Operations in Production

Operations in Production

As we setup our important infrastructure we set up monitoring, alerting, and keep a close eye on them. As the services we provide grow and need to expand, or failures in hardware attempt to wreck havoc, we’re ready because of the due diligence that’s gone into monitoring the infrastructure and applications deployed. To do this monitoring, we often bake it into our deployment and configuration management tooling. One thing I often see is that folks forget to monitor the tools that coordinate all of that deployment and configuration management. It’s a bit of a case of “who watches the watcher?”

2016 kick off

Photo by pownibe/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by pownibe/iStock / Getty Images

2016 has arrived and most New Years I don't feel the need to really do or think much on the coming year.Things change too much. A year ago, how much of today would I have foreseen? 

This year though, well the last few weeks at least, I've felt the year coming more. I feel the need to write out goals for myself in the coming year. One of which is to get back a website presence. I've done that by moving my old WordPress content over here to a new SquareSpace site that I'll hopefully put together to better capture me. For the most part, this is just for myself. However, I struggle with a WordPress, G+, Tumblr, Flickr, and Twitter accounts and find myself split based on the part that make up me. There's my work, my hobbies, my family, and my rants!  I'll be trying to consolidate that mess here and make some sense of it so I start to feel like I've got a creative outlet that fits me. 

All that said, here be dragons, construction, and hopefully a revitalization of my brain down to word form. 

The great goals of 2016

Write more

This one seems like the no brainer so far. I'd like to write more and improve my writing skills, ergo this website. 

Get out for more planned photography adventures

I'm an opportunistic photographer. I take a camera with me, try to get a few snapshots, and hopefully some of them look good and make me happy. I need to put forth more effort into getting out for some planned ideas. Go get some sunrise shots by setting an alarm and having a place I want to go to capture that sunrise. Keep an eye on cool local events to do some street photography during local fairs and such. Plan ahead when a work trip comes up, and make sure I've planned out some of the pictures I want to make and come home with. 

Get outside more

I work from home, long hours, and really need to get outside more. I love camping, hiking, fishing, etc. I just don't seem to prioritize it enough so that I make sure to do it enough. As my son gets older, including him in these excursions should help kill off excuses for not doing it. 

Travel more, and make sure some of it is for fun

I have been travelling more for work, but as I travel more it's for shorter 'hop over for a couple of meetings' travel and there's not really much fun to it. I really need to get some more travel for myself going. Ever since I've joined Canonical and started traveling I've gotten bit more and more by that darned travel bug. I also feel like traveling well, vs just showing up for work, is amazingly good for expanding your horizons. I need more of that.

Sell a LOT of stuff

Folks know I have a problem. I'm continually optimizing, I enjoy nice things, and I like to try out new things. All of this leads to me collecting many items around the house and many I don't use any more because I found better tools, different ways of doing things, etc. I've just loaded 4 30gal bags of clothes to donate into the back of the car. I really wanted to add more. I think over this year you'll see a concerted effort to do more with less and the travel bug has a lot to do with that. 

Finally: figure out this job thing

This one seems like it should be easy, but wow it's been an interesting year at work. All I ever wanted was to write code and build things. However, I don't think I've written much of any code over the last year. Instead I've gotten myself into the responsibilities of product owner, product manager, and director of engineering. I care about building cool things, talking about them, and coordinating a dozen moving parts to make it happen. I'm not perfect, but I feel like my brain fits much of this work. I've just not figured out exactly how it's all going to shake out. I'm still in interim directory. I really think the part I enjoy is the product work though. Can you do one and not the other? Every year since joining Canonical the unexpected has reigned and I have a feeling this year's ride will be crazier than ever.

Working at Canonical, three years in. a.k.a wtf just happened?

A couple of people have reached out to me via LinkedIn and reminded me that my three year work anniversary happened last Friday. Three years since I left my job at a local place to go work for the Canonical where I got the chance to be paid to work on open source software and better my Python skills with the team working on Launchpad. My wife wasn't quite sure. "You've only been at your job a year and a half, and your last one was only two years. What makes this different?" What's amazing, looking back, is just how *right* the decision turned out to be. I was nervous at the time. I really wasn't Launchpad's biggest fan. However, the team I interviewed with held this promise of making me a better developer. They were doing code reviews of every branch that went up to land. They had automated testing, and they firmly believed in unit and functional tests of the code. It was a case of the product didn't excite me, but the environment, working with smart developers from across the globe, was exactly what I felt like I needed to move forward with my career, my craft.

