Creating a Twitter List of CPAN Authors

Recently I found a great little Twitter command line tool called t. It does a lot of useful things, including building and editing Twitter lists. For example, with the following commands we can:

  • create a Twitter list called "my-list-of-people"
  • add the @metacpan account to the list
  • display the accounts which are now in the list we've just created

I thought it would be fun to create a Twitter list of CPAN authors using some of the data in the MetaCPAN API. Authors can update their profiles on MetaCPAN to add one or more Twitter accounts. This data can then be found in the author type of the MetaCPAN API, in the profile key. To find out how many Twitter usernames of CPAN authors we can get, we'll create a script that looks something like this:

At this point you should be able to run this script, which prints the Twitter account names we are looking for. Now comes the Twitter integration. We could do this with a Perl module, but the point of this exercise is to use t.

The first thing you need to do is install t, the Twitter command line tool. Twitter OAuth is a bit cumbersome, so you'll also need to create your own OAuth app. The client will guide you through this process. If you run into any problems getting started once you've entered your OAuth keys, check issue #402 and specifically this comment.

Now all that's left is to create a list, run the script and pipe the output of the script to the new list.

That's it. Your list has now been created and you can curate it to your heart's content. As part of this exercise, I created an authors list for my own Twitter account. You can see my cpan-authors list in action.

How I Spent My Perl Toolchain Summit v2019

PTS

The Perl Toolchain Summit (PTS) is an annual event, held in Europe, where work on improving the Perl toolchain takes place.

I was fortunate to be able to attend PTS again this year. I'd like to thank my employer, MaxMind, for sending me to PTS and for once again financially sponsoring this event. PTS has become something which I really look forward to. It's a block of time to work, undistracted, on MetaCPAN. It's also a chance to see some friends whom I only see once or twice per year. Having the MetaCPAN core developers in one time zone and in one room allows us to enjoy an accelerated feedback loop and get things done much, much faster than might otherwise have been the case.

This year we gathered in the UK, outside of London, to work out of Bisham Abbey, while staying in the adjacent National Sports Centre, which is part of the same complex.

The Sponsors

This event simply wouldn't take place without the financial backing of our wonderful sponsors. I'd like to thank the following donors for making this event a reality:

The Attendees

These past few years, as the MetaCPAN contingent has grown, we've set up our own table at PTS. This year we had Leo Lapworth, Mickey Nasriachi, Graham Knop and Shawn Sorichetti and me. Doug Bell sat with us as well, while hacking on CPAN Testers. Sadly, Joel Berger was not able to attend this year or we would have forced him to sit with us as well. Shawn Sorichetti was a new addition to our PTS table. He had joined us at meta::hack and helped us get a lot done there, so it was great to have him hacking with us again. He has a lot of experience with Docker and Ansible, which we took advantage of.

The MetaCPAN table. Photo by Wendy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wendyga/

Left to right: Mickey Nasriachi, Olaf Alders, Leo Lapworth and Shawn Sorichetti. Missing from this photo is Graham Knop. Photo by Wendy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wendyga/

The Goals

This year we took the first couple of hours of the hackathon to gather together as a group and hammer out a plan for the 4 day event. We decided to address some pain points in our stack. Firstly, our Vagrant environment, although it works, is quite unwieldy and generally not enjoyable to work with. Secondly, our Puppet deployments are a bit confusing. Puppet has been a great tool up to this point and a lot of time has gone into its configuration, but we're ready to move on to the next tool.

The result of our conversation was a commitment to move to Docker for both local work environments and also for live deployments. As part of the shift to Docker we decided to start moving our automation to Ansible. We're all quite aware that neither Docker nor Ansible are going to solve all of our issues, but we felt that on the whole it would be a net positive for all of us and for the project.

Dockerizing the first site

We chose to start our Dockerization with Github meets CPAN. This was a good candidate because it's not a mission critical web service and it has enough moving parts (Mojo + MongoDB + an hourly cron job) that we'd get an idea of what might be involved in porting the other services. This site is now deployed and in production using Docker. This work included:

  • setting up a Dockerfile for the site
  • setting up a docker-compose.yml for the site
  • setting up a MetaCPAN organization on DockerHub
  • creating a base Docker image with a pre-installed Perl and some common Perl modules that multiple sites will be able to use
  • configuring Travis to upload new images to Dockerhub after successful merges to master

Various other things happened as part of this, like setting up Ansible, setting up keybase.io for shared secrets and making a plan for which production server(s) to convert to serving Docker containers.

Dockerizing more sites

As part of the above process, we spent some time on expanding the Docker configuration of metacpan-web and metacpan-api. These had previously been set up by some helpful folks outside of the core team, but internally we had not been using them in anger. This gave us a chance to see how they really perform and to tweak them for our needs. I was able to hack on metacpan-web and metacpan-api using Docker during PTS and I'm quite happy with the result.

Making new uploads discoverable faster

Moving on from Docker, I was also able to speed up the amount of time it takes to view new modules on MetaCPAN. When you upload a new release to CPAN there's a lag time before it shows up as the latest, indexed module. This is due to several things.

  • We need to rsync the module from PAUSE
  • We need to rsync an updated 02packages file from PAUSE
  • In some cases, we need to rsync an updated 06perms file from PAUSE

The module sync is quite fast, but 02packages and 06perms are a bit trickier, since they are created/updated by cron scripts on the PAUSE servers. For example, as I found out at PTS, the 06packages file is updated every 12 minutes, with the exception of a 24 minute gap once per hour. Because of the timing of your module being set as latest relies on all of the various files syncing first, we've traditionally just run a cron hourly to set the latest flag. Now that we're using a Minion queue, we're able to set up specific queue jobs to run at set intervals after each module has been uploaded. With this new change, if the stars align, you may find your module is discoverable within just a few minutes. In other cases, you will still need to wait longer, but hopefully not as long as it has taken in the past. In the worst case you'll have to wait just as long as you previously did, but hopefully this is rarely true. This code was merged at PTS. Hopefully you're already noticing a difference.

