Good bye Bugzilla, welcome Phabricator.

December 17th, 2014 by aklapper

<tl;dr>: Wikimedia migrated its bug tracking from Bugzilla to Phabricator in late November 2014.

After ten years of using Bugzilla with 73681 tickets and ~20000 user accounts and after months of planning, writing migration code, testing, gathering feedback, discussing, writing more code, writing documentation, communicating, et cetera, Wikimedia switched from Bugzilla to Phabricator as its issue tracking tool.
Phabricator is a fun adventure game collaboration platform and a forge that consists of several well-integrated applications. Maniphest is the name of the application for handling bug reports and tasks.
My announcement from May 2014 explained the idea (better collaboration and having less tools) and the decision making process that led to choosing Phabricator and starting to work on making it happen.

Wikimedia Phabricator frontpage an hour after opening it for the public again after the migration from Bugzilla.

Wikimedia Phabricator frontpage an hour after opening it for the public again after the migration from Bugzilla.

Quim already published an excellent summary of Wikimedia Phabricator right after the migration from Bugzilla, covering its main features and custom functionality that we implemented for our needs. Read that if you want to get an overview of how Phabricator helps Wikimedia with collaborating and planning in software development.
This blog post instead covers more details of the actual steps taken in the last months and the migration from Bugzilla itself. If you want even more verbose steps and information on the progress, check the status updates that I published every other week with links to the specific tickets and/or commits.

Preparation

After reviewing our project management tools and closing the RfC the team started to implement a Wikimedia SUL authentication provider (via OAuth) so no separate account is needed, work on an implementation to restrict access to certain tasks (access restrictions are on a task level and not on a project level), and creating an initial Phabricator module in Puppet.
We started to discuss how to convert information in Bugzilla (keywords, products and components, target milestones, versions, custom fields, …), which information to entirely drop (e.g. the severity field, the history of field value changes, votes, …), and which information to only drop as text in the initial description instead of a dedicated field. More information about data migrated is available in a table. This constantly influenced the scope of the script for the actual data migration from Bugzilla (more information on code).

We already had a (now defunct) Phabricator test instance in Wikimedia Labs under fab.wmflabs.org which we now started to also use for planning the actual migration.
There’s a 7 minute video summary from June describing the general problem with our tools that we were trying to solve and the plan at that time. We also started to write help documentation.

As we got closer to launching the final production instance on phabricator.wikimedia.org, we decided to split our planning into three separate projects to have a better overview: Day 1 of a Phabricator Production instance in use, Bugzilla migration, and RT migration.

On September 15th, phabricator.wikimedia.org launched with relevant content imported from the fab.wmflabs.org test instance which we had used for dogfooding. In the case of Wikimedia, this required setting up SNI and making it work with nginx and the certificate to allow using SUL and LDAP for login. After the production instance had launched we also had another Hangout video session to teach the very basics of Phabricator.

To provide a short impression of further stuff happening in the background: Elasticsearch was set up as Phabricator’s search backend, some legal aspects (footer, determining the license of submitted content) were brought up, phab-01.wmflabs.org was set up as a new playground, and we made several further customizations when it comes to user-visible strings and information on user pages within Phabricator. In the larger environment of Wikimedia infrastructure interacting with the issue tracker, areas like IRC bots, interwiki links, on-wiki templates, and automatic notifications in tasks about related patches in the code review system were dealed with or being worked on.

Paying attention to details: The “tracked” template on Wikimedia sites supports linking to tasks in Phabricator, while still redirecting links to Bugzilla tickets via URL redirects (see below).

We also had a chicken and egg problem to solve: Accounts versus tickets. Accounts in Bugzilla are defined by email addresses while accounts in Phabricator are user names. For weeks we were asking Bugzilla users and community users to already create an account in Phabricator and “claim” their Bugzilla accounts by entering the email address that they used in Bugzilla in their Phabricator account settings. The plan was to import the tickets and account ‘placeholders’ and then use cron jobs to connect the placeholder accounts with the actual users and to ‘claim’/connect their past Bugzilla contributions and activity by updating the imported data in Phabricator.

On October 23th, we made a separate “bugzillapreview” test instance available on Wikimedia Labs with thousands of Bugzilla tickets imported. For two weeks, the community was invited to check how Bugzilla tickets are going to look in Phabricator after the migration and to identify more potential issues. The input was helpful and valuable: We received 45 reports and fixed 25 of them (9 were duplicates, 2 invalid, and 9 got declined).

