MikeK's software notebook

MikeK's software notebook

What you will find

This used to be the place where I wrote stuff I was thinking about while working on the Mozilla project.

Maybe in the near future I'll start to update it again as I'm involved in a couple of new open-source projects - updates pending...

Posts and relevance

I wonderPosted by Mike Kristoffersen 28 Aug, 2009 02:35:08
Why are you reading this blog post? - Is it because you know that it's the best use of your time, because you hope it will be entertaining or do you have to read it to see if it contains important information?

I hope that this particular post holds a view on an issue that others might find interesting, thats why I'm writing it, but whether that information is interesting to especially you, my dear reader, as an individual, that is another question, and one that I can't answer and is one of the topics I will try to cover.

My point is that with this blog as with the many others on the net the content and relevance varies a lot - I sometimes write a blog post if I get a link error when building Firefox and tell how I resolved it - I can see on the search strings that hits the blog and the feedback I get that some people are actually being helped by this. But does that make it relevant enough to make noise of it on planet.mozilla.org ?

Actually I blog'ed for a while without attempting to be on planet mozilla with it, because I felt it was irrelevant to most of the readers - I mean, what is the likelihood that you have a link error, and look at planet mozilla trying to resolve it? - you are much more likely to hit google with the error message and try to solve the question in that way.

If you look at this blog post, what is the chance that you google to learn about my opinion on how information is flowing in Mozilla? - pretty low I guess... as... I mean, why would you search for such a thing? My point being that where the link error is clearly something you search for (or pull) when you have the need, a post like this needs to be pushed more or less direct to reach its intended target audience.

If I were a close friend to every human in the universe I would of cause know who would be interested in this blog entry, and I could send them a mail with a link and ask them to have a look - but to be honest, I don't even know every human in the Mozilla community, and I would never be able to know the exact audience that would gain anything from reading these lines.

So we have RSS feeds and planet mozilla to give people an option to filter and read for them selves what they find interesting, which I guess is kind of better than nothing - but not ideal, as there is just too much information of limited relevance. (Not in the sense that most posts are bad or irrelevant in them self, the vast majority clearly have a purpose, have relevance and many are well written (and illustrated) - it's just that not everything has the same relevance for everyone.)

What I think could be beneficial would be an edited version of planet mozilla, where the individual posts were grouped and prioritized like in a newspaper style, with "hot" and community wide important stuff (like a new firefox release) on the front page described by a few lines - it should have a nice layout with new important stuff at the top, a short description and then a link to the real "content" (really, look at online newspapers, and you'll know what I'm talking about). Related posts should link to one another - might even have a "other people who looked at this post also looked at" like some Internet shops or auction sites have.

Yes, this would mean that there would be an entity whose function it would be to judge importance of one post to the other - I don't see anything wrong with that, if I lost trust in the judging entity I could just switch to a native feed of "latest" post giving me what planet mozilla is today - I'm not talking about an entity that would be able to censor anything but illegal stuff - the task should be to group, organize and prioritize.

Who knows there might even be someone out there that could automate this, so articles... sorry... blog posts would be prioritized after how many times they were shown, and it was the readers who grouped the items, by checking flags or something...

The whole idea would be to make it more easy, for the majority of readers, at a glance to see if there is something important going on in the community.

If we imagine such a system being build, it might even be possible to extend it with what we have in the news-groups today. As an example, how many people know that we now have a common coding-standard, across modules in Mozilla - that all new code must have a 2 space indent, and a max line with of 80? (with the usual, keep the style in the file you are editing, but if you re-factor or create new stuff, it is no longer up to the module to decide the indentation).

The setting of the indentation was hidden inside a thread somewhere in the newsgroups with a title that indicated it was about whether or not we should have a common coding standard. Now assume I didn't care about coding standards - why would I do anything with that thread than mark it as read? - how would I know that we have a common coding standard, and as important how would I know what it was?

I'm far from reading all newsgroup post or blog posts that are being made in the Mozilla world - I'm at best skimming the titles if something catches my eyes, but I don't have time to read all of it, nor keeping an eye out for discussions on IRC - I don't have time to do that if I'm going to do some actual work too. But if we had a page I could go to in the morning, and see what topics and discussion that were hot, if I could click on "development news", if it was in blinking red that the coding standard was (about) to be changed I think we would all save time, and more importantly generally be more up to date with the stuff that was important for us as individuals in the community as there would be a single entry point into the information.

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Posted by Mike Kristoffersen 28 Aug, 2009 20:33:40

In the original post I'm touching on the subject of automation with regards to planet mozilla - that would require some kind of server data base and sw running on the servers - something I'm definitely not qualified to implement :).

I know there are forces in the community that rather see actions in the form of concrete code than thinking about other ways of doing stuff, I'm more of a "Think first, code once kind of guy" - it usually fail when I try anything else - so when I'm asked if I'll do something about it, if the question means, if I will have an alternative ready next week - then the answer is no!

On the other hand if the question is if I'm ready to invest time in thinking about how to do this - then the answer is yes! - but I wont do it alone (at least not at this point in time).

Posted by Nickolay 28 Aug, 2009 19:27:51

I think that many people thought about this too (I certainly did), but unfortunately implementing an actual solution to this problem is not very simple... Any chances you're going to try and do something about it? :)

Posted by Alex Vincent 28 Aug, 2009 18:12:41

I'm reading it because it was on planet.mozilla.org.

Posted by Mike Kristoffersen 28 Aug, 2009 16:26:02

I don't know if it's intentional or not, but "Nick" you really prove my point that an editing function is needed - and a good idea when "skimming" btw is to not just read the beginning, but skip to the end - usually there is some kind of conclusion/point near the end :)

Posted by Nick 28 Aug, 2009 08:41:03

Dude, you really know how to crap on without saying anything. Seriously, what was the point of the post? I don't know because I started skiming 1/4 of the way through and then gave up 1/2 way through. Please learn to self-edit.