Deleting unused code

Mickey and Graham spent some time auditing the codebase and they identified some code (mostly utility scripts) which people weren't generally aware of. Since none of us were using these scripts, they will be deleted.

Reworking the indexer

Mickey spent a lot of time getting into the guts of the indexer. This code is non-trivial and quite difficult to refactor. He's working to simplify how it works and was able to start breaking this into smaller chunks for deployment. The change was too invasive to deploy at once, but this is a very important step for us to be able to upgrade to a newer version of Elasticsearch at some point.

Fixing PAUSE account connection

For a good while there has been a problem with our previous mail sender in getting messages delivered to @cpan.org email addresses. This is how we verify PAUSE authors on metacpan.org. FastMail solved this by becoming an email sponsor for us. (I should add that FastMail is a PTS sponsor as well.)

Shortly before PTS we were able to merge the code to switch mail delivery to FastMail. I'm happy to report that authors are now once again able to connect their PAUSE accounts to their MetaCPAN profiles. There are still some related issues to be worked out, but it's better than it once was.

Ripping out the guts of our OAuth

An issue that has plagued us for years is that some users have had issues linking services (like Twitter and GitHub) to their accounts on metacpan.org. The issues have been really hard to reproduce and we just haven't solved them. Since I finally had a block of uninterrupted time, I took a deep dive into our OAuth setup and I'm now in the process of simplifying how this works. The first step is that I'm converting our OAuth flow to use Mojolicious::Plugin::Web::Auth rather than the custom code we currently have in place for this. This allows us to handle the same OAuth flows but with much less code. I had looked into setting up Auth0 for this, but our problems are with our internal flows rather than with the OAuth flows themselves. The internal issues would need to be, fixed regardless. It was easier for me to swap out our current code with a tiny bit of Mojo configuration than to look into setting up a third party integration and potentially having to conform to their requirements etc. I'm not ruling out a future third party integration, but this is a logical first step in fixing this issue.

As far as deployment goes, we're going to deploy these new Mojo OAuth flows while leaving the existing flows in place, since they can co-exist and are agnostic about each other. Once we're satisfied that the new system is working, we'll flip the switch. This seemed like the most disruptive and least risky way of approaching the changes. Some code was prepared for deployment at PTS, but I'll need to keep working at this in order to finish it up.

Goodbye Facebook

A side effect of the OAuth work is we have removed Facebook authentication. It has been broken for many months and nobody has opened a ticket that I'm aware of.

Goodbye OpenID

As we discussed simplifying our authentication options, we decided that we'll be removing OpenID. It doesn't appear to be heavily used and this would reduce the complexity of our code.

Spoiler Alert

INGY is doing some really cool stuff with tab completion and CPAN module installation. I believe he'll have it all ready to go for you YAPC::NA, so watch for that.

RJBS introduced me to JMAP, which FastMail is using to make their UI so snappy. It looks really interesting.

Trivia

I learned that cpm means "CPAN Package Manager" in the spirit of "npm" for Node Package Manager.

The Other Stuff

Although I was able to make it to PTS this year, it was a bit harder, since I had a company summit at MaxMind scheduled for the same week. My manager was very supportive of me attending PTS, so I was able to fly from Toronto to Boston on a Monday and then fly from Boston to London the following Wednesday morning. I had to miss two days of company meetings in order to do this, but it meant having more productive time at PTS. I got to bed at 1:15 AM on Wednesday morning. I got up two hours later at 3:15 AM and got ready to head to Logan. I had no delays and I arrived at Heathrow Wednesday evening where Leo Lapworth was waiting for me. We waited for Dan Book to arrive and then headed down to Marlow. We took a wrong turn on the way down which added 30 minutes to our trip. It also meant we'd be arriving at the pub after the kitchen had closed. I texted Neil and he was kind enough to order and pay for our meals so that they were waiting for us when we finally arrived. He's a real diamond geezer. I was able to repay him in the currency of Thai food later in the week.

We left the pub after the bell for last call had been rung. When we arrived at the National Sports Centre we were told there was good news and bad news. The good news was that we had rooms and the bad news was that we had to share our rooms, due to an overbooking. So, Leo and I bunked together for the night. No troubles there. It reminded me of the old days of PTS where having a roommate was part of the arrangement.

A warm breakfast was provided at the National Sports Centre on Thursday morning. At breakfast I was able to connect with many of the attendees whom I had missed on the previous evening. After finishing up there we made our way down to Bisham Abbey in order to get to work. The venue itself is historic and quite well suited to this kind of event. Perhaps even more importantly, the seats were comfortable and the wifi was solid. If you have uncomfortable seats or unreliable wifi, it makes for a very long four days. Luckily this part of things was rock solid, which I was very happy about.

On the Thursday evening, a large group of us went out to a local Thai restaurant in Marlow. Neil met us there, with his long flowing locks, looking like he'd just stepped out of one of those blow dry salons or perhaps a TV advert for a luxurious shampoo and conditioner.

Not an actual photo of Neil Bowers.

One of the more interesting things about this restaurant was the low ceiling beams, which were a concussion waiting to happen. No concussions were witnessed however. This is likely due in no small part to the fact that low beams were well marked with the amount of clearance required to pass safely. After a fantastic meal we headed back to the venue on foot.

