[squeak-dev] General Squeak projects and advice to help people ramp up

Jeff G jgon.in.canada at gmail.com
Thu Sep 8 04:31:28 UTC 2011

This email was sparked by the conversation currently going on in the "Fork
Proposal" series of emails, and also by the seeming slow-down of activity on
the squeak trunk in the last little while.

I am coming to squeak-dev as an interested semi-lurker, a developer whose
Smalltalk skills are still building along with my experience with the
Smalltalk community. The reason that the "Fork Proposal" email grabbed my
attention was because it threw out a concrete series of goals that people in
the community could work towards and which could be attainable even by
non-gurus.  This is personally something that I would find a lot of value in
and I believe that there are people like me out there, loving squeak and
smalltalk, wanting to contribute, but not really sure where to spend our
limited time for maximum benefit to the community.  I know that a lot of
open source is produced by scratching one's itch, but in other cases
communities have set out general priorities and projects that people may be
interested in working on as a way of starting up groups of developers, and
also giving pointers to ways that interested beginning contributors can help
out without having to immediately dive into the deep end.  An example would
be the "Gnome Love" bugs designed to help people get their feet wet
contributing to gnome.

As part of the squeak oversight board elections candidates gave a statement
of their intent while on the board and projects that they have worked on,
but that appears to have been a somewhat isolated instance, and generally I
don't get a feel that there are any large concrete projects that have been
announced or stated for squeak, although people may be working on such
projects privately.  I would love to contribute more fully to squeak but I
am sort of at the level where I can keep working on small projects for
myself and slowly building up the knowledge to effectively contribute based
on what I can glean from this mailing list, the wiki and reading lots of
code in the image. I am willing to bet that there are others out there like
me.  So I am going to throw out some suggestions of things that would really
help me, done completely in the spirit of suggestions rather than demands,
what with this being an open source community and all:

- projects that people are working on or that they think the community might
be interested in.  If I go to the Pharo website I can quickly find out what
their goals for the 1.4 release are.  Now of course this is largely because
of the benevolent dictator setup of the community and squeak is not set up
like this at all, but I think that some of the main contributors could set
out some of the things they are working on or that they see as having value
for the future of squeak, as a way of soliciting support or help.  I know
that I have asked myself if it is worth looking into the gezira bindings or
the athens project that pharo has mentioned, as I sometimes wish for higher
quality anti-aliasing that BalloonCanvas can provide me. What about going
through old squeakmap projects and updating them until they work with the
new revision? Working to remove old code from the images? Clearing out the
bug tracker by testing all old bug against the current revision and closing
those that are fixed or no longer applicable? Working to update the swiki
image? Cleaning out the wiki or updating some of the pages?

- A set of easily accessible documentation that gives clear specific advice
on the steps one needs to take to contribute. Some things that would
definitely help me are: A set of consolidated documentation on squeak's
version of monticello, along with an explanation of the standard monticello
work flows and how they compare with other DVCSs. What is the analog of
branching  and pushing and pulling, if any, in Monticello?  A quick guide to
squeak map, how to upload your own projects and how to fix projects that
don't install on your version. A quick dead-simple guide to contributing to
trunk, how to save your contribution to the inbox, how to run code as part
of your contribution in case something needs to be initialized when it is
loaded. I had to search a little for this information and there are still
holes in my understanding of what some of the expectations are for the
trunk.  In an absolutely perfect world this would be available via the help
system in the image, so that even a complete smalltalk newbie could see
exactly what to do if they find a bug in the image.

- A set of tasks, maybe kept on the wiki that include some quick small-bite
tasks that a person could pick up to start building their experience
contributing to squeak.  As an added bonus this could help out the more
experienced developers as well. An example would be more tests in the
image.  Are there any areas that don't require deep smalltalk knowledge (ie
probably no decompiler tests) that could do with more tests? Throw them up
as something that someone could take on. Methods that could use commenting?
Start a comment of the day contest much like pharo. Methods would probably
allow for easier contribution as they are smaller and more quickly
understood than a class. Giving some of the more senior developers
assistance with these tasks could be beneficial to the work that they are
trying to get done.

So is this email one big complaint? No, because that wouldn't really be in
the spirit of open source or smalltalk.  So I would like to step forward and
volunteer my time towards helping to make some of these suggestions, or any
others that people think would help squeak, become a reality.  If you see
anything valuable in any of those suggestions that I made let me know, I
would love to know where people find the most value from my efforts.  Or
perhaps you have some project that you are working on that you would like
help with! I would like to work with the squeak community to do my part to
help it move forward, but I feel like some of the suggestions I have made
above would help a lot of people like me contribute their time as well.

Thanks for reading this massive wall of text,
Jeff G.
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