OpenCollar Development Life Cycle

Developing OpenCollar requires collaboration and decisions from a bunch of people. This document outlines how that should work.

Feature Decisions

Someone’s got to decide what we’ll include in OpenCollar. The founders (Athaliah Opus and Nirea Mercury) have final decision-making power there, but most features don’t start with them. Most often, someone in the community has an idea, they propose it (either in chat or even better, as a pull request), and if there’s consensus that it’s something we want in the collar, it gets added.

That consensus is the hard part. There are a lot of competing concerns at play:

  1. Is this the kind of feature that we want in OpenCollar?
  2. Will this feature be used by most users, or just a small subset?
  3. How much does this new feature complicate OpenCollar? Is the additional functionality worth that additional complexity?
  4. Is this going to be a surprising change to how existing collar users expect things to work?
  5. Who’s going to do the work to add this?

If you want to propose a new feature for OpenCollar, there are a couple things you can do to improve your odds of success:

  • Communicate clearly, in durable written form. If it’s a small feature, then a paragraph or two in a Github issue might be all you need. If it’s a big feature, or especially if it’s a complicated architectural change, then you might need to create a separate document or diagrams to make it easy to understand.
  • Seek feedback. Discuss your proposal with the project leaders and be prepared with answers to the questions above. The OpenCollar Discord server is the best place for this. Consider gathering feedback from the larger community, such as through group chats or a poll.

Writing Code

Anyone can write code for OpenCollar. You should commit changes on your own Git fork, then submit them to the official repository in the form of a Github pull request.

Before submitting your changes, make sure that you have tested them inworld and they function as expected.

If you’re fixing a bug, please include a reference to the Github issue in your pull request.

If you’re adding a new feature that was already discussed and approved for inclusion in the collar, include a reference to that conversation (like to a Github issue or a Discord chat) so others have the full context.

If you’re adding a new feature that hasn’t already been approved for inclusion in the collar, then the comments in your pull request can be where that discussion takes place.

When at all possible, your pull request should contain just one “concern”. Don’t make a pull request for 5 different bugs. Please submit those as 5 different pull requests. If adding a new feature, make the pull request for just that feature, and not a bunch of other bug fixes as well. This makes it far easier for people to review your code and approve the easy stuff, while tackling the hard/controversial stuff separately.

Your code should comply with the OpenCollar style guide. (TODO: insert link here). In fact, some pull requests do nothing but change existing code to comply with that style. Such pull requests tend to have a lot of changes in them. When making such a pull request, please make it only about style changes.

Your pull request should also include an update to the release notes file, containing a bullet point with a one-line summary of your change.

If you’re adding a new feature, your pull request should include an addition to the manual test suite explaining how to test it.

Reviewing Code

Thousands of people put their trust in OpenCollar every day by wearing our scripts around their virtual necks. To maintain that trust, we need to ensure that any updates we release are stable and secure. We also need to ensure that new features have been approved as described above. We use a code review process to ensure these things.

If you have a pull request that you think is ready for merging into OpenCollar, you can request a review in the OpenCollar dev-chat channel in Discord, or the OpenCollar R&D channel inworld, or by sending a direct IM to ròan (Silkie Sabra) or Nirea Mercury inworld. For more prompt attention, you should probably do all of the above.

When reviewing a pull request, the reviewer will ask themselves the following questions:

  • Can I understand this code? If the reviewer can’t understand what’s going on, they will leave a comment like “Can you explain what’s going on here?” Such occasions may point out places where there should be more comments in the code, a clearer structure to the code, or a separate design doc that will help coders understand how it’s supposed to work.
  • Does this code comply with the style guide?
  • Will this code actually work?
  • Does this change improve the overall health of the codebase?
  • Is the change going to introduce any new security problems? (E.g., ways for someone not on the collar’s Owner/Trusted lists to send commands that they shouldn’t be able to send.)
  • Is there an entry in the release notes for this change?
  • Is this a new feature? If so, is there consensus among the project leaders that it’s a feature that should be in the collar? Is there an update to the manual test suite describing how to test the new feature? Are there updates to the documentation explaining how to use the new feature?

