Salsa Scoop> Salsa 1.8.3: 35 Fixes and Features, and We Need Your Help

Salsa 1.8.3: 35 Fixes and Features, and We Need Your Help

Tags: release

Just eight days after our last update, it's my pleasure to announce Salsa 1.8.3, a clean-up code release of 25 bug fixes and features. We're calling it a "clean-up release" because that's what we did: We changed donation page IDs to make styling easier, made sharing play nice with Internet Explorer, and stripped extra HTML out of RSS feeds. We also cleaned up nested groups in queries, removed superfluous menu items, and eliminated 2010 as an option wherever credit cards are processed. Read about all 25 changes here.

We're excited about this release because it focuses on the user's experience. Powerful software is useless if it's impossible to use, just as beautiful software is pointless if it has no features. Not every program marries function to functionality, and there just aren't that many Google search engines in this world. That's okay. That's why we work. Most of the improvements in 1.8.3 were inspired by your suggestions, collected via email, in one of our Third Thursday trainings or webinars, or posted to SalsaCommons.

All the same, there's no one feature in this release that really feels like a Steve Jobs moment -- you know, the kind of thing that makes you dress up in a black turtleneck and stand in front of 5,000 engineers, bloggers, and tweeters, just to utter the word "Boom." We touched almost every corner of Salsa, but nothing we did will fundamentally rock your Salsa experience. And that's okay: Sometimes, it's more important to fix the little irritants than push out The Next Big Thing™. That's why, today, I'm taking a different tact. Rather than highlight the release, I'd like to ask for your help.

Help Us Make Salsa A Better Place To Live

We spend a lot of time thinking about bugs. A lot of time. As a Quality Assurance Engineer for Salsa Labs, I'm paid to spend more time replicating, finding, and testing bugs in our software than I do sleeping. That's just the reality of our reality: Modern web applications like Salsa comprise thousands of files that hold hundreds of thousands of lines of code. It's a factory full moving parts, the kind of mousetrap that'd make Rube Goldberg cry. Bugs are expected. They're just as natural and as irritating as late-February snowstorms in D.C.

We work hard to catch as many bugs as possible before they reach you, our users. The developers subject each line of code to countless tests before it's handed off to QA, who then does the exact same thing except our job is to break it. The process can take hours, days, weeks, or even months, all depending on how complicated the feature, how deep the change, how broad the effect actually is. At the end of the day, we push it to our "production environment." That's the Salsa you live and breathe everyday.

Sometimes, bugs make it through. It's bound to happen, for our imagination isn't limitless. You might use a tool in a way we didn't anticipate. You might like vertical layouts while we dream in horizontal rules. They saying goes, "software is broken when it does something the user doesn't expect." Perfect software, then, does what you expect it to do all the time, and we can't make perfect software without your input.

Call it a call to arms. Call it conscription. Call it Organizing. Whatever we call it, the result is the same: We want your help to make Salsa a better place to live.

A little formatting

I hope, as you read this, you're itching to give us some ideas. I'd like to think there are users out there with a volume of suggestions saved to a text file, just waiting for a place to put them. Before you boot up that harddrive and post the whole thing to SalsaCommons, a quick note about formatting:

It helps us immensely if your bug reports and user experience suggestions contain four pieces of information:

  • The package where you're experiencing the bug or recommend the interface change. Much like a mechanic who's told, "the problem's in the back half of the vehicle," there's not much we can do without the specific package causing you trouble. The more information the better. If you really despise the formatting of one menu on a particular page and think others would, too, take a screenshot and throw it in your post. Anything that helps us narrow down the issue helps us better understand your expectation.
  • Replication steps for the issue. Some bugs and user experience suggestions are easy to see (i.e. "There's a gigantic red error in the middle of my page"). Others are much more subtle. Any information you can give us about what gave rise to the problem can be incredibly helpful in fixing it. Steps like "I uploaded a jpg image with a plus sign in the file name, and then the template tool inexplicably started playing Bad Moon Rising" are much more helpful for our development staff than "I uploaded an image and something odd happened." Speaking of which, I'm going to file this feature request right now. I think we can all agree life could use a little more CCR.
  • A brief description of the problem or suggestion, the more detailed the better. It's easy when frustrated with software to throw up your hands and say "it's broken." Trust me, I do it all the time. Fixing a problem, however, is much easier when we know precisely what's broken. A solid description like, "The menu item bleeds left off the page when I'm using Internet Explorer," means we can address your concern that much quicker.
  • What you expected to see. This is perhaps the most important part of a good bug report or interface suggestion. Sometimes it's easy to write down what's wrong, but it's almost impossible to record what's right. Software is broken when it does something you don't expect. In other words, we have to know what you were expecting. Again, the more detail the better.

That's the drift. Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled suggestions yearning to breathe free. Better yet, post them to the post I started on SalsaCommons about this very issue. The more popular the suggestion, the faster and more likely we are to implement it. Some of our best features, like most of the clean up fixes and features in 1.8.3, come not from us, but from you. Let's make Salsa a better place to live together, and keep an eye out for our next release. We've got some great features coming out in 1.8.4.


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