Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion


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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 16:33

Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

The intent of this forum thread is to prevent the sort of situations which caused dpeg's departure (the apparent major update of a feature without the input of the feature creator).

Relevant dev wiki topic is here.

Part of the chatter on the Interview with Dpeg thread, and in fact part of the interview itself (brought up by an interviewer) is that there is an apparent greater distribution of concepts and the discussion thereof without appropriate coordination. This thread is an attempt to put a handle on coordinating those efforts and I would love others to become active in the debate. This means YOU if you are reading this.

Popular ways to chat about DCSS Development
You have developers who are always accessible via the IRC, including some who only are.
You have developers and designers who use the wiki for coordinating and some who likely do not.
You have developers and designers who use the mantis bug tracker (likely all).
You have developers and designers who chat on the Tavern.
You also have some developers apparently only accessible via the mailing list.
And you have (if I am to understand) some who only use the SA forums.

That's 6 separate locations. I'm sure there are more. I'm not suggesting to get rid of any of them, but in my time as a developer/designer for another project, our project fell apart when the consistency of use for ideas and concepts became uncoordinated due to one developer's dislike of webpages, another's mistrust of forums, another's inexperience with using a wiki, another's insistence on using his experimental proprietary forum software (which was horrible), etc.

I see potentially the same thing happening here.

CHATTER ON THE DEV WIKI
Use of the developer wiki fell low for a while, and I understand that was an attempt at dpeg to organize everyone to use it, but due to the overall initial uncoordination of the beast, it became a huge turnoff. It has recently become more active and that is awesome. One major problem with keeping chatter/discussion on The Dev Wiki is that the Wiki software being used focuses on categorical organization rather than discussion. Example: The software for Wikipedia (MediaWiki ?) has a separate discussion page per page created; the DokuWiki software for the DCSS Wiki does not.

This causes posts of chatter to the DCSS wiki to become unmanageable and require eventual additional work by others for page cleanup, especially when an idea or concept is enhanced or modified in such a way to makes the chatter irrelevant.

CHATTER ON IRC
I'm not experienced enough with IRC to even discuss that portion or how decisions and directions are made, coordinated, and recorded through it. JPEG does an excellent job citing the problems with IRC in her post below.

CHATTER ON TAVERN
The only downsides I see to using the tavern are (1) some backwards luddite developer refusing to use the internet (it's happened!) (2) unnecessary input from trolls like myself that can be resolved via diligent moderation.

CONCLUSION
While I understand any major patch or feature is truly up to the desire and time of a given interested developer, I want to help you organize this process so that comments or ideas about similar things aren't strewn about lost in either (1) the forum (2) somewhere in the depths of a wiki page (3) a comment in a mantis bug (4) lost in the scroll of IRC (5) in a random e-mail.
Last edited by XuaXua on Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 23:19, edited 10 times in total.
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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 16:36

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

...
Last edited by XuaXua on Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 23:17, edited 2 times in total.
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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 16:49

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

I'm sorry, what's the point of this thread? Is a meta-thread? To discuss how to discuss?
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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 16:59

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

It is a thread to discuss how to bring everthing here to be discussed so it can be sent out to some places to be discussed some more, I think.
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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 18:04

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

text moved to first post
Last edited by XuaXua on Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 23:17, edited 2 times in total.
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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 21:11

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

As far as I understand, one of the devs (forgot, who, sorry) is planning to send regular updates of what's being discussed on IRC and in the Tavern over the (dev?) mailing list. It's completely fallen out of use, but people only need to subscribe to it and get the necessary information right into their mailbox. This is awesome news and I wish someone (myself included) had thought of it while I was still on the team.

I completely agree that this is a problem. In fact, one of the main things that caused me to reduce my involvement in the development process back then (I've since stopped completely due to work) was that development discussion had moved to IRC, which I was uncomfortable with in the first place, and which moreover was unsuitable to me because of my not having access to a standing free internet connection. Whenever I looked by, hardly anyone was available or was too busy to talk (even today, I think that the timezone differences in the devteam make voting by chat problematic), but if you do get to talking, it's an enormous timesink because you keep waiting for people (who are busy with work or dinner or whatever) to reply to the most recent point in an ongoing discussion. Anyway, I decided not to use the IRC and as a consequence felt completely out of the loop as more and more changes ended up in the code that I hadn't seen coming at all. (Pointing out that "it's on the wiki" doesn't help because a lot of stuff is on the wiki, some of which is never going to get implemented.)