Marlow Giggling Squid

The Giggling Squid helpfully notes how much vertical clearance you need to get past various parts of the establishment.

On Friday morning several of us went to the gym for a workout. I used to work in a gym after my first year of university, so I figured I knew my way around the place. However, as I was struggling with one of the machines, Paul Johnson kindly pointed out to me that I was doing it backwards.

After a productive Friday, we had a really unique group meal in the Abbey. We sat in a room which was long enough to fit us all at one table (or a series of tables?) and a three course meal was served to us. It was the only meal where the entire group was together, sitting down at the same table and it was a really nice experience.

Photo by Lee Johnson: https://metacpan.org/author/LEEJO

Photo by Lee Johnson: https://metacpan.org/author/LEEJO

On Saturday morning several of us went outside for a hike. We ran into BINGOS in the lobby. He had been up all night and hadn't slept. We invited him to join us, which he did, since he wasn't sleeping anyway.

After a productive Saturday a group of us went to a really nice Indian restaurant in Marlow where we spotted various other pockets of PTS attendees.

On Sunday morning several of us once again took advantage of the gym. This is the first PTS I've been to where a gym was an option. It was kind of surreal to start the day seeing Mickey on a stair climber or Ingy running on a treadmill or RJBS doing leg presses.

After Sunday lunch, Leo took me and Shawn back to London where we had booked a hotel in Covent Garden. We met simbabque as we were literally heading out the door of Bisham Abbey. We didn't get a chance to chat, but at least now I know what he looks like.

As far as London goes, Shawn and I knew that the London Marathon had taken place earlier that day, but I just kind of assumed that would mostly be a done deal by the time we got into town -- just a bit of cleanup and maybe some stragglers. I had no appreciation of the scale of this event. When we walked down to Buckingham Palace around 5:30 PM there were still hundreds of people running (and sometimes walking) to the finish line. The official announcement was that 9,000 out of 41,000 people had yet to cross the finish line. We saw a man running while dressed as a rotary phone. Sadly, we missed seeing Big Ben.

The city was packed. We eventually made it to a neighbourhood which wasn't as busy and had some fish and chips. We had wanted to tick this particular box back at Marlow, but there was one standout Google Review that I just wasn't able to get my head around.

The London fish and chips were great and I'm happy to report that the restrooms had not been abused in the manner described above. We also stopped at a pub on the way back. When in Rome...

Nice little place. I have no idea what the Canadian flag was there for.

On Monday morning we got up and had some croissants and canelé for breakfast at Paul and then did some quick shopping. We had an early lunch at Wagamama (hat tip to ILMARI for the suggestion) and then I headed to the airport. For some reason I had a 3 hour layover at JFK on my way back to Toronto, but by early Tuesday morning I was home, just over a week after my initial departure, putting my bags away and getting ready to get back to $work in the morning. I was tired but well chuffed and you might even say I was gruntled. Also, I had written the bulk of this blog post on the plane, so I felt a particular sense of accomplishment. It has taken me two weeks to publish the post, but let's not get stuck in the weeds here. It was mostly done before I got home.

PTS was, as always, a great experience. I feel like this year we made particularly good progress. Some years I've gotten a bit frustrated with what I was working on, but this year it was surprisingly free of roadblocks and really felt like time well spent.

I want to thank Neil, Book and Laurent for all of their work in organising this event. I would say it's a thankless job, but I just thanked them, so that would be a lie. Having worked to organize meta::hack, which is quite small, I can only imagine how much work and organizational skills go into running a PTS that went as smoothly as this one. I look forward to future PTS events, hoping that I get invited again!

meta::hack 3 Wrap Report

As I mentioned in my meta::hack preview post, for the third year running we have had the privilege of being financially sponsored by Booking.com and also working out of the ServerCentral offices in downtown Chicago in order to hack on MetaCPAN. None of this would have been possible without the support of Mark Keating and the Enlightened Perl Organization. Mark has (as usual) worked tirelessly to ensure that sponsor money moves in the right directions so that we are able to fund meta::hack every year. We are extremely grateful for his help.

I'd also like to thank MaxMind (my employer) for supporting me in attending this event.

This year, five of us worked on improving our corner of the Perl ecosystem.

The Attendee List

Getting There

We all had a great time this year. It's always nice to spend time with friends and it's great to see pet projects move ahead. Shawn and I flew in from Toronto on the Wednesday afternoon and had lunch at a German restaurant.

Mickey arrived from Amsterdam a little later in the day. The three of us met up with Doug for drinks and dinner in the evening.

Getting Started

On Thursday morning, Mickey, Shawn and I got up early and got a run in before heading to the office. We ran along the water and through Millenium Park, stopping off at "the bean" to take pictures and have a look around. That was a very nice, if chilly, way to start the day.

Right from day one we had a productive time. We started by discussing what needed to be done vs what we wanted to do and I think we got some combination of these things done. From my personal experience, I think the trick is to have people generally work on the things they find interesting, while also spending some time on the things that just need to get done. I think we found a good balance. Now, rather than give a chronology of the event, I'm going to cover our "greatest hits" for the event.