A task imported from Bugzilla in the Phabricator preview instance.

A task imported from Bugzilla in the Phabricator preview instance.

Having had reached a good overview, we created a consolidated list of known issues and potential regressions created by the migration from Bugzilla to Phabricator and defined a final date for the migration: November 21-23.

Keeping timestamps of comments intact (such as the original creation date of a ticket in Bugzilla or when a certain comment was made) was still something to sort out at this point (and got tackled). It would have been confusing and would have broken searches that triagers need when trying to clean up (e.g. tickets which have not seen updates for two years).

It was also tricky performance-wise to keep the linear numbering order of reports which was requested by many people to not solely depend on URL redirects from bugzilla.wikimedia.org to phabricator.wikimedia.org which we planned to set up (more information on the redirect setup). As we already had ~1400 tickets in Phabricator we went for the simple rule “report ID in Bugzilla + 2000 = task ID in Phabricator”.

Regarding documentation and communication, we created initial project creation guidelines, sent one email to those 66 users of personal tags in Bugzilla warning that tags will not be migrated, sent two emails to the 850 most recently active Bugzilla users asking them to log into Phabricator and provide their email address used in Bugzilla to claim their imported contributions as part of the migration already (for comparison, the average number of active users per month in Bugzilla was around 500+ for the last months), put migration announcement banners on mediawiki.org and every page on our Bugzilla, sent reminders to the wikitech-l, mediawiki-l, wikitech-ambassadors, and wmfall mailing lists.

After a last ‘Go versus No-Go’ meeting on November 12th, we set up the timeline with the list of steps to perform for the migration, ordered, with assignees defined for each task. This was mostly based on the remaining open dependencies of our planning task. We had two more IRC office hours on November 18 and 19 to answer questions regarding the migration and Phabricator itself.

While migrating, the team used a special X-Forwarded-For header to still be able to access Bugzilla and Phabricator via their browsers while normal users trying to access Phabricator or Bugzilla were redirected to a wikipage telling them what’s going on and where to escalate urgent issues (MediaWiki support desk or IRC) while no issue tracker is available. With aforementioned URL redirects in place we intended to move and keep Bugzilla available for a while under the new address old-bugzilla.wikimedia.org.

Migration

The page on mediawiki.org that users were redirected to while the migration was taking place.

The page on mediawiki.org that users were redirected to while the migration was taking place.

The migration started by switching Bugzilla to read-only for good. Users can still log into Bugzilla (now available at old-bugzilla.wikimedia.org) and e.g. run their searched queries or access their list of votes on the outdated data but they cannot create or change any existing tickets.

We pulled phabricator.wikimedia.org and disabled its email interface, switched off the code review notification bot for Bugzilla, and switched off the scripts to sync Bugzilla tickets with Mingle and Trello.

The data migration started by applying a hack to workaround a Bugzilla XML-RPC API issue (see below), running the migration fetch script (tasks and comments), reverting the hack, running the migration create script (attachments), moving Bugzilla to old-bugzilla.wikimedia.org, starting the cron jobs to start assigning Bugzilla activity to Phabricator users by replacing the generic “bzimport” user by the actual corresponding users, and setting up redirects from bugzilla.wikimedia.org URLs.

A task before and after users have claimed their previous Bugzilla accounts (positions of comments in the right image manually altered for better comparison).

A task before and after users have claimed their previous Bugzilla accounts (positions of comments in the right image manually altered for better comparison).

After several of those data migration steps we performed numerous tests. In parallel we prepared emails and announcements to send out and publish once we’re finished, updated links to Bugzilla by Phabricator on dozens of wikipages, updating MediaWiki templates on the Wikimedia, and further small tasks.

Paying attention to details: The "infobox" template on MediaWiki extension homepages linking to the extension's bug reports at the bottom, now handled in Phabricator instead of Bugzilla.

Paying attention to details: The infobox template on MediaWiki extension homepages linking to the extension’s bug reports at the bottom, now handled in Phabricator instead of Bugzilla.

For those being curious about time spans: Fetching the 73681 Bugzilla tickets took ~5 hours, importing them ~25 hours, and claiming the imported user contributions of the single most active Bugzilla user took ~15 minutes.

