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FlightGear Development Push

Questions about the FlightGear organisation, website, wiki etc.

Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Thorsten » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:17 pm

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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby bugman » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:46 pm

I remember that one - I read that wiki article and the series it is a part of about a year ago and found it particularly negative. For example the article name Entitlement is itself negative. And the second section of How the FlightGear project works is titled 'Irritations'. I don't understand why!? I wouldn't feel comfortable pointing potential developers to these articles, as it probably wouldn't put them on the right track. They need a LOT of work!

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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Hooray » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:58 pm

@bugman: It's a wiki, feel free to edit/remove the offending paragraphs - it was largely inspired by forum discussions, so may have been colored a little by those. I haven't looked at the article in months, but I also remember that Thorsten disagreed with portions I added to it, and most people said quite clearly that they appreciated Thorsten's unbiased perspective, whereas my adding of forum quotes was not particularly constructive. You can directly edit, and/or, fork the article - or even just comment out the corresponding sections, so that we can peer-review/edit the whole thing and make it sound more positive.

That said, it is a little unfortunate that most of these articles are touching on core development subjects, without any of the core developers having been involved in creating/shaping such articles - so they may not necessarily be representative, and some core developers may even disagree with such articles.

But people asking for commit access, and others leaving the project despite already having commit access is basically about the same thing: people not having the impression that FlightGear is evolving according to their own visions, so they'd like to do something - either by helping shape FlightGear (but lacking commit access), or by refusing to remain involved in the project in its current form, due to not reaching "consensus" with other , more senior, developers.

To be fair, regardless of the "core development bottleneck" and a potential fork showing up sooner or later, the original question raised by the OP was basically if FlightGear could use some funding, and if so, how that could be created, and put to good use, i.e. in terms of what to work on (and by whom) - as well as what kind of work could be prioritized accordingly, and who would/should get to decide those things.

I think the only thing that we agree on, is that having a greater number of core developers (=core committers) would be good for the project, especially to address the fact that many of the main people who have been shouldering the project for the most part, seem to be increasingly busy with non-FG aspects.

So far, we haven't worked out how to make that happen, i.e. how this is specifically implemented in terms of future contributions/contributors - apart from Torsten's offer to get in touch with him in order to prepare the groundwork for future commit access.

Maybe the project needs to be much more proactive when dealing with new contributors, and actually reach out to contributors, to learn if they'd be interested in commit access. At least until there's a larger number of people involved in OSG matters, or even just core developers on Windows (which used to be handled by FredB and, more recently, by F-JJTH for the most part, and is currently underserved).

One of the best options for newcomers to get involved, would be helping with testing/bug fixing:

http://sourceforge.net/p/flightgear/mai ... /34634520/
Torsten wrote:Whatever release plan we come up with, it will never be able to solve our
issues with respect to bug reporting/fixing. We have all the required
infrastructure to do better here: the bugtracker, a forum, a mailing list
and we even send crash reports - at least on windows. What we do not have
are the people dealing with that.
We need:
- people filing proper bug reports
- people classifying/reviewing the bug reports
- people analyzing the crash reports
- people fixing the bugs
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby bugman » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:14 pm

@Hooray: I never said the articles were not fixable. However they really do require a lot of work to be of benefit for new potential developers. They need better structure, organisation, and all the negativity nuked. And the series probably needs to be expanded to include the whole pathway from power-user to developer, including listing some low hanging fruit and simple starting projects, and how to interact with the core team (the devel mailing list and most definitely not the forum) and how to act as part of the team (including compromising, improving, and accepting team decisions). It should include instructions such as setting up SourceForge accounts, forking the code, creating branches, asking for code review and direction, merge requests, commit log format, FG coding standards, etc. The articles need to point the reader / potential developer in the correct direction and do it concisely. This is all important information to know when discussing the funding of development, as all such issues need to be know to be able to properly focus the effort.

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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Thorsten » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:17 pm

I wouldn't feel comfortable pointing potential developers to these articles, as it probably wouldn't put them on the right track.


We could of course write that we value every opinion equally, that we're happy to receive feature requests of any kind, that user input crucial for project decisions and that we aim to please the end user.

Which would be positive, and I'm sure it'd make you rather popular to say it - except this isn't how things are actually done and decisions are actually made. In my opinion, we can't promise things we're unable to follow through with - that'd be cheating.

If you think this is too negative, prove it wrong. But my experience shows that for instance forum polls will have zero influence in where the project is heading, and I understand the reason for it, which is that you can't order volunteers.

Irritations are (unfortunately) real - you can delete the wiki section spelling it out explicitly, but it won't make them go away.
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby bugman » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:25 pm

Thorsten wrote in Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:17 pm:We could of course write that we value every opinion equally, that we're happy to receive feature requests of any kind, that user input crucial for project decisions and that we aim to please the end user.

