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News & Views

Posted by Barbie
on 19th August 2011

Recently Jon 'JJ' Allen sent me some updated graphics with the official new design of the onion for all the CPAN Testers websites. As such I'm now in the process of updating the sites. In most cases you will likely not notice a difference, however, I've taken this opportunity to push out the changes I've been working on for the Blog site. If you haven't already, you may need to refresh your cache to see the latest changes.

June proved to be an eventful month for CPAN Testers. We had several updates and passed a couple of significant milestones.

Firstly, the updates. As well as the blog and wiki updates earlier in the month, David Golden also released a new version of CPAN-Reporter. This release is notable for two reasons. It now defaults to using the Metabase, rather than the email transport method of old, and also attempts to automated as much of the Metabase ID creation as possible. In order to encourage new testers, simplifying the setup process is a must. David made significant changes to regards auto-configuration, and he's incorporated the same ideas into CPAN-Reporter. Ultimately we'd like to see a common client, which uses the APIs of CPAN-Reporter and CPANPLUS-YACSmoke, and can abstract away much of the configuration and processing of smoke testing. The aim being to encourage more casual testers to send us reports from the real world, as distributions are installed or upgraded.

And so to secondly, the milestones. Our first milestone was passing 13 million test reports. I haven't made a big deal of this for reasons I will come to shortly. Our second milestone, which I should have also included in last month's summary, was the number of test reports we've had submitted this month. In May we had 670243 reports submitted, which at the time was the highest number of reports we'd ever had submitted in a single month. That subsequently got blown away for June having seen 744831 reports submitted in a single month. We have seen some new testers join, but it seems in general testers have just been contributing more. All good news.

Having so many reports submitted does mean that the Reports website builder is now running at full capacity. For the past few weeks we've seen request volumes increase, both generated and processed, and while the builder can cope, it is currently running 3-4 days behind for the oldest request. I have a new mechanism that is being worked on to help improve the bottleneck, which I'll hopefully implement sometime this month. It does mean that the plans to release the code for the Report site has been put on hold for the moment until all the improvements have been implemented.

Gabor Szabo became a regular tester last month, and suggested some ideas for ways to promote CPAN Testers. Following a blog post here and on Perl Blogs, we had several suggestions for things we could do. Andy Lester suggested some ideas for articles, and I plan to work on some of these over the coming months. While these summaries are primarily for the CPAN Testers echo chamber, it would be useful to have some articles and blog posts that could reach out further than the CPAN Testers or Perl community. We have lots of good things to promote, we just need to promote the project in the right way. The numbers might be interesting for analysts, but to the regular user it's more important to promote why having CPAN Testers is a great thing for CPAN and Perl.

If you have any stories where testers have helped you, I'd be very interested to hear from you. If you post an entry in your own blog, please let me know and I'll include a link to it here too. As an idea, David Golden posted his experience some time ago. How have CPAN Testers helped you?

Which brings me back to the 13 million reports milestone. Following the discussion surrounding promotion of CPAN Testers, while these sorts of milestones are obviously of interest to CPAN Testers, with the volumes of reports we are now seeing submitted, the million milestones are now too frequent to make an impact, especially if we start seeing them almost on a monthly basis. As such I'll be making more of a splash about the 15 millionth and 20 millionth report submitted. You can still keep an eye on the milestones we do pass on the Interesting Statistics page.

Which brings me to another update. Several suggestions, includng ones from Gabor Szabo and David Golden, prompted me to look at adding them to the Statistics site, as part of a major rework I had already begun. Some of the pages on the Statistics sites are viewed very infrequently, but take a significant amount of time to construct. The site is built roughly every 4 hours, however, the rework now allows these lesser used pages to be generated just once a day. I'll have a more indepth explanation of the changes in another post soon.

And finally...looking forward to next month we have YAPC::Europe, where both Léon and myself will be presenting CPAN Testers talks. While I will look at the bigger picture of why we have CPAN Testers and how to get involved, Léon will be looking at a specific example where CPAN Testers helped him to develop his code.

We've had several suggestions for new sites, pages, articles, images and code recently, so look out for some news and updates very soon. until next time, happy testing :)

Posted by Barbie
on 20th June 2011

Following a couple of issues raised recently, I have updated the CPAN Testers Wiki and the CPAN Testers Blog sites.

Primarily the updates for the Wiki site concentrated on user management, and the ability to register as a new user. There is still a problem with sending UTF8 mail, but mail itself should be working for anyone who has forgotten their password. The most obvious change though is that we have now changed to use Gravatars for the images used in user profiles. This falls in line with many other Perl & CPAN sites, which have standardised on using the Gravatar service.

For the Blog site, although user management has been improved, the updates were mostly for image management. For regular readers, its unlikely you will notice much change, but pages should render a little quicker now.