But obviously we were pioneers that could not rely on Stackoverflow.
Even if you try to test everything, unexpected things happen while you are running the migration. I’m proud to say that we (well, rather Chase, Daniel, Mukunda and Sean when it came to dealing with code) managed to fix all of them. And while you try to plan everything, for such a complex move that nobody has tried before, there are things that you simply forget or have not thought about:

  • We had to work around an unresolved upstream XML-RPC API bug in Bugzilla by applying a custom hack when exporting comments in a first step and removing the hack when exporting attachments (with binary data) in a second step. Though we did, it took us a while to realize that Bugzilla attachments imported into Phabricator were scrambled as the hack got still applied for unknown reasons (some caching?). Rebooting the Bugzilla server fixed the problem but we had to start from scratch with importing attachments.
  • Though we had planned to move Bugzilla from bugzilla.wikimedia.org to old-bugzilla.wikimedia.org after exporting all data, we hadn’t realized that we would need a certificate for that new subdomain. For a short time we had an ugly “This website might be insecure” browser warning when users tried to access the old Bugzilla until old Bugzilla was moved behind the Varnish/nginx layer with its wildcard *.wikimedia.org certificate.
  • Two Bugzilla statuses did not get converted into Phabricator tags. The code once worked when testing but broke again later at some point without anybody realizing but this was noticed and fixed.
  • Bugzilla comments marked as private got public again once the cron jobs claiming contributions of that commenter were run. Again this was noticed and fixed.
  • We ended up with a huge feed queue and search indexing queue. We killed the feed daemon at some point. Realizing that it would have taken Phabricator’s daemons ~10 days to handle the queue, Chase and Mukunda debugged the problem together with upstream’s Evan and found a way to improve the SQL performance drastically.
  • We hadn’t thought about switching off some Bugzilla related cronjobs (minor) and I hadn’t switched off mail notifications from Bugzilla so some users still received "whining" emails until we stopped that.
  • We had a race condition in the migration code which did not always set the assignee of a Bugzilla ticket also as the assignee of the corresponding task in Phabricator. We realized early enough by comparing the numbers of assigned tickets for specific users and fixed the problem.
  • I hadn’t tested that aliases of Bugzilla reports actually get migrated. As this only affected ~120 tickets we decided to not try to fix this retroactively.
Phabricator daemons being (too) busy handling the tasks mass-imported from Bugzilla.

Phabricator daemons being (too) busy handling the tasks mass-imported from Bugzilla.

We silently reopened Phabricator on late Sunday evening (UTC) and announced its availability on Monday morning (UTC) to the wikitech-l community and via the aforementioned blogpost.

A list of dependency tasks handled before completing the migration from Bugzilla to Phabricator is available.

Advantages

Phabricator has many advantages compared to Bugzilla: Wikimedia users do not reveal their email addresses and users do not have another separate login and password. (These were the most popular complaints about Bugzilla.)

Integration with MediaWiki's Single User Login via OAuth - no separate login.

Integration with MediaWiki’s Single User Login via OAuth – no separate login.

There is a preview when writing comments.
The initial description can be edited and updated like a summary while the discussion on a task evolves.
Users have a profile showing their latest activity.
There’s a global activity feed.
There is a notification panel on top.
The UI looks modern and works pretty well on devices with small screens.
Tasks can have either zero or one assignee. In Bugzilla an assignee must be set even if nobody plans to work on a ticket.
Tasks can have between zero and unlimited projects (such as code bases, sprints, releases, cross-project tags) associated. In Bugzilla, tickets must have exactly one product, exactly one component, exactly one target milestone, and between zero and unlimited cross-project keywords. That also solves Bugzilla’s problem of dealing with branches, e.g. setting several target milestones.
Projects have workboards (a card wall) with columns for planning sprints (Bugzilla only allowed getting lists of items which you cannot directly interact with from the list view.). Thanks to Wikimedia Deutschland we now also have burndown charts for sprint projects.

The workboard of the Wikimedia Phabricator project, right after the Bugzilla migration.

Burndown chart for a two week sprint of the Wikimedia Analytics team.

Burndown chart for a two week sprint of the Wikimedia Analytics team.

Disadvantages

From a bugmaster point of view there are also small disadvantages:
Some searches are not possible anymore via the web interface, e.g. searching for open tasks which have the same assignee set for more than 12 months ("cookie-licking") or tasks that have been closed within the last month.
Phabricator is more atomic when it comes to actions: I receive more mail notifications and it also takes me slightly longer to perform several steps in a single ticket (though my local Greasemonkey script saves me a little bit of time).

