A bunch of people spend a dozen days together in July at the third Tails developers yearly summit. This was a great opportunity to have crazy hacking sessions in person, as well as to discuss where we are heading to and how.

Discussions

We mainly discussed the growth of the project: given the growing number of users and our super-short release cycle, it is a challenge to keep the project sustainable and maintainable in the mid/long term.

Our take on this is first reflected by our updated roadmap: we now have a better vision of what we want to focus on for the next major releases of Tails: the 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 milestones are now pretty well defined, and we even were bold enough to draft goals for 3.0.

Another key aspect on this topic was that we need to make it easier to contribute to Tails. We have listed many enhancements that could be made in this direction, especially on the website. We also have identified areas that could benefit most from a few new dedicated contributors. We will publish targeted calls for help in the next few months.

We also redesigned our communication channels to ease involvement of new contributors, to make more workload sharing possible, and to be able to provide better user support. In short:

  • Our mailing-lists see quite a lot of traffic these days. This might deter people from reading it. So, we will create two specialized mailing-lists: a private, encrypted one will receive bug reports, while a public one will be dedicated to user support.
  • A growing FAQ will be assembled: it will be a tool for self-service help, and should make support work less repetitive.
  • In a few months, we will evaluate how all this fares and we will reconsider web support, which is postponed for the moment.

Still, the tails-dev mailing-list remains the main communication channel for development and project-wide discussions.

This summit gave us the chance to evaluate and refine processes that we have set up a year ago, such as our time-based release schedule and a formal merge policy.

To end with, the public development meetings experiment will be extended, and we will go on having monthly Low Hanging Fruits sessions. Not only these sessions are very useful to make Tails better, but we were happy to see new people join these parties recently. We hope to see even more of that in the future: these sessions are great times to start contributing to Tails!

Hack

Hours of meetings were certainly a necessary part of the summit, but we also dedicated a fair share of our time to hands-on activities. Fortunately there is quite a lot of room for improvements in Tails, so we were never left unoccupied.

The most noticeable technical change that happened during the summit was perhaps our move to Redmine for managing our tasks and plans. We are not exploiting the full potential of Redmine yet, but it already feels far less messy than how we did previously. Hopefully this will help others get involved! Many thanks go to Riseup for hosting the Redmine instance we use. Note that we will keep using ikiwiki for blueprints.

Taking advantage of Redmine, we have started classifying tasks in various useful ways: e.g. easy tickets do not require much knowledge of the Tails internals to be solved, and are ideal places to get involved. In passing, other nice custom queries provide lists of tasks involving sysadmin and web development.

We spent some time listing problems with early builds of Tails based on Debian Wheezy. It is now clearer to us what remains to do: a few dozens tickets were created. Did we mention that any kind of help is warmly welcome? :)

Our Jenkins instance also had been taken care of: it is getting closer to something we can use and rely upon as part of our daily workflow.

A lot of branches were merged for the upcoming 0.20 release, including the installation of Dasher and a first step towards the replacement of TrueCrypt.

The Pidgin and OTR documentation was rewritten to be clearer and more precise, as well as our explanation of the way random nicknames are generated for Pidgin accounts.

More steps have also been done towards not starting Iceweasel on startup.

At the end is the beginning

As you can guess, this summit was as intense as the previous ones. Tails is living decisive times, so we expect the next year to be pretty interesting. You can perhaps make the difference, so do not hesitate joining the dance!