Note that review does NOT include asking whether the code is perfect. If it definitely improves the overall health of the codebase, that’s enough.

The reviewer will use comments in the pull request to provide suggestions or point out problems.

If your pull request is just a bug fix, then the review should be quick and easy. If the pull request contains a new feature that hasn’t yet been approved for inclusion in the collar, then the pull request will sit while that discussion takes place. If the feature doesn’t get approved by the project leadership, the pull request will be closed.

Adding Reviewers

We can (and should!) add more reviewers over time. Nirea will add someone as a reviewer if:

  1. They know how to code in LSL, and know the OpenCollar style guide.
  2. They know how security and access control work in OpenCollar, and will not approve changes that undermine them.
  3. They have a track record of positively contributing to the OpenCollar community.
  4. They understand the difference between bug fixes and new features, and will refrain from merging new features that don’t have clear consensus or approval from the project leaders.

Branches

The master branch of the OpenCollar repository on Github will always contain the current official version of the code. All public releases will be merged there before being copied inworld and distributed in the update system.

New features for the upcoming feature release will be aggregated into a collector branch for that feature release, with a name like “features-2021-q2”. Pull requests that contain new features should target the current feature branch, and should pull it in to ensure that they’re compatible with other features being released at the same time.

Bug fixes should target the master branch. If we decide to bundle several bug fixes into one release, we can make a separate collector branch for it.

Testing and Releasing

There are two kinds of OpenCollar releases, each with their own process:

1. Feature releases

These happen fairly infrequently (maybe once per quarter). They contain new features that have been approved for inclusion in the collar and had a full manual test review.

Process:

  1. The project leaders and scripters decide it’s time to release the feature branch.
  2. All of the features are merged into the collector branch (if they haven’t been already).
  3. One of the approved code signers (Nirea or Aria, presently) copies the code inworld, sets it to the “OpenCollar” experience, and includes it in an updater object.
  4. The testing coordinator distributes the updater object to the R&D group and to tester volunteers as a release candidate.
  5. Volunteer testers collaborate to check all the things in the manual test suite. The testing coordinator keeps track of which tests have passed and which have failed.
  6. If there are failed tests, fixes must be committed, reviewed, and merged. The failed tests will be repeated, as well as tests for any features likely to be affected by the fix.
  7. When all tests pass, the version number is incremented appropriately, and the updater is given to Nirea to install in the inworld distribution system.

2. Bugfix releases

Bugfix releases can happen at any time. They will not happen for all bugs. A bugfix release will only be made if the bug (or bundle of bugs) is big enough that the pain of making everyone update is less than the pain of just living with the bug(s).

Process:

  1. The project leaders and scripters decide it’s time to make a bugfix release.
  2. One of the approved code signers (Nirea or Aria, presently) copies the code from the bugfix branch (or collector branch) inworld, sets it to the “OpenCollar” experience, and includes it in an updater object.
  3. An ad-hoc group of testers (or a single tester, for very small changes) validates that the fix works as intended, as well as related functionality that may have been affected by the fix.
  4. If there are failed tests, fixes must be committed, reviewed, and merged. The failed tests will be repeated, as well as tests for any features likely to be affected by the fix.
  5. When all tests pass, the version number is incremented appropriately, and the updater is given to Nirea to install in the inworld distribution system.

Versioning

OpenCollar follows semantic versioning. OpenCollar version numbers contain three parts, joined by a dot. Those parts are the major version, minor version, and patch version. In the number 8.2.1, the major version is 8, the minor version is 2, and the patch version is 1.

The patch version will be incremented at every bugfix release.

The minor version will be incremented at every feature release.

The major version will be incremented when a feature release breaks backwards compatibility with commands, 3rd party plugins, or interfaces to other systems (remote, AO, cuffs, furniture, etc.)

Not every version number will see a public release. Sometimes a problem is caught with a version before it gets distributed. To avoid confusion in that case, its version number will be skipped and the next one (containing the fixes) will be used.

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