Furthermore, admins don’t have the same powers as in Bugzilla. The UI feels very clean though (breadcrumbs!):

Administrator view for settings policies in Maniphest.

Administrator view for settings policies in Phabricator.

New territories

Apart from the previous list of unexpected situations while migrating, there were also further issues we experienced before or after the migration.
Mass-importing huge amounts of data from an external system into Phabricator was new territory. For example, Phabricator initially had no API to create new projects or to import tickets from other systems. No Phabricator instance with >70000 tasks had existed before – before the migration we had a crash affecting anonymous users and after the migration the reports/statistics functionality became inaccessible (timing out). Those Phabricator issues were quickly fixed by upstream.
And of course in hindsight, there are always a few more things that you would have approached differently.

Next steps

All in all and so far, things work surprisingly well.
We are still consolidating good practices and guidelines for project management (we had a Hangout video session on December 11th about that), I’ve shared some queries helpful for triagers, and we keep improving our Phabricator and bug management related help and documentation. The workflow offered by Phabricator also creates interesting new questions to discuss. Just one example: When a task has several code related projects assigned that belong to different teams, who decides on the priority level of the task?

Next on the list is to replace RT (mostly used by the Operations team) and helping teams to migrate from Trello and Mingle (Language Engineering, Multimedia and parts of Analytics have already succeeded). In 2015 we plan to migrate code repository browsing from gitblit and code review from Gerrit.

OMG we made it

A huge huge thanks to my team: Chase (Operations), Mukunda (Platform), Quim (Engineering Community Team), the many people who contributed code or helped out (Christopher, Daniel, Sean, Valhallasw, Yuvi, and more that I’ve likely forgotten), and the even more people who provided input and opinions (developers, product managers, release management, triagers, bug reporters, …) leading to decisions.
I can only repeat that the upstream Phabricator team (especially Evan) have been extremely responsive and helpful by providing feedback incredibly fast, fixing many of our requests and being available when we ran into problems we could not easily solve ourselves.

Cheers!

Wikimedia in Google Code-in 2014: The first week

December 10th, 2014 by aklapper

Wikimedia takes part in Google Code-in (GCI) 2014. The contest has been running for one week and students have already resolved 35 Wikimedia tasks. You can help making that more (see below).

Google Code-in 2014

Some of the achievements:

  • Citoid offers export in BibTeX format (and more contributions)
  • Analytics’ Dashiki has a mobile-friendlier view
  • Echo‘s badge label text has better readability; Echo uses the standard gear icon for preferences
  • Wikidata’s Wikibase API modules use i18n for help/docs
  • Two MediaWiki extensions received patches to not use deprecated i18n functions anymore
  • MediaWiki displays an error when trying to create a self-redirect
  • The sidebar group separator in MediaWiki’s Installer looks like in Vector
  • The Wikimedia Phabricator docs have video screencasts and an updated Bug report life cycle diagram
  • Huggle‘s on-wiki docs were updated; exceptions received cleanup
  • Pywikibot‘s replicate_wiki supports global args; optparse was replaced by argparse
  • Reasons for MediaWiki sites listed as defunct on WikiApiary were researched
  • Wikimedia received logo proposals for the European Wikimedia Hackathon 2015
  • …and many more.

Sounds good? Want to help? Then please spend five minutes to go through the tasks on your to-do list and identify simple ones to help more young people contribute! Got an idea for a task? Become a mentor!

Wikimedia in Google Code-in 2014

December 1st, 2014 by aklapper

At work I spent the last weeks mostly working on preparing Wikimedia’s move from Bugzilla to Phabricator which successfully happened last weekend after ~7 months of planning (worth another blog post) and preparing Wikimedia’s participation in Google Code-in (GCI) 2014 (specific steps are listed in the corresponding task in Phabricator). Eventually, Wikimedia got accepted by Google as one of the twelve Free and Open Source organizations taking part in GCI.

Google Code-in 2014

GCI is a contest for 13-17 year old students and starts on December 1st. Students are offered tasks that should take an experienced contributor (knowing the toolchain and infrastructure) up to four hours. Tasks can be about code, documentation, QA, training, outreach, user interface and research. Wikimedia has a central planning and information wikipage.

