[IAEP] maintenance

Frederick Grose fgrose at gmail.com
Fri Apr 30 11:41:15 EDT 2010

On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 6:38 AM, Tomeu Vizoso <tomeu at tomeuvizoso.net> wrote:

> Hi,
> follows a plan about how to improve the situation regarding
> maintenance of our software modules. If you care about it, please
> reply even if only to say so, or even better, comment on it and
> suggest improvements. I will assume that lack of replies mean people
> don't care about it and will stop caring about it myself.
> == The problem ==
> The process by which our software reaches to children is complex and
> involves several organizations. Sugar Labs is one of those and its
> responsibility is to provide the raw sources that organizations
> "downstream" such as OLPC, Fedora and Paraguay Educa will modify,
> package, ship and install. It's very important that modifications done
> downstream are kept to a minimum so that all downstreams share as much
> work as possible. This means that the raw sources we provide need to
> contain the features that downstream need in each release and that it
> contains as few bugs as possible.
> In order to provide good "raw sources", we have a series of processes
> that assure that the expected features are present and that the worst
> bugs are either fixed or at least well-known. These processes include
> testing, bug triage (keeping the bug database in order), source
> release, code review, user experience design and code development. An
> important role present in most of those processes is that of the
> module maintainer.
> A module maintainer takes responsibility for a part of the source
> code. The maintainer will release code at known times and will have
> worked so it has gone through the processes outlined above. Of course,
> the maintainer cannot do all the work by herself, but is ultimately
> responsible for it. Normally the maintainer will have spent most of
> her time triaging and fixing bugs, and will be trying hard to keep the
> module "in order" so that in future releases the maintenance burden
> doesn't grow too much as new code gets in. An important process in
> keeping the maintenance burden in check is "code review", by which the
> maintainer checks that the new code that gets in a release won't
> increase the maintenance burden too much.
> The problem is that very few people in Sugar Labs are willing to do
> that maintenance work. We have people keen on packaging Sugar,
> deploying it, training teachers on it, developing new activities and
> new Sugar features, people write books about Sugar, setup help lines
> to support Sugar users, universities are given grants to study the use
> of Sugar, load machines with it, etc. Big amounts of volunteer time
> and money are being spent around Sugar but almost nothing is going to
> maintenance. Paradoxically, any use of Sugar requires that it is
> reasonably stable and most investments are made with the assumption
> that Sugar will keep being developed.
> I also want to make explicit that almost all maintenance effort has
> come from a few volunteers that are tired and disappointed about the
> little importance that has been given to this work. We are very close
> to have no maintainers at all in Sugar, meaning as well that nobody
> with the needed experience will be around to mentor new maintainers.
> == Proposal A: Get downstreams working better inside Sugar Labs ==
> I would say that the main reason why so many people are keen in
> investing on Sugar but so little goes into maintenance is
> miscommunication. Downstreams don't know how Sugar is developed, who
> develops it nor what is to gain by investing upstream nor what they
> risk by not doing so. And we cannot keep sitting on our hands waiting
> for each of them to have an epiphany.
> I don't want to give the impression that nobody is doing any of that
> outreach work, Walter has met with OLPC deployment representatives and
> has tried to explain it to them, Bernie is volunteering at Paraguay,
> Gonzalo is working at the OLPC deployment in Argentina and I have
> traveled to Uruguay to talk about this. But while these individual
> efforts have had a positive effect by themselves, we still have lots
> of other downstreams to reach and we also must follow up on those
> relationships. My hypothesis is that we are losing great opportunities
> by not having better covered this area.
> In order to do that, I think SLs should give maximum priority to
> revive the deployment team:
> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Deployment_Team
> == Proposal B: Get our community thinking about resourcing ==
> If the deployment team was working as it should (with participation of
> several downstreams), the needs of our users and partners would be
> voiced there. But it's not enough with voicing needs, it can even be
> harmful if we make exigences on overworked volunteers because some
> will burnout and stop contributing. We also need to think about how we
> can get the resources to address those needs.
> A community team would be working on improving Sugar Labs' community
> of doing things. They would be making sure that SLs is a good place
> for downstreams to work together on Sugar and also a good place for
> volunteers to give their time and skills.
> Again, some individuals have been doing pieces of this, but my other
> hypothesis is that we need a coordinated effort. I find very
> disappointing that almost zero conversations are held about how to
> resource what we want to happen.
> == A concrete plan ==
> So I have voiced needs, but how are we going to resource them?
> First step is to create the teams and keep them alive. Doing so takes
> very little time if we stick to the minimum required. A team can be
> considered alive if it has a coordinator, a members list, regular
> meetings, a to-do list and an updated mission statement. I estimate
> that this can take the coordinator less than 10 hours per month.
> Of course, some team coordinators will also want to lead the team with
> a stronger effort commitment and will be proposing strategies,
> starting discussions, inviting members, etc. But that's something that
> is not strictly required for starting a team. If the team is kept
> alive, people will come and things will start to happen.
> So in order to get started, we need to find 2 individuals who care
> enough about Sugar to devote to it 10 hours per month of their time.
> It's also ok if the team's first item in the TODO list is to find a
> new coordinator, no need for a long term commitment.
> Regards,
> Tomeu

Tomeu has provided us with an excellent review and plan. We should pay close
attention (and homage).

Ironically, it is the very quality of Sugar that Tomeu, Simon, and many
others have
provided, that gives all those who are investing "Big amounts of volunteer
and money ... around Sugar" the confidence to invest—despite the shortage of

Direct, hands-on contact with Sugar software (compared with other widespread
software) has been limited by the availability of convenient hardware (X0s),
convenient installation.

That aspect is just now changing significantly as Sugar 0.88 is packaged in
Fedora 13 and other popular distributions, and the Sugar on a Stick and
distributions work out some installation and usability kinks.

For example in Fedora 13 and soon in Ubuntu, anyone can use their Add/Remove
Software tool, search for Sugar, and find the Sugar Desktop Learner
(sugar-emulator-0.88.0-1.fc13 (noarch)).  This convenient installation can
use Fedora's Automatic Bug Reporting Tool, 'abrt', to capture crashes and
other bugs.

Sugar will soon be more conveniently available in many more common places,
and the pool of learners will grow beyond our dedicated pioneers.

There is still much to be done to achieve the omnipresence of Sugar.

1.  Tuning is needed for VirtualBox and other virtual environments so that
     can run conveniently and efficiently on Windows and Macintosh operating

2.  Work needs to proceed on Android, MeeGo, iPhone, iPad, and other mobile
     operating systems.

These sorts of things are anticipated by those investing in and around
and are very exciting for anyone involved.

So, for all those waiting on the sidelines, it's time to find your passion
and niche,
and begin to contribute, not only to the next generation of computing, but,
to the
next generation of Learning.
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