2013-09-02 18.17.47

I joined my team on Launchpad in a squad of four other developers. It was funny. When I joined I felt so lost. Launchpad is an amazing and huge bit of software, and I knew I was in over my head. I talked with my manager at the time, Deryck, and he told me "Don't worry, it'll take you about a year to get really productive working on Launchpad." A year! Surely you jest, and if you're not jesting...wtf did I just get myself into?

It was a long road and over time I learned how to take a code review (a really hard skill for many of us), how to do one, and how to talk with other smart and opinionated developers. I learned the value of the daily standup, how to manage work across a kanban board. I learned to really learn from others. Up until this point I'd always been the big fish in a small pond and suddenly I was the minnow hiding in the shallows. Forget books on how to code, just look at the diff in the code review you're reading right now. Learn!

My boss was right, it was nearly ten months before I really felt like I could be asked to do most things in Launchpad and get them done in an efficient way. Soon our team was moved on from Launchpad to other projects. It was actually pretty great. On the one hand, "Hey! I just got the hang of this thing" but, on the other hand, we were moving on to new things. Development life here has never been one of sitting still. We sit down and work on the Ubuntu cycle of six month plans, and it's funny because even that is such a long time. Do you really know what you'll be doing six months from now?


Since that time in Launchpad I've gotten work on several different projects and I ended up switching teams to work on the Juju Gui. I didn't really know a lot about this Juju thing, but the Gui was a fascinating project. It's a really large scale JavaScript application. This is no "toss some jQuery on a web page" thing here.

I also moved to work under a new manager Gary. As my second manager since starting at Canonical and I was amazed at my luck. Here I've had two great mentors that made huge strides in teaching me how to work with other developers, how to do the fun stuff, the mundane, and how to take pride in the accomplishments of the team. I sit down at my computer every day and I've got the brain power of amazing people at my disposal over irc, Google Hangouts, email, and more. It's amazing to think that at these sprints we do, I'm pretty much never the smartest person in the room. However, that's what's so great. It's never boring and when there's a problem the key is that we put our joint brilliant minds to the problem. In every hard problem we've faced I've never found that a single person had the one true solution. What we come up with together is always better than what any of us had apart.

When Gary left and there was a void for team lead and it was something I was interested in. I really can't say enough awesome things about the team of folks I work with. I wanted to keep us all together and I felt like it would be great for us to try to keep things going. It was kind of a "well I'll just try not to $#@$@# it up" situation. That was more than nine months ago now. Gary and Deryck taught me so much, and I still have to bite my tongue and ask myself "What would Gary do" at times. I've kept some things the same, but I've also brought my own flavor into the team a bit, at least I like to think so. These days my Github profile doesn't show me landing a branch a day, but I take great pride in the progress of the team as a whole each and every week.

The team I run now is as awesome a group of people, the best I could hope to work for. I do mean that, I work for my team. It's never the other way around and that's one lesson I definitely picked up from my previous leads. The projects we're working on are exciting and new and are really important to Canonical. I get to sit in and have discussions and planning meetings with Canonical super genius veterans like Kapil, Gustavo, and occasionally Mark Shuttleworth himself.

Looking back I've spent the last three years becoming a better developer, getting an on the job training course on leading a team of brilliant people, and crash course on thinking about the project, not just as the bugs or features for the week, but for the project as it needs to exist in three to six months. I've spent three years bouncing between "what have I gotten myself into, this is beyond my abilities" to "I've got this. You can't find someone else to do this better". I always tell people that if you're not swimming as hard as you can to keep up, find another job. I feel like three years ago I did that and I've been swimming ever since.


Three years is a long time in a career these days. It's been a wild ride and I can't thank the folks that let me in the door, taught me, and have given me the power to do great things with my work enough. I've worked by butt off in Budapest, Copenhagen, Cape Town, Brussels, North Carolina, London, Vegas, and the bay area a few times. Will I be here three years from now? Who knows, but I know I've got an awesome team to work with on Monday and we'll be building an awesome product to keep building. I'm going to really enjoy doing work that's challenging and fulfilling every step of the way.