I guess I should have voiced that feeling back then, but in truth, it took me a very long time to realize that this was the root of the problem for me. I thought I was just losing interest, or overreacting to insignificant details, or whatever. I suspect I'd have left much earlier if it hadn't been for dpeg keeping me up-to-date with what was happening and explaining the more surprising changes to me.

The wiki is not suited to in-depth discussion, and forum threads tend to get digress from the main topic. A bug tracker is a bug tracker and should not be used for in-depth discussion of upcoming features, either. In my opinion, a mailing list (or simple round mails to all persons involved) is still the best way to discuss a big, but clearly contained issue. All of these have their uses, and have to be used in combination to the maximum effect. An idea could easily start out in one of the forums, subsequently get posted on Mantis from where it is migrated to the wiki, where it lies forgotten for a while until another player brings it up on the Tavern, where it gets discovered by devs who discuss it on IRC before it is implemented within a couple of days, and might still completely surprise a part-time developer who was busy with real life for a few weeks.

Oh, and I think you can strike SA from your list of dev discussion places. While some of the devs may talk to players in that forum, it's not used for discussion within the devteam, much less so than the Tavern, which also does not fulfill that restriction.
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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 21:28

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

Beware: this post may sound like some sort of advertising :-)

From my experience as a professional software developer, I can tell you that it is important to have all those stuff in one place (bug tracking/discussion/wiki and even source control if possible).

Maybe you (the developers) are interested in using a project management/issue tracking tool like FogBugz by FogCreek.(http://www.fogcreek.com/fogbugz/). It offers bug tracking, wiki, mailing list-like discussion forums and source control, all accessible via a great web interface. It's not free, but they offer a free version limited to 2 users (Students and Startup Edition. But maybe you could contact them and ask for more users or a free version or a reduced price. I'm pretty sure they would make advances to you).

What's totally great is that you can freely link bug reports, wiki pages, commits to source control, emails and discussion entries etc. with each other in a simply manner, so nothing gets lost and every piece of information of a topic stays together across source control/wiki/bug tracker etc.

We used it to sucessfully get rid of a crazy development environment consisting of SVN/Mantis/bulletin board/homebrewed bug tracking tools/random email discussions/trac and merged it into one tool.

That does not mean FogBugz would be 100% perfect for DC:SS, but maybe you get an idea of what kind of tools you can use to make your (developer-) life simpler and more efficent.

P.S.: I am in no way related to FogCreek, and there are a lot of other (even free) development tools like FogBugz (jire/lighthouse etc.), but FogBugz is the best one IMHO. Just start a free account and test it yourself. It's just a great piece of software.

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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 21:41

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

jpeg wrote:As far as I understand, one of the devs (forgot, who, sorry) is planning to send regular updates of what's being discussed on IRC and in the Tavern over the (dev?) mailing list. It's completely fallen out of use, but people only need to subscribe to it and get the necessary information right into their mailbox. This is awesome news and I wish someone (myself included) had thought of it while I was still on the team.

Don't say that the mailing list is dead, it isn't. It has a very low traffic but AFAIK, all active devs read it, and many players interested in the game design do too. It's the default address to answer to commit mails sent to c-r-c and it works well (it did very recently). We always had a shoot first ask questions later policy (devs can commit without consensus, if others disagree we discuss and it can eventually be reverted).

It's the perfect place to send summaries of what's been discussed on IRC or the Tavern as evilmike plans to do. It was used by dpeg to set up todo lists for new releases and assign work to individual devs. Feature planning has been moved to the wiki since, but I'm not sure if it's as efficient as the mailing is (I'm personally guilty of setting up the 0.9 and 0.10 plannings on the wiki and not maintaining them).

