This weekend is FOSDEM, the Free Open Source Software Developers’ Annual Meeting in Brussels. Ludovic Hirlimann (QA leader for Thunderbird at Mozilla) will be there, explaining about the recent developments in Thunderbird and what it is coming.
Last January 13th he came to our University to give a talk about Quality Assurance, Mozilla and Thunderbird. For personal reasons I could not attend that day to class, but that talk was the first one from a series for the “Case Studies II” subject in my master’s studies, and all of them are recorded and publicly available at MSWL blip.tv channel.
So, with a little bit of delay, I have watched the videos and read the slides that Hirlimann used to teach us many things about Quality Assurance in libre software.
About Quality Assurance, some things that I learned:
- It is needed because different actors are involved in the development process (the end-user, developers, marketing and sales, integrators…) and maybe not all of them have in their heads the same idea about the project. Coordination, and a common “language” is needed.
- Quality Assurance is not one more team of the project. It should be transversal to the software complete lifecycle: requirements should be specified clearly, all the components should have unit tests associated, new versions should clearly state the changes or differences from previous ones, maintenance tasks as bugfixing should ensure that they are not introducing new problems… Much more than testing.
- There are many tasks related to ensure quality in a software project, and some of them can be approached in a distributed way, with certain independence from each other, for example unit tests, or functionality tests. Open and distributed teams for quality assurance are possible, as it happens with the code development teams, localisation teams… But as always, a good coordination (both inside the quality assurance team, and with the other teams of the projects) is a key aspect for success.
Mozilla tries to maximize the benefits of these distributed, decentralized but coordinated effort for quality assurance in different ways:
- On one side, a stable quality assurance team is founded to ensure coordination. In the case of Thunderbird, the team has 15 members (not all of them at full time) and Ludovic Hirlimann is the coordinator.
- On the other side, Mozilla develop specific libre software tools (as Bugzilla for reporting and tracking bugs, Litmus for developing and managing tests, Mozmill for writing automated tests), use known third party tools, and write and publish comprenhensive documentation related to help testing and other quality assurance tasks, so anybody interested may easily join the QA team.
- Finally, they try to build community around Mozilla projects and “The Mozilla Difference” (being “a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the power of the Web in people’s hands“). Some examples of these community building efforts may be the Mozillians website, the Mozilla wiki (for example, how to help Thunderbird testing), and of course Ludovic Hirlimann’s talks!
Thunderbird, Icedove and me
At home I don’t use any email client, I use webmails. At job, when I was using Windows, I used to install Thunderbird and love it! Now I have Debian stable in my desktop and use Icedove (and still love it). The extensions that I like more are Email Address Crawler (gather all the email addreses with right click on an email folder), Remove Duplicate Messages Alternate (useful when importing inboxes), and Iceowl (the Debian package for Lightning, the great calendar for Thunderbird). After 3 years of spreading the word (not only me, but other happy Thunderbird users) it is the most used email client in my workplace, and there are only rare cases of help or support request that we could not deal with, whether recommending an extension to the user, or searching the solution in the MozillaZine Knowledge Base.