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Subject: Re: [boost] The problems with Boost development
From: Andrey Semashev (andrey.semashev_at_[hidden])
Date: 2010-03-20 12:05:12

On 03/20/2010 06:28 AM, John Phillips wrote:
> For clarity - review managers aren't assigned, they volunteer.


> If no
> qualified Booster is interested in the library enough to volunteer, then
> they may not agree with you as to how important the library is.

I don't think that libraries like Move or Lockfree is lacking of
importance, because they come up quite often on this list. But somehow
they still linger in the queue without a review manager.

>> The topic raises rather often, there are suggestions from different
>> participants, but it seems that nothing changes eventually. ...
> I at least have not seen a consensus of the community that would be
> required to make a major change in the review policy. In specific, these
> discussions are usually dominated by people who have been neither
> managers nor developers of reviewed libraries. Some (such as you) do not
> fit that description, but the fractional representation of experienced
> reviewed developers or review managers in these discussions is usually
> small. I think it would be unwise to make major changes in the system
> without a strong consensus of the most experienced members of the
> community.

I think, the opinion of the newcomers (for the lack of a better word) is
also valuable, because their concern shows the view on Boost from the
outside. These people may not have put much effort in Boost evolution,
but may have experience with other projects, including opensource ones.
We shouldn't ignore that experience.

Regarding the point of gaining acceptance from the core Boost members,
yes, I fully agree with you. But as you pointed out, these members don't
participate in these discussions actively.

> I would point out that the increase of economic pressures around the
> world, and the reduction of time for managers and reviewers to dedicate
> to the review process was fairly well correlated. There may be a
> mechanism here worth paying attention to.

That's true, although I wouldn't say that the financial crisis was the
culprit of the current situation. Long waits in the review queue were
common long before the crisis took place.

>> - Introduce the voting mechanism. Voting should be as easy as clicking
>> on a yes/no link or icon on a web page + an optional small comment. No
>> ML subscription required. The review manager may take into account
>> those votes as an indication of public interest and appreciation of
>> the submission.
> Again for clarity - This appears to be similar to Paul Bristow's and
> others' suggestion that there be a pre-review approval phase. Is this
> what you intend?

Not exactly. I'm not proposing it as a pre-review phase, but as a
complement to the review process. Perhaps, I should have written it in
connection with the next suggestion about a web page:

>> A web page with a few fields to fill in to post the review would
>> also be very helpful, especially for the occasional newcomers.

The ultimate goal of this is to make the review process as open and easy
as possible. While this way of reviewing the submission does not allow
for in-depth discussions, it does give the idea on the overall
impression the library makes to the users.

> I'm not sure I understand what you mean here. I see two possibilities.
> First, you may mean separate discussion about libraries under review
> from the rest of the boost developer list discussion.

No, I don't think that's necessary. Typically, library-related
discussions can be extracted from the rest of messages rather well by
email filters.

> Second, you may mean separating the review submission from the
> discussions about the library and the decisions that drove the
> development that usually grow out of those submissions.

Yes, this is what I thought of. Although I tend to think that
discussions usually prepend the final formal review, rather than follow it.

> If this is your
> intent, then I strongly disagree. An important part of the role of the
> manager is to clarify and distill those discussions and decide whether
> there is some suggestion or requirement for the future development of
> the library that is a product of the discussions. In a good discussion
> of the library, by far the most valuable information for composing a
> good review comes from the posts that are not the formal review
> postings. It is the place where people who disagree provide their
> reasons, where examples are composed and discussed, where any consensus
> that ever forms can be found. Reading those discussions is essential to
> producing a good review report and a well reasoned recommendation.

I understand that it is now the most part of the work of a review
manager, and my intent was to reduce it. In my view, it would be easier
for a review manager to have formal reviews containing the essential
outcome of the discussion that happened between the reviewers and the
author. The discussion, although containing a lot of reasoning, also
contains a lot of technical details that may be hard to follow. I think
that in many cases such details are less important than higher level
issues, such as design and interface of the library.

> In the current process, all of the questions are optional. The provided
> questions are suggested, but there are always reviews that don't answer
> them all.

Hm, it didn't occur to me that way. Good to know.

>> - Provide automated ways of assisting the review, such as scripts for
>> updating the web site for the review (e.g. post an announcement in the
>> news section, prepare the aforementioned web page for posting reviews,
>> etc.), formal mailings (review is upcoming, review has started, review
>> is in progress, review has finished) and whatever other things needed.
> The current web site updates are done by the wizards. The review
> managers have no work to do for them.

What I meant by updating a web site is maintaining a web page,
accessible from the front page of, that lists all reviews
that are coming soon or currently going. Ideally, there would have to be
the voting (or a quick review) page I mentioned accessible from there.
The ongoing review should be accessible in form of blog or RSS feed,
extracted from all the conversations on the ML. The review-related page
should also include an excerpt of the library description and links to
online docs and downloads. If review wizards will take care of that,
it'll be fine, unless they are overwhelmed by the amount of work.

> The notifications to the list take
> a cumulative total of a few minutes to create and send.

Perhaps. Since I never managed a review, I have a quite vague
understanding of how much time it would take, and what other actions can
be optimized.

> There are a darn lot of people who work to make Boost work. Many of them
> do so in relative obscurity and are not offended by that. They deserve
> thanks for their efforts (My heartfelt thanks to all of you. I know many
> of you do far more and harder work for Boost than I do.), and maybe even
> buy them a beer if you see them at BoostCon. However, listing them on
> the front page removes the focus from the reason why they do the work.
> They can be part of the "People" page, if they choose and be
> acknowledged there.

I think, at least being acknowledged in the release details would be a
good credit to the involved people. But I'm not insisting on anything.

> I am personally against trying to funnel money to
> some subset of the volunteers. Down that path lies endless arguments
> about who deserves what fraction of the pot.

We could let the users decide, which part of Boost deserves to be
donated. For instance, for each library in the review queue there could
be a donation pool for a review manager. The one who manages the review
will get the pool. I think, a fair approach can be worked out, if needed.

> There is no requirement for reviewers to be highly experienced experts.

Formally, true. But:

> Some people who consider contributing to a review are intimidated by
> the level of the conversation and worry that they will appear
> ignorant. This is a problem I'm not sure how to solve. But I don't
> recall any instances of someone being told they can't contribute, and
> I recall several instances of someone prefacing comments by saying
> they are new, and being told that the insights of new people are
> valued.

I'd say it's a psychological problem. That is why I want to simplify the
review process for the reviewers, in hope that it will encourage more
people to participate and see the welcoming attitude from the regular
members of the community.

> I agree that finding a way to get a broader cross section of the
> developer community outside of Boost involved in review discussions
> would be good for the libraries. However, I should point out that
> success at this will amplify the problems for the review managers and
> developers.

But it also could bring more review managers to the community. Also, the
excess of feedback is by far not as bad as the lack of one.

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