Bookie meets Google Summer of Code 2014

Today the Google Summer of Code student selections were announced, and with that announcement Bookie revealed our selections for the slots allocated for each of our two mentors. This announcement highlights an amazing round of participation in Bookie as an open source project. Twenty people participated and landed over 110 commits worth of patches in Bookie since the opening of GSoC. That is AMAZING! In less than a week every bite-sized bug evaporated from the issue tracker. Also amazing is the quality and effort that everyone put into their work. Everyone was eager to learn how to add tests to their patches, and they worked so hard to get their code landed. Bookie emerges a better open source tool for managing bookmarks than it was 2 months ago, and that is because of the hard work and dedication of all of the participating students.

Students did more than land branches; they invigorated the community. We had many users jump into IRC to answer questions and guide students through the process. They also performed QA and did code reviews of their work. The enthusiasm the students brought to Bookie motivated me to make the time to help move things forward. After all: if a student spent 3 days figuring out how to fix a bug, write a test for it, commit the fixes to git, and get it up for code review; then I can manage to find the 30 minutes to pull the commit, review the code, and QA the work. This period motivated me to update documentation and ensure the install process worked for a wider audience. Additional motivation came from knowing that Bookie is interesting as a tool to other people besides myself.

I want every student not selected for Google Summer of Code to know their work and effort is greatly appreciated. I and the other members of the Bookie community enjoyed working with everyone who participated. Bookie had 32 applications for 2 available spots. In conversations with other organizations Bookie had a comparatively crazy amount of competition for few allocated spaces. I wish Bookie had a dozen or so more mentors and slots as over half of Bookie's proposals would have easily been accepted. Culling the dozens of great proposals into two positions was a very difficult process for us. It's hard to say "not right now" when there's so many great offers by so many eager and capable students.

Regardless of whether you were selected for Google Summer of Code the fun doesn't have to end. If you found the time contributing to Bookie valuable; if you learned something new, gained some material for that resume, or just had a good time: PLEASE DON'T STOP! Bookie isn't going anywhere or closing up shop; we're more than happy to continue mentoring and working with you all. We worked hard during this process to ensure all students were given the best chance to take something positive away from this application process. With your continued participation in the Bookie project we'd like to continue to mentor and provide guidance for you.

One area of guidance we owe all students relates to your proposal. Should you want any explanation of what you could do differently with your proposal / application please let us know. I'll be honest though: most of the applications we received were quite good, so there's little to critique. The scoring method we used put most of the applications within a few points of each other. But if you'd like to know more please feel free to ping me in irc and ask me anything you'd like.

Finally we'd like to congratulate Sambuddha and Pradyumna for their outstanding work leading up to this announcement, and we look forward to the results of their proposals for adding great features to Bookie over the summer. If you find the work interesting, please come help them out. Feel free to get involved, help with the work, the code reviews, and the testing of the new features. Maybe you'll be helping mentor Bookie next year? Who knows? :)

This was our first year participating in Google Summer of Code, but you can be assured it will not be the last.We'd like to thank all of the students for flooding our channels and making this not only an amazingly crazy and busy time but also an immensely rewarding period in Bookie's history. You are all part of Bookie's history and we look forward to seeing you as part of Bookie's future. Thank you.

Juju Quickstart and the power of bundles

The Juju UI team has been hard at work making it even easier for you to get started with Juju. We've got a new tool for everyone that is appropriately named Juju Quickstart and when you combine it with the power of Juju bundles you're in for something special.

Quickstart is a Juju plugin that aims to help you get up and running with Juju faster than any set of commands you can copy and paste. First, to use Quickstart you need to install it. If you're on the upcoming Ubuntu Trusty release it's already there for you. If you're on an older version of Ubuntu you need to get the Juju stable ppa

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:juju/stable sudo apt-get update

Installing Quickstart is then just:

sudo apt-get install juju-quickstart

Once you've got Quickstart installed you are ready to use it to deploy Juju environments. Just run it with `juju-quickstart`. Quickstart will then open a window to help walk you through setting up your first cloud environment using Juju.

Quickstart can help you configure and setup clouds using LXC (for local environments), OpenStack (which is used for HP Cloud), Windows Azure, and Amazon EC2. It knows what configuration data is required for each cloud provider and provides hints on where to find the information you’ll need.

Once you've configured  your cloud provider, Quickstart will bootstrap a Juju environment on it for you. This takes a while on live clouds as this is bringing up instances.

