Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Bryce Harrington appointed Ubuntu Launchpad stakeholder representative

Saturday, June 4th, 2011


When I explained how we determined what feature to work on next, I mentioned that we were looking to add a stakeholders representative for the Ubuntu project. Well, it’s now done. The Ubuntu Technical Board delegated Bryce Harrington to that position.

So if you are part of the Ubuntu community and need something from Launchpad, you can now talk to Bryce.

I’m really glad to have him on that position. Not only is he a respected member of the Ubuntu community, but he also did a 6 months rotation within the Launchpad team, so has understanding of how our project operates.

He’ll now be in a position to escalate important bugs affecting the Ubuntu community, as well as present the community’s view on what new features should be prioritized. It won’t be an easy job, since the Ubuntu project is big and varied. The people who cares about bugs are often not the same that cares about translations nor the same that cares about package publishing or the Ubuntu distribution development toolchain. And the stakeholder representative job is to help prioritize these needs to make sure that the Launchpad team works on the most important work. Plus then he’ll have to find common grounds with the other stakeholder representatives!

Thanks Bryce for stepping up to these responsibilities!

Photo by Wally Gobetz. Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

What does rotation to maintenance really means?

Friday, June 3rd, 2011


I’ve been asked this question privately a few times already. What does it mean for a squad to rotate from feature-mode to maintenance-mode? The question arises as a number of folks noticed that some members of the squad continue working on feature-related bugs after they are on maintenance shift. That happened with the former Blue squad when they completed daily builds, with the Orange squad when they completed sharing translations, and with the  Yellow squad and better bug subscriptions. So let me clarify what that boundary means.

In a nutshell, it means that the squad starts new work from a different queue. After the switch, new work will come from the general maintenance queue. Because we do the switch aligned with the calendar week, there is always work related to the feature that is still in-process (code started but not reviewed, or landed but not deployed, etc.) That’s the work that continues after the transition. After the rotation, the squad also becomes on the hook to cater for the user support duties related to maintenance mode.

What are the trade-off related to this boundary definition? The main impact is that we get a dip in maintenance related bug fixes around the rotation. That’s because the new maintenance squad has still some members not ready to start new maintenance-related work. It could be argued that because of the interrupt nature of the maintenance responsibilities, it would take longer to finish off the work related to the feature. I’m not sure that happens in practice, but I make note to check the data…

The alternative  would be to only rotate after all the feature-related bugs are done-done. The rest of the squad could fix some lower priority bugs related to the feature or clean-up tech-debt accumulated during their rotation.  It would preserve the number of people effectively working on maintenance around the transitions.  But it would mean that it would take longer before we start the next feature. And given the poor state of our feature cycle time, it’s not a trade-off that I (and I guess our stakeholders) would be willing to make at this time. We might revisit this in the future though.

Photo by Camilia Hoel. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Guessing relevant test modules with Fault Line

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Launchpad’s test suite takes a long time to run. Far too long to wait for when you’ve made a change. And the likelihood that you’ve broken any given test is pretty small. So you probably want to start by running the tests that were likely to break.

You can usually guess which tests to run; if you’ve changed ““, you should probably run “test_archive“. But some connections are easier to miss, so I’ve hacked up a Fault Line, a bzr plugin that uses past changes to guess which test files correlate to the files you’ve changed. You can run it like so:

bin/test -m $(bzr fault-line --module-regex)

This will look at all the files you’ve changed, look at their recent history, and see which files tended to change in the last 100 revisions where you changed the specified files. The --module-regex option causes it to output a regular expression, assuming that the test files are Python modules. Otherwise, it would just output a list of the test files it found.

Thanks to Jelmer Vernoij, this is even easier to achieve for testing bzr. You just need to run “bzr selftest --auto“.

To install Fault Line, just run:
bzr branch lp:fault-line ~/.bazaar/plugins/faultline

It currently requires bzr 2.3 or later (e.g. stock Natty bzr).

Fault line is pretty limited right now. For example, the way it guesses what’s a test file is hard-coded. But a few days ago, it wasn’t even a proof of concept. Who knows what the future holds?

Countdown to the pie

Friday, May 27th, 2011


We are now one month away from the Dublin Thunderdome and the stakes of the game have increased substantially since last time! At UDS, Jonathan announced he was willing to take a pie in the face if we achieved our 0 critical bugs goal. Two others joined him in the bet.

