Posts Tagged ‘projects’

The information sharing feature is complete

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Launchpad’s bug and branch privacy features were replaced by information sharing that permits project maintainers to share kinds of confidential information with people at the project level. No one needs to manage bug and branch subscriptions to ensure trusted users have access to confidential information.

The Disclosure features

Disclosure is a super feature composed on many features that will allow commercial projects to work in private. Untrusted users cannot see the project’s data. Project maintainers can share their project with trusted users to reveal all or just some of the project’s data. The ultimate goal is to create private project in Launchpad, but that feature required several other features to be completed first. The Purple squad worked on Trusted Pickers, Privacy Transitions, Hardened Projects, Social Private Teams, and Sharing.

There was a lot of overlap between each feature the Purple squad worked on. Though we could start each feature independent of one another, we could only complete about 90% of each. When the Sharing UI changes entered beta, we were unblocked and fixes about most of the remaining issues, but fixing all the issues required all projects to switch to Sharing.   We did not consider Sharing, or any of the required features complete until we fixed all the bugs.

Disclosure facts

  • Planning started in June 2010 to replace the existing privacy mechanisms with something that would scale.
  • Early testing revealed that users did not trust Launchpad because the UI could not explain what was confidential, or what the consequences of a change would be — this needed to be fixed too.
  • 149 related bugs were identified in Launchpad.
  • Work started in June 2011 by the Purple squad.
  • Replacing the old privacy mechanisms and addressing the trust and information issues took 16 months.
  • About 45,000 lines code were added to support the features.
  • About 15% of the lines were for missing JavaScript test coverage.
  • More that 700 bugs were fixed in total.
  • About 5% of the fixed bugs were caused by the old non-scaling privacy mechanisms.
  • About 4% of the fixed bugs were caused by old JavaScript enhancements that broke features for non-JavaScript users.

Lessons learned

  • Misrepresentation of what is confidential, or what will be confidential or public is very important to users — more important than supporting private data.
  • Privacy/Sharing must be a first-class mechanism beneath all the mechanisms that work with confidential data.
    • Privacy was added on top of bugs, and it failed to scale to 100’s of bugs.
    • Privacy was added on top of branches, and it failed to scale to 1000’s of branches.
    • Filtering private items in code, or in database joins is not fast enough to work with 100,000’s of items.
  • Launchpad’s ReSTful object API is not suitable for working with large collections of objects like bugs or branches; a lighter, service-based approach was used to quickly work with large amounts of data.
  • Users need to work with confidential data via the API, using a text web browser from servers, using a browser with accessibility tools, as well as the common case of using a JavaScript enabled browser.
  • Lots of mock-ups and interactive tests will not predict all the interactions a user will have with real data; test with real code and data early to developer the final design.

Information sharing is now in beta for everyone

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Launchpad’s bug and branch privacy features are being replaced by information sharing that permits project maintainers to share kinds of information with people at the project level. No one needs to manage bug and branch subscriptions to ensure trusted users have access to confidential information.

Maintainers can share and unshare their project with people

Project maintainers and drivers can see the “Sharing” link on their project’s front page. The page lists every user and team that the project shares with. During the transition period of the beta, you might see many users with “Some” access to “Private Security” or “Private” user information. They have this access because they are subscribed to bugs and branches. Maintainers can unshare with users who do not need access to any confidential information, or just unshare a bug or branch with a user. Maintainers can share share with a team to give them full access to one or more kinds of confidential information.

I have prepared a video that demonstrates the features (my apologies for the flickering)

Commercial projects can set bug and branch policies

Projects with commercial subscriptions can also change bug and branch sharing policies to set the default information type of a bug or branch, and control what types they may be changed to. Maintainers can set policies that ensure that bugs and branches are proprietary, and only proprietary, to ensure confidential information is never disclosed.

Sharing can be managed using API scripts

I maintain many project which have a lot of private bugs and branches. The sharing page lists a lot of people, too many to read quickly. I know most work for my organisation, but I don’t even know everyone in my organisation. So I wrote a Launchpad API script that can be run by any project maintainer to share the project with a team, then unshare with the team members. The members still have access to the bugs and branches and their subscriptions still work, but they will lose access to my project when they leave the team. This arrangement makes it very easy to manage who has access to my projects. is run with the name of the team and a list of projects to share with it.

