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Revisting Old Places

hugin-logoI’m currently at my parents in southern Switzerland. Usually this is a wonderful place with plenty of sunshine (there is an institute for solar research just around the corner). For the past three days it was under torrential rain (more than 150 liters per square meter in 12 hours). The rain has not stopped Fulvio Senore and Alessandro Ugazio from giving us a warm welcome on a train stop in Domodossola, Italy (restaurant panorama is in the making; the RAW files have been converted with RAWstudio; Hugin has stitched them; I’m struggling with the masks and layers in GIMP). My parents are enjoying their grandchild.

I had plans to meet old school friends and to take some pictures in old and familiar places. No pictures under the rain. Instead, I revisited a different kind of old and familiar places. It has been about a year since the last time I’ve looked back at the effort I initiated to document the Hugin build process. My hope for that page (and for the build and release process) was that it would take care of itself over time. While there is now a thriving community of builders and testers, some part of that effort had not materialized as I hoped. During the last LGM I discussed some of the learnings with Pablo and we’ll start implementing them after the 0.8.0 release. In the meantime, I started updating the page.

That page, with the pages linked from it, represent an important step to me: the stepping stone from user to contributor. When I joined Hugin, I was just a user. Actually, I was a pain in the neck user, asking for stuff all the time. I wish I could have contributed stuff, but I lacked the necessary knowledge and the learning curve looked daunting steep. So I contributed my chutzpah and organized our first participation to the Google Summer of Code in 2007. One feedback we got from the first crop of GSoC students was that the learning curve is daunting steep. So I’ve pushed and pulled around the community to ask those with the knowledge to document it into that bare structure I’ve started. With the help of many community members, and support from the core developers, we put together a documentation self-explaining enough to get more users over that stepping stone. It did not take long until it was picked up and we now have a thriving community of builders and testers. Moreover the instructions helped new developers (such as the 2008 and 2009 Google Summer of Code students) to get faster over the learning curve and become productive faster.

The build process is now self-sufficient. When dependencies change or features are added, the feedback loop between developers and builders is fast and efficient. The documentation still needs updating now and then. I look forward for the 0.8.0 release so that we can move on to improve the release cycle (and the closely related debugging cycle) along similar lines. But first, I look forward for the weather to clear, and to spend some quality time in the place of my youth.

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