Tag Archives: mozilla

A Year of Open Source

This last year has been quite an interesting ride for me. A year ago, basically to the day, I first met the crazy people I now work with everyday on Popcorn and Popcorn Maker: Scott Downe, Jon Buckley, David Seifried and Chris De Cairos back at a friendly gathering to watch a UFC pay per view. I was pretty much set on taking the first course in open source taught at Seneca by David Humphrey but it was rather interesting to meet these new people and learn more about it and the kinds of things they did.

A year ago I literally didn’t know much. I had the basics skills taught to me by the previous courses at Seneca but honestly they didn’t prepare me for a lot of things with the web. Working on Popcorn introduced me to a lot of things that I didn’t know, especially with javascript. Man, I remember when I had no clue how to really use an XHR request and was so stumped on what to do for my really crappy tumblr plugin. Compared to today it’s quite amazing the differences. I can’t claim I know everything or even a lot right now but I find myself able to tackle a lot of different things but more importantly I’m able to work with others on the things I can’t figure out and discuss different approaches to finding a solution for a problem.

More importantly it’s the opportunities I get working on this project. It’s so cool to work with, collaborate with and meet all the ridiculously smart people with Mozilla. Some of those include:

Bobby Richter
Secretrobotron. Pretty much a genius. He’s sort of the software lead and an awesome guy. He also likes long walks on the beach, morning sunrises and phish.

Kate Hudson
Popcorn Makers designer. Truthfully she is also one hell of a programmer and could easily just work on any of the bugs the rest of us do. Honestly quite amazing. Don’t ever get her angry though.

What’s even better has to be some of the reactions of people when we show them the software and seeing how they use it. Yesterday and today we have been doing user testing and just watching them use the app is awesome. When you write up all of this and think about user experience for the app you feel like you have it covered pretty well but then all of the sudden someone brings up something completely different. You thought maybe the purpose of something was obvious but it isn’t at all and basically get’s ignored or some cool feature that get’s overlooked completely because it isn’t apparent at all that it even exists.

Honestly, I can’t wait for what the future brings. We have so many cool things left that we want to do and I just want to keep on working harder and harder. There’s so many cool things I want to do and working on all of these has given me many ideas for what I’d like to do in the future and the best part is with open source I can easily make that happen 🙂

Anyways, back to work!

Popcorn – Focus, Take Aim and Fire!

Big things are coming. Big decisions have been made.

The Popcorn Maker project has been scrapped.

Just kidding.

Anyway, a lot has gone down for us over the last 12 days. For starters we have some final work to finish off on our 0.6 release of Popcorn Maker and our 1.3 release of Popcorn. Both are mostly going to be polishing releases for the work we have done up until now. Popcorn itself is pretty mature and doesn’t need many big ticket features to come on in, but Popcorn Maker is in the middle of some big decisions coming down as to what we want to ship in our 1.0 for the Mozilla Festival in November. So the need for big things to happen right now isn’t very high, we just need to get more minor fixes done.

Popcorn Maker has so many big lofty goals. It really has a bright future with all the cool things we want to do. Unfortunately to make our deadline we are forced to cut away some of these features from landing in 1.0. Easily one of the coolest and most promising things we were thinking of doing was mobile support. Thanks to David Serfried and Robert Stanica we had a promising glimpse at getting some of this working. It’s disappointing to see this thing axed but we have more important things that need to be working for then.

One of those is developing some good templates. While all the new ones we have are really cool we also realize that they are kind of hard to understand and also don’t function very well other than with some of the things they were provided. Kate Hudson is steering the ship behind this with some great designs and ideas on not only templates but how we can improve the overall Popcorn Maker ecosystem to simply be more friendly and easier to pick up.

TESTS!
I’m going to finish these basic unit tests this week. Period. I feel really terrible for letting them hang this long and I’m going to make sure I put a stop to that by finishing them up this week. Part of the reasons why I feel terrible about leaving them hanging for so long is I know someone else could easily have done them much, much quicker than me. If someone else had either the interest in doing them (Wait… sorry had to stop myself from choking there) or just simply the time they could have done them in probably a day or two. Even that I think is being generous. It’s time for me to bang these out because I want to move onto something else. I want to own something else in our project or be a key part of some other area of it. Right now I’ve had my hands dipped into many corners of the project but nothing that was specifically mine started from scratch. Maybe that’s working with Kate on templates, maybe that’s working on cross browser support. We still need to sort out work for what we are doing with these new features coming out of the big meeting last week.