./ my-team project1 project2

Launchpad does not have private projects…yet.

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Nothing breaks my heart quite like a request to make a project private–make it invisible to everyone except to the people the project trusts. I am utterly crushed when someone who works for Canonical or on Launchpad asks for one. I have been planning this feature for more than two years, and the Purple squad has been working on it for 13 months. I blog about this, I send emails about this, I present reports on this, but the people who most need private projects don’t know what the Purple squad is doing. I think the problem here is that Launchpad squads no longer use Launchpad to plan and execute work. There is no place for any interested party to see what the goals of Disclosure is and gauge how we are progressing.

I present my first draft of a report that states the simple goals of that the Disclosure feature wants to achieve . The report provides some summaries of the work that allows anyone to see what the Purple squad is doing, recently done, and will do next. There is also some analysis that provides insight into the amount of work remaining. This report complements the Purple squad’s kanban board. While kanban is excellent for tracking branches of code and technical tasks, the level of detail is unsuitable for non-Launchpad developers. The kanban board is also only accessible to a small number of people. I want a report that anyone interested in private projects or managing the disclosure of private information can see and understand. Mostly, I want everyone to see that the Purple squad is delivering valuable features and know when we will be done.

I based the report on the intended reporting UI for Launchpad series and milestones. I really miss using series and milestones to plan releases. For every milestone, I wrote our goals in the summary, and targeted bugs to the milestone. Though we abandoned the analytics because of performance concerns, I could reliably judge  the contributors’ velocity, and see when I needed to retarget work to another milestone because the remaining effort exceeded the milestone’s work capacity. Though I didn’t provide a burn down chart of the work, I could sort the milestone to see the colour change. I could confidently see and predict 3 months of work.

This report replaces the canvas-based chart I planned for series and milestones with a YUI 3 chart. The listing of bugs are split into categories so that I can focus on scheduling or provide Diogo with a list of bugs that need exploratory testing. Though this report thinks it is talking to Launchpad, it is actually using JSON for the 500+ bugs that I pulled using a trivial Launchpad API script. Since the data is cheap to retrieve, I can load the chart multiple times, each looking a different set of bug tags so that I can see specific themes of work.

The report shows that there is more than 60 days of work to complete the features needed by private projects. The Orange squad will work on private projects while the Purple squad finishes the prerequisites.


Creating teams on demand

Monday, June 25th, 2012


We want the project maintainer to be the default party that the project shares private information with. The problem at the moment is that Launchpad does not know how to set a team as the project maintainer during setup. Improper project setup is the root cause of most cases where information is disclosed to the wrong people. We need to improve project registration and setup to ensure users can ensure private information is managed properly. This issue is complicated by a very old issue, it is not possible to register a team at the moment you discover you need one. Launchpad must let me register a new team that will maintain my project when I first setup my project.

The Purple Squad discussed what we can do to simplify team registration and perform the registration in any page that allows you to set a team. We discovered several areas where we can make improvements.

  • Do not ask for non-essential information like contact address.
  • We can simplify the team membership policy language.
  • We can fix the confusion about membership renewal.
  • Launchpad can pre-fill the form with sensible defaults when the team will be used in a role.

Ian put together a demonstration to prove we could extend the person picker to also permit you to register a team.

When you want to set the project maintainer to a new team, Launchpad will ask you to confirm its suggestions for the Launchpad Id, display name, and membership policy. You can change the values, but most of the time you will choose to continue, and Launchpad will register the team and place it in the role.


Setting up commercial projects quickly

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Setting up a commercial project in Launchpad has gotten easier. You can now quickly register a proprietary project and enable private bugs. You can create private teams and private personal package archives, AKA private PPA or P3A without the assistance of a Launchpad admin.

When you select the Other/Proprietary license while registering a project, or changing the project’s details,

it is given a complimentary 30-day commercial subscription.

The delay between the moment when a commercial project was registered and when the commercial subscription was purchased and then applied to the project caused a lot of confusion. During this delay, proprietary data could be disclosed. We chose to award the project with a short term commercial subscription which enabled the project to be properly configured while the 12-month commercial subscription was being purchased and applied to the project.

Any project with a commercial subscription can enable

Default private bugs
Once enabled by configuring the project’s bug tracker, all new reported bugs are private. You can choose to make the report public.
Default private bugs
Default private branches
You can request a Launchpad admin to configure private branches for your teams. (You will be able to do this yourself in the near future when projects gain proprietary branches.)