As of this writing, we have 210 critical bugs left to fix to pie Jono, Ted and Neil. (203 actually, since  7 of those are bugs escalated after the bet announcement.) Unfortunately, their face seems pretty safe :-/ If we look at the trend of the last 4 weeks, we see that we are burning down about 12 bugs per week. At this rate, we would achieve this goal in 18 weeks, so around the end of September.  3 months too late for a pie! This week, the Yellow squad is starting on maintenance, so we’ll see if they can improve on the 12 bugs a week burn-down. I mean, that number is 3 times the long-term rate which is more like 4 a week, so we are definitively improving! Both because we are better at fixing bugs, but also because the number of newly found issues is declining. You can see the combined effect of this on the burndown graph as the slope gets much sharper on the right.


It doesn’t look much better on our third objective which  is to have a free slot in the stakeholders Next queue. This week the Teal squad resumed work on the our project to improve Launchpad privacy features. They did an initial break-down of the project and they have work until the next UDS! The Red squad is finishing off derived distributions, probably before the Thunderdome. But even then, at that point we would be starting on adding customizable columns on search results. And the Next queue would still be full at 2 items. On the plus side, we won’t be over our work-in-process limit anymore 🙂

I’m looking forward to see how this all turns out in Dublin, but whatever happens, at the very least, we’ll have succeeded early on our 9s timeout objective.

Photo by David Muir. Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Tilde or not tilde

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Hand-rail shaped like a tildeWhen Launchpad shows someone’s display name, it’s not always clear who it’s referring to.

With so many people registered in Launchpad, it’s not surprising that some of them share a name. However, every Launchpad id is unique. Mine’s matthew.revell and no matter how many other Matthew Revells there might be in Launchpad, I’ll always be the only one with that ID.

To help clarify who’s who, we’re going to show the ID in more places alongside the display name. Two of those places are the person picker — so you know for sure that you’re selecting the right person — and at the top of the profile page.

There was some discussion, though, as to whether people would recognise that we were showing the person’s Launchpad ID. One way to make it clearer, it was suggested, would be to place a tilde in front of the ID.

On Wednesday I set up a survey asking which of these you prefer:

Person picker with tilde

Person picker without tilde

And which of these you prefer:

Profile header with tilde

Profile header without tilde

Rather than say it straight out — i.e. do you like the tilde? — I wanted to see if people noticed it.

The majority of people who responded to the survey said they preferred the versions without the tilde.

For the person picker, 23.6% of the respondents preferred the version with the tilde and 76.4% preferred the version without.

For the profile page it was a little different and even more in favour of the version without the tilde: 18.4% preferred the version with the tilde, whereas 81.6% preferred the version without.

Thanks to everyone who took part. It’s now over the to Teal Squad to digest the results.

Photo by Fling Poo. Licence: CC BY 2.0.

Help us test something new!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

A man with a clipboardMy colleagues in the Teal Squad have been working on a small change that’ll make it easier to distinguish Launchpad users who have similar names.

We’ve got two quick questions in our new survey. Help us make it easier to tell who’s who in Launchpad.

The survey is open for 24 hours only, so get in before 18.00 UTC on the 26th May.

Take our short survey to help us make it easier to tell who’s who in Launchpad!

Photo by Elizabeth M. Licence CC BY 2.0.

Congrats, nigelb and chrisjohnston!

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Congratulations and virtual cupcakes to nigelb and chrisjohnston who got their first changes in to Launchpad, and to the reviewers who helped get them finished off and deployed.

jml said it so well at his recent short talk:

I’m not going to kid you, [changing Launchpad is] not easy but it’s sooo worth it, you get to help all these people and you get thunderous applause like I did earlier, and really should have gone to those five guys.

(update: fixed mysteriously-broken video start-at time.)

Love from Budapest

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Unconventional Love

Jonathan (our Product Strategist) and I attended UDS-O in Budapest last week. Brad, Ian, Huw and Julian also came along for some part of it. And what great feedback we received from Ubuntu contributors! Working on a big and relatively old project like Launchpad can sometime be hard. From within, we are well aware that development is slower than it could be, that we have a lot of tech-debt and a big pile of Critical bugs, not to mention the hundreds of things that we know we could do to make Launchpad more compelling. Working distributed where you interact with users and fellow developers mostly through IRC and email, and sometime voice for “richer” communication makes it even easier to lose the perspective you get when you speak to real users face-to-face.