Quickstart does a couple of things to make the environment nicer than your typical bootstrap. First, it will automatically install the Juju GUI for you. It does this on the first machine brought up in the environment so that it's co-located, which means it comes up much faster and does not incur the cost of a separate machine.  Once the GUI is up and running, Quickstart will automatically launch your browser and log you into the GUI. This saves you from having to copy and paste your admin secret to log in.

If you would like to setup additional environments you can re-launch Quickstart at any time. Use juju-quickstart -i to get back to the guided setup.

Once the environment is up Quickstart still helps you out by providing a shortcut to get back to the Juju GUI running. It will auto launch your browser, find the right IP address of the GUI, and auto log you in. Come back the next day and Quickstart is still the fastest way to get back into your environment.

Finally, Quickstart works great with the new Juju charm bundles feature. A bundle is a set of services with a specific configuration and their corresponding relations that can be deployed together via a single step. Instead of deploying a single service, they can be used to deploy an entire workload, with working relations and configuration. The use of bundles allows for easy repeatability and for sharing of complex, multi-service deployments. Quickstart can accept a bundle and will deploy that bundle for you. If the environment is not bootstrapped it will bring up the environment, install the GUI, and then deploy the bundle.

For instance, here is the one command needed to deploy a bundle that we’ve created and shared:

juju-quickstart bundle:~jorge/mongodb-cluster/1/mongodb-cluster

If the environment is already bootstrapped and running then Quickstart will just deploy the bundle. The two features together work great for testing repeatable deployments. What's great is that the power of Juju means you can test this deployment on multiple clouds effortlessly.  For instance you can design and configure your bundle locally via LXC and, when satisfied, deploy it to a real environment, simply by changing the environment command-line option when launching Quickstart.

Try out Quickstart and bundles and let us know what you think. Feel free to hop into our irc channel #juju on Freenode if you've got any questions. We're happy to help.

Make sure to check out Mat's great YouTube video walk through as well over on the Juju GUI blog.

Bookie Sprint - Aug 31st

It's time for another Bookie sprint! When - Saturday August 31st

What time - Starts at 11am

Where - my house! Ping me for address/map info if you're coming along. Map out to Clarkston, MI.

What will we be working on?

The goal is to work on test coverage and breadability article parsing. Are you new to application testing? Come out and learn while helping out an open source project.

If you want to participate online please join our irc channel #bookie on freenode.net. If there's something else you'd rather work on then please let me know and I'll be happy to do whatever I can to aid in participation.

Pebble: first impressions


Some time back in April of 2012 someone on Twitter linked to this Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a very geeky watch. The idea was interesting to me. I love my android phone, but it's in my pocket all day. The idea of getting texts on my wrist while driving, working, and woodworking was intriguing. Not all messages require me to pull out my phone, unlock it, and view what was up. So I supported it.

Here we are, not that far from a year later, and I've gotten a copy of the watch. I've been using it for the past few days and wanted to put out there my feedback. There's a bit out there already, but hey, my turn!

The Good

Does it work like it's supposed to? Definitely! I've been getting texts and calendar notifications on the watch and it's been really nice. Simple texts like the one from my wife "on my way home" have been nice to just press a button and dismiss. Calendar notifications as well. I'm up getting a drink and a meeting notice buzzes my wrist with a note what's coming up. It's much nicer than pulling out the phone. The one downside is that when you do pull your phone out there's a bunch of notifications to dismiss and you want to make sure you got them all.

As for fit, I need to get a replacement wrist band, but it's not that bad. I was worried about the size of the face, but I've not found that it's actually not that large. There are much larger watches out there by far. I do find that it rotates around and ends up on the bone every once in a while, but I'm hoping a better watch band will help with that. I'd rather they put the $$ into the device and less into meeting everyone's private feelings about what makes a great watch band, so no complaints.

Battery life isn't really tested yet. I charged it when I first got it and I'm on day 3. This includes leaving it overnight hooked up to my phone which I should probably stop I guess. My phone battery seems ok as well. It's hard to judge as I've got a nearly 1yr old Galaxy Nexus with a battery that needs replacement currently.

The Potential

I'm not going to go down the 'bad' road here. This is a new product, just released, and it's getting updates so let's just concentrate on what could be better.

