm interested in seeing your 
proposal for migration out of the whiteboard.


PMC oversight is requried to ensure that there are no legal issues with 
new code being developed. If we "safely ignore" development on some 
aspect we are possibly ignoring critical issues. That being said, the 
reality is that no single member of the PMC reads every single commit 
message or email anyway. So again, I think the problem is in the 
terminology rather than your intent.


It should be reinforced that if someone decides not to particpate in 
development of a new feature within the whiteboard there opinions in 
terms of arcitecture and design are still valid. One does not have to 
contribute code to contribute to a development effort. We have seen that 
it can be upsetting for developers creating new code when they get 
feedback that generates yet more work, but they get little in the way of 
code contributions. This is to be expected from the "one and a half" 
people since they have a deep understanding of the core system and its 
direction, but little time to contribute to every part of development.

However, even though everyone is entitled to an opinion, it does not 
mean the whiteboard developers have to impelment it in line with that 
opinion. If their itch is different then fair enough.

> 3: Internal release
>   When the group is satisfied with architecture, features and
>   performance of their development they propose an 'internal release' to
>   integrate their development into trunk (or move a plugIn out of the
>   whiteboard).
>   Minimum Requirements for internal release are:
>   (this may need further discussion)
>   - A well documented and stable architectural concept that the group is
>     prepared to defend in a project wide discussion.
>   - Stable code that is not mature enough not to break trunk

You mean that *is* mature enough not to break trunk.

>   - Basic low level practical documentation
>     = how to install
>     = what will break / what needs to be done to migrate
>     = how do I use its features
>   - A preparedness to answer silly questions from people who try to
>     flesh out documentation in the next stage.

lets add:

A suite of tests. For plugins that are well documented we have tests 
built into the documentation. That is if the docs have examples of all 
features, then doing "ant test" in the plugin directory will run the 
tests accordingly.

>   The outcome of the application can be one of the following:
>   - Acceptance
>     The development is sound and complete and is considered to be a
>     useful extension of Forrest that we are happy to support as part
>     of Forrest. It will then be scheduled for the next release (see
>     4. below)
>   - Postponement
>     The development is either incomplete or has other deficiencies
>     (including poor design, performance etc.)
>     It remains in whiteboard for improvement and can once again be
>     proposed for internal release later on.
>   - Rejection because the proposal violates basic design concepts, adds
>     blinking text or is deemed useless by the project (add other
>     reasons).
>     It may remain in whiteboard for everybody to use or give it another
>     try.

OK, this is all fine and can be covered by a simple majority vote after 
discussing the proposal.

> 4. External Release
>   Developments accepted in the internal release process should be
>   scheduled for release as soon as possible.
>   As a rule we should not wait to accumulate several features but aim
>   to release each feature on its own so that users can familiarize
>   themselves with and test each new feature as soon as possible.

In the case of plugins this is no problem since they can now have an 
independant release cycle.

> So, wdyt?

I like it.


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