Notes from the Road

Wed, 11 Jun 2014 16:00:00 UTC - tjfontaine - Uncategorized

Notes from the Road

As Project Lead for Node.js, I was excited to have the opportunity to go on the road and bring production stories to all of our users. We've had amazing speakers and turn out in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Boston, and New York. But I wanted to make sure we reached more than just our coasts, so soon we'll be in Minneapolis and I'll be returning to my home state of Ohio and doing an event in Cincinnati. The Node.js community is all over the world, and hopefully Node on the Road can reach as many of you as it can. Nominate your city to be a future stop on the Node.js on the Road series here.

These Node on the Road events are successful because of the incredible support from the community and the existing meetup organizations in their respective cities. But the biggest advantage is that the project gets to solicit feedback directly from our users about what is and isn't working for them in Node.js, what modules they're using, and where they need Node to do better.

Release schedules

Some of the feedback we've received has been about the upgrade process for Node. Veteran Node.js alums will occasionally sit around campfires and tell the stories of when things would break every release, or how long they stayed on 0.4 before upgrading to 0.6. Some production companies are still out there running on 0.8 afraid to make the jump to 0.10. While other companies advise people to avoid upgrading to a new release of a Node version until the patch number hits double digits. It's those sorts of stories that make it important for us to get the release for 0.12 right, from the get go.

Node is in a fantastic place right now, it's maturing quickly and finding its footing in new environments with new users and new use cases. The expectation for Node is getting higher each day with every release. There are multiple interests at stake, keeping Node lean, keeping it up to date with languages and standards, keeping it fast, and balanced with keeping it stable such that we don't upset the adoption rate. That means Node needs to make the right choices that balance the needs of all of our users without closing the doors to others.

All of these conversations are helping to shape the release process going forward, and helping to scope just what does go into a release and how fast people want to see those happen. In fact something we've been considering is eliminating the confusion around our Stable/Unstable branches, and instead moving to releases that are always stable. But it's important that the features and changes that go into a release are shaped by user feedback, which is why events like Node on the Road are vital.

Better Documentation

Another key piece of feedback has consistently been around our documentation. Users need us to clean up our API reference documentation, there are lots of undocumented and under-documented methods and properties that are being used or should be used. Node needs to include what errors may be delivered as part of the operation of your application, as well as what methods will throw and under what circumstances.

But mostly users are looking for more general purpose documentation that can help both new and veteran Node.js users be more productive with Node. And the people who are most equipped to provide that documentation are the users themselves who've already been successful.

Easier Contribution

Aside from soliciting feedback from users of Node.js and bringing production stories to our users, Node on the Road has also been about highlighting the various ways you as a member of the community can contribute. There are many ways you can contribute from meetups and conferences, to publishing modules, to finding issues in modules or core, to fixing issues in modules or core, or even adding features to modules or core. Where ever you are passionate about Node.js there are ways you can contribute back to Node.

Node.js has inherited many things from our largest dependency V8, we've adopted their build system GYP, we use their test runner (which is unfortunately in python), and when we were structuring the project we brought along the Contributor License Agreement (CLA) that Google uses to manage contributions for Chromium and V8. The CLA is there as a way for a project to audit itself and to give itself the opportunity to relicense itself in the future if necessary. Node.js though is distributed under the venerable MIT license, and that's not going to change. The MIT license is one of the most permissible open source licenses out there, and has fostered a ton of development with Node.js and we want that to continue.

In an effort to make it easier for users to contribute to Node.js the project has decided to lift the requirement of signing the CLA before contributions are eligible for integration. Having to sign the CLA could at times be a stumbling block for a contribution. It could involve a long conversation with your legal department to ultimately contribute typo corrections.

I'm excited to see what contributions will be coming from the community in the future, excited to see where our users take Node.js, and excited to be participating with all of you on this project.

Please post feedback and comments on the Node.JS user mailing list.
Please post bugs and feature requests on the Node.JS github repository.