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November 4, 2009

SeaMonkey 2 contributor interviews: InvisibleSmiley

It's Wednesday, and with that, time for another post in the ongoing series of SeaMonkey 2 contributor intereviews! This time, we'll continue with a guy who's known on IRC as InvisibleSmiley:

Who are you?

I'm Jens Hatlak, German/Austrian, single, located in Frankfurt, Germany, and still on the better side of 30. :-) I've been working as a PHP web developer for a large logistics company since I left university (computer science, TU Darmstadt) in 2007.

I chose my nickname, InvisibleSmiley, because I think it's funny to tell people that's what they missed when someone made a statement with hidden irony. ;-)

I like to play the piano, although I'm not especially good at it. I'm a good swimmer, though, a science fiction fan, and a grammar guru (avoiding the more popular alternative term here for hopefully obvious reasons).

How did you become a SeaMonkey contributor?

I started using Mozilla when it was still in the Milestone phase (around 2000), so I was a beta tester almost from the beginning, but only watching the game back then.

In 2001 I made my first Bugzilla comment and filed an enhancement bug (still open!). I also started university that year where I joined a group of system administrators responsible for the computers of the computer science department (some thousand students). After some time I took over the responsibility of not only the web server but also parts of the software installation, including Mozilla (later also Firefox, Thunderbird, and SeaMonkey), all on Sparc/Solaris. During that time I learned how to compile software from source under difficult conditions and how to write patches. However I was still not actively contributing code. Even when I worked on MozPETs I sticked to what I knew (compiling ) instead of diving into extension development and trying to understand the basic principles like XUL.

I kept using SeaMonkey when Mozilla decided to drop the suite, staying on the bleeding edge (nightly builds). When MozillaNews went on hiatus (and with it its Bonsai Watch bug tracker) I started to track SeaMonkey-affecting bugs myself, just out of interest. At some point in time I decided to push the results to a place where I (and others) could find and search them: The SeaMonkey Trunk Tracker was born. I learned how to build SeaMonkey on Windows and updated my public build instructions, but other than that I just watched development progress.

My active participation in SeaMonkey development started only last year, in October 2008 (funnily by posting a patch one minute after another developer submitted almost exactly the same), when the code had already moved to Mercurial. I was surprised by the fact that simple changes and corrections were much easier to accomplish than I had thought, so I continued to contribute small patches. The rest is history . :-)

What notable contribution did you make to SeaMonkey 2.0?

I must have touched almost all parts of the UI by now... Let's see.

This may look like much (and it's certainly not few) but it's nothing compared to what people like Neil contributed in the same period of time: just think of all the reviews he made! Respect.

Beyond that I looked into making some popular extensions compatible with SeaMonkey 2, i.e. ones that need more than just a version bump. So far I have been successful with Nostalgy, Flat Bookmark Editing, Download Statusbar, and Firebug (yes, that's right!). I hope the latter can be fixed at the source, the others should appear at the xSidebar site sooner or later.

How can users give something back to you?

I don't know, maybe a bar of good chocolate? :-)

Seriously, my personal needs aside I'd like to see more people getting involved in the project. If you are maintaining an add-on (extension or theme), now would be a fine time to make it SeaMonkey 2.0 compatible. But coding is only part of it, so if you feel like you should give something back, you could help with marketing, quality assurance (e.g. organizing bug days), design (especially icons!), featured articles (e.g. blog posts with screen shots or videos) or even usability considerations. Helping other people in fora and newsgroups is also appreciated, of course. :-)

Oh, and if people would stop mistaking "it's" for "its" that would be nice, it hurts my eyes. :-P

Why, in your eyes, should people use SeaMonkey 2.0?

Because it has everything you need in one place. I think it's the combination of browser and MailNews that I like best but I've learned that people have different reasons for using SeaMonkey, and all of them are valid. I'm not saying that everyone should use SeaMonkey, though; in fact I tell people who really want to use just a browser to use Firefox instead if they feel comfortable with it. In the end it's just a matter of personal preference.

What next step do you see for SeaMonkey, and what would you like to happen in the Mozilla and SeaMonkey projects?

In the imminent future I think we need to concentrate on getting it right, i.e. fixing the most evident problems people have with SeaMonkey 2.0 (like the recurring high CPU load issue). The next step is to make use of more Toolkit features like the Places back-end for bookmarks which will enable syncing bookmarks with Weave, and to foster integration (Lightning, KompoZer; maybe instant messaging?). In the more distant future we'll have to keep an eye on what people expect from a modern Internet application and cautiously make the necessary adjustments.

What I would like to see is an evolution of usability (supporting the user's work flow), and an improved collaboration of Mozilla projects. The comm projects (Thunderbird, SeaMonkey and Calendar) are already cooperating quite nicely but I think there's room for improvement elsewhere.

Posted by KaiRo at 4:20 PM | Comments (1)