I think all active devs follow either IRC or the tavern. Those should be the primary places for debate. If a discussion about balance or design starts on Mantis or wiki, it should be brought to one of them (ideally both). When something significant is being discussed, it should be announced on the ML to make sure that everyone is in the loop.
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Post Wednesday, 29th February 2012, 23:01

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

jpeg wrote:In fact, one of the main things that caused me to reduce my involvement {...} development discussion had moved to IRC, which I was uncomfortable with in the first place, and which moreover was unsuitable to me because of my not having access to a standing free internet connection. Whenever I looked by, hardly anyone was available or was too busy to talk {...} if you do get to talking, it's an enormous timesink because you keep waiting for people {...} to reply to the most recent point in an ongoing discussion. Anyway, I decided not to use the IRC and as a consequence felt completely out of the loop as more and more changes ended up in the code that I hadn't seen coming at all. (Pointing out that "it's on the wiki" doesn't help because a lot of stuff is on the wiki, some of which is never going to get implemented.)


The above is precisely the reason why I have not begun any development beyond very basic text and scripting, and have stuck to filling tile requests (my least talent).
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 08:13

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

galehar wrote:We always had a shoot first ask questions later policy (devs can commit without consensus, if others disagree we discuss and it can eventually be reverted).

This may be but I wasn't aware of that!

I have a hunch it has to do with the much decreased time from "idea" to "commit" since IRC came in use. For what it's worth, I've been caught by changes (some, but not all of them reverts) fully surprised. What is the point of me writing long texts on the dev wiki, explaining the pros and cons of something, if I find a commit going against that in my mail box? That is not to say that may ideas and treatises are perfect, far from it. But in the case of constriction, to be specific, I thought I made it clear that restricting/denying teleports is the most interesting tactical application. If it turns out to be out of the question (of which I am not at all convinced) then I'd like to have heard that -- for example, by being summoned to IRC or by mail.
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 09:12

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

dpeg wrote:
galehar wrote:We always had a shoot first ask questions later policy (devs can commit without consensus, if others disagree we discuss and it can eventually be reverted).

This may be but I wasn't aware of that!

Well, that's what you said to me when I first got commit rights. Something like "you don't need agreement from everyone to commit something. If someone disagree, they will yell. Commits can be reverted.". And it seems to me that's what we said to every new devs since.
Now, regarding the famous constriction translocation change, this is exactly what KB said ("reverts can be reverted!"). That being said, given the importance of the change, it would have been more diplomatic to suggest it on c-r-d. I guess diplomacy isn't his strongest skill :) (remember the food-sanity branch?)
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 13:11

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

I'm not a dev, but I use most of the different places for discussion. All the modes of communication have some advantages and disadvantages, and optimally they should each be used for the things they are good at.

Tavern: a lot of non-devs post on the tavern, which makes it a great place for devs to brainstorm, get input from a large group of people, and sanity-check ideas. And it's a great place for players to suggest changes and see if their ideas spark any dev interest. However, long threads always seem to degenerate into repetition of the same points and discussion of side-issues. Threads don't just stop when everything relevant has been said. Diligent moderation can help, but even most "bad" posts bring something to the discussion, so moderation can only go so far. This means the tavern is (and likely always will be) bad at summarizing the results of a discussion, and for working out details. And those are the things actually relevant to the one implementing an idea. Civilized discussion of ideas just doesn't seem to be sustainable for very long on the tavern. Also the tavern is rather hard to search.

Wiki: wiki edits usually seem to have more thought put into them. People editing the wiki are much more likely to just say nothing if they don't have anything relevant to add, which keeps wiki pages much shorter and more to the point than tavern threads. This is great for people who don't have much time. Also a lot less people use the wiki, which keeps the number of different opinions low. Thanks to the list of recent changes it's very easy to keep up with the wiki, and thanks to XuaXua's wiki cleanup it is now pretty easy to find older pages. The wiki seems very good at presenting (and preserving) proposals that have had some thought put into them, and to discuss specific details of them. It is very bad for brainstorming and the early phases of developing an idea.

