How we will do better at community outreach

Thanks for the discussions in the rather long thread today. I wanted to
start a new thread under a better subject heading to continue the
discussion.

I’ll be the first to admit that we suffer from the problem where we work
on a different source code repository, with an internal-only testing
infrastructure, and different internal tools. This causes friction and
pain for a lot of folks, and to be blunt there are no simple fixes to
this. Everything here involves a trade-off and it boils down to who’s
going to feel the pain at this point.

So let’s summarize what most folks would like to see:

  1. Move the primary repository to SVN with TFS as our mirror.
  2. Move more communication into the external mailing list
  3. Release of binaries
  4. Scrum-like status updates on the list

So let’s talk about a few of these issues in turn.

  1. SVN as primary repository.

This won’t happen for several reasons. First, we have effectively four
different teams (IronRuby, IronPython, Managed JScript and DLR) working
on the same codebase. Only the IronRuby team is on RubyForge (yes, we
also drop the DLR sources there, but that’s a convenience thing for
y’all and not a permanent place for those sources). As the DLR is
changed in our TFS repository, it is the responsibility of the dev
making those changes to ensure that they don’t break any of the
languages (and to fix them if the change breaks them).

Today we gain the advantage of tight integration between these four
projects. The DLR can evolve rapidly which is goodness for folks on the
outside. Remember - we’re building the platform and the languages in
parallel here.

Second, we do run what folks would call a continuous integration server.
I call it the troll that guards ‘the truth’ in our repository. When a
dev wants to commit code to our repository they need to run those
changes past the troll. The troll runs a comprehensive suite of check-in
tests against the changes before it commits them to the repository after
a successful test run. This provides pretty strong guarantees that the
tree is in a consistent state which means that things continue to work
when you pull the latest sources. That’s much better than the
alternative which means that you spend time tracking down build breaks
after you sync.

The troll has strong dependencies on TFS, and would be very difficult to
replicate outside of the company (the troll is really 20 servers inside
one of our labs).

  1. Move more communication onto the external mailing list

This is totally doable, and something we should have done for some time
now. What I’m now proposing is this: all IronRuby code reviews will go
out through the public mailing list. We will generate a TFS ‘unified
diff’ (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/6fd7dc73.aspx) and
attach that diff to the code review email that will be CC’d to
ironruby-core.

This way you’ll have the context for the changes (the source code) along
with a detailed email that describes what those changes are, along with
some commentary. Note that complex changes are often reviewed
face-to-face on our team (think pair-reviewing). But many changes are
reviewed entirely by email, so those follow-on emails will be captured
for all to see.

  1. Release of binaries

There is nothing blocking this today, and since we’re in a better
position to let folks ‘kick the tires’ these days, I’ll add binaries to
our repository.

  1. Scrum-like status updates to the list

This makes sense and I’ll talk tomorrow to Tomas and Jim about what
we’ll do from this point forward.

Note that these are just my ideas at this point. I’d like to use this
as a kick-off for some broader discussions on other issues that are on
your mind.

Thanks,
-John

The issue that Charles raised about people not knowing what others are
already working on is an important one. At a higher level, I’d like to
see a clearer statement of short term and medium term goals and plans
for getting there. Those plans require people taking ownership of
certain tasks, so it would be nice to know who is working on what at any
given stage - both for people within and external to Microsoft.

I also note that this email list serves two audiences, those interested
in using IronRuby and those interested in building it. It’s probably too
early to split the email list, but we should be conscious of this fact
when we are trying to manage the activities of this latter
core-development group - there probably aren’t that many of us! In terms
of community building for this core-development group, I’d certainly be
interested to know a bit more about who my peers are in this virtual
community. Perhaps we could set up a WIKI for core-developers to at
least list their names, a little about themselves (no more than one
paragraph) and what they’re currently working on.

With respect to the code repository, the experience as an external
contributor is certainly more painful than my experience with Ruby.NET
where I could directly commit changes. I’m not suggesting that we should
have such privileges with IronRuby, just confirming that there is an
issue here. I don’t have any concrete suggestions for improvement.
Certainly frequent revisions helps (ideally 2 or 3 per week), also
timely feedback on what’s happening with submitted patches.

A number of people are working on entirely new and separate bits, for
example implementations of native standard libraries. Currently there is
no common place for external contributors to upload prototypes of bits
that they are working on. Some form of fileshare or ftp system where
people could create directories and unload files may be useful, prior to
them being formally merged into the official distribution. This would
help us see what people are working on, how far progressed they are, and
to make comments.

Cheers, Wayne.

2008/4/29 John L. (IRONRUBY) [email protected]:

Second, we do run what folks would call a continuous integration server. I call it the troll that guards ‘the truth’ in our repository. When a dev wants to commit code to our repository they need to run those changes past the troll. The troll runs a comprehensive suite of check-in tests against the changes before it commits them to the repository after a successful test run. This provides pretty strong guarantees that the tree is in a consistent state which means that things continue to work when you pull the latest sources. That’s much better than the alternative which means that you spend time tracking down build breaks after you sync.

