Towards the end of the year, The Document Foundation would like to share achievements in 2014 with our community and our generous donours, to whom we’d like to express our sincerest gratitude and thanks for their incredible and wonderful support and their invaluable contributions!
I’m Robinson Tryon and I’m a QA Engineer for The Document Foundation. I became quite interested in computers in high school and got my first taste of Free Software playing around with RedHat Linux on a spare machine.
In college I started to study computer science in earnest, and found myself very interested in the topics of human-computer interaction and computing freedom. I can’t remember who first introduced me to the Free Software Foundation, but I have fond memories from my undergraduate years of attending annual membership meetings at MIT and thinking of how I’d like to get a job where I could spend my time working on Free Software.
In the years since I graduated with a degree in computer science, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with a number of different organizations and labs on Free Software projects. I’ve worked on a multimedia engine used to create training simulations for doctors and first-responders, tools for teaching non-technical people how to use programs such as git and ssh, and a series of web-based games designed to help libraries, museums, and other organizations crowd-source metadata for images and video in their collections. I was very excited to join the Document Foundation this year and bring my experience to the LibreOffice project.
My first contributions to LibreOffice came early-on in 2010 when the project was just starting out. The renewed energy and community-focus espoused by the leaders heartened me, and the reduced barriers to contribution sounded very promising. I tested out new builds and made a few small edits to the wiki, but didn’t get seriously involved until a couple of years later. Up until that point, I was just a user.
When I was still in college, I remember running Sun’s OpenOffice.org off of a Knoppix LiveCD. I desperately wanted to find an alternative to running MS-Office to type up all of my papers and reports, and just using a text editor wasn’t quite cutting it. Although I wasn’t always able to work on my own desktop computer in my dorm room, carrying around a Knoppix CD made it possible for me to boot-up and run a Free Software office suite on the public cluster machines.
By the time LibreOffice had its first release, I had upgraded from the CD and could carry around Free Software programs on a USB stick, ready to be run on any computer. I currently carry a USB stick with builds of LibreOffice for Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac. My thinking is that if a friend ever needs a hand opening documents on a computer, it’d be great for me to have the right tool ready to go for them. In fact, using LibreOffice to help out a friend is what got me very involved with LibreOffice and the QA Team.
A friend of mine had a large number of documents in proprietary formats (word processing, spreadsheet, etc..) and reading through the LibreOffice documentation I found out that the suite has some excellent tools for conversion of documents from one format to another, including the ability to bulk-convert via the command line one hundred documents as easily as one document. While I was doing my research, I started to chat with contributors to the LibreOffice project, I attended a couple of QA Meetings, and before I knew it was an active member of the QA Team!
When I first started out contributing to LibreOffice, I focused on some basic bug triage tasks and filled-in missing pages on the TDF wiki. As my understanding of the project and its members grew, I was able to make contributions to Bugzilla, to the BSA, and MediaWiki, and was able to help set up tools such as ownCloud. I currently work on a large number of different QA tasks for LibreOffice, including generating binary-bisection or “bibisect” repositories, improving and updating QA documentation on the TDF wiki, and overseeing the implementation of improvements to Bugzilla. Right now I’m gaining experience as a Release Engineer for LibreOffice.
In addition to the technical tasks I undertake for LibreOffice, I work on LibreOffice outreach — both in the US and abroad. Although we have a large number of active users, only a small fraction of them are active contributors. We are always looking to expand the number of contributors in each of our teams, and are excited about getting more people involved in QA through our BugHunting sessions and LibreFests.
A LibreFest is usually a one or two-day event in which various LibreOffice teams may participate. LibreFests, just like hackfests, are typically held in person, as that’s the best way for us to collaborate with and teach new contributors. When the QA Team participates in a LibreFest, users are asked to perform basic or advanced bug triage, to bibisect regressions, and to file new bugs that they observe. With experienced LibreOffice team members present, users feel much more comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone and taking on QA tasks that they wouldn’t try to tackle by themselves.
In our BugHunting sessions, we spend a weekend (usually Fri-Sun) testing the latest builds of a new Release Branch. One of the tools we use to test the builds is MozTrap — a test case management system that help to ensure greater reliability and consistency. Through extensive use of LibreOffice, we hope to shake-out any obvious bugs and squash them before going further in with the release process.
Speaking of BugHunting sessions, this weekend (Dec 19-21), we’ll be having a BugHunting session for the upcoming 4.4 Release Branch. We’ve worked to make it easy for newcomers to participate. To join in, or just for more information, see: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/BugHunting_Session_4.4.0_RC1
If you’re looking for a way to participate in LibreOffice, or just curious about what we do in QA, please stop by our mailing list or our IRC channel. There’s so much more that we do that can’t be contained in a single blog post, and we’d love to tell you all about it!