The first thing is the navigation. It came out during the initial demos. The nav menu is setup in a way that needs love. If I have to have watch faces on there as full app status, then I should be able to remove ones I don't use so that navigation is less painful. Honestly, watchfaces need a sub nav. Settings already has this, so the concept should be easy to implement.

Along those lines, back from the home menu should activate the watch face. I once changed watch faces because I was in the settings and waiting for the home nav to timeout back to the watch face. In that time I moved in my wrist in a way that activated a new watch face on accident. Doh!

Next up, we really really need the sdk. Currently, there's just a limited set of uses. It's great for texts/calender notifications, but there's so much more that could be possible. Imagine a pomodoro app for the time management geeks, or hooking up the Field Trip app into notifications as you walk around. There's a lot of potential and the sdk needs to come out to enable a lot of it.

It really needs a battery indicator somehow. I'd really settle for a number value in the settings/about area. If I'm going to trust this as my watch I need to have an idea when I leave the house if it's going to make it or not. If it's meant to charge once a week, I'm not going to have a full recollection of the last time I put it on the charger. Was that Sunday? or maybe it was Saturday? I don't think it needs to be too prominent though.

The final thing is more a nitpick. I listen to Audible a lot on my phone. While doing the dishes, cleaning the house, making dinner, all the time. So I really love the idea of using my watch to start/stop vs using my phone itself as it sits in my pocket. However, the integration there isn't perfect. If I'm playing a book and use the music app to pause, it will pause my book, but starts the Google Music application. Then another pause will stop that music as well. However, I can't then start back up again. Somehow, my bluetooth speaker and headphones talk to Android in a way that it can start/stop any audio application. It just starts the last thing playing, podcasts in DogCatcher, books in Audible, or music in Google Music. I really want the pebble music app to work like that as well.


I really like the Pebble, but a big part of my like is seeing the potential. I think they made a great decision to not try to make the watch the computer and use the phone for that. I hope they don't ever stray from that decision. I also really like how Android has made things much nicer/easier for them. I can't wait to see what other apps can do with a Pebble intent that would allow exposing some UX away from the device itself. If you're a dev I'll finish up with a few wishlist items for people to work on:

  • Google Authenticator app on the watch to show the number generated
  • Google now card info: weather, flight upcoming, upcoming meeting
  • Syncing alarms from device to watch
  • Twitter replies/DM notifications
  • Field Trip app info when you pass by a specific place
  • Guidebook integration with next talk/room information

Bookie 0.4: one week retrospective

Phew, that was a whirlwind of a week. Just over one week ago I finally released Bookie 0.4 and published the blog post to reddit as an announcement. This introduced signups and I was eager to see if there was real interest in the project now that users could sign up and try things out.

By the numbers

Traffic definitely came.

  • The blog post picked up 800 visits over the two days in the weekend.
  • https://bmark.us grabbed 360 unique new visitors.
  • We went from 58 to 126 activated user accounts.
  • Those users brought us to over 26,000 bookmarks stored in the site.


Of course, any swarm of new users finds the holes in the system and Bookie was no different. There were a few issues. First, the celery task that sends out emails on signup wasn't running because the email config wasn't setup right. This was a pretty quick fix. Next, the import system wasn't filling out the path for uploaded files correctly. This one was another pretty easy fix, but I managed imports manually until I got the fix deployed.

The big thing was that, for probably the first time, all three moving parts to the system were trying to store bookmarks at once. The celery backend, the web UI, and a cron script that looks for new bookmarks without readable content and fetches it for storing. All of these hit the Whoosh fulltext index and caused locking issues that broke both imports and saving new bookmarks from the webui until I figured out the issue and just reset the fulltext index.

It was pretty bad timing as I could see users trying to add test bookmarks via the web interface. Google realtime analytics is pretty entrancing to watch. In the end I had to run to the Whoosh docs and change things up to use the async writer instead of the default locking mechanism. This got things running again, but the problem now is that I had to remove all the existing fulltext index. I've still got to finish a background job that will walk through all bookmarks and index them.

At some point I might need to remove the fulltext indexing from the current SqlAlchemy event hooks, but as purely background celery jobs that I can control from one place easier. This would remove the lock at all from the cron job and the web ui.


While I could see the charts showing traffic, it was tough because it was pretty invisible traffic. There were only three new users into the #bookie irc channel, and only a few people left comments in the reddit thread. No one left a comment on the blog post. Both my Twitter account and the Bookie accountgained fewer than 5 new followers. While the repository was starred many times, only two forks were created.

