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Re: sustainable development in LilyPond

From: Graham Percival
Subject: Re: sustainable development in LilyPond
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2010 13:38:37 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.18 (2008-05-17)

On Mon, Aug 23, 2010 at 11:06:02AM +0200, Jan Nieuwenhuizen wrote:
> As I read it, your mentoring efforts did not get you what
> you wanted (doc writers), but it got you something else
> (possibly more valuable/hard to get?): developers.  Is
> that correct?

What I wanted, most of all, was to have a doc team to replace me.
In late 2006 or early 2007, I realized that I was completely
"burnt out" with respect to doc stuff, and I really wanted to
start doing programming.  In particular, I wanted to fix all the
old collision bugs that nobody else seemed to care about.

So I launched the biggest "resignation period" ever: a 12-month
project to train anybody who wanted to do doc stuff.  4 months
into the public, I publicly announced that I would be leaving at
the end of it.  And when that day came, I officially left for 4

When I returned, there was nobody working on docs.  Some people
were programming; some people wanted to do docs but had health
problems; some people had drastically changed circumstances in
real life.  Everybody had good reasons for not doing doc work any
more, but the sum was still 0 people on the docs, out of 21 people
who participated in GDP.

So, in early 2009, with considerable reluctance and a general
sense of failure, I started doing doc work again, and abandoned my
hopes of fixing collision bugs.

> If so, mentoring may very well not get you what you set
> out for, but in a wider context could get you "more
> project resources".  
> Do you have an idea of how much time you put into this
> mentoring, and how much overall project development time
> you got (or may/will probably get) out of it?

As I said on the page on GDP in the slides: I spent 700-800 hours
on GDP.  Yes, that's 20 weeks of full-time work .  Almost half a
year (or maybe more in Europe, with fewer hours per week and more
holiday time :)

During the course of GDP, the project completed 600-900 hours of
doc work.  In other words, there was no clear benefit or loss to
having me teaching instead of doing doc work myself during that

It's harder to estimate the amount that we've gotten back since
then...  anywhere from 500 - 1200 hours of doc work, with
potentially much more work from programmers.  I mean, if we claim
that GDP provided the "spark" for Patrick and Carl to get
involved... and if we claim that Carl was the "spark" for all the
Frogs... then we're probably looking at a total of 2000 - 3000
hours of work "because of" GDP.  But I think some of those steps
are a bit of a stretch.

Now, the most important question (to me) is not "was it worth 800
hours of my time", but rather "was that the *best* use of 800
hours of my time [towards lilypond]".  I mean, there's a lot I
could do in that time.
- settle the C+scheme indentation debate and provide an automatic
  tool: 10 hours.  (which I'm planning on doing in Sep anyway)
- exhaustively learn scheme and our lilpond scheme stuff: 50
  hours?  100 hours?
- learn enough about programming so I can start reviewing some of
  those 8-week old patches that nobody is working on: 10 hours?
  50 hours?  90 hours?
- switch to the waf build system: 200-300 hours
- add braille output to lilypond: 200?  400?  600 hours?
- run GLISS, standardize output: 100-200 hours
- write new website: 50 hours estimated, about 300 hours actual,
  and now complete
- get the Bug Squad organized so that users and developers no
  longer complain about losing their bug reports: 50 hours so far
- fixing those 4-year-old collision bugs: 400 hours should make a
  serious dent in them, if not finish them all.

Now, each of these items will do different things for future
developers.  Braille output would attract huge attention from the
accessiblility community (and their developers), but probably
wouldn't be a blip on anybody else's radar.  Code indentation is a
low-level annoyance that probably won't do anything directly, but
reducing annoyance isn't a bad thing.

Reviewing people's patches is probably the #1 thing to do to
retain developers -- ignoring patches is a great way to drive
people away.  So maybe I should prioritize learning more about
programming stuff... oh, but if I drop all my release work now,
lots of people will be pissed off.  At the very least I should
wait until 2.14.0 is out.


With all that in mind, I am confident in stating that GDP was
*not* an effective way of gathering more project resources.  I
don't mind doing it as an experiment, but the results show that
unlimited mentoring is *not* effective.

- Graham

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