The Highlights

  • It turns out our CPAN mirrors were not in sync, causing some hard to debug errors. This got fixed.
  • We removed an unused and undocumented endpoint from the api (/search/simple)
  • FastMail came on board as a sponsor. As of this week they are handling our mailboxes. Many thanks to them and to https://metacpan.org/author/RJBS for getting us up and running in a hurry.
  • We are now equipped to delete CPAN authors and releases from MetaCPAN. Previously this was non-trivial, but we can now deal with spammy modules, authors and other issues which require uploads and or data to be removed.
  • The caching on our Travis CI API tests had stopped working, so we fixed this.
  • Our changes endpoint on the API now recognizes more types of Changes files. The means the search site will now more easily be able to help you find Changes files when you need them.
  • There were previously some cases where the API returned a non-unique list of modules in the provides output. This has now been fixed moving forward. If you spot a module which needs to be re-indexed, let us know and we can do this.
  • The search site now includes links to cpancover.com in cases where coverage reports are available. I hope this will bring more visibility to cpancover.com and also be useful to authors and users of CPAN modules. You'll now more easily to be able to find Devel::Cover output for your favourite modules.
  • The /lab/dashboard endpoint of the search site has been broken for a long time. The exception was fixed and regression tests have been added. The content of the page is still mostly broken, but that can be fixed moving forward.
  • A Minion UI has been added for admins, so that we can now view the status of the indexing queue via a web browser
  • More endpoints have been documented. We have done this using OpenAPI. You can view the beginnings of it at fastapi.metacpan.org/static/index.html.
  • We have partially implemented a user search for admins. This will allow us more easily to troubleshoot issues with users logging in or adding PAUSE, github and other identities to their MetaCPAN logins. Also this will soon help us to identify issues with users who are not seeing all of their favourite modules listed.
  • We have partially implemented an admin endpoint for adding CPAN releases for re-indexing. We currently do this at the command line. Having a browser view for this means we can do this without requiring SSH. More importantly, we'll eventually be able to make this available to end users of MetaCPAN so that people can request re-indexing of releases they care about.

That's the bulk of what we got done. I haven't even listed the work that Doug got done on CPANTesters, mostly because I stayed out of his way and I just don't have the details. Doug was a gracious host. In addition to helping make sure that we got fed and got into the office when we needed it, he stayed late with us on those evenings when we just didn't want to leave and was back again early the next morning. We should also thank Joel Berger who also helped to host us during our stay. Working out of the ServerCentral offices for the third year in a row has been really great. We know our way around and we've been treated extremely well. It was a real treat to be allowed back.

Joel was not able to join us onsite on the weekend, but he did join us on screen.

Other Fun Stuff

Aside from getting our work done, we got in a bike ride on Friday morning. It was snowing and quite windy along the water where we rode. I lost most of the feeling in my hands. In future I'll either pack warmer gloves or exercise better judgement. Obviously I can't count on the others to talk me out of bad ideas. 😉

We also got in more runs on Saturday and Sunday morning. So, while we spent a lot of time sitting in the office, putting calories into our bodies, we did get exercise every day of the conference. That really helped me be productive during the day.

Evenings were fun as well. We had drinks on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building, visited the Chicago Institute of Art and Mickey and I went to a Bulls game on Saturday night. There was only one night where everyone else was too tired to go out. I got myself a table for one at the hotel bar. Wipes tears from eyes. (That was actually not a bad experience either.)

In Conclusion

Our Sunday deployment was a bit of a bumpy ride. In retrospect I would have preferred less moving parts to be involved in a single deployment, but it was also interesting to debug the deployment in real time with a few of us troubleshooting via a 60 inch screen.

We left Doug behind in the office, with what was left of his TODO list.

The flight home was uneventful. There were still some deployment issues to sort out on Monday but those eventually got taken care of.

Several of our usual attendees were not able to make it this year and we really missed them. On the whole however, I was quite happy with what we accomplished this time around. Moving forward we'll be able to continue to build on the work done during meta::hack and continue to improve MetaCPAN.

meta::hack is back!

For the third year running, we have the privilege of working out of the ServerCentral offices in downtown Chicago in order to hack on MetaCPAN. This year, five of us will be working on improving our corner of the Perl ecosystem. The physical attendee list is follows:

  • Doug Bell
  • Joel Berger
  • Olaf Alders
  • Mickey Nasriachi
  • Shawn Sorichetti

This, of course, would not be possible without the help of our 2018 sponsors: Booking.com and ServerCentral. You'll notice their logos on the front page of MetaCPAN into 2019 as our way of thanking them for their support.

I'd like briefly to revisit last year's event, which was quite productive and would not have happened without our 2017 sponsors:

In 2017, we made excellent progress on various fronts. Part of this progress came via an onsite visit from Panopta, our monitoring sponsor. They have a Chicago office and were very responsive when I asked them if they'd be willing to send someone down to chat with us about improving our Panopta configuration. So, Shabbir kindly dropped by, giving us in-person advice on how to configure our Panopta monitoring. One of the most helpful tweaks was setting up an IRC integration, so that outages are now broadcast to #metacpan on irc.perl.org.

Here's a photo of Shabbir's visit. (I wasn't able to attend in person last year, but I was able to do so remotely. I'm the one watching from the wall.)

meta::hack v2 in 2017

From left to right:

Doug Bell, Thomas Sibley, Nicolas Rochelemagne, Graham Knop, Leo Lapworth (front), Joel Berger, Brad Lhotsky, Olaf Alders (pictured on monitor), Shabbir Karimi (from Panopta) and Mickey Nasriachi.

I'll post more about our progress over the next few days. We're working on some fixes and something new and shiny too. Wish us luck!

Perl Toolchain Summit 2018 Wrap-up Report

Perl Toolchain Summit 2018 Wrap-up Report

Getting There

This year I had the pleasure of attending the Perl Toolchain Summit in Oslo, Norway. Because of a conflict in my schedule, I initially didn't think I'd be able to attend. After a lot of mental back and forth, I decided I'd try to make it work. The compromise was that this year I would leave on Sunday morning rather than on Monday. That meant I wasn't able to participate in the last day of the summit, but I'd still have 3 entire days to get things done.

