MozillaZine

An open letter to AMO

Talk about add-ons and extension development.
mctones
 
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Joined: June 29th, 2006, 4:18 am

Post Posted July 1st, 2007, 11:27 am

Preamble: Am posting this here as many people have a vested interest, mods please remove if you feel inappropriate.

Dear AMO

Whilst I understand your position of quality control in Firefox addons, and accept you have every right to decide which addons appear on your site, I strongly feel the current sandbox system is flawed, a barrier to developers and users alike, and ultimately does more harm than good.

Firstly, the requirement for reviews seems to be ill thought out; if you take a look at your recommended addons (which I suspect get thousands of downloads per week) some have little more than half a dozen reviews, yet you expect little known addons in a sandbox to garner a number of reviews before an editor will look at them?

This brings me on to my second point, entry to the sandbox itself - I strongly suspect VERY FEW people register for the sandbox, and even fewer activate sandbox access. Even fewer then go on to add a review. Asking 3pd's to get people to review is fine if you are site specific and can put up a little request, but this is only appropriate for some. If anything, those with the desire to write a damaging extension have more chance of getting fake reviews onto the sandbox.

Ask what is the strength of Firefox and most people will say addons and themes, yet in the last couple of months or so you are cutting off the very hand that feeds.

There needs to be a better way, maybe the other way around in that addons go onto AMO and can then be flagged for removal from AMO into the sandbox if users are not happy with it.

In my country we are treated as innocent until proven guilty - it is saddening to see Mozilla treat 3PD's and their addons as guilty until proven innocent.

Yours faithfully, Tony
My Addons: twitterbar, Minimap

mightyglydd

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Post Posted July 1st, 2007, 12:23 pm

mctones wrote:There needs to be a better way, maybe the other way around in that addons go onto AMO and can then be flagged for removal from AMO into the sandbox if users are not happy with it.

Conduit toolbar makers would just LOVE that! :wink:
#KeepFightingMichael

mctones
 
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Joined: June 29th, 2006, 4:18 am

Post Posted July 1st, 2007, 12:30 pm

mightyglydd wrote:
mctones wrote:There needs to be a better way, maybe the other way around in that addons go onto AMO and can then be flagged for removal from AMO into the sandbox if users are not happy with it.

Conduit toolbar makers would just LOVE that! :wink:

So we just tar everyone with the same brush?
My Addons: twitterbar, Minimap

mightyglydd

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Post Posted July 1st, 2007, 12:40 pm

^No, It's just better when the foxes are outside the henhouse.
#KeepFightingMichael

bob4mary
 
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Joined: March 25th, 2007, 5:45 pm

Post Posted July 1st, 2007, 8:03 pm

There has to be a better option as a humble user I assumed that the add-on section was THE place to go if you were looking for an extension. It was not until after I started developing my own, having not found what I wanted on the official extension site, that I discovered that most extensions are hosted elsewhere. I wondered why until I tried to get my extension on the add-on site.

max1million
 
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Post Posted July 5th, 2007, 5:46 am

It's not a sandbox, it's the pit of hell for new extension. They think people are actually going to create an account log in, edit their preferences, search through the extensions, try them, log back in and find the page again, to leave a review? And all that without even knowing about the sandbox? You got to be kidding. It's actually a way to control the extension population growth on AMO.

As some say, forget sandbox until you don't need it. If the extension is already a success somewhere else you can refer the official reviewers back to that page's url in the notes to reviewers.

Updating extension already public not so bad.

Sandbox idea is actually fairly new, used to be all extensions where officially reviewed (without user reviews) based more on working, not popularity. Also many extensions on AMO have their real home page somewhere else, as well as those not on AMO.

Lucy
 
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Joined: August 14th, 2005, 7:41 pm
Location: Canada

Post Posted July 5th, 2007, 9:51 pm

The idea is good, but the execution is flawed, of course as max1million notes, it's new so flaws are pretty much guaranteed. The intent was to have a special area for people who would normally be afraid of the risk to get to addons that were guaranteed to be safe, while providing an area that was more open than the old review system.

There's been plenty of discussion in the amo-editors mailing list about the problems we've been hitting and seeing users hit, so it's not a matter of things are they way they are. Things like problems with the search, and problems getting reviews, problems with the criteria for approving reviews. It's all getting attention and things are being improved where they can. I'm not sure if there's discussion going on anywhere more open as I haven't been following closely. I've asked in the mailing list (which is where I found out about this thread) and will post back.

max1million
 
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Post Posted July 7th, 2007, 1:15 am

The way I see it there are 3 main things wrong with the "Sandbox"

1: First off it so well hidden that nobody will find it if they don't already know that it's there. It is not even mentioned on the main page. They could have a short section saying: "There are other addons available in the "Sandbox". These are in need of further TESTING or have not been PROVEN valuable, If you would like to help TEST and REVIEW these addons click here to find out how." See that's not so much extra space. Of course that can lead to another page with further warnings to scare of at least half of them that get there and more information detailing how to setup your account, and how to get to sandbox. Also a bit about troubleshooting and discussions, and a bit more about leaving a review. So they might actually be constructive instead of 'rating zero don't work'.

2: Once you know they are there they are still hidden, even when logged in. You have to first know how to enable the viewing of the "Sandbox", which is another round about. At least the links and checkbox are marked a bit better now. This kind of goes with 1, but jumping through the hoops on a dark night in the forest without so much as a moon for light is a pain.

3: Not being able to view and search both "Public" and "Sandbox" at same time. If you willing to go through all of the above to try stuff from there, why not be able to see them all? The pages are already clearly marked as for the difference.