Last year Wikimedia ended up with 273 tasks, 46 students, and approximately 30 mentors in GCI. The results were above our expectations (as I was initially sceptical if Wikimedia had enough resources). Based on the common questions that students had we improved our onboarding documentation for new contributors (not only GCI students) and our instructions for GCI mentors. Hence Wikimedia is better prepared than last year: So far we have approximately 200 tasks available (not all of them will be available to students immediately) and 24 mentors. Still we need way more tasks and mentors for the next six weeks!

Become a mentor!

If you are active in the Wikimedia community, have that small task on your To-Do list that you haven’t managed to work on yet, and can imagine mentoring a student: Check out our mentor’s corner, register, and create your task!

Locally installing Phabricator on Fedora 20

November 10th, 2014 by aklapper

Phabricator project logo

Uhm, no blog post for ages. Work and university kept me way busier (and less energetic to do much other things) than expected.

As announced in May 2014, Wikimedia will replace Bugzilla with Phabricator very soon for issue tracking. The Wikimedia Phabricator production instance is up and running and the migration from Bugzilla and RT is the next step on our migration timeline. A comparison between Bugzilla and Phabricator and documentation are available.

Time to publish my quick notes about installing Phabricator locally on a Fedora 20 machine. Maybe it’s useful for somebody, maybe not.

Phabricator’s official installation guide is pretty wonderful so I’ll only cover what I, being a simple user avoiding to think on his own and just blindly following guidelines, still had to do (which might be very obvious to tech-savvy users). I expect you to know that systemctl restart httpd.service, systemctl restart mysql.service and more /var/log/httpd/error_log are your friends.

  • First of all, I got the raw content of a php file displayed in my browser. Obviously I had to install the php package first. Heh.
  • Phabricator complained about the undefined function mysql_real_escape_string – the package php-mysqlnd was not installed.
  • The next and last problem not covered by documentation was Request parameter ‘__path__’ is set, but empty. Your rewrite rules are not configured correctly. The ‘__path__’ should always begin with a ‘/’. This required changing the corresponding RewriteRule in /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf to have a slash in front of $1.
  • Going to http://localhost.foo in your browser should now allow you to set up your admin account.
  • To get greeted with less “unresolved setup issues”: sudo yum install php-mbstring php-gd php-pecl-apcu.

In the end, my httpd.conf file looked like this:

<VirtualHost *>
  ServerName localhost.foo
  DocumentRoot /var/www/html/phab/phabricator/webroot
<Directory "/var/www/html/phab/phabricator/webroot">
    Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
    AllowOverride All
    Require all granted
</Directory>
  RewriteEngine on
  RewriteRule ^/rsrc/(.*)    -                       [L,QSA]
  RewriteRule ^/favicon.ico  -                       [L,QSA] 
  RewriteRule ^/(.*)$       /index.php?__path__=/$1  [B,L,QSA]
  ErrorLog /var/log/httpd/error_log
</VirtualHost>

Business as usual.

July 21st, 2014 by aklapper

No surprises:

GUADEC 2014

Looking forward to part-time holidays, beautiful Strasbourg, and the usual bunch of great people.

Weekends.

June 29th, 2014 by aklapper

Tea, Cake, Research and Hardcore.

Tea, Cake, Research. Hardcore invisible.

GNOME.Asia Summit 2014

June 2nd, 2014 by aklapper

GNOME Asia

Being back home and having covered the first two days already, a short overall summary:
GNOME.Asia 2014 conference in Beijing was very well organized – fast and stable WiFi, free water, venue, hotel and sport facilities all within 5 minutes of walking.

While GNOME’s European GUADEC conference is more like meeting lots of old friends (and great new community members) for an old fart like me, GNOME.Asia is about meeting those community members who often cannot make it to the European GUADEC conference (prices of plane tickets), plus spreading the word.
For ignorant Europeans like me, it’s a lot more about listening and learning about the diversity of our community, problems and differences in other areas, cultures, societies. (Plus in this case getting out of that Western internet services bubble of Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/etc. which feel ubiquitous, to see a different bubble yet to explore and understand further.)

Sponsored by GNOME Foundation

Check out the many great photos and the two amazing videos of day 1 and day 2. I’m convinced we won’t have to spend months waiting for the recordings of talks and presentations given either. Now can we import this awesome photo and video team for GUADEC please?

I really hope to see many people at GNOME.Asia 2015 again, and I also hope I’ll find some random reason to go back to Beijing and China soon.

