Springing into action! Open source collaboration at the OPF Hackathon

Springing into action! Open source collaboration at the OPF Hackathon

Our biggest ever hack event, the OPF Spring Hackathon, ran for six weeks beginning in March and brought together participants from around the world to help improve our open source reference toolset. In order to cater to diverse interests and experiences, we split the hackathon tasks into three streams: development, documentation and research.

Some of the hackathon tasks presented contributors with an opportunity for a deep dive into file formats, giving them greater insights into the tools they use on a regular basis. For other participants, the hackathon provides a guided space where they can experiment, learn new skills and hone development practices.

Our development stream started first. We published a blog post about the work here. During the hackathon, new pull requests were ready for review every day. While this was mostly good news some of the development work actually opened more issues than it closed!

The documentation stream aimed to improve supporting materials for our products. One area of focus was to gather suggestions on how to improve consistency between our product websites while streamlining content and improving accessibility. This is a long-term goal for the Foundation, and hackathon contributions are helping us take the vital first steps towards a comprehensive review of our supporting material. Our documentation volunteers also worked on creating man pages (manual pages) for our command-line tools and updating the JHOVE error message wiki.

Participants with language skills translated our user documentation and JHOVE error messages into German, Portuguese, French and Swedish. A consistent issue encountered by translators was striking a balance between providing an accurate translation of a technical term while keeping the terminology technically accurate but also accessible to newcomers to the field. One example might be the use of the term “dictionary” which is a specific element of the PDF standard. The translators produced a draft glossary of key technical terms by format. Our intention is to provide per module glossaries on the JHOVE web site and lists of terms that should be left untranslated.

Our research stream was the third and final to kick off. One of the tasks undertaken was a comparison and gap analysis of JHOVE modules e.g. comparing the JHOVE TIFF module to DPF Manager. Research contributors also checked whether module standards were up to date, carried out some future scanning on upcoming standards changes, and added files to our format test corpus.

Altogether we received 45 pull requests with changes and new work still arriving. This is taking some effort to get on top of. Some contributions lead to test baseline changes meaning the test results must be patched as the work is merged or new items added to the test corpus. You can see our contributors’ progress against the GitHub milestone. We will be continuing to merge and test contributions over the Summer and Autumn with the aim of releasing a release candidate for October. We will also be putting in some work of our own but the majority of this year’s 1.26 release will comprise community contributions. This was also the case for 1.24 and is a credit to all of you who have contributed to the hack events or individually.

We welcome contributions to any of our projects. Whether you log an issue, suggest an improvement or provide a fix or enhancement as a GitHub Pull Request, you contribute to a rising tide that lifts all boats. Contributing to open source projects is a great way of learning new skills or practising those you want to improve. It’s also a way for anyone to learn from well established remote working practise. The majority of open source projects have worked for many years in circumstances that have recently become necessary for many of us. We can all learn something from the tools and practices they’ve developed. We will have more to say about future community hack events when we’ve curated the results of this one. We look forward to seeing you all again and welcoming some new faces.

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