Going forward

There are a few new users active over the last week, and I've gotten a pair of pull requests. While the saving of new bookmarks was broken for a lot longer than I'd have liked, the site never went down. Imports were done in a semi-reasonable time frame. All of this felt pretty great and is encouraging for future work. I still need to finish fixing up the readable parsing. It's the big selling point of Bookie, and the fact that fulltext search and readable parsed content for all bookmarks isn't there is frustrating.

Here's looking forward to great work and a more popular release announcement for Bookie 0.5.

Bookie 0.4 released into the wild!

Bookie is a Python based open source bookmark managing web application that includes content archiving, a Chrome extension, and much more. Phew, that took a lot longer than expected. I've tagged Bookie 0.4 and the live site is updated to run it.

This brings a ton of work on getting an updated webui with some client side MVC, an API, Celery job running backend, some stats, and spin off projects such as breadability and a cli client.

The big thing is that signups are now there as well as a landing page. So hopefully this will spike up interest in new users checking out Bookie.

There are still a ton of long term ideas to work on with Bookie. I'd like to get a 'reading' view setup so that you can easily run through the bookmarks you've marked `toread`, especially in a mobile view. <3 my N7. I also want to work on getting suggestions for related bookmarks, suggested tags based on content, and other interesting machine learning type problems.

If you're the type that takes your bookmarks seriously give it a try. If you don't want to run your own instance, sign up to https://bmark.us and try it out there.

You can get an idea of the roadmap we're working off of on the Trello board.

Bookie weekly status report: May 6th 2012

This week was spent on a big side project. I've been trying like mad to update the python-readability library and take it over to help use it in the Bookie project space. After spending a ton of time trying to do just this I gave up.

I now present the breadability package. It's a fresh port from the arc90 readability.js using the knowledge I've gained from all the other work and trying to stick to the JS file that's the original inspiration.

I've got a bunch more work to do to add tests, get it in the build server, etc.

If you've been using one of the other dozen ports out there give this a shot. There's work to be done, but I'd love to get some real work use in there, let me know what sites don't work well, etc.

Weekly Status Report: April 29th

More hacking! Spent a big part of the week working on my Penguicon presentation so few commits.

Bookie Parser

  • Tweaked the readable view with some nice CSS, dark background, favicon support, etc. Much nicer to read article with it now.
  • Got the tests running on the TravisCI service.
  • Updated the API to fill out and support all the bits of data I need for this to replace my readable parsing on the main Bookie project.
  • Some refactoring and cleaning up duplicate code.


The big thing here was to start up some JS to use the Bookie Parser api in order to load the readable content of a website as you're bookmarking it from the edit page. In this way, users of the bookmarklet will have a better experience as they can now see their article, but it's shown in cleaned up readable form. I need to clean it up and catch some edge/error cases, but it's a start. Once it's solid we can then use that content to store the page content and have immediate readable results instead of waiting for the next cron job to run in the background.

Bookie Weekly Update: April 22nd 2012

Another week, another few lines of code, and yay for two weeks in a row!


Not a ton here, just some CSS updates and updating the backup script for pulling the INI correctly.

Bookie Parser

I spent some time cleaning up the CSS. I did some research on the most readable fonts for screens and surprisingly, it seems that sans serif wins on digital displays. So I updated the CSS and combined with some work on the Bookie main CSS files to make the readable pages a bit nicer. I've still got some more cleanup to do, but it reads a bit nicer now.

I also fixed the html generated to not have the empty body tag. It was due to the way the readable parsing library was giving me a full html document of content. See the updates over there for some bigger updates.

Finally, I added a form on the main page so you can try it out on a url just by entering it. So if you're just curious what it does, go try it out!

Bookie Api

Just added a ping command. It should help make sure that the configuration is correct for new users. It's also a nice start to a non-admin specific api command. A little bit of cleanup aside from that, but nothing major.


Currently, Bookie uses a library called decruft for parsing html pages for the actual important article content. The bookie_parser project is using a different fork of that called readability_lxml. The author is a bit open to merging changes in and actually says she's in 'maintenance mode'. Since I kind of want a really decent library for this, it's an important feature, I started hacking on it. In the process, this is where my week of hacking went.