RE: Outreach Program for Women

May 30th, 2014 by aklapper

Started writing this posting four weeks ago. Time to publish, seeing the latest blogposts by Philip and Marina on Planet GNOME about the Outreach Program for Women (OPW).

First things first (so you can stop reading if you disagree here):

  • If you question Outreach Programs in general: I consider diversity an important goal in distributed software development communities.
  • If you dislike that the Outreach Program for Women only targets people who do not define themselves as male and that it does not target different or other minority groups in a community: I don’t see why you have to try to cover all possible aspects when you start tackling a problem. I will not stop anybody from setting up an Outreach program for <insert language/region><insert ethnicity><insert economical class><insert sexual orientation or gender self-understanding><insert disability><insert religion><insert what I’ve forgotten> folks. That might be some work though and not just talking and criticizing from the sidelines. ;)

Outreach programs need to scale and be sustainable to be a long-term success. Is that the case? I’m not sure myself; depends on the criteria you come up with.

Scale

As Jim wrote, “the program grew to a size that overwhelmed our administrative staff person” (to simplify it).
Outreach Programs need to run without putting the GNOME Foundation or any other involved entity into financial or legal problems. I don’t follow closely enough, so I wonder if GNOME Foundation and organizations taking part in OPW have considered creating a separate legal entity with a dedicated mission to facilitate more diversity in free and open source software projects (as OPW has grown and is bigger than what GNOME is about)?

Sustainability

Do OPW participants (and GSoC participants) keep participating in our community after OPW is over, and do some become mentors themselves? (And if participants had sufficient time and financial resources, would they also participate if no money was offered?)
I consider the GNOME Documentation project to be a rather successful project keeping OPW’ers involved: Of those 14 OPW participants who worked on GNOME documentation, 6 pretty much vanished after OPW. 2 have mentored, 2 will likely mentor soon, and the rest is still around or around a bit. I don’t have numbers to compare and interpret (Marina posted some) but other GNOME teams feel less successful to me.
I’ve been wondering why. I’m sure others see other criteria and practices and I have not investigated other organizations who take part in OPW – feel free to add your impressions to the comments.

What to consider best practices?

  • Responsibility: GNOME includes dozens of software applications. The user documentation area provides identifiable smaller chunks (“the help files for application XY”). If you can well-define what your “area” is and others can recognize your area, you might get the feeling that others in the project rely on you and your work. You will be rewarded with responsibility (if such intrinsic motivation works for you) as you progress and prove that you are capable. An encouraging tone (“your patch is nearly ready, there are just a few smaller issues to fix”) and getting patch reviews from numerous persons instead of a single point of failure makes you realize that many people are interested in and follow your contributions.
  • Peer group size: The GNOME docs team has its IRC channel (#docs on GIMPnet IRC) with an overviewable peer group size. It might be less intimidating and overwhelming to ask your question into the void on such an IRC channel than on a channel with hundreds of people. It’s also easier to create friendship and trust than in larger channels. But when there are some non-doc related questions coming up, you are asked to interact and become involved with other members and teams of the larger community, in public. If you see that the rest of the community is also friendly and welcoming, you form further ties and friendships that make it attractive to stay.
  • Visibility: After you got accepted in an outreach program you get added to Planet GNOME (a website that aggregates blogs of GNOME community members) and are expected to write regular blogposts. (I hope there is some backpatting via blog comments that your work is appreciated but I’m sure this is an area where every community can improve.)
    GNOME wants you as an outreach program participant to attend GNOME’s annual GUADEC conference so you are provided partial sponsorship for travel costs (partial to avoid freeriding mentality and as GNOME isn’t rich). You will have to give a short presentation about your work. Latest GUADECs had a dedicated session for it with no other talks running in parallel – no excuses for missing it.
  • Learning curve: Learning to manage tools efficiently and understanding workflows of teams takes time. If you handed it in a late application for the program you might get rejected as the learning curve for you would still be too steep. You will be encouraged to continue contributing, learning more, and to apply again for the next round. And to avoid that, better start early. :)
  • Spreading the word, multiplicating the message, encouraging others to also get involved: I don’t know if GNOME asks applicants whether they actively engage with their local User Group or Hacklab, whether they can imagine giving talks about the FOSS organization and their experience working in FOSS at that User Group, their university, or a conference, and whether applicants get “warned” early to think about becoming a mentor themselves in the next round to help making the community grow and become a more diverse and welcoming place.

