Add Ons handling

Christopher Leidigh cleidigh at gmail.com
Sat Mar 23 21:56:38 UTC 2019


All

I'd like to introduce myself and at the risk of being a bit precocious
for a newbie, offer thoughts on the add-ons situation.

I'm Christopher located in Providence Rhode Island south of Boston, MA
in the US.  I have just recently volunteered to join up to work
close to full-time and at least initially focused on add-ons. I have
started working with Ryan to gear up and dive into several issues and
needs in this area.  How I got here is directly relevant to some of the
issues
being raised.

I have been a Thunderbird user practically from day one.  I also have
setup my wife's business of 3-4 people utilizing Thunderbird and a variety
of extensions.  Recently  the office told me something said stopped working.
Since I am not in the office and was not aware of the failing add-ons due to
the recent Thunderbird updates.

I started looking into things, first the add-ons and subsequently the status
of Thunderbird itself.  Echoing some of the other comments in this thread,
I really started to worry that Thunderbird was spiraling downward.  Since
I have time, I cold contacted 3 separate authors of the 4 important add-ons
for wife's office.  My experience was the following:  first, I had to  find
how to contact them , then I had to ask and propose that I become a
co-author
to continue their add-ons.  Fortunately all three were open and interested.
Over the past two months I have updated all four for TB60, the most popular
with about 9k users for TB66 with ongoing experiments for the others.  So
let
me describe my impressions from this:

- I did not find the type of community support sites similar to the Visual
Studio Code project (been working on this for two years)
- Disqcus has practically no activity
- The MozillaZine site was reasonably active, in fact several people were
helpful
and working together specifically on getting some unofficial upgrades
to various add-ons.  This was despite the fact that the particular board
(Thunderbird builds)
was not for development questions.
- I read numerous comments and blog entries about developers frustration
about the required changes and direction of Thunderbird.
- While the required changes for TB60 were relatively straightforward, the
implied requirements for TB68 appeared significant , but most importantly
completely ambiguous.

My next step was to reach out to get a better idea of what's going on and
look into helping out for all the reasons above.  Here are several of the
areas
Ryan and I have been discussing working on:

- A "hook-up" effort/program to more efficiently and easily join up new
developers with existing add-on authors not able or not interested in
supporting their
addons.  I have envisioned both a personal (official) effort as well as
information
and infrastructure on the ANT site.
- Break-Down and analyze the state of all add-ons and authors (Ryan has
started out this)
- Try to get some interviews and direct feedback from some of developers
- Determine any tools and infrastructure to ease the transition
- Get some more regular community communication going
- Look at Reachout methods to encourage community expansion (colleges,
GitHub et cetera)
- Create a crack team for transition help (perhaps operate as care holder
authors temporarily)
- Continue transition documentation and examples (I have some started on
this with Thunderstorm
repository focusing on side-by-side legacy versus web extension
help/examples)

There are other things as well, but I probably already bent too many ears...

Re: some of the options discussed specifically about out on abandonment:
- I agree with the idea of retaining as many developers as possible, not
alienating
- I agree with the open source licenses and forking should be acceptable
without additional terms
- If we can do some of the items above with success combined with
coordinated efforts
  to takeover/transition add-ons with author cooperation, that will be best.
- I think it's reasonable to have a policy on both abandoned add-ons and
forked
  projects.
- All add-ons should be encouraged ( required?) to be hosted on a public
repository
- If we have scenarios where we will remove add-ons from the server, they
should go into
  a public repository of shelved add-ons.  (I believe there is something
like this for legacy
   Firefox add-ons on GitHub)
- One issue indirectly raised, but not discussed - how to deal with
developers receiving
  donations, one could imagine some bad scenarios taking over an add-on
with money flowing.

Sorry if this was too much rambling, hopefully useful.  I am really hoping
to push forward
on as many of the above action items as possible, but with good agreement.
I am willing and able
to be guided/assigned items since I do not want to pretend to come in with
a bunch of preconceptions.

Regards
Christopher Leidigh
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