A Semester in Software Enginnering

10/22/12 - FOSS Community

Entering the Open Source Software community as a newcomer was an intimidating proposition at the start of the semester.   It is a community that has existed for nearly as long as the internet, and to think that someone with as little practical experience as I have, could alter or create code for thousands of users, was a little scary.  With that being said, all of my interaction so far with the community has been extremely positive.  

The majority of our interaction with Open Source Community, namely the Epiphany community so far has been about the requirements and functionality of the dialog extension we are developing.  A good portion of our early interaction has been through Professor Ellis, as she as more direct connections with the people directly involved on our project.  We have been submitting questions throughout our early development process to a common Wikipedia page, available to all of the members on this project.  We have been adding questions as they emerge, and members of the community have been taking their time to answer our questions.  

We have also done a bit of passive observing of the community.  We have spent a bit of time in the #a11y IRC chat room, listening in on meetings and watching the community interact with one another.  We have observed several discussions about the Epiphany project as a whole.  Even though these haven’t been about our project exactly, observing how all of these different people interact with one another has been beneficial to us going forward.  It is giving us a bit of insight in how we should go about interacting and communicating when we began coding and implementing our project.

There have been many things I’ve really enjoyed regarding working on Open Source Software.  First and foremost, the ability to access all of the source code, and the ability to modify or add features that you need is really amazing.  All of the software is free, and it really is being developed by people with the sole purpose of creating beneficial software.  There are no profit margins or corporate figureheads who really don’t understand what is going on and are only looking at the bottom line.  Instead, it is being developed by intelligent individuals who just want to create they best product they can, and then use it.  With all of that being said, Open Source Software doesn’t exactly fit into the standard model of education.  

The way that standardized education works is usually to have an expert who spends a great deal of time teaching students, who then go on to practice and learn the craft.  However, the Open Source world has a group of experts, who really aren’t that teachers.  Instead, they provide documentation and the resources to teach yourself.  It does fit much better into the college mold, and more-so  the real world.  At first, this seems like a terrifying task, trying to learn all of this really on your own.  However, the more you do it, and the more your really think about, its something we’ve been doing all our lives.  As computer science majors, we inherently explore and try to teach ourselves new things, its how we got into this field in the first place.  We were interested in computers, we sought out answers, solutions to problems, and anything and everything we found interesting related to computers.  It was this initial interest for me, the interest in programming and how software actually worked, that got me into this field in the first place.  

9/10/12 - Monitoring #a11y chat

So I’ve spent the last fifteenish hours sitting on the #a11y chat and monitoring the discussions that have been held in the chat.  I haven’t actually been watching it live, but I’ve left it open for all of these hours (just in case that wasn’t clear haha).  I was actually very surprised with what I saw over these hours, or should I say very surprised by what I didn’t see.  There has been no more than 3 or 4 posts by people over the entire time I’ve been signed in.   The majority of the chat has involved people logging into and out of the chatroom.  

The first interaction was just one of the leaders of the chatroom posting a message that he had made a commit and closing a bug.  That is all that was in his message.  It seemed like he was just posting it for documentation.  He did address this message to someone in the chat however.  A few hours later, the member he address did respond and posed a response of his own about another bug that emerged and may cause problems in the future.  

A few hours later a different member posted a message to the entire community about how to open the App Menu using the Gnome shell.  His question had not been answered in the time that I was signed into the chat.  The final message posted was by a different member who wanted to see if anyone would be willing to download the extension he had been working on and help him figure out why it wasn’t working on the newest versions.

That was all I observed in my 15 to 20ish hours signed into the chat.  I will continue to monitor it for the next several hours and over the next few days to see if anything changes.  

9/5/12 - Blog Created!!!

Hello all and welcome to my first blog!!  This blog has been created primarily to monitor and keep track of my progress in my Software Engineering course this semester.  However, if all goes to plan and I enjoy this, I could see this blog continuing far beyond just this semester.  

I’d just like to give a short introduction of myself in this first post so that you get a better understanding of who I am and why I’m here.  I’m a 21 year old senior at Western New England University (formally known as WNEC) majoring in Computer Science.  I’ve always had an interest in computers, however it wasn’t until I started taking programming courses in high school that I knew i wanted to pursue software development as a career.  I have had three internships so far during my summer breaks, one at SABIC Innovative Plastics in the IT department, and two in General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems.  

I’m looking forward to contributing to some Open source work in the course this fall.  I entered the course with the understanding that we would be contributing to some real, ongoing projects being developed as we speak.  For the majority of our college careers, we have been working on programs to learn concepts with only some functionality outside of the classroom.  It is exciting to know that we will be taking on and contributing to a project that has real world applications.  I expect to do a great deal of work for this course, some programming, primarily documentation.  I got some experience to the mountains of documentation that exist with every project in my internships, and I expect that to continue here in this course.  

I hope at the end of this semester to have made a tangible contribution to the project my group chooses to work on.  It is a little daunting knowing just how many people may see or even use the work we do this semester.  However, it is also quite exciting.  I hope to learn a great deal about the Open Source community and how I can contribute outside of this course in the future.  

I know this first post was long but I just wanted to give a nice rundown of who I am and why I’m here.  Wish me luck!!!