Statistics: Wikimedia has some statistics (beta) on community contributors joining and leaving. Which does not tell you why people join or leave of course. Could organizations be better to find out the “why”?
For example, I kept in contact with my OPW participant after OPW was over, but she got busy with her new job and moving to a new location (socializing). And I don’t want to be too be pushy and expectant towards volunteer contributions. Could I have done something better or differently? I don’t know. We all have our own lives and make our own decisions what to invest our time on.

Thanks

Thanks to my team (Sumana, Quim, Guillaume) for discussing diversity in general and thanks to Kat for discussing best practices and numbers about OPW in GNOME Documentation.
And obviously everything written here is my personal opinion. As usual.

GNOME.Asia Summit 2014: Docs & Bugs

May 24th, 2014 by aklapper

GNOME Asia

GNOME.Asia Summit 2014 is taking place this weekend in Beijing (China) together with FUDCon APAC.

Yesterday (Friday) before the conference started, Kat, Dave and I held a hands-on session about making your first contribution to GNOME documentation (also see Kat’s blogpost). As a result, a number of tickets in Bugzilla have received comments and patches.
Apart from the pleasure to walk around in the room, take a look over the shoulders of people and helping out on non-obvious things, it was extremely eye-opening to realize again how many obstacles you need to pass in order to finally make a contribution – running a recent GNOME version, finding the documentation that is supposed to explain the following steps, having a GNOME Bugzilla account, finding a task (bug report) that sounds interesting, finding the corresponding code repository, locating the documentation file to patch in that code repository (in some subfolder called “C” instead of “en”), using git (formatting the patch, providing a commit message), uploading the patch somewhere for review.

Today I gave a presentation about managing bug reports in GNOME. About 15 to 20 people attended it and I’m very happy how it turned out – we ran out of time to triage a few tickets at the end, but the audience was interested and asked really good questions (e.g. the upstream-downstream relation)! I’m looking forward to the video recording of it.

Sponsored by GNOME Foundation

I would like to thank the organizers (especially Emily for her endless patience helping me to sort out visa issues), the sponsors, and the GNOME Foundation for paying part of my travel costs.

Wikimedia to migrate its Product Management Tools to Phabricator

May 19th, 2014 by aklapper

Slightly more correct title might be “Wikimedia to migrate its software development product/project code review issue tracking management planning tools to Phabricator”. Or something like that.

The problem

The Wikimedia technical community has used plenty of different tools for tracking bugs / product management / project management / todo lists. Bugzilla, RT, Gerrit, Mingle, Trello, Scrumbugs, Google Docs, to mention most of them.
From my personal point of view, Wikimedia Foundation is pretty bottom-up: Each team can experiment and use those tools they prefer and suit them. That also means teams might have moved from Bugzilla to Trello to Mingle to Google Docs while other teams prefer(ed) other tools. Bugzilla is our public issue tracker but misses a lot of functionality when it comes to agile development workflows, design review work, or activity feeds.

We also have some connectivity between these tools. Bingle/Bugello to sync some parts between Bugzilla and Mingle/Trello, or its-bugzilla (previously “bugzilla-hooks”) to have Gerrit post comments in Bugzilla tickets about related patches (if the bug number was correctly refered in the commit message). But things are brittle – for example, just this Friday the Gerrit→Bugzilla notifications broke.
All in all, the multitude of tools and channels is not helpful for cross-team collaboration, keeping track of what’s happening, and transparency of discussions and decisions in general as things are discussed in several places.

The idea

In late 2013, the idea was to start a discussion about a possible agreement on a recommendation for a smaller set of tools that teams could agree upon. My colleague Guillaume and I had the pleasure to facilitate the discussion and to ensure it doesn’t remain an idea only. References were a previous evaluation attempt in 2009/2010 and the Gerrit evaluation in 2012.

The steps

The first step was asking interested teams and individuals to describe their needs and workflows on a wiki discussion page.
Its content was then consolidated by Guillaume and cleaned up a little bit more by me. (I felt reminded of GNOME’s decision process to migrate from Subversion to Git but that was a survey among GNOME foundation members and hence a very different approach.)

After having those (sometimes contractive) needs and workflows collected, we tried to decrease the items in the list of candidate tools to consider, plus investigate and encourage discussing them on the related discussion page. For candidate tools not having an online test instance offered on the project’s homepage we wondered whether to set up test instances on Wikimedia Labs to make testing easier, but we left it to anybody strongly favoring a tool to set up that tool. Wikimedia Deutschland already had Scrumbugs instance in production (Scrum on top of Bugzilla) we could point to, and for Phabricator somebody had set up a test instance in Wikimedia Labs already.

