Student projects update

February 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

As mentioned previously on this page, the Mozilla Community is very interested in collaborating with universities around student projects. I am personally mentoring or co-mentoring a few of these projects and I will try to blog about their progress regularly.

Note to the students I can only blog if you tell me your current status!

Note to other students Do you want to take part in an open-source / open web project? Then feel free to contact me, I will be glad to help you or to introduce you to someone who might. You can find me on Tweeter (ImYoric), by e-mail, on (dteller), or by IRC, on, channel #introduction (Yoric).

Save as .epub (Firefox add-on)

(Kevin CORRE, Benjamin ROCHER, Elie AHUMA, Sylvestre ANTOINE – Université d’Orléans, MIAGE 2)

Objective Add the following feature to Firefox, as an add-on: Save a page and its resources as one file, using open standard .epub. This open-standard file can then be transferred to just about any device, edited with LibreOffice, etc.

Current status Early stage of coding. The first items of the user interface are in place, as well as some experiments regarding how to create an .epub file.

Follow this project This project lives on github.

Detect use of the wrong account (Thunderbird add-on)

(Baptiste MEYNIER, Johan JANS, Maxime DENOYER, Mustapha OUCHEIKH – Université d’Orléans, MIAGE 2)

Objective Add the following feature to Thunderbird, as an add-on: Detect that a message is being sent to a correspondant using the wrong account (e.g. using a professional account for a personal message or a personal account for a professional message).

Current status Early stage of coding. The first items of the user interface are in place, as well as some experiments regarding how to react to the user clicking on “send”.

Follow this project This project lives on github.

Simplify the addition of several alarms for the same event in Lightning (Thunderbird add-on)

(Loïc LE MÉRO aka Morkai – Université d’Évry, MIAGE 2)

Objective Lightning offers the ability to add several alarms for the same event (e.g. 1 day before then 15 minutes before). Improve the user interface to make this more discoverable.

Current status (unknown, waiting for Loïc to tell me).

Follow this project This project lives on Bugzilla.

Extend Lightning alarms (Thunderbird add-on)

           (Anto DOMINIC PAUL – Université d’Évry, MIAGE 2)

Objective Lightning offers the ability to attach alarms to an event. Extend this feature to make it possible to play a music or execute a script when the alarm is triggered.

Current status (unknown, waiting for Arno to tell me).

Follow this project This project lives on Bugzilla.

Handle resources in Lightning events (Thunderbird add-on)

(Julien LACROIX – Université d’Évry, MIAGE 2)

Objective Add the ability to attach resource requirements to events: a picnic requires food (one resource), drinks (one resource), cutlery (one resource), etc… Who will bring them? Also, add the ability to attach a geolocation to events, to help finding the way. Who brings the beer?

Current status Early stages of coding. First prototype of geolocation implemented, and work on requirements added.

Follow this project This project lives on github.

Remind me that I need to reply within 24h/remind me that I expect a reply within 24h (Thunderbird add-on)

(Vincent LEGUEVEL, Mickael MAINGE – Université d’Évry, MIAGE 2)

Objective Add the ability to mark a message as “I need to answer within …” / “I expect an answer within …”. Nag the user as long as she hasn’t sent or received the reply.

Current status (unknown, waiting for Vincent or Mickael to tell me more)

Follow this project This project lives on two Bugzilla bugs: need to send / expect to receive.

Helping Bugzilla Help Newcomers Help Mozilla Help Users

October 13, 2011 § 10 Comments


We can make Bugzilla more newbie-friendly.

edit Thanks for pointing me to mentored bugs, Josh!

The context

Earlier today, a discussion got me thinking about how we can lower the entry barriers for people who want to contribute to Mozilla in a technical or semi-technical way but do not know where to start – by “technical or semi-technical”, I have in mind developers, web developers, translators, and more generally people who need to commit some form of patch to any of the Mozilla subprojects.

There are many things that we can improve, but for this post, I would like to concentrate on Bugzilla tweaks that I believe could be useful. These tweaks come from a simple remark: for all contributors Bugzilla is, in fact, a form of contribution console. Unfortunately, for the moment, I see the following problems:

  • Bugzilla doesn’t help newcomers find easy entry points;
  • Bugzilla doesn’t guide newcomers towards their first patch;
  • Bugzilla doesn’t help old-timers help newcomers.

So, let’s see how we could improve Bugzilla.

Making newcomers visible and encouraging old-timers to help them

I believe that the first thing we need to do is to make sure that newbies are more visible to old-timers. For this purpose, we can provide an account attribute “I’m a beginner, please be gentle”, which appears in the profile, ticked by default, and remains there until unticked. Every message, attachment or patch provided by a newbie is clearly labelled as such.

This label may come with a link to the wiki with suggestions for old-timers wanting to help the newbie.

Similarly, we can encourage old-timers to adopt a newbie. For this purpose, we can provide an account attribute “Adopt a newbie”, with a list of accounts. Every message, attachment or patch provided by an adopted newbie is automatically tracked by the adopter.

Note As far as I understand, these features are already essentially implemented. I’m just proposing a small tweak.