As the maintainer of a project with a commercial subscription, you can register

Private teams
When you register a team, you can choose to set the team visibility to private. The team’s members and data is hidden from non-members.
Private mailing lists
When you create a mailing list for a private team, the archive is also private. Only team members may see the messages in the archive.
Private PPAs
When you create a PPA for your public team, you may choose to make it private; private teams can only have private PPAs. You can subscribe users to your archive so that they may install packages without revealing all your team’s members and data to the subscriber.

A secondary benefit of this change is that you can now try Launchpad’s commercial features before purchasing a 12-month commercial subscription. The features will be disabled at the end of 30-days. Your test data will remain private to ensure your data is not disclosed.

Any open source project may also have a commercial subscription to enable commercial features. You can purchase a commercial subscription at the Canonical store. Commercial subscriptions cost US$250/year/project + applicable V.A.T.


(Photo by Fred Dawson on flickr, creative commons license)

An introduction to our new sharing feature

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Launchpad can now show you all the people that your project is sharing private bugs and branches with. This new sharing feature is a few weeks away from being in beta, but the UI is informative, so we’re enabling this feature for members of the Launchpad Beta Testers team now. If you’d like to join, click on the ‘join’ link on the team page.

What you’ll see

Project maintainers and drivers can see all the users that are subscribed to private bugs and branches. The listing might be surprising, maybe even daunting. You may see people who no longer contribute to the project, or people you do not know at all. The listing of users and teams illustrates why we are creating a new way of sharing project information without managing bug and branch subscriptions.

If you’re a member of (or once you’re a member of, if we want people to join) the Launchpad Beta Testers team, you can find the Sharing link on the front page of your project. I cannot see who your project is sharing with, nor can you see who my projects are sharing with, but I will use the Launchpad project as an example to explain what the Launchpad team is seeing.

The Launchpad project

The Launchpad project is sharing private bugs and branches with 250 users and teams. This is the first time Launchpad has ever provided this information. It was impossible to audit a project to ensure confidential information is not disclosed to untrusted parties. I still do not know how many private bugs and branches the Launchpad project has, nor do I even know how many of these are shared with me. Maybe Launchpad will provide this information in the future.

Former developers still have access

I see about 30 former Launchpad and Canonical developers still have access to private bugs and branches. I do not think we should be sharing this information with them. I’m pretty sure they do not want to notified about these bugs and branches either. I suspect Launchpad is wasting bandwidth by sending emails to dead addresses.

Unknown users

I see about 100 users that I do not know. I believe they reported bugs that were marked private. Some may have been subscribed by users who were already subscribed to the bug. I can investigate the users and see the specific bug and branches that are shared with them.

The majority

The majority of users and teams that the Launchpad project is sharing with are members of either the Launchpad team or the Canonical team. I am not interested in investigating these people. I do not want to be managing their individual bug and branch subscriptions to ensure they have access to the information that they need to do their jobs. Soon I won’t have to think about this issue, nor will I see them listed on this page.

Next steps — sharing ‘All information’

In a few weeks I will share the Launchpad project’s private information with both the Launchpad team and the Canonical team. It takes seconds to do, and about 130 rows of listed users will be replaced with just two rows stating that ‘All information’ is shared with the Launchpad and Canonical teams. I will then stop sharing private information with all the former Launchpad and Canonical employees.

Looking into access via bug and branch subscriptions

Then I will investigate the users who have exceptional access via bug and branch subscriptions. I may stop sharing information with half of them because either they do not need to know about it, or the information should be public.

Bugs and private bugs

I could start investigating which bugs are shared with users now, but I happen to know that there are 29 bugs that the Launchpad team cannot see because they are not subscribed to the private bug. There are hundreds of private bugs in Launchpad that cannot be fixed because the people who can fix them were never subscribed. This will be moot once all private information in the Launchpad project is shared with the Launchpad team.

Unsubscribing users from bugs

Launchpad does not currently let me unsubscribe users from bugs. When project maintainers discover confidential information is disclosed to untrusted users, they ask the Launchpad Admins to unsubscribe the user. There are not enough hours in the day to for the Admins to do this. Just as Launchpad will let me share all information with a team or user, I will also be able to stop sharing.


(Image by loop_oh on flickr, creative commons license)