IRC: most of the active devs are on IRC. Of course not always, but it's an easy way to talk to someone specific without bothering the whole mailing list. Just use the !tell command to relay a message if someone isn't around. Some people read the backlog, so just saying something and checking back when someone pokes you about it also works fairly well. Brainstorming works well if enough people are around, and so does quickly asking for someone's opinion on something (like a wiki page or tavern thread). It is the most immediate way of public discussion, the quickest way to get a response from someone, and the most conductive to actual dialog instead of formal discussion. This makes it hard to keep up with, but also extremely useful. Results tend to either end up as a commit (or a bullet point on someone's to do list) or a wiki entry, or are lost (there are logs, but those are hard to search and impossible to reference easily). That a lot of good and relevant discussion is lost is one of the biggest disadvantages, but probably cant be fixed. The other big problem is that it's very hard to keep up with. Evilmike's summaries should help a lot with this problem. I can definitely see how someone not on IRC would feel left out.

Mantis: it's a bug tracker, and it does what it's supposed to very well. The biggest problems in my opinion are that a lot of minor bugs (mostly weird exploits) simply aren't reported, and that there are a lot of stale issues (mostly old feature requests, but also many bugs from old versions that cant be easily reproduced).

Mailing list: the only way to reach every dev (most likely even many that are not currently active). People tend to send things to the mailing list only with good reason, which is a good thing IMO considering the number of subscribers.

I think connecting the channels better would be a huge step towards better communication. Linking relevant tavern discussion on the wiki and vice versa is probably a good idea, but telling people where to discuss is probably a bad idea. I'm looking forward to evilmike's first IRC summary mail, too!

Edit: that's what I get for writing this before checking my mail! Great summary, evilmike! A lot of stuff that would otherwise have been lost also got brought up again, so this seems to solve most of the issues of IRC.
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 17:36

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

AS someone who is not on the mailing list nor can check his mail or access IRC until the evenings, can you reiterate evilmike's post here, or is that not an option?

One of the things I started doing, if you do a search against me on Mantis, is as a bug submitter I started going through the bugs with the lowest numbers and evaluating them against my knowledge of existing bugs. I related a couple of them together, etc.

I would suggest that once a {period of time}, each developer try to evaluate 2 bugs at the lowest numbers and evaluate them by posting input to the bug log, try to fix the bug, or close them.
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 18:47

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

The mailing list is archived here.

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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 18:54

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

XuaXua wrote:AS someone who is not on the mailing list nor can check his mail or access IRC until the evenings, can you reiterate evilmike's post here, or is that not an option?

I want to send these to a single source, and I picked the mailing list for a reason. I'm not going to post these anywhere else. If you don't want to receive emails, you can read the crawl-ref-discuss archives. It's completely public.
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 19:46

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

That's fine; I didn't know there was an archive; have only known about the mailing list for a bit.
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Post Thursday, 1st March 2012, 22:56

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

XuaXua wrote:One of the things I started doing, if you do a search against me on Mantis, is as a bug submitter I started going through the bugs with the lowest numbers and evaluating them against my knowledge of existing bugs. I related a couple of them together, etc.

Thanks a lot for doing this. There is obviously more bug reports than we can handle, this kind of help is very much appreciated. You can also try to reproduce them and put a comment telling about the results of the test.

XuaXua wrote:I would suggest that once a {period of time}, each developer try to evaluate 2 bugs at the lowest numbers and evaluate them by posting input to the bug log, try to fix the bug, or close them.

A "random bug" button would be great. This is the only sensible way to go about bugfixing a roguelike :roll:
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Post Monday, 5th March 2012, 19:59

Re: Dev Wiki vs. IRC vs. Tavern for Discussion

galehar wrote:
XuaXua wrote:One of the things I started doing, if you do a search against me on Mantis, is as a bug submitter I started going through the bugs with the lowest numbers and evaluating them against my knowledge of existing bugs. I related a couple of them together, etc.

Thanks a lot for doing this. There is obviously more bug reports than we can handle, this kind of help is very much appreciated. You can also try to reproduce them and put a comment telling about the results of the test.

XuaXua wrote:I would suggest that once a {period of time}, each developer try to evaluate 2 bugs at the lowest numbers and evaluate them by posting input to the bug log, try to fix the bug, or close them.

A "random bug" button would be great. This is the only sensible way to go about bugfixing a roguelike :roll:

Live by the RNG, die by the RNG!! :lol:

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