[SciPy-dev] Scipy workflow (and not tools).

Neil Martinsen-Burrell nmb@wartburg....
Wed Feb 25 23:42:02 CST 2009


Rob Clewley <rob.clewley <at> gmail.com> writes:

[...]

> So, can't there be informal teams of curatorship so that not everyone
> involved has to be really familiar with the tools discussed in the
> other thread?! Unfortunately I cannot afford the time to ride the
> waves of changing fashion in VCS, etc.
> 
> Wouldn't this help to get more people involved? ... those many people
> that Gael correctly assumes are out there but staying silent!

I am the kind of person that you want developing code for Scipy.  I prove the
existence of a non-empty class of people who are out here but stay silent (no
longer!).  I am a persistent lurker on these lists. I'm a heavy user of Numpy
and Scipy in my research.  I use Numpy and Scipy in the classes I teach.  I
contribute to other Python-based OSS projects in my small spare time.  When 
you folks talk about attracting people to work on Scipy, I should be the kind
of person you are thinking about (and I am legion?).  I'd like to share some 
of my thoughts on the issues of code review, tests, documentation and 
workflow in the hopes of offering a non-insider perspective.

1) Code review is very helpful for me as a new contributor.  I am much more
likely to contribute in a context in which I feel that whatever code I *can*
produce is going to be reviewed and I can work on it to bring it up to Scipy
standards.  If I feel that I have to produce picture-perfect Python on my 
first try, I am much less likely to try in the first place.  Code review is a
perfect place for interested people (me!) to learn how to be active people.
It is also a positive-feedback loop, as other interested people see the
mentoring process that someone else has gone through with code review and feel
themselves up to the task of trying to contribute.  For this reason, I think
it is a benefit for code reviews to take place in public fora such as mailing
lists, not exclusively in special code-review applications/domains.

2) Unit testing is also important for me as a new contributor.  If I would 
like to mess around with something that I don't understand in order to learn
something, unit testing allows me to experiment effectively.  Without unit
tests, I cannot be an effective experimentalist in my hacking.  In addition,
other projects have trained me to unit test my contributions, so that is 
what I would most likely be doing if I were to contribute and I would like to
feel that my effort to write tests is valued.

3) Documenting code seems like a very important standard to uphold for new
contributors.  As someone who *might* contribute, I don't yet have a fixed
notion of what is good enough code.  So, if I do decide to send something up
for public consumption, then I am easy to convince that I need to do more
documentation.

4) Workflow and tools are extremely important for me as a new contributor.
One of the things that keeps me from developing even small patches for Scipy
is SVN.  If I want to make a change, I have to check out the trunk and then
develop my change *completely without the benefit of version control*.  I am not
allowed to make any intermediate commits while I learn my way through the coding
process.  I must submit a fully formed patch without ever being able
to checkpoint my own progress.  This is basically a deal-breaker for me.  I
don't enjoy coding without a safety net, especially large changes, especially
test-driven changes and especially heavily documented changes.  I want to be
able to polish my patch using the power of version control.  Not having this
makes me enjoy scipy development less which makes me less likely to 
contribute.

As a fairly early convert to DVCS, I am used to being able to use my local
branch of the project however I need to in my own development process.  Being
able to commit to a local branch as I see fit also helps produce 
well-tested and well-documented code *and* enables effective multi-step code
review.  Particularly with Bazaar's bundle concept where the history of a 
local branch can be swapped via email (not just the patch), reviewers can 
merge a bundle from an email and review directly in the branch as I developed
it.  Their suggestions can then be incorporated into new revisions in my 
local branch, which can then be submitted again for more polishing.  (I 
imagine git and Mercurial have similar lightweight capabilities for 
exchanging branches;  I just don't have experience with them.)


I hope that my thoughts help clarify this group's thinking about what sort of
things can help bring in new contributors.  (Oh, and I've got some ideas for
scipy.stats ;)

-Neil



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