Which would be positive, and I'm sure it'd make you rather popular to say it - except this isn't how things are actually done and decisions are actually made. In my opinion, we can't promise things we're unable to follow through with - that'd be cheating.


I'm talking about the language rather than the concepts being negative. I agree with you. But there are much better ways of putting it. For example to encourage rather than dissuade to get them over the hurdles they must jump over. And to encourage them as to how to work in a team, rather than pointing out that they might start a flame war. What is the point of starting an article with Irritations, listing "flame wars", "eating up considerable resources", and "grief and anger"?

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Edward
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Hooray » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:32 pm

@bugman: Should you take a look at the history of such articles, you will usually find that Thorsten's changes were much more eloquent, succinct and positive than mine - I usually tend to copy stuff from discussions verbatim to the wiki - which is a good way to "bootstrap" an article, but also a pretty sure way to offend people, who expect to read an article, not excerpts from a heated debate.

Most of they keywords you mentioned seem to ring a bell here, so it would not surprise me if you should find out that I added the offending passages at some point - and I encourage you to help rewrite/remove offending stuff, treat it like a piece of "code" after all - i.e. refactoring may be needed, even though the key message should probably not be unnecessarily obfuscated, like Thorsten says.

Regarding the whole "funding" topic, that has a long-standing history, too - and should someone spend all the time to search the archives for the corresponding keywords (funding, "non profit", "project management" etc), they will also find that this is not as simple as it may sound - imagine for a second, I were to create a really compelling crowd-funding campaign, and would manage to collect >= $100k US, how would the project deal with this (that is, assuming that I won't spent the $100k on hiring 10 guys to help spopulate the wiki with cquotes :mrgreen: ) ?
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby MIG29pilot » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:37 pm

Well of course I once got the idea of making millions by selling 3-d printed simulators, and then spending all my extra time flying I mean developing. :)
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby bugman » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:47 pm

For funding someone to develop code, a set of positively-written instructions going from power-user to full developer would be very useful to have. Mainly for the person proposing - and more importantly organising - the funded developments. That person should know these developer guidelines very well to be able to best target the money. They should also probably also read the following text:


This is all very important for identifying the right person for the job (which is the hardest part of the funding initiative).

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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Hooray » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:56 pm

You can greatly simplify that part of the equation by either specifying what is to be worked on, or by picking someone from the existing team of FlightGear core developers - at which point, you don't need to cover much in terms of groundwork or OSS ethics in general.
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Sebulba » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:57 pm

Ok, so to put things back into course here, the topic is about discussing ways to give FlightGear a development push. So,
a.) I proposed a crowdfunding campaign that would bring more people in.
b.) People stated that there is no need to bring more contributions in, but deal with what is received now.
c.) People also stated that raising enough money to employ a core developer is unrealistic.
d.) Based on that premise, I then suggested that the crowdfunding could also be used for ad campaigns, allowing FG to reach out to much more people.
e.) No one has responded to that. Instead you are hunting ghosts of stories from the past that no one really cares about, and also you are discussing about how new developers should be handled and what the wiki pages should contain.

Do we want new developers now? Is that the case finally YES or NOT? Would the development of the project accelerate this way, or do we need to focus on another part for that goal?

So, does anyone have a proposal on how to help accelerate the development of the project? Would this proposal involve crowdfunding campaigns? Shall we discuss in this context any further, or is this possibility ruled out? Please everyone, stay on topic.

Thanks :)
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Thorsten » Mon Nov 23, 2015 6:20 pm

Do we want new developers now? Is that the case finally YES or NOT? Would the development of the project accelerate this way, or do we need to focus on another part for that goal?


'Accelerate development' is vague - which part?

Imagine there's a whole set of changes which will dramatically improve the handling on multi-monitor setups and be very beneficial for potential commercial users of FG. These would bring FG forward, but the end user wouldn't really have anything from it.

Imagine another set of changes which dramatically improves the visuals on single monitors but don't work for multiple monitors and would be completely uninteresting for commercial simulators.

What is it you have in mind? User-friendliness? Less bugs? Better graphics? Better flight dynamics?

What is needed is different from case to case.

For instance, what I do is chiefly limited by... availability of 3d modelers, graphical artists and people helping out with xml.

Take clouds - most of the cloud textures AW uses have been photographs I have taken of the sky at some point, then extracted as textures using gimp. I've never been trained in that, I'm not actually any good, and I just progressed by trial and error. Neither is my camera particularly suitable for sky imagery (no wide angle,...)

I've been repeatedly joking that if I had access to a graphics department, things would be much better. Even reasonably good rendering code can't make anything great out of textures limited in quality. What's limiting output is the simple fact that while I am good at some things, I'm not at others, yet I in practice need to do the whole chain of a feature - because there is nobody I can reliably ask to create the textures I need.

