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From Ferdinand Soethe <>
Subject [Proposal] Refining our Development Process
Date Wed, 03 May 2006 16:30:31 GMT
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.

Both approaches may have certain merits that I'm not about to
discuss here. Instead I like us acknowledge that both approaches
can help us develop Forrest and that we need to create an environment
where they can co-exist with each other and the needs of people who
are using Forrest.

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.

   They have the skills to fix things if need to and accept the high
   cost of maintaining a site as a price for always having
   access to the latest features for themselves (or their clients).

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.

   Typical reasons for this are:

   - Mission critical sites
   - clients that don't accept downtime
   - a limited budget to migrate projects along the stages of
     bleeding edge development or
   - lack of skills on the part of the EA,
     so that quick fixes of problems are not always possible.

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.

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.

Different ways of Participation

Fortunately we are a community with very different backgrounds, which
are often reflected in the different development approaches
described earlier.

While some of us develop concepts through coding and re-factoring
code, others prefer to approach a question from an architects point of view.

I think that it is import to understand that this difference is not
always a matter of choice. Some people (like me) are simply to slow to
read and understand code to join the first camp while others lack the
patience (or ability) to think in concepts only.

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

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).

  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.

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

  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

  - 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.

  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

    It may remain in whiteboard for everybody to use or give it another

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.

  The idea is that integrating, testing and documenting an already
  well developed new feature will allow a great number of people to
  involve themselves (in integration, testing, documentation) and
  could perhaps become a subject for a Forrest Friday with many
  different tasks that can be worked on in paralell.

  I'd also like to see this develop as phases in the project year
  where many committers work together on a common goal and get familiar
  with each others work.

So, wdyt?




Ferdinand Soethe

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