I left Toronto on Tuesday evening and arrived in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning. I got breakfast in Germany and after a two hour layover I was on a short flight to Oslo. From the Oslo airport I took a train into town.

I got into my tiny, tiny room and changed into my running clothes. I spent the next couple of hours running mostly along the water and making lots of stops along the way to take pictures and hang out. That was enough to burn off any excess energy.

In the evening I met up with everyone else at a bar called RØØR. Here it finally became clear to my why Salve had said alcohol would be expensive. (I hadn't really believed him when he originally let us know). I had a great time regardless and it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces and catch up.

Day One

On Thursday morning we had an 8:30 breakfast at the venue and then 9:00 AM standup, where everyone had a chance to introduce themselves and talk about what they intended to work on. Leo and Mickey had a claimed a small room for our group, which meant that for the span of the summit we would all be able to sit around the same table and whiteboard. Some folks dropped by early in the morning to talk about a few items on their wish list. We also made a game plan for the summit and made various work assignments amongst ourselves. These sorts of face to face meetings are what make the summit invaluable. The first morning meeting allowed us to get everyone on the same page and then get to work.

This year we didn't come into the summit with any one grand project to complete. Rather, we spent some time on smaller items, bug fixes, attending to outstanding issues on Github and infrastructure work. Specifically, we're generally working towards having a better disaster recover plan and failover capacity for MetaCPAN. Leo did a lot of work on that, so I'll let him blog about his contributions. For my part, I picked back up on the work that I had started at meta::hack this past November.

At meta::hack I had spent a good chunk of time upgrading our Debian from Wheezy to Stretch. This is an upgrade of two major releases and it turns out to be non-trivial in our case. A large part of the problem is that with our current setup we are on a version of Puppet (3.8.7) which is no longer supported. Since Wheezy has a newer Puppet (4.8.2) by default, I took this as an opportunity to upgrade Puppet. This meant that some of our Puppet config needed updating and that we also need to update our PuppetForge modules (3rd party dependencies). This was complicated enough that I was going to need a lot of help from Leo, so I sat myself beside him in order to make bothering him more convenient for the both of us. It turned out that I bothered him a lot. I shudder to think how long it would have taken me to work through this remotely. I can't say that I enjoyed the work, but it was much more enjoyable to do this face to face and it was a much better use of everyone's time.

Thursday also happened to be Leo's birthday so we went out for drinks and various foods made of pork at a bar called Crowbar. Marcus Ramberg and Batman joined us there and eventually a good chunk of the attendees came along as well.

Day Two

I had gotten the bulk of the upgrade done on Thursday. On Friday I got up early and went for a run. Then, at the venue we continued tying up some loose ends on the Debian/Puppet upgrade and getting Leo involved in testing it out. I should add that part of this upgrade also included an overhaul of how we build our Vagrant boxes. Currently if you want to deploy a Vagrant instance you download a pre-built box which we have uploaded to one of our servers. Moving forward you'll be able to build your own box on demand. It will take slightly longer to get set up, but you'll have the latest and greatest software right away and you won't need to rely on any one of us to upload an updated box for you to download. In the evening we all went out to a restaurant where there were speeches, excellent food and great conversations.

Day Three

On Saturday morning, Mickey and I met up at 6:30 AM for a quick run. At 7:30 AM we met up with Leo and Sawyer and rented some bikes. We cycled along the waterfront by the fortress and the Opera House before making it back just in time for standup. By now we were upgrading Debian and deploying the new Puppet on two of the three machines which Bytemark generously donates to us. This turned out to be non-trivial as the first machine we upgraded would not reboot. After some excellent technical support from Bytemark we were able to get past this as well.

I also added a URL mapping for static files to the MetaCPAN API. This is a first step in self-hosting some API documentation, likely using Swagger in some way. This is partly what's preventing the MacOS Dash application from having more Perl documentation available.

In the evening most of us hung out at a local hacker/maker space. For me, it was a nice way to wrap up the summit.

In General

While all of this was going on, we also had a good debate about sponsorship of our project. We've been getting a lot of interest from potential sponsors over the last year or so and we've mostly been approaching it on a case by case basis. Having everyone in on a group discussion allowed us to set a sponsor policy moving forward that we think will be good for both us and our sponsors. (If your company would like to sponsor MetaCPAN or our next meta::hack conference, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me).

I also fit in the usual code reviews over the 3 days and also tried to catch up on some outstanding Github issues. It turns out I had missed some entirely. There were issues going back as far as January which had not yet been responded to. 🙁

As part of some of the other work going on, there was progress made towards a tighter integration of the CPAN river data in the MetaCPAN API. Also, we now have access to Neil Bowers' CPAN river data generator. There's a plan to have MetaCPAN directly generate this data, rather than having us pull the data from him.

There was also a fair bit of discussion as to where to host the 2018 meta::hack. Our TODO list is long enough that the Perl Toolchain Summit isn't quite enough for us to make the progress that we think we need to make. So, hopefully, we'll be able to get together once more this year to continue to make progress.

Additionally Babs Veloso showed us a proposal for a redesign of the MetaCPAN author pages. It looks great. Now we just need to find someone to implement it. We also spent a fair amount of time on a part of the project which I can't actually tell you about just yet, mostly because the details haven't all been finalized yet. If all goes as expected, we'll announce that in the coming months.

