[Maildev] Integrating popular and useful extensions into TB

Jonathan Kamens jik at kamens.us
Thu Dec 7 09:11:23 EST 2017

I'd like to offer some perspective on this as an author of one of the
add-ons on the list (Send Later, 11th most popular).

In my experience, maintaining core Thunderbird code is a huge pain in
the neck.

The code base is huge and convoluted, the mixture of different
technologies (C++, JavaScript, others) makes things cumbersome, much of
the code is crap and unpleasant to work with, the build process --
although it is getting better -- is cumbersome, it takes a long time to
build and takes up a huge amount of disk space, incremental builds
frequently fail due to other people's changes and force a rebuild from
scratch, writing test cases is unpleasant and complex, when I do take
the time to make and submit fixes to other people's code in the code
base my fixes are frequently ignored or I'm told they won't be accepted
unless I also submit unit tests (as an open-source author of many
software packages, I never demand that someone submitting fixes to me
also write test cases; if they go through significant time and effort to
identity the root cause of a bug and provide a fix, I owe it to them to
meet them halfway and do the tests if I think they're necessary), it
frequently takes many months to a fix to make it from being committed to
being released to the world, making changes to the code base frequently
requires negotiation, bargaining, and collaboration with people who do
not always have the time to respond promptly and do not always
contribute constructively, etc., etc.

I've thousands of dollars in donations for Send Later, but I assure that
the amount of money I've made is not nearly enough to compensate me for
all the time I've spent working on it. I don't have a lot of free time
in my life (massive understatement). I want Send Later to keep working
because I, personally, use it on a regular basis.

To be sure, there are benefits to functionality being in the Thunderbird
core code, but it is not at all clear to me that the benefits outweigh
the many costs, for someone (like me) who has extremely limited time to

As someone who has extremely limited time, certainly not enough time to
be a "full-fledged" Thunderbird developer who works on the code base
enough to obviate most of the difficulties enumerated above, the path of
least resistance to keep Send Later working, for me, is going to mean
keeping it as an add-on and making whatever fixes are necessary to keep
it compatible as Thunderbird evolves.

I don't think you guys have the manpower and resources to integrate all
these add-ons into Thunderbird yourself. Let me be clear: if you */do/*
have the manpower and resources to do that, and you want to integrate
Send Later into Thunderbird and take on the responsibility for
maintaining it moving forward, I am */100% on-board with that/* and will
gladly give up my job of maintaining the add-on (and the donations that
come with it) for the sake of reclaiming time in my life.

But like I said, I don't think you have the manpower and resources to do
that. If I'm right, then let me suggest an alternative. Rather than
trying to integrate these add-ons into the Thunderbird code base, offer
to assist the maintainers of these add-ons by doing the minimal work
necessary to get each add-on "over the hump" and compatible with
Thunderbird moving forward, and then, having done that work, let the
maintainer of the add-on continue to maintain it as an add-on.


On 12/6/17 5:20 PM, Ben Bucksch wrote:
> At today's TB Council meeting, we discussed the options how to deal
> with breaking addons.
> One suggestion by Wayne that many liked was to integrate popular and
> useful extensions into TB core. They should contain functionality that
> is closely related to Thunderbird core, be very useful, and be very
> popular.
> A good starting point are the list of the most popular 10 or so
> extensions.
> Another hint are extensions that large enterprise deployments consider
> vital, e.g. IMAP folder sharing to allow for vacation replacement.
> Here's a filtered list of the most popular addons:
> *Name* 	*Userbase* 	*AMO URL*
> importexporttools 	4,02%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/324492
> lookout 	2,11% 	https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/4433
> enigmail 	1,69% 	https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/71
> manually-sort-folders 	1,42%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/15102
> compactheader 	1,36%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/13564
> extra-folder-columns 	1,27%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/9716
> quicktext 	0,97% 	https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/640
> gcontactsync 	0,90% 	https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/8451
> signature-switch 	0,88%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/611
> remove-duplicate-messages-alte 	0,72%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/4654
> send-later-3 	0,70%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/195275
> gmail-conversation-view 	0,62%
> https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/54035
> mail-merge 	0,60% 	https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/47144
> Here, "Userbase" means the percentage of all TB users that have this
> particular addon installed. That means e.g. 1 in 166 users have "mail
> redirect" installed. There may be many more users who would like to
> use this feature, but don't know that the extension exists, and more
> that would find that feature useful, but don't know that something
> like this exists. So, we cannot just take the raw numbers, but also
> need to consider the usefulness for our users in general.
> Please discuss each addon in its own thread. To help finding the
> thread, please start the subject with "Integrating"
> Ben
> _______________________________________________
> Maildev mailing list
> Maildev at lists.thunderbird.net
> http://lists.thunderbird.net/mailman/listinfo/maildev_lists.thunderbird.net
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