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Subject: Re: [boost] Bug-fix volunteers: risks, downsides?
From: David Abrahams (dave_at_[hidden])
Date: 2010-11-25 22:46:33

At Sat, 30 Oct 2010 22:15:30 -0500,
Rene Rivera wrote:
> As a general comment.. I think having a pool of bug-fixers is a
> wonderful idea. And is frankly, one of the requirements of Boost
> staying afloat.
> On 10/30/2010 3:05 PM, David Abrahams wrote:
> > At Sun, 31 Oct 2010 00:22:25 +0530,
> > Arindam Mukherjee wrote:
> >>
> >> I am one of those hopefuls who responded on the thread that proposed
> >> the idea for volunteers. I have always wanted to understand and
> >> contribute to the Boost libraries because I felt that it would give me
> >> an insight into the design and implementation of Boost (and perhaps
> >> the C++ standard libraries themselves) to an extent that I lack today.
> >> And I am certain greater participation can only mean good thing,
> >> provided we have answers to the following questions (or at least know
> >> where to start in trying to answer):
> >>
> >> a. What are the concrete criteria for admitting a volunteer - where do
> >> you set the bar. These must be verifiable objective criteria.
> >
> > I don't think we can really come up with objective criteria. Each
> > library maintainer has his own set of values and his own style, and—at
> > least if the maintainers are going to be involved in the
> > decision—contributions mustn't clash too badly with that style and set
> > of values. Therefore, criteria for accepting contributions, if not
> > contributors, will be, to some extent, subjective.
> I agree mostly ;-) Like regular reviews for library submissions, and
> also for GSoC students, I think we can use similar criteria for what
> makes a good volunteer. I.e. we can have a vetting process for
> volunteers and their contributions.
> IIRC for libraries we only really require that people test their code
> on two toolsets locally. And of course we do reviews of the library as
> a whole before initial inclusion.
> The GSoC guidelines are a bit more fluid.. I expect some demonstrable
> knowledge of the problem domain and of C++. I have seen other
> participant organizations require some form of contribution to the
> project before considering a student.

That's a good idea; would weed out lots of the non-serious

> And something like that I would
> think is possible in this case.
> So here's an initial set of criteria / process for this:
> For volunteers to get SVN write access:
> 1. Must submit some minimum number of patches to Trac.
> 2. Some minimum number of patches to existing tickets must be
> accepted, reviewed, applied, and tested. I.e. a new volunteer would
> turn bug tickets into patch tickets to get this started.
> 3. A single patch must be reviewed by some minimum number of existing
> contributors. And either blessed or not for application.
> 4. Patches must be locally tested on some minimal number of
> toolsets. Either multiple toolsets on one operating system, or
> preferably multiple toolsets on multiple OSs. It would be up to the
> reviewers to decide if the tested toolsets are sufficient in the
> context of the particular patch.
> Any regular maintainer, including existing volunteers, can help with
> the above. The hope being that we can start small and have this grow
> itself without increasing the burden on current contributors too
> much. Some possible numbers for the above: (1) five submitted patches,
> (2) three applied patches, (3) two reviewers for a patch, with high,
> preference for the library maintainer to be a reviewer but not
> required, and (4) two toolsets.
> After volunteers have write access we would want to still monitor
> their patches so we would want to keep the review of their patches. So
> perhaps after some number of closed tickets we would remove the review
> portion with the expectation that they would be responsible enough at
> this time to seek out reviews for non-trivial, or non-controversial,
> patches.

This all sounds great to me.

> >> c. As somebody already mentioned, to what extent can you provide
> >> mentoring and who does it.
> I think we can at minimum have the same set of contributors that we
> have for GSoC help out with the mentoring of this as they (a) tend to
> have the desire to help out, and (b) they tend to be the most broadly
> knowledgeable of Boost Libraries. Which I think roughly means 15 or so
> people to mentor at the start.

Wow, that's a huge number, compared to my expectation! That would be

> >> d. Finally, would someone assign tickets to volunteers - I feel this
> >> would be a better idea than letting people pick and choose when the
> >> volunteers start off. The process could get eased off as a volunteers
> >> spends more time with the code base and therefore gets more familiar.
> Assigning tickets might be a hard task for contributors to do
> initially as it might take a considerable amount of time to actively
> find tickets. And also would make it harder on volunteers as the
> particular domain might be out of their realm. Perhaps it might be
> better to have contributors mark tickets as candidates for volunteers
> to take on. Immediately what comes to mind are tickets for platforms
> that maintainers don't usually have access to as good candidates for
> this ticket pool.

Not sure who you're referring to as "contributors" in this section.
Could you clarify?

> >> I am sure the questions are easy to ask and there are logistical
> >> hurdles to take into account in trying to answer any of these
> >> questions.
> >
> > Can you suggest some answers, even as straw men? We need a place to
> > start.
> Hopefully the above is a good place to start. Note, I wrote the above
> with the background of spending a few release cycles years ago doing
> nothing but fixing test failures.

I like it!! Can you (co-)implement it?

Dave Abrahams
BoostPro Computing

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