This is very true, but it is ironic since I get to track down build
breaks after sync anyway. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

John, speaking from our perspective, as the developers of the only
currently available IronRuby IDE (
http://www.sapphiresteel.com/Ruby-In-Steel-For-IronRuby ) I can tell you
that what we really need is a clearly stated project plan - a ‘road map’
with well-defined points along the route with features and dates
attached. This would be similar to the road map which, for example, the
MS SDK team published. Until we have such a plan to work to, our own
development on the IronRuby IDE remains stalled as we can’t make our own
future plans. We have always published road maps for future versions of
our standard Ruby IDE but until we have a firm development plan from the
IronRuby team, we can’t make any future commitments on the IronRuby IDE.

best wishes
Huw

SapphireSteel Software
Ruby and Rails In Visual Studio
http://www.sapphiresteel.com

Sanghyeon S.:

This is very true, but it is ironic since I get to track down build
breaks after sync anyway. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Point taken :slight_smile:

That said, what you’re seeing here are fairly minor build breaks since
most if not all of those build breakages are due to bugs in Mono/gmcs.

Imagine if Mono were under heavy development and changing daily. Those
kinds of breaks are what you would see if we decoupled IronRuby from
DLR.

Thanks,
-John

Wayne K.:

The issue that Charles raised about people not knowing what others are
already working on is an important one. At a higher level, I’d like to
see a clearer statement of short term and medium term goals and plans
for getting there. Those plans require people taking ownership of
certain tasks, so it would be nice to know who is working on what at
any given stage - both for people within and external to Microsoft.

Wayne - do you think this would be addressed by a scheduled weekly
Monday morning scrum round of emails? Folks can post status updates out
of band, of course, but observers can watch those scrum mails for more
visibility into what various folks are working on.

I also note that this email list serves two audiences, those interested
in using IronRuby and those interested in building it. It’s probably
too early to split the email list, but we should be conscious of this
fact when we are trying to manage the activities of this latter core-
development group - there probably aren’t that many of us! In terms of
community building for this core-development group, I’d certainly be
interested to know a bit more about who my peers are in this virtual
community. Perhaps we could set up a WIKI for core-developers to at
least list their names, a little about themselves (no more than one
paragraph) and what they’re currently working on.

I started a page here: http://ironruby.rubyforge.org/wiki/wiki.pl?Who

Certainly frequent revisions helps (ideally 2 or 3 per
week), also timely feedback on what’s happening with submitted patches.

That’s my fault and I apologize for this. I’ll start by doing daily
pushes of our tree.

A number of people are working on entirely new and separate bits, for
example implementations of native standard libraries. Currently there
is no common place for external contributors to upload prototypes of
bits that they are working on. Some form of fileshare or ftp system
where people could create directories and unload files may be useful,
prior to them being formally merged into the official distribution.
This would help us see what people are working on, how far progressed
they are, and to make comments.

Let me think about this point a bit more. This is related to a point
that Pete brought up in a different thread - getting us to fix require
and then making it possible for folks to create separate projects. Part
of this will involve granting external commit access to the SVN
repository - which I’m more than happy to provide. I’ll get back to the
list about this point later today.

Thanks,
-John

/signed

This would help immensely. As of right now all the external libraries
are loaded when you run rbx, this is in contrast to mri in that the
external libraries have to be required.

On Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 9:31 AM, Peter Bacon D.
[email protected] wrote:

The guts of IronRuby are starting to stabilize and there will be less and


Ironruby-core mailing list
[email protected]
http://rubyforge.org/mailman/listinfo/ironruby-core


Michael L.
[Polymath Prokrammer]
http://blog.prokrams.com

What about the “fast-tracking the external Ruby library loading”, idea?
In
other words, allowing external “IronRuby” library code to be developed
and
compiled into a separate assembly so that it can be loaded into the Ruby
runtime via require “…”. (Not to be confused with “requiring” a
straight
.NET assembly, which of course we can do already).

This will allow separate OSS projects to be set up that really can have
direct community interaction for those libraries that are not core to
the
IronRuby runtime.

The guts of IronRuby are starting to stabilize and there will be less
and
less to do there but more and more to do on external libraries. It
could
encourage people to start building library code against IronRuby,
therefore
providing even more feedback on both IronRuby runtime and so DLR. Also,
it
could allow the development process to scale out and potentially
accelerate
toward goals such as running Rails.

In the long run, surely, this is the model that you want to have anyway.
So
why not push toward it now?

Pete

Hey,

On 4/29/08, John L. (IRONRUBY) [email protected] wrote:

This is totally doable, and something we should have done for some time now. What I’m now proposing is this: all IronRuby code reviews will go out through the public mailing list. We will generate a TFS ‘unified diff’ (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/6fd7dc73.aspx) and attach that diff to the code review email that will be CC’d to ironruby-core.

This way you’ll have the context for the changes (the source code) along with a detailed email that describes what those changes are, along with some commentary. Note that complex changes are often reviewed face-to-face on our team (think pair-reviewing). But many changes are reviewed entirely by email, so those follow-on emails will be captured for all to see.

What would be neat, on top of that, is simply having a
ironruby-patches list, where automated mails are sent for each commit
on the IR repo. Pretty much something like what mono-patches provide:

http://lists.ximian.com/pipermail/mono-patches/

That would simply be great to get familiar with the code.

Peter Bacon D.:

What about the “fast-tracking the external Ruby library loading”, idea?
In other words, allowing external “IronRuby” library code to be
developed and compiled into a separate assembly so that it can be
loaded into the Ruby runtime via require “…”. (Not to be confused
with “requiring” a straight .NET assembly, which of course we can do
already).

Excellent idea. Will pop this to the top of the queue. This will also
force us to initialize $: correctly at startup.

This will allow separate OSS projects to be set up that really can have
direct community interaction for those libraries that are not core to
the IronRuby runtime.

Let me noodle on this idea this morning. I have some ideas but I wanted
to run them past some folks around here first.

In the long run, surely, this is the model that you want to have
anyway. So why not push toward it now?

Agreed.

Thanks!
-John

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