Note: I doubt the that many of the users that would be willing to test would even know where to search to find out about alpha/beta/untested/unproven addons with hiding the Easter Egg as well as it is. Improving the information and access to user/tester I believe would be beneficial to all. If you can direct this to someone that might consider some of the ideas please do.

Lucy
 
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Location: Canada

Post Posted July 7th, 2007, 2:22 pm

I totally agree, personally. Well, I'm sure everyone involved agrees with what you've identified as problems, I'm just curious as to what others will see as the solutions.

Myself, I would be interested in looking into trying these things: For your 1 and 2 I would actually just expose the sandbox link as if someone were logged in. If you click on it without being logged in, it would give you a page with a brief explanation as you suggested, and prompt you to login/create an account. Then once logged in, if you click on the sandbox link it gives you a warning and provides a checkbox to "not show this warning again" which would become the toggle in the profile. That is, you can turn on and off the warning that you're about to enter the sandbox rather than turn off whether or not you can ever see it.

For 3 yes, it's very annoying that if you have the sandbox enabled you can't search both. As well, if a public add-on gets an update you can't actually find that version by searching the sandbox. You have to go to that addon's public page and then click on the sandbox link at the top of the page (this has already come up in the mailing list). I know search is one thing though that is already being improved as they update. I'd have to check bugzilla to see what specific changes are already planned/patched.

I would also personally like to see 3 stages as opposed to two, but this would be a longer term issue, not sure what it would take to implement... rather than having simply the sandbox and public, which doesn't protect reviewers from malicious extensions, I would like to have some 3rd area or first pass that checks for malicious code/extensions that crash or otherwise cause damage.

I've also thought about maybe having the sandbox and public as they are now, but having a second public area of "super trusted" addons. Go back to something more like the old testing style of review to go public, and then stick with the current criteria to go public to get into the special area.

It's the weekend so there isn't going to be much action, but as I said, I'll post back when there is.

max1million
 
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Post Posted July 7th, 2007, 9:35 pm

Many sites that offer software also offer their alpha and beta (not sandbox) projects for testing. Those that are would be testers would be looking for a link to such (testers/alpha/beta/projects). I was going to mention a middle ground, as have seen suggested before. One where they have gone though some testing and checks similar to the old way AMO was done. I think they are trying to not waste time and space, and get the better to the most.

One reason given for removing download count from public viewing was to help get people to try/use some of the less popular addons instead of just those with the highest download count. I can see how weekly updates would inflate the download count popularity, which was one complaint , and they also needed to be tested (officially reviewed). My most downloaded extension, admittedly not in the tops overall, more the doubled within a few weeks after an update. It just happens to be the last one to go public since before the change over to Sandbox. It would likely still be there had it not already been released. It by the way has surpassed in number of downloads of all my others combined. They are doing exactly the same thing, more so, with the sandbox review system. It's a popularity contest with the few people that even make it there. And most won't bother leave a review anyway. Dividing up into 3 sections would still be a popularity contest. The new AMO does help the ones that are already public but sets back the others.

It took me a few weeks to find out how to get to sandbox when they made the change and all the extensions disappeared, and I have some extensions at AMO. Had to search through a quite a few posts/links before finding a link to a blog that laid out the process.

The simplest suggestions in number 1 doesn't require rewriting the whole site, just add a page, pack it full of helpful info, and a link to it from a sentence (which could be shortened more "Addons Testers wanted") on the main page. I'm done ranting it does little good. Hopefully I can stop myself from posting to this kind of topic again, if not at least keep it shorter.

Lucy
 
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Joined: August 14th, 2005, 7:41 pm
Location: Canada

Post Posted July 7th, 2007, 9:49 pm

Hey, I like long posts. Nothing wrong with saying what you think in a well thought out and explained manner. Hard to say something good in 3 lines, really. And it's not more than you'd say if we were having a face to face conversation. I get people on my case for long posts in debates myself though.

TwisterMc

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Post Posted July 14th, 2007, 8:22 am

I too am finding it increasingly hard to get my themes to the public. I can see why developers don't even bother.

One thing I was thinking about was user levels. That way if someone already has 5 themes live, any new items they added would be trusted more. Think of it like Digg, the more you use it, the more power the user has. Plus, reviews could up your authority too.

Overall, the sandbox is a good idea for safety, but bad for developers. There is so much stuck in the sandbox that may never go live to the public and it's just going to get lost. I do think the sandbox needs to show up in public searches and when the user hit's install, they are taken to a screen that describes the sandbox and asks them to login. At least that way we are getting the items out there and increasing the likelihood that they'll get reviewed and eventually make it out of the sandbox.

jenkinsjeffrey
 
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Post Posted September 17th, 2007, 1:15 am

1. As a developer I took me almost 2 hours just to figure out the sandbox process so it made sense to me. How is a user who just want to find new cool stuff going to spend two hours of their life figuring out what sandbox is why it is important and how to contribute.

Beguiler
 
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Post Posted September 25th, 2007, 1:14 am

mightyglydd wrote:^No, It's just better when the foxes are outside the henhouse.


Opps?

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3141
http://img215.imageshack.us/img215/267/ ... ggskf1.png



bob4mary wrote:There has to be a better option


it was called extensions mirror. AMO assassination?
add-ons ought not take advantage of ignorance

Philip Chee

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Post Posted September 25th, 2007, 7:33 am

Beguiler wrote:it was called extensions mirror. AMO assassination?
It's now called The Add-ons Mirror.

Phil

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