Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

QA Community and Mozilla

QMO LogoI’ve been thinking a bit about the Mozilla community and quality assurance (aka “testing”) for Firefox and Thunderbird lately. This is an area of the community that is a lot less visible to much of the world but one of the places where the Mozilla community actually shines. I think a lot more could be done though.

A lot of people think of open source as contributing code and this is a very visible aspect of open source projects. People don’t always consider the other aspects, especially when blogging or in the press. This makes sense because many open source projects are centered around a few people trying to get something done or fulfilling a specific need. They do these by writing code to solve the problem that they are seeing. In the course of doing so, they dogfood their own code, find problems, fix them (repeat). This is the life-cycle of many smaller scale projects but is much less so on larger ones, especially popular ones with end users.

On many larger projects, things begin to differentiate and you have a lot of people using the resulting code who don’t necessarily write code for it. Many of them are simply trying to get their jobs done, like webmasters or sysadmins using Apache, or they are simply day to day users, like many Linux users. Firefox and Thunderbird both fall into this category since they have millions of users but there are not millions of people contributing code to either project or the underlying platform. (I would be interested in the numbers, as a curiosity, of code contributors over the lifetime of these…)

Bring this to the day to day world… I work in QA on the various releases, especially the security releases for Thunderbird and Firefox. One of the things that MoCo QA ponders about is how we can build up or increase the QA participation of the overall Mozilla community. The Development community, those that write code, is often much more visibly active, but we have tens of thousands of people in the Mozilla community downloading nightly builds. We also have people participating in the running of tests in Litmus or the occasional testday.

The question is how to get more people involved in QA. What is it that drives people to participate there and what would encourage people to be more involved. Obviously, we can use all of the help that we can get, whether it is in the Beta testing of security releases for or the work on the upcoming Firefox 3. This includes writing of bugs in bugzilla, triaging the bugs that come in, confirming reported bugs, and the running of test cases through Litmus. We can also use help maintaining, updating, and creating new test cases. Firefox 2 and Thunderbird 2 test cases are fairly complete but there are a lot of changes in Firefox 3 and test cases need to be updated for this as new features go in.

Towards the end of making QA more approachable, we’ve recently been adding more content to the new QA community site, quality.mozilla.org. This includes forums and documentation but both could use a lot of help from the community.

I’m also very interested in what would encourage more involvement from the community with QA. What would be helpful to you? What would you like to see? What makes you want to be less involved or turns you away from it?

I encourage people to leave comments here, post in the forums above, or even to e-mail qa@mozilla.org. Building up QA participation is a goal that all of us working in QA have but is is hard to know what would encourage more participation or what gets in the way for people. I’d like to hear from community members on this.