Jul 08

Berend’s Developer notes: Final Modifications of the Calendar Views

I recently dedicated a good portion of my time improve the calendar views. Initially I wanted to solve a nasty regression bug dealing with overlapping events, but as I delved into the quite monolithic code I got entangled by other issues that caught my attention.

For example I found it not so easy to keep track of all the shadow elements of the event boxes. Also I noticed – certainly like other users too – that the shadows sometimes seem to be sort of tattered at the corners. For this reason I was not too annoyed when Christian (our UI expert) told me that he already had in mind to change the appearance of the shadows anyway. So our common idea was remove the current shadow elements and only denote a slight shadow with a 1Pixel border around the events. I am currently working on this.

As we have discussed on our last F2F meeting in Hamburg we wanted to improve the look and feel of the calendar views in various respects. From the design point of view the decorated view header has the greatest backlog. Christian and me are working on this (Bug 444292). Christian also is currently heavily engaged to modernize the styling of the calendar views that spread a flair of the last century.

So I can promise you that you will hear and see more about the calendar views in the coming weeks even though we are approaching the final round of our 0.9 roadmap. One last note about the monolithic code: I won’t change too much about this shortly, although it is certainly better for the project in the long run if we do this. But with the lack of a compiler I have developed a certain respect for such challenges…

Jul 08

Simon’s Developer notes: On the importance of communication

Yesterday we had a pretty interesting developer conference call, which was basically about the issue that only a very small team is currently developing on Lightning and Sunbird (basically just three people), that it is hard to reach community expectations with regards to bugfixes and feature work with so small a team and what would be necessary to attract more outside developers.

From my point of view one of our shortcomings in the past has been on the communication front. With that I don’t mean the communication between different people on certain bug characteristics or code issues (that works great), but the communication between the calendar project and our community.

Currently our channels of communication are:

  • This blog, which just gets a post every one to two weeks with a bug fix status update
  • our developer and support newsgroups (mozilla.dev.apps.calendar and mozilla.support.calendar), which are not exactly buzzing with activity
  • IRC, which not many people are watching

The result – at least as far as I see it – is that

  • the core people from the project come across as a closed circle to which it is hard to get in to (the opposite is true)
  • what’s going on in the project is not exactly transparent. Instead I would call it opaque.

So what can we do to improve our situation, to make the project more transparent, to raise the interest in the project and by that to gain more outside contributors? A few things come to my mind:

  • We need to talk more about what we are doing. Therefore every core contributor will try to commit himself to at least blog about various stuff at least once a week from now. These posts will probably range from developer-oriented topics (interesting or disgusting pieces of code, recent bugfixes, UI considerations, QA problems/successes/challenges) and project-related topics (PR issues, community relations, …) to basically anything that the people find worthwhile to blog about.

    In my opinion a great example to follow here is the Firefox community. Where nearly everybody involved in the project (developers, build engineers, QA staff, PR and marketing people, management) tries to blog regularly about various Firefox stuff or other stuff that interests them. The outside image that this creates is the image of a beehive, where everybody is doing lots of stuff to improve Firefox and in my opinion stuff like this also attracts outside people, because everybody would like to contribute to a project that is alive and well instead of a project that is stalling or dead.

  • We need to raise the awareness of the project in the outside world. I’ll try to contact a few people to get some press contacts, in the hope to do some interviews with some people interested in open source. We hope that this will raise the awareness of Lightning and Sunbird and bring in outside contributors.

So these are my ideas. I would be interested in getting feedback and suggestions from you. Do you have more ideas to attract new talent for the calendar project? Is my analysis correct or do you see other areas that we could improve on? I would love to hear from you on that…