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News & Views

Posted by Barbie
on 7th January 2011

Just about anyone can help out with CPAN Testers. You can be a heavy-weight tester submitting thousands of reports a month, or a casual tester submitting reports for the distributions you install. You can also help promote CPAN Testers on your blog, or join the group on cpan-testers-discuss mailing list (or associated channel on IRC) and help answer questions testers and authors may have.

However, there is a further way you can help, which is a great way for new testers to get an idea for what and how they can contribute, as well as getting to know the whole CPAN Testers eco-system, and that is by updating the CPAN Testers Wiki.

In November, the Birmingham Perl Mongers technical meeting featured a CPAN Testers hackathon. Since the release of CT2.0 and the Metabase, many of the instructions for getting started with CPAN Testers where either no longer relavent or out of date. JJ's idea was to take one aspect of the wiki and update it with the correct information. Seeing as the majority of people who are likely to use the wiki are new testers, we figured that concentrating on a getting started page would be of the most benefit. We decided to show how to set up CPAN-Reporter, for the casual tester wishing to submit reports for distributions as they installed them.

We started from a clean setup, on multiple platforms/virtual machines to see whether anything would be different. As it turned out, the installation of distributions and the configuration of CPAN Testers was exactly the same. We went through the steps to claim a Metabase key, which in the longer term will hopefully be slightly more automated, and updated the appropriate configuration files to ensure we could submit reports via the new CT2.0 API. It was an interesting hackathon, as we tried to look at the set up as if we hadn't had any experience of CPAN Testers. It highlighted a few areas that we can hopefully improve on, but mostly guided us to explain the steps better.

The final result is the beginnings of the Test During Install page. We hope to have another hacking session looking at setting up CPANPLUS/CPANPLUS-YACSmoke in exactly the same way in the coming months.

So if you'd also like to contribute, have a look at whether you can update the installation and configuration instructions for other set ups, such as with more sophisticated smokers. It would be very much appreciated.

File Under: reports / wiki
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December turned out to be a very interesting month. After a lot of tweaks, I updated several parts of the ecosystem from the Generator, which takes the metabase reports and parses them for the cpanstats database, through to the Builder, which builds the files used by the Reports website, to the Uploads mechanism, which monitors the changes in CPAN and new uploads to PAUSE. It has all helped to streamline the process a little, which means the processing from a report submission to appearing on the CPAN Testers Reports website is getting quicker.

Back in November I reported that the Builder had caught up so that pages were getting built in less than 24 hours. This was shortlived, as the changes made to the ecosystem meant a total rebuild of all pages was required. In addition since the launch of CT2.0, there had been a number of reports that hadn't been passed between the Metabase server and the CPAN Testers server. As a consequence, David Golden provided me with a list of the missing reports, and I set about parsing over 70,000 reports. During the first few weeks of December, this meant the build once again fell back to updating within 5 days. However, with all the improvements it has quickly caught up again and is now roughly 36 hours behind. There are still a few improvements left to include, so hopefully we'll start seeing most (if not all) reports appearing on the Reports site in less than 24 hours.

A noticeable improvement has been to reduce the default creation of RSS files. The next improvement is to reduce the default creation of YAML files. The RSS and YAML are essentially support files and can be dynamically created on request from the JSON file that is created with all the cpanstats report information regarding a distribution or author. If you have an application that uses the current YAML files, please look at whether it can switch to using the JSON files instead. This will reduce the burden on the server and allow us to process reports even quicker.

Just before Christmas we also passed the 10 million reports mark, that's 10 million reports submitted in a little over 10 years. With the launch of CT2.0, CPAN Testers is a testing service to be truly reckoned with. While other languages may have sought to emulate our success, I have yet to see any posts of others coming anywhere close to CPAN Testers.

Having said that, it seems we aren't that great at self-promotion either. While these summaries hopefully add to the search caches, it is surprising how many have either forget the efforts of CPAN Testers over the past year, or where unaware of them in the first place. Though very grateful thanks go to chromatic and Karen for including us in their mentions of Perl accomplishments in 2010. If you are planning a look at Perl accomplishments, please don't forget to mention CPAN Testers. Behind most the Perl projects you are likely to mention, CPAN Testers have probably helped to iron out quirks and bugs on their way towards the success stories they have become.

The CT2.0 project was perhaps the biggest project overhaul I've ever been involved with, and the fact that we managed to get it done in 6 months, with a small team of developers is phenonmenal. CPAN Testers continues to evolve and I think we are well placed to grow ever more exponentially for the next 10 years. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the CT2.0, all the testers (even if you've only submitted 1 report this year) and to everyone who has offered suggestions, feedback and thanks to all the efforts over the past year. Special thanks should also go to Robert, Ask and Léon who truly set CPAN Testers on the road to being the project it is today, and nutured it for many years before David and I were able to take over.

If you watch the recent upload lists, you may have noticed a release on 1st Jan 2011. Originally this had been planned for some time in 2010, but other tasks took priority. After having several people ask about it, Labyrinth has finally been released, which provides the core engine behind several of the CPAN Testers websites. This now means I will be releasing the code to run the Reports, Blog, Wiki and Preferences websites in the coming months. This should hopefully make the whole ecosystem more accessible to anyone wishing to submit patches. In addition I hope it also provides the ability for other projects and businesses to develop their own in house testing, reporting and analysis systems.

Looking forward to 2011, there are lots of plans for CPAN Testers, from the testing clients, documentation and server side development through to encouraging more testers on more diverse platforms to get involved. It'll also be interesting to see whether anyone can compete with Chris Williams multi-million report submission achievement. Whatever happens, I'm sure there will be plenty to write about.

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