Getting Home

My flight back early on Sunday was uneventful. I spent an hour in Copenhagen and then was back home on Sunday afternoon in time to take the kids to the park. I got into an Eastern Standard Time sleep schedule by Sunday night. I dropped the kids off at school on Monday morning and then flew off to Boston for meetings until the following Friday. Since I telecommute, I rarely need to travel (or even wear shoes), but for some reason I ended up with back to back trips this year. In the end, it all worked out.

Thanks

On the whole this year's PTS was very productive, fun and very well organized. I'd like to thank Salve J. Nilson, Neil Bowers, Stig Palmquist, Philippe Bruhat, Laurent Boivin and anyone else I may have missed. The venue, food, level of organization (and hoodies) were all excellent. It was a smooth experience from start to finish. I feel like I was able to get a lot of good work done and I am particularly pleased that I was able to finish what I had set out to do. Collectively, there was much more work completed on MetaCPAN than what I've described.

I would not have been able to make this trip without the support of MaxMind (my employer). MaxMind has sent me to PTS without hesitation each time that I've been invited and has also been a sponsor of the event for these past two years. Thanks, MaxMind!

Additionally, I'd like to thank all of our sponsors, without whom this would not have been possible:

MaxMind,
NUUG Foundation,
Teknologihuset,
Booking.com,
cPanel,
FastMail,
Elastic,
ZipRecruiter,
MongoDB,
SureVoIP,
Campus Explorer,
Bytemark,
Infinity Interactive,
OpusVL,
Eligo,
Perl Services,
Oetiker+Partner.

Announcing meta::hack v2

It's that time of year again. We did a bunch of hacking on MetaCPAN at the Perl Toolchain Summit and we got a lot done, but it wasn't nearly enough. Our TODO list never gets shorter and there are lots of folks willing to pitch in, so today I'm announcing that meta::hack v2 will take place from Nov 16-19, 2017 at Server Central in Chicago. As a reminder of how things went with meta::hack v1, please refer to my wrap-up report from that event.

The attendees this year are:

This group basically represents the MetaCPAN core contributors. We are restricting meta::hack to this core group again purely so that we can focus on getting the maximum amount of work done over the short time that we have together. If you are interested in joining a future meta::hack, now is a good time to start contributing to the project. Our intention is not exclude willing participants, but to keep the group limited to people who are already up to speed on contributing to the project. Having said that, if any hackers in the Chicago area want to hang out, we're happy to go out to dinner with you while we are in town.

An event like this does cost money and we are still looking for some more sponsors. Some real estate on the front page of MetaCPAN will be used to recognize sponsors. If you or your company are interested in supporting this event, please contact us so that we can send you a copy of the sponsor prospectus.

Viewing Your Module Permissions on MetaCPAN

We're currently at the Perl Toolchain Summit in Lyon, working hard on improving MetaCPAN. One feature which we went live with yesterday is a view on CPAN module permissions. This means that you can now easily see which modules any CPAN author has permission to upload.

If you want to see every module which Neil Bowers has permissions on, you can go to https://metacpan.org/permission/author/NEILB. You can get to this page via the module permissions link on the left sidebar of a MetaCPAN author page.

To see who has permissions to upload a particular module, you can use the module view. This is not yet linked from MetaCPAN pages.

To see who has permissions to upload a particular distribution, you can use the distribution view. You can get to this page via the upload permissions link on the left sidebar of a MetaCPAN release page.

This new feature is helpful in a couple of ways. Firstly, if you're looking for someone to patch and release a module for you, you can now easily view everyone who has permissions to do this. It's tempting to believe that the last person who released a module is responsible for it, but the reality is that in many cases there are several people who can upload a new release. This helps shift the burden from one person to multiple people in many cases. In practice, if you want to chase someone to upload a new version of module X, you now can easily find the canonical list of responsible people.

Secondly, if you would like permission to begin uploading a certain module, you can now easily find the module owner. Only the module owner can assign co-maint to you. In the past I've made the mistake of contacting the last uploader and asking for co-maint. What I should have done is contact the person who actually is the owner. This can save you some running around trying to contact folks and waiting for replies from the wrong people.

Lastly, you can now audit module permissions. You may notice when looking at permissions that there are authors who should not have co-maint on a module. Or you may notice that authors have co-maint on some modules in a distribution but not on others. Having inconsistent permissions on modules in a release can lead to problems when a distribution is released by an author who has some missing permissions.

So, please do have a look at your permissions and give them a sanity check. If you notice a problem with a module which you don't own, contact the PAUSE admins at [email protected] and they'll be happy to work with you to sort out the correct permissions.

meta::hack Wrap-up Report

meta::hack v1

Earlier this month (Thu, Nov 16 - Sun, Nov 20) I had the pleasure of meeting up with 7 other Perl hackers at ServerCentral’s downtown Chicago offices, in order to hack on MetaCPAN. Before I get started, I'd like to thank our sponsors.

This hackathon wouldn't have been possible without the overwhelming support of our sponsors. Our platinum sponsors were Booking.com and cPanel. Our gold sponsors were Elastic, FastMail, and Perl Careers. Our silver sponsors were ActiveState, Perl Services, ServerCentral and Advance Systems. Our bronze sponsors were Vienna.pm, Easyname, and the Enlightened Perl Organisation (EPO). Please take a moment to thank them for helping our Perl community.

For the past 2.5 years, we’ve been working off and on at porting MetaCPAN from Elasticsearch 0.20.2 to 1.x and (eventually) 2.x. There were enough breaking changes between the versions to make this a non-trivial task. We had made very good progress over the past two QA hackathons, but the job was just too big to finish in the hours that we had available.