For me, UDS brought a nice uplifting fresh air (and that’s not a small feat when you know that this is a conference where you have sometime ~400 people in close proximity in the same room 😉 I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of people who thanked us for our performance work or for some other bug fixes we did! From their perspective, Launchpad development is going well and they want more! The performance improvements we did have been noticed! And people were thrilled by the new bug subscription work.

You can get a feel for the atmosphere by watching Jono’s 5-minutes lightning talk. The audience reaction is very much in line with the individual feedback we received.

It’s always great to know your effort are appreciated by your users. Thank to all the folks at UDS. Keep the love coming!

Photo by yixing h. Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

A cream pie in the face

Monday, May 16th, 2011
4345671678_302dd39c5cLaunchpad has a lot of <a
bugs</a>.  A month ago, we had close to 300 of them.  As of the time of
writing, we have 237.
Francis reckons that we can have zero critical bugs by June 27th.  I am a
little bit more sceptical.  To that end, I’ve make a wager with the Launchpad
developer community.
If we have zero critical bugs by June 27th, then I’ll let one Launchpad
contributor shove a cream pie in my face at our get-together in Dublin.
Since announcing this on Twitter, Ted Gould and Neil Patel have also
volunteered to be cream-pied if we meet this goals.
Here are the ground rules:
* launchpad-project, not launchpad
* The bugs have to be actually closed, and if fixed, actually released
* “Critical” is as defined on our bug triage page (and no cheating by
changing the policy)
* Any bugs that are escalated by Canonical stakeholders after the
announcement do not count, but any new timeouts, oopses and so forth do
* I will leave it to others to nominate a pie-er
* A custard pie would also be acceptable
If you want to see me publicly embarrassed in the tastiest way possible, then
now is the time to start fixing bugs.  I will make sure that the event is
filmed, photographed, instagrammed, live-tweeted or whatever it is that the
cool kids are doing these days.


Launchpad has a lot of critical bugs. A month ago, we had close to 300 of them. At the time of writing, we have 226.

Francis reckons that we can have zero critical bugs by June 27th but I am a little bit sceptical. To that end, I’ve made a wager with the Launchpad developer community:

If we have zero critical bugs by June 27th, then I’ll let one Launchpad contributor shove a cream pie in my face at our next get-together in Dublin.

Here are the ground rules:

  • launchpad-project, not launchpad
  • The bugs have to be actually closed, and if fixed, actually released
  • “Critical” is as defined on our bug triage page (and no cheating by changing the policy)
  • Any bugs that are escalated by Canonical stakeholders after the announcement do not count, but any new timeouts, oopses and so forth do count
  • I will leave it to others to nominate a pie-er
  • A custard pie would also be acceptable

If you want to see me publicly and deliciously embarrassed in the tastiest way possible, then now is the time to start fixing bugs.  I will make sure that the event is filmed, photographed, instagrammed, live-tweeted and made available in whatever ways the cool kids are mainlining their microtainment these days.

Since announcing this on Twitter, Ted Gould and Neil J. Patel have also volunteered to be cream-pied if we meet this goal.

Photo by little blue hen. Licence: CC BY 2.0.

launchpad @ UDS-O

Friday, May 6th, 2011

OcelotAs part of determining What’s Next?, Jonathan (our Product Strategist) and I will be attending UDS Oneiric next week (May 9th – May 13th) in Budapest. If you are running a session where you need input from Launchpad, or working on a Ubuntu project that would require Launchpad infrastructure change, be sure to subscribe us to the blueprint so that we know to attend the session. It’s likely that anything major that would require a full squad probably wouldn’t be able to be completed before late in the cycle. But there are certain small enhancements that could certainly be taken as part of the maintenance squad work.

Feel free also to grab us in the corridors or in the bar to give us praise and tell us how Launchpad is working great for you! We always appreciate those stories. If you want to complain, or tell us how Launchpad could be even greater if it had this extra feature or do this that way, well, that’s ok too, but will be better appreciated if you offer us a drink 😉

Photo by Chris Barella. Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0.