<select> dropdown update 3

14 December, 2016 § 1 Comment

First, let me say that the students working on this project have done a great job. Secondly, let me say that I’ve not done a great job blogging about their work. I will try to make up for it in this post.

Since the previous post a lot has happened: we had our hack-weekend at MSU, the students implemented the features we asked them to work on, a bonus feature got implemented, the students made a video about their project, and then they presented their project as part of their end-of-the-semester Design Day exhibition.

I’ll go through each item of the above list:

Our “hack-weekend” at MSU

On about the fifth weekend of the project, Mike and I visited the MSU campus to work with the students and familiarize them with the project and the Mozilla codebase. We covered all aspects of the tools: Bugzilla, Mercurial, Reviewboard, and the Browser Toolbox. We gave short lessons on interprocess communication, low-level CSS styling implementation, and distributed version control systems.

What worked

  • The location and facilities were great. We had solid connections to the internet, a comfortable room, and no hassles.
  • The team was very astute and asked many questions as we were going along.
  • Bugzilla and Reviewboard seemed to get understood well.
  • There was tons of paired programming and hacking on the project, and great career discussions as well.
  • The students wrote some amazing automated tests for searching in the dropdown. It is great to give students a real-world project that includes so many parts of good software development (automated tests, code reviews, version control, paired programming, code linting, and fixing regression bugs).

What didn’t work

  • I think we should have done the hack weekend a little sooner in the semester. The sooner the better, as we can try to get ahead of any tooling issues, ambiguities in the spec, and technologies that should be covered. For example, at the beginning of the semester I asked that each student complete a set of online tutorials. After going through the lessons I got the feeling that there was still some room to grow and understand more about the programming languages we were using.
  • Mercurial seemed very hard to get a grasp of. Some of this may have been due to the paired programming where the students were sharing patches, and the rest is probably due to Mike and I not having a solid plan at the beginning of the semester as to how the students can share and update each others patches. We should probably set up a non-publishing user repo that all students will have access to and push to as they are working on the project.
  • The students used Mercurial’s bookmark-based development model, and I still use the Mercurial Queues method. This meant that I wasn’t much help when the students got stuck. I’m switching my development model to bookmark-based development before the next semester starts.
  • Two of the groups of students were paired up. This seemed to work OK in the beginning, but soon it seemed that the students weren’t doing a good job of switching off. I think we will try to do less pairing at the beginning, and maybe introduce pairing towards the end once the students have gotten a grasp of the tools, codebase, and project requirements.

The work that got completed

Mark landed the styling changes for the dropdown. The dropdowns now have more padding around each item, show a grey background for theheaders, and have correct hover styling. All of this work was for Windows-only, as Linux and OSX looked fine already.

Mark also landed a patch to increase the padding of items when the dropdown is opened on a touch-enabled device. I landed a small follow-up to only show the increased padding when a touch-event was used to open the dropdown.

Jared landed an OSX-only patch to open the dropdown vertically centered on the selected item. This brings us in parity with Safari on OSX. We may possibly do the same for Windows now that Edge is showing the behavior there, though it is not planned for anytime soon. This feature was a bonus, as we didn’t expect the students to have the time to get to it when the project was started.

The work that is near completion

Tyler and Jared worked on implementing search within the dropdown. The search box only shows up if there are over 40 items in the list, and it will provide live filtering of the menuitems. There are some cool automated tests that Tyler wrote that verify the functionality works. These tests will be easy to expand upon in the future if any regressions are found or the feature is to get expanded. This is pretty close to landing and will hopefully land this week or next, depending on how quick the students are at responding to the review feedback.

Michael and Fred worked on getting single-process Firefox to use the multi-process Firefox implementation of the <select> dropdowns. This work was pretty low-level and required the students to set up a debugger on a separate machine and use remoting to control the browser (to avoid issues with focus changing). This is getting pretty close to landing, but will need a separate bug fixed first before the students can push further on it. I hope we can get it to land in the next couple weeks.

Project video

As part of the course requirements, the students made a video to showcase their work. Watch below, it’s pretty good (and funny too!)

Sorry for not blogging about their project more often. The students did a great job on the project and we hope to see them stay active in the Mozilla community going forward.

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