First I updated it to allow me to get back only a partial html document vs an entire <html> doc. I then fixed some bugs, started cleaning up the code (adding tests, making the command line client all nice and argepare'y) etc. In the process I noticed that there's a big branch in Github that adds a ton of things like multiple page document support and such. I've started to try to pull his branch into my work and the origin author's code. It's a LOT of git cherry-pick and really a pain since I want to clean up the code as I go. Unfortunately, this just means that Git gets confused on future merges since the code's changed between commits. Ugh!

I'm about half way done though and I hope this will leave us with one solid library to do this parsing. I'm hoping to kind of take over stewardship of the library as I complete this work. It should hopefully make Bookie and bookie_parser all the more awesome.

The coming week

I'm giving a talk on the YUI JavaScript library at Penguicon. This means my hacking time will be a bit less since I've got a presentation to prepare for. Next week's status report might be a bit light and boring, but hey, maybe I'll scrounge up some more beta users of Bookie while at the conference.

Bookie Weekly Status Report Returns! - April 15 2012

Ok, I'm overdue for a 'weekly' status report. I'm going to try to kick this back into gear as it helps you out there track things and me feel like I'm moving forward by writing down all the little things I've done over the last bit.

Trello board to keep up to date: https://trello.com/board/bookie/4f18c1ac96c79ec27105f228

New Projects

In an effort to add some features to Bookie I've ended up starting two new repos of code meant to interact with Bookie.

  1. Bookie Parser

This is meant to start taking over the work of reading the page content and readable parsing the important content out. It was a chance to play with Tornado and Heroku. This also means that in the future I'll be able to scale out the readable processing serperatly from the main Bookie website and host. It's pretty bare bones right now and doesn't directly talk to Bookie, but I'll look at adding that integration soon as the API stabilizes and I get more tests going in it.

So far the Heroku bit has been pretty awesome. I have to deal with the fact that the app gets shut down and has to restart on first request, but hopefully that gets better as traffic and use picks up. You can tinker with it at http://readable.bmark.us

  1. Bookie Api

I've been wanting to start up a command line client for some of the Bookie work. The big thing is that I need tools to help manage invites and such. So it's currently very admin centric, but eventually I'd like to get this into a ncurses cool command line interface to pull up recent bookmarks and even do some quick searches via the API. Aren't API's cool. This will also contain the reference Python API implementations so we'll have two implementations soon. One in JS and one in Python.

I've got a beta version (which is really an alpha) up on PyPi so you can

$ pip install bookie_api
$ bookie ping

Build baby build

I spent some quality time with http://build.bmark.us to get the JS tests running via grover and phantomjs and that's awesome. I also added the new projects into the builder as well. So, while I don't have all the tests I need, at least now the ones I do have run consistantly.

Other little tweaks

  • Prettied up the new user invite email and landing page
  • Fixed a bug with dupe tags in the tagcontroller
  • Added more icons from the fontawesome set to pretty up the ui, especially the account page.
  • Lots of changes to the make/build steps for JS and CSS including actually doing the pyscss transition.
  • Everything is now on the final stable release of YUI 3.5. It's been a good ride through the development releases.

Upcoming events

I'll be giving a talk at Penguicon on using YUI for JS app development. If you're in the area stop by. This is Friday April 27th, at 6pm. Then on Saturday I've got a Bookie mini-sprint going on. I'll probably be hacking most of the weekend. Feel free to stop by and check things out.

A few ideas, quick ways to get on the Bookie contrib list

Quick ideas for improving Bookie

Well, with all the great stuff going on with Bookie, I've gotten a bit buried in some big changes. The background processing and importing updates are going to take a bit to get right.

This means, there's a great chance for others to hack up the little tweaks that we need to really add some polish to Bookie. So below I've listed a few ideas that should be pretty simple things to add, but with a really good positive and visible effect on the site.

  • Add notification that user has invites

    Now that invites are there, we should highlight a user's account navigation link to let them know they have invites available. I'll periodically add them to the system, and we don't want users to have to go to their account page each time to see they've got invites. I think a simple adding of one of the envelope/message type icons from our font-icon set would be perfect, with some sort of hover message to start. We might also want to highlight the block in their account page so it stands out that the invites are available.

  • Flash message system.

    We want to be able to let users know things have happened successfully after doing something that redirected them. Imports are going to be doing this, saving/updating bookmarks, etc. It'd be nice to have a consistent type of ui to drop flash messages in and them to show after a redirect.