Having Bugzilla tell stories

Bugzilla is a nice place for reporting bugs and discussing how to solve it. I propose a simple tweak to make Bugzilla tell the story of a patch. Let me show you one possible manner of doing this:

Each of these link should help a newcomer on one step towards getting a patch submitted and accepted:

  1. “Help me set up for contributing” points to some of the wiki pages we already have containing project-specific setup documentation. For Mozilla coding bugs, this explains how to build Mozilla. For localization bug, this explains how to setup whichever tools are required, etc. This is set up on a per-component basis.
  2. “Help me contact the developers” points to the component-specific wiki page with all the contact information (IRC channel, forum, mailing-list, module owner e-mail address, etc.).
  3. “Help me find project doc” points to the project-specific wiki page with all the documentation.
  4. “Help me submit a contribution” points to a beginner-oriented wiki page with the information on submitting. For mozilla-central, for instance, beginners should be able to find the two lines that will let them export everything they have done as one hg patch.
  5. “What’s next” points to a wiki page detailing the submission approval process, the various forums, IRC channels, etc. to which the contributor can participate.

This is for beginners. As you may have seen, there is another toolbar, designed for experienced developers/community members:

This toolbar is designed to keep track of activity on bugs that the user follows:

  1. “Unconfirmed” lists the number of UNCO bugs followed by the user.
  2. “In progress” lists the number of NEW bugs followed by the user.
  3. “Review” lists the number of patches pending review in bugs followed by the user.
  4. “Mentoring” lists the unread messages and patches submitted by newbies adopted by the user.

Clicking on each link points to a bugzilla search of the corresponding bugs.

Making easy bugs easy to discover

New contributors need to find good entry points. For this purpose, we have project-specific lists of good first bugs. However, at the moment, the lists I could find are both hard to discover and unmaintained. So, let’s integrate this in Bugzilla. As it turns out, it’s quite easydone already (and better than what I suggested initially).

I suggest adding two tags: “easy” and “average”. Every bug can be annotated as “easy” if a developer believes that it’s a good first bug or “average” if a developer believes that it’s a bug that requires some experience but no architectural overview.

Once this is done, we can link from all our wikis and contributor engagement pages to Bugzilla searches with all the “easy” and all the “average” bugs, both project-wide and by component.

Submission add-on

This one is more of a dream. I believe that, at some point, we could develop an add-on that can be installed directly fro the Bugzilla toolbar, and whose role is to provide a wizard to help users:

  • install the appropriate source management tool;
  • once the tool is installed, submit a patch for review.

Initially, this add-on covers only mozilla-central. Later, upgrades to this add-on and/or project-specific add-ons may be added for projects not covered by mozilla-central (typically projects hosted on github).

Inspiration: want to do better than (otherwise excellent) github “pull request” :)


  • First bug report tagged “new”? Earn a badge!
  • First patch submitted? Earn a badge!
  • First patch accepted? Earn a badge!
  • Same thing for the marks of 10, 50, 100 …

Any thoughts?

Ok, this lists the tweaks that I can think of to improve newbie experience with contributions. What do you think? Any way we can make this better?

Crowdsourcing the syntax

May 30, 2011 § 18 Comments

Feedback from Opa testers suggests that we can improve the syntax and make it easier for developers new to Opa to read and write code. We have spent some time both inside the Opa team and with the testers designing two possible revisions to the syntax. Feedback on both possible revisions, as well as alternative ideas, are welcome.

A few days ago, we announced the Opa platform, and I’m happy to announce that things are going very well. We have received numerous applications for the closed preview – we now have onboard people from Mozilla, Google and Twitter, to quote but a few, from many startups, and even from famous defense contractors – and I’d like to start this post by thanking all the applicants. It’s really great to have you guys & gals and your feedback. We are still accepting applications, by the way.

Speaking of feedback, we got plenty of it, too, on just about everything Opa, much of it on the syntax. This focus on syntax is only fair, as syntax is both the first thing a new developer sees of a language and something that they have to live with daily. And feedback on the syntax indicates rather clearly that our syntax, while being extremely concise, was perceived as too exotic by many developers.

Well, we aim to please, so we have spent some time with our testers working on possible syntax revisions, and we have converged on two possible syntaxes. In this post, I will walk you through syntax changes. Please keep in mind that we are very much interested in feedback, so do not hesitate to contact us, either by leaving comments on this blog, by IRC, or at .

Important note: that we will continue supporting the previous syntax for some time and we will provide tools to automatically convert from the previous syntax to the revised syntax.

Let me walk you through syntax changes.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Unbreaking Scalable Web Development, One Loc at a Time

May 23, 2011 § 18 Comments

The Opa platform was created to address the problem of developing secure, scalable web applications. Opa is a commercially supported open-source programming language designed for web, concurrency, distribution, scalability and security. We have entered closed beta and the code will be released soon on, as an Owasp project .

If you are a true coder, sometimes, you meet a problem so irritating, or a solution so clumsy, that challenging it is a matter of engineering pride. I assume that many of the greatest technologies we have today were born from such challenges, from OpenGL to the web itself. The pain of pure LAMP-based web development begat Ruby on Rails, Django or Node.js, as well as the current NoSQL generation. Similarly, the pains of scalable large system development with raw tools begat Erlang, Map/Reduce or Project Voldemort.

Opa was born from the pains of developing scalable, secure web applications. Because, for all the merits of existing solutions, we just knew that we could do much, much better.

Unsurprisingly, getting there was quite a challenge. Between the initial idea and an actual platform lay blood, sweat and code, many experiments and failed prototypes, but finally, we got there. After years of development and real-scale testing, we are now getting ready to release the result.

The parents are proud to finally introduce Opa. « Read the rest of this entry »

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