Similar with 3d modeling - I need ages to get anything done with blender, so whenever I need more complicated 3d work I have to find someone else. Currently working switches in the Space Shuttle cockpit are absent since I need someone to separate the pushable buttons and movable switches from the general cockpit mesh. Internally, on the level of the FDM all these switches already exist and are functional - so the question is really only wiring up.

Same with xml - animating stuff isn't complicated, but it needs time nevertheless - again, I'm not particularly good at it, so it costs a lot of time going away from things I actually do really well.

So to the degree that you want to see me coding heightmaps for the terrain, or more efficient tree rendering, or volumetric rain, or a limited set of aircraft lights illuminating the ground also from the exterior in ALS (these are my current pet project ideas), what would do that immediately is help with relatively simple 'service', 'wiki documentation' and 'artwork' tasks that end up eating 80% of my time.

I can't speak for others of course, but I suspect the situation that someone is only really good at a limited set of tasks, yet has to frequently do tasks he's not so good at because there's nobody available to help isn't that uncommon.
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Hooray » Mon Nov 23, 2015 6:23 pm

Thanks for "moderating" your topic :lol:
Here's my take on it:

I would consider any form of crowd-funding to be problematic, in the sense that it may cause tons of irritation and workload/obligations (paperwork) - and I find it hard to believe that anybody is going to put up with that.

The only thing that /might/ work is a substantial amount of funding, so that a corresponding company/non-profit could be created to act as the "umbrella organization" to deal with FG matters, including a project roadmap with milestones that may be worked on with increased priority.

And something like that would inevitably have to involved existing long-term core developers (not external coders), exactly because of the irritations that funding is going to cause in volunteer-driven project like FlightGear, where people may deal differently with you once you disclose to them that you are getting paid working on certain features (which even happened to work that Curt had done at some point, and others called him out for it, in public - so not even long-timers are immune to that).

In my opinion, if you want to "boost" FlightGear core development, you need to lower the barrier to entry for newcomers, and get them involved as soon as possible - including granting commit access, possibly with the restriction that people are asked to commit to topic branches only, while more senior core developers can easily watch/check out such branches.

For instance, Torsten mentioned that he could come up with a list of things that newcomers could work on.

The corresponding work would ideally be based on bite-sized projects that newcomers can tackle, i.e. not be specific to a single effort, but more about maintenance/bug fixing, debugging (segfaults, memory leaks).

For the same reason, it would make sense to introduce/establish different "levels" of commit access, where new core developers are required to only touch optional code paths that are not triggered by default (think fgcommands, autopilot components), so that the chance for breakage is lower. While others can watch newcomers and their commits.

git commit hooks could be triggered to monitor the corresponding commits, e.g. to confine people to certain directories/files

From a coding standpoint, it would make sense for the remaining core developers to come up with a list of tasks that they officially endorse (e.g. avoid raw pointers, use SGSharedPtr, use osg::ref_ptr, get rid of tied properties, encapsulate/get rid of legacy OpenGL code etc), which should translate into a general willingness to review/commit related changes, as long as "release early & often" is complied with by the contributors.

Once such a list of "officially-endorsed" tasks is created, we can help and create the corresponding tutorials on the wiki, so that people can start working on such tasks, with the mid-term goal being to be grant commit access to newcomers help with reviewing bug reports.

If you were asking me, I would prioritize anything that helps improve troubleshooting for end-users, e.g. extending the log file, CrashRpt integration and exposing more runtime stuff to the property tree - exposing a variable to the property tree isn't rocket science, and there isn't much chance for breakage either, but it can tremendously help others provide actionable bug reports.

For insance, this kind of stuff is easy to do with just a handful of SG APIs, but it can greatly help improve troubleshooting on the forum, and the quality of bug reports in the tracker:

http://wiki.flightgear.org/Towards_bett ... leshooting
Image

(it's really just using 2 APIs: SGSubsystem and PropertyObject<>)

In other words, you really only need to be able to build SG/FG and know a little about C++ and classes to come up with an entirely self-contained, and OPTIONAL, feature - that would help improve the quality of bug reports enormously.
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby CaptB » Mon Nov 23, 2015 6:37 pm

Sebulba wrote in Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:57 pm:
So, does anyone have a proposal on how to help accelerate the development of the project? Would this proposal involve crowdfunding campaigns? Shall we discuss in this context any further, or is this possibility ruled out? Please everyone, stay on topic.

Thanks :)


a, b andc d have a common element, namely attracting people.It has been mentioned that attracting people is not a goal.
Last edited by CaptB on Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: FlightGear Development Push

Postby Hooray » Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:24 pm

I would not necessarily say so, getting more contributors involved is not a bad thing - as long as the project itself is able to deal with new contributors and contributions (in the form of reviewing patches, merge requests - or even just bug reports).

It only starts to become frustrating if people are getting the impression that their investment (spare time spent contributing to the project) is not honored. If that is taken care of, there should be nothing preventing anybody from getting more people involved.
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