To gather the broader community opinion and broader support for investigating more potential (wo)manpower, we started to prepare a Request for comments (RFC). While we listed several options at the beginning (Keep the status quo; status quo+Fulcrum; status quo+Scrumbugs; move completely to Phabricator; move partially to Phabricator; move to GitLab) the feedback quickly turned this into one question to ask the community: Move to Phabricator?
We ran this RFC for three weeks until May 6th and announced it widely on mailing lists and via banners on top of Bugzilla and mediawiki.org.

Parallel to running the RFC, we were working on sorting out the blockers for a potential migration from Bugzilla and documenting things. My colleague Quim created a comparison page between Phabricator and Bugzilla.

The decision

Phabricator project logo

The result of the RFC is that there seems to be general support for moving from our infrastructure tools to Phabricator. This won’t all happen at the same time though – we will start investigating replacing Bugzilla, RT, Trello, Mingle.
For the code review functionality (currently done via Gerrit), more work in Phabricator is needed to fit the needs defined by our community, for example when it comes to Continuous Integration. We do not plan to switch off Gerrit on the day we start using Phabricator in production and we got more items to sort out (see the list of code review related items).

For managing the project to move to Phabricator we use the Phabricator test instance itself (dogfooding for the win), by tracking missing features compared to our existing tools, and tasks that need to be solved for the migration. Also, we asked users of existing tools what they would specifically miss in Phabricator by creating (sub)tasks in our Phabricator test instance.

We have not created a Phabricator production instance yet to which we would potentially migrate to, because in the past Wikimedia ended up with a lot of tools by not enforcing migration.

Spreading the word and resource allocation

For the last months we also ran IRC office hours every two or three weeks in order to discuss and answer questions related to the project.

Last weekend the Wikimedia Hackathon took place in Zürich. There were several Phabricator related sessions (videos available for the sake of transparency; the first two videos are more like discussions though):

  1. A general quick introduction to Phabricator by my colleague Shahyar
  2. A discussion among ~10 people of what needs to be sorted out and done for Day 1 of Phabricator in production (being tracked in this Phabricator project board), plus related stakeholders and who’s going to work on what.
  3. A session by Shahyar specifically explaining the code review concept and tool in Phabricator (remember: we do not plan to switch from Gerrit to Phabricator for code review on the first day)

Current status and next steps

  • General and central information page about Wikimedia’s Phabricator instance.
  • Planning board for Wikimedia Phabricator Day 1 in Production (You see several columns here: ‘Need discussion’ needs more thoughts first until we know how to solve those tasks; ‘Ready to Go’ are tasks for which the way forward is clearly defined and somebody could start working on them; ‘Waiting for upstream’ are tickets that we have reported to upstream; ‘Doing’ is what is currently actively being worked on.)
  • The team working on Wikimedia Phabricator and the stakeholders are defined. We have tasks such as investigating migrating Bugzilla and RT data to Phabricator, plus implementing missing functionality like restricting access to certain projects by default (like for Bugzilla’s “Security” product or RT’s procurement queue) via namespaces. The WMF Technical Operations team will set up low-level infrastructure and puppetize our Phabricator instance. We have stakeholders defined to keep in contact with the team of Product Managers and the Platform and Release Engineering/QA team, we have more interested stakeholders which will provide input to help making decisions and driving things forward, and I am happy to also see volunteers being interested to get involved by diving into the code.
  • To track the tasks that Wikimedia is interested in in Phabricator’s upstream task tracker, we have a “Wikimedia” project in upstream Phabricator and the corresponding planning board.

The usual disclaimer: Plans might be subject to change and there is intentionally no timeline yet.

How you can help

Check out the Get involved section on the central project page and the planning board for Wikimedia Phabricator Day 1 in Production if there are tasks that interest you!

Thanks

I would like to thank everybody in the community who has provided input, help and support. Upstream Phabricator developers have been extremely responsive and interested in discussing our needs and fixing issues – it’s a great pleasure to work with them.
Furthermore, getting to this point would have been impossible without my wonderful colleagues in the Wikimedia Engineering Community Team who have helped so much with communication, prioritization, planning, support.