Combine those tests with the work Chris is doing for test swarm and we should be pretty golden. Just need to get my act into gear.

Popcorn Maker 0.5.x Releases – Story Camp

370 Tickets

That’s how many tickets we have staged/resolved for our 0.5, 0.5.1 and 0.5.2 releases and all over the span of a little more than 6 weeks (June 19). That doesn’t even include the tickets we have landed specifically in our 0.6 branch or the tickets we have landed in Popcorn that were filed/solved for Popcorn Maker. We’ve been kicking ass and taking names, although mostly kicking ourselves in the ass.

Here is a summary of how a felt whenever someone discovered a new bug over the last 2 weeks.

It’s been incredibly tiring as all of worked many, many overtime hours. It was a crazy push over the last 2 weeks but due to everyones incredible work we managed to pull it off and honestly the code feels really robust at this point. Granted, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to still be done but there aren’t really any big features left ( that is, until the UX redesign coming in 0.7 ). However that still doesn’t change the fact that we really need to get a good testing infrastructure in place so we occur these problems less. If we could get testswarm working ( our continuous integration system for Popcorn ) in combination with botio then we could easily have our tests run whenever someone ran a simple /botio check command in a pull request.

We specifically need good UI testing in place, however the road to there has proven to be very difficult. We have tried multiple libraries ( CasperJS + Phantom, Selenium ) and none seem to have worked as well as we have wanted. Not having this stuff in place could have easily solved a lot of the bugs/problems we have been experiencing.

Mozilla Story Camp

This has been the driving reason behind why we have been pushing this much over the last bit. It is an initiative of Mozilla to get people involved with creating content on the web using all the cools tools/libraries they have been building. All kinds of events have already gotten underway and it has been really amazing to see what people have come up with thusfar. Surprisingly I haven’t seen lighthouse spammed with bug reports! Although, maybe that’s because we haven’t made it quite as accessible as we may thought we have. None the less it’s going to be an exciting summer seeing what people can come up with and just play with it in ways maybe we didn’t think of.

If you ever get a chance, please check out Popcorn Maker here. The team would love to get any feedback you have about it. User experience, bugs or whatever else you can think of. Or just pop by #popcorn on irc.mozilla.org if you want to as well!

My Experiences at Mozilla Hot Hacks: Two Awesome Days

This past weekend myself along with many of the Popcorn.js team in Toronto – Chris DeCairos, Bobby Richter, Dave Seifried, Jon Buckley, Scott Downe and Kate Hudson – were apart of the Mozilla event Hot Hacks, which is apart of the Living Docs Project from Mozilla. The idea behind Hot Hacks is bringing developers on the web together with documentary film makers to rapidly prototype web documentaries and make some awesome experiences.

Unlike my colleagues I was assigned the task of being a floater amongst all the projects. I went where help was needed and did what I could. This led me to helping three total projects over the two days: Following Wise Men, Turcot Interchange and Immigrant Nation. It was a unique experience because I got to involve myself with multiple filmmakers and experience their ideas on making their documentaries interactive on the web. Admittedly, some of the contributions were smaller than others but it was fun none the less.

These kinds of events are great because I feel they have helped me gain new ways of looking at solving problems. When you are presented with designing and then implementing something unique and interesting in such a short time frame you quickly learn how to work and accomplish goals like these in new ways just as unique as the projects themselves. At the same time I know I definitely couldn’t have taken on the role of being a main developer on one of these teams. I’m no where near the capability of pulling off some of the awesome stuff seen there during two days. I do hope to be there sometime soon. Maybe for the next one!

If you want to take a look at some of the demos, they are available at the links below:

Following Wise Men
Looking for Los Sures
The Message
Turcot Interchange

As a final note, I really want to thank Mozilla. It truly was and awesome experience and a really fun time. Can’t wait for the next!