After the QA Hackathon in Rugby, I spoke to Neil Bowers about how we might go about doing some fundraising. Neil was so kind as to offer to help. His offer to help soon evolved into him taking on all of the work (thanks Neil)! Neil worked his magic and got the event fully funded. I know there was a lot of work invovled, but he made it look easy. Mark Keating and the Enlightened Perl Organization kindly took on the financial side of things, invoicing and accepting payment from sponsors. Without EPO and Neil, this event never would have taken place. (Please do take a moment to thank them).

While this was going on, we began searching for a venue. Joel Berger offered to host us at ServerCentral in Chicago and we immediately took him up on the offer. After that it was just a matter of folks booking plane tickets and getting approval from employers for the time off.

The final list of invitees was:

  • Brad Lhotsky (San Francisco)
  • Doug Bell (Chicago)
  • Graham Knop (Baltimore)
  • Joel Berger (Chicago)
  • Leo Lapworth (London)
  • Mickey Nasriachi (Amsterdam)
  • Olaf Alders (Toronto)
  • Thomas Sibley (Seattle)

The event was invitation only. We did this in order to maximize the amount of work we’d be able to finish at the event. [Insert reference to “The Mythical Man Month”]. Everyone who participated was already up to speed on the internals of the project or has an area of expertise which we needed in order to complete our goal of launching fully with v1 of the API. Because everyone already had a working VM and working knowledge of the project, we were able to tackle the problems at hand right from the first morning.

As far as living space goes, we initially had looked at renting hotel rooms, but the cost would have made it almost prohibitive to meet in Chicago. After doing some research, we booked two apartments (each with 3 bedrooms) on the same floor of a condo building in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. We booked the accommodations via booking.com of course. 🙂 I think we were happy with the housing. Everyone had their own room and we had big enough living rooms for all of us to meet up mornings and some evenings. At the end of the day the rental was a fraction of the price of a Chicago hotel. I’ve also made a mental note not to be the last one to arrive in town. Apparently it also means you get the smallest room.

Each day we took the subway downtown to ServerCentral. We had a dedicated boardroom in the office with a large TV that we could use for sharing presentations, IRC chat or error logs. ServerCentral also sponsored lunch each day of the event. Extra monitors were also available for those who wanted them. (Lots of Roost laptop stands were to be seen. Also lots of people who couldn’t figure out how to open them after having collapsed them for the first time in forever).

After settling in at the office we’d discuss our plans for the day and map out goals for that day. We had breakout discussions where appropriate but the time spent not writing code was minimal. Generally, as a group, we worked well into the evenings. We didn’t get the full Chicago experience, but we got a lot done. We did make it to the Chicago Christkindlmarkt, which was a few blocks from the office and we went out for a breakfast and a dinner as well. Minimal downtime, but the breaks we had were lots of fun.

Day one was spent removing anything which was blocking the API upgrade. Wishlist items were ignored and as a group we worked really well. Lots of pull requests were created, reviewed and merged.

By day two of the hackathon we flipped the switch and went live with the new API. We could have waited a bit longer, but we opted to make the change earlier so that we could troubleshoot any issues as a group and watch the error logs in real time. There were no showstopping bugs and the transition was actually pretty smooth.

Day three was spent squashing some of the bugs which came up after the upgrade. We also started to tackle some wishlist items.

Day four was a slightly shorter day. We wrapped around 4 PM. Some of us went to check out “the Bean” before flying out while Leo and I headed right for our respective airports.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but over this long weekend we:

  • moved ++ data to v1 of the API.
  • moved https://metacpan.org to v1 of the API.
  • implemented load balancing via Fastly, our CDN sponsor.
  • reduced noise in the logs by squashing bugs which generated warnings or exceptions.
  • updated our API documentation as well as the metacpan-examples GitHub repository from v0 to v1.
  • published an upgrade document which explains to how upgrade your query syntax and configuration for v1.
  • moved http://explorer.metacpan.org to v1 of the API.
  • began work on streaming logs to Elasticsearch.
  • began moving the query logic that metacpan.org uses over to the API so that other clients can use this same logic.
  • began porting author queries from metacpan.org to the API as well.
  • added a meta::hack event page along with sponsor info to metacpan.org.
  • continued work on adding a /permission endpoint which will provide access to the data in 06perms.txt.
  • added more tests for the /download_url endpoint which translates module names into download URL. Specifically this is meant to be used by cpanm.
  • added snapshotting of Elasticsearch indices in v1 so that we can easily restore from backup.

/permission is something I spent a fair bit of my time working on over the last two days. Having 06perms.txt data in the API will mean that we can display a list of all authors who have maint on a module on metacpan.org. This will make it easier to track down authors who can release a module, particularly for those who aren’t familiar with the way PAUSE works. I think this branch is probably about 1.5 years old, so I was happy to get the time to try to finish it off. I didn’t quite get there, but that’s okay. It was a wishlist item and it’s actually quite close to being released.

Also of note is the fact that we’ve now officially deprecated the v0 API. There is a 6 month runway to move clients over to v1 and v0 will be taken offline on or after June 1, 2017.

Since https://metacpan.org now uses v1 of the API, results for v0 are no longer available. If you have a client which uses v0 of the API, please feel free to reach out to us with any concerns you may have about making the switch.

If you rely on updated ++ data, you’ll need to switch to v1 now, as ++ data in v0 is no longer being updated. The indexer is, however, still running on v0, so it will still find and index new CPAN uploads. v0 development is officially closed. Any v0 bugs (barring catastrophic issues) will likely not be addressed. v0 has been around for just over 6 years now. It has served us well, but it’s time to let it go. [Insert musical scene with a talking snowman, an ice queen and her loyal sister.]