Both sites have also seen some upgrades and fixes with regards to W3C Guidelines compliance, and the introduction of the "EU Cookie Directive". You can now see the Terms & Conditions applicable to each site via a link at the bottom of each page. A full Privacy Policy has now been created that can be used for any site, and although CPAN Testers is an entity in name only, it might provide some reassurance that we don't intend to misuse any data we hold or use it for purposes it was never meant for. We now have to list all the cookies we use, so that any users who wish to block them can do so. I won't add to the debate and confusion regarding this here, but suffice to say it will mostly be business as usual.

Some of the updates for these two sites are part of a larger initiative to meet as higher level as possible of the WAI WCAG v2.0 Guidelines. My current aim is to attain at least A Level, with as many pages as possible attaining AA Level compliance. Further updates for these two sites, as well as other CPAN Testers sites, are planned, as further improvements are applied.

File Under: blog / wiki

The biggest event for CPAN Testers last month was undoubtably getting caught up in the Amazon EC2 outages in North Carolina. In order to cope with fluctuating demand, the HTTP API to the metabase is hosted on an EC2 instance. While perhaps the architecture needs some revision to ensure the instances are better prepared in the event of failure, the set-up has worked pretty well for us so far. Although we don't see the millions of hits other sites do, we do see enough submissions that we want to be able to accept all without a problem. Thankfully the downtime has only affected those testers who do not use Chris Williams' metabase-relayd, which is able to stockpile reports, waiting until the API responds. Many thanks to David Golden for working with Amazon to get us back online. Reports are now flowing again, and with the initial flood peaks contained, the remainder of the ecosystem is getting back to normal again.

A new release within the CPAN Testers stable last month was the codebase to support the CPAN Testers Blog. This has also seen further releases from Labyrinth and associated plugins, and means I'm a little closer to releasing the full codebase for the Reports site. There is a lot of it, so I will likely release it in two parts, the website driven code, and the supporting builder code. It will then give more opportunity to those who wish to suggest enhancements and fix any bugs. After that I shall look to release the code for the Preferences and Admin sites. The latter is still waiting in the wings, and hopefully will see a release this year.

Despite the hiccup with the EC2 servers, we have still seen a healthy contribution of reports, with April having our second highest number of submissions in a month. We have had a consistent spread of platforms and perls over the last few month, but there several more we would like to see. If you do have an unusual setup, please consider adding a CPAN Testers smoker to your install process, as even if you don't have the capacity to run automated tests during any downtime, such as running overnight, the small contributions during real installs are just as valuable. If you can run automated testing so much the better, and you'll be a welcome addition to the high volume testers. If you're unsure how to prepare your installer for CPAN Testing, please see our How To Test During Install page on the CPAN Testers Wiki.

A plan for the future with CPAN Testers, is to write an single smoker that brings together all the best of the current smokers, but one that can interface with both primary installers (CPAN & CPANPLUS). In addition we would like to see more structured metadata being constructed within report submissions. Regarding the latter one of the plans for Devel-Platform-Info was exactly this. In the coming months are looking to work on a plugin that can provide this type of metadata, and we'll be writing up our progress. If you have ideas of metadata that may be useful, or wish to help structure existing metadata better, please take a look at the current smokers and the report structured data to understand how the system currently works. It was one of the suggestions for a Google Summer of Code project, but unfortunately it wasn't taken up. If you're interested in getting involved with the CPAN Testers project from a code perspective, this could be an ideal way to help out. Join the mailing list and let us know.

We're getting closer to 12 million reports, and I fully expect us to reach this sometime in May. With around 500,000 report submissions each month now, I wouldn't be surprised to see us close to 16 million by the end of the year. And its all helping to make CPAN a more stable and an envied cross-platform code repository. Until next time, keep on testing :)

A relatively quiet month during March, although my thanks go to Leo Lapworth and Dave Cantrell for noticing and reporting bugs in the websites. Feel feel to report bugs you spot on the CPAN Testers websites to me directly (, as if I'm not the person to deal with that particular website, I can re-direct you to the right person. You're also welcome to report bugs on RT, and as I get more of the individual websites on CPAN, it'll be easier to report bugs and feature requests directly for the respective website.

Work has been ongoing with releasing the website code, with the release of CPAN-Testers-WWW-Wiki, which contains the basic code to run the CPAN Testers Wiki. The data that is contained within the website has not been released, though it is available on request if anyone wished to use it. I'm currently working on packaging the CPAN Testers Blog in the same way, and hope to have that released later this month.

Following a disussion with Leo Lapworth and Olaf Alders, I am now looking at providing summary information to feed other sites that wish to display CPAN Tester result summaries for an author or a distribution. Much of the information is already stored internally, to speed up the presentation of pages and the AJAX colour-coded bar charts you see on the left hand panel of pages on the CPAN Testers Reports website. Olaf is looking to use this information for the MetaCPAN project, but eventually authors themselves will be able to add it to their personal blogs or project sites.

This month the 2011 QA Hackathon will be taking place in Amsterdam. The event takes place from Saturday, April 16th to Monday, April 18th 2011, and if you are not already attending, you can log into #perl-qa on IRC to help on projects remotely. There are plans for some work on Metabase and CPAN Testers related projects, as well as many other testing and CPAN projects. As always all participation is very much appreciated by the whole Perl community.