Announcing meta::hack

Every so often, someone asks if they can donate money to MetaCPAN. I usually direct them to CPAN Testers, since (due to our generous hosting sponsors) we've generally not had a need for money. You can probably see where I'm going with this. Times have changed. We're no longer turning financial sponsors away.

Back at the QA Hackathon in Rugby, we had a great group of hackers together and we got a lot of work done. However, as we worked together, it became clear that the size of our job meant that we wouldn't be able to finish everything we had set out to do over that four day period. There are times when there's no replacement for getting everyone in the same room together.


P4230367.jpg

The first dedicated MetaCPAN hackathon will be held at the offices of ServerCentral
in Chicago, from November 17th through 20th. The primary goal for this hackathon is to complete MetaCPAN’s transition to Elasticsearch version 2. This will enable the live service to run on a cluster of machines, greatly improving reliability and performance. The hackathon will also give the core team a chance to plan work for the coming 18 months.

The meta::hack event is a hackathon where we're bringing together key developers to work on the MetaCPAN search engine and API. This will give core team members time to work together to complete the transition to Elasticsearch version 2, and time to discuss gnarly issues and plan the roadmap beyond the v1 upgrade.

MetaCPAN is now one of the key tools in a Perl developer's toolbox, so supporting this event is a great way to support the Perl community and raise your company's profile at the same time. This hackathon is by invitation only. It’s a core group of MetaCPAN hackers. We are keeping the group small in order to maintain focus on the v1 API and maximize the productivity of the group.

Why sponsor the MetaCPAN Hackathon?

 

• If your company uses Perl in any way, then your developers almost certainly use MetaCPAN to find CPAN modules, and they probably use other tools that are built on the MetaCPAN API.
• The MetaCPAN upgrade will improve the search engine and the API for all Perl developers. As a critical tool, we need it to be always available, and fast. This upgrade is a key step in that direction.
• This is a good way to establish your company as a friend of Perl, for example if you're hiring.

Participants

 

There will be 8 people taking part, including me. Everyone taking part is an experienced senior-level software engineer, and most of them have already spent a lot of time working on MetaCPAN. As noted above, this is an invitational event with a very specific focus.

What is meta::hack?

 

MetaCPAN was created in late 2010. Version 0 of the MetaCPAN API was built on a very early version of Elasticsearch. For the first 5 years, most of the work on MetaCPAN focussed on improving the data coverage, and the web interface. In that time Elasticsearch has moved on, and we're now well behind.

The work to upgrade Elasticsearch began in May of 2014. It continued in early Feb of 2015. Later, at the 2015 QA Hackathon in Berlin, Clinton Gormley (who works for Elastic) and I worked on moving MetaCPAN to Elasticsearch version 2. This work was continued at the 2016 QA Hackathon in Rugby, and as a result we now have a beta version in live usage.

The primary goal of meta::hack is to complete the port to Elasticsearch version 2, so the public API and search engine can be switched over. There are a number of benefits:

• Switching from a single server to a cluster of 3 servers, giving a more reliable service and improved performance.
• Once we decommission the old service, we’ll be able to set up a second cluster of 3 machines in a second data centre, for further improvements.
• We’ll be able to take advantage of new Elasticsearch features, like search suggesters.
• We’ll be able to use a new endpoint that has been developed specifically to speed up cpanminus lookups. Cpanminus is probably the most widely used CPAN client these days, so improving this will benefit a large percentage of the community.
• If and when search.cpan.org is decommissioned, we’ll be able to handle the extra traffic that will bring with it, and we’ll also have the redundancy to do this safely.
• We’ll be able to shift focus back to bug fixes and new MetaCPAN features.

Becoming a Sponsor

 

Neil Bowers has kindly taken on the task of shepherding the sponsorship process.  (He also wrote the sponsorship prospectus from which I cribbed most of this post.) Please contact Neil or contact me for a copy of the meta::hack sponsorship prospectus.  It contains most of the information listed above as well as the various available sponsorship levels which are available.  Thank you for your help in making this event happen.  We're looking forward to getting the key people together in one room again and making this already useful tool even better.

How to Get a CPAN Module Download URL

Every so often you find yourself requiring the download URL for a CPAN module. You can use the MetaCPAN API to do this quite easily, but depending on your use case, you may not be able to do this in a single query. Well, that's actually not entirely true. Now that we have v1 of the MetaCPAN API deployed, you can test out the shiny new (experimental) download_url endpoint. This was an endpoint added by Clinton Gormley at the QA Hackathon in Berlin. Its primary purpose is to make it easy for an app like cpanm to figure out which archive to download when a module needs to be installed. MetaCPAN::Client doesn't support this new endpoint yet, but if you want to take advantage of it, it's pretty easy.

Now invoke your script:


olaf$ perl download_url.pl Plack
https://cpan.metacpan.org/authors/id/M/MI/MIYAGAWA/Plack-1.0039.tar.gz

Update!

After I originally wrote this post, MICKEY stepped up and actually added the functionality to MetaCPAN::Client. A huge thank you to him for doing this. 🙂 Let's try this again:

That cuts the lines of code almost in half and is less error prone than crafting the query ourselves. I'd encourage you to use MetaCPAN::Client unless you have a compelling reason not to.

Caveats

This endpoint is experimental.  It might not do what you want in all cases.  See this GitHub issue for reference.  Please add to this issue if you find more cases which need to be addressed.  Having said that, this endpoint should do the right thing for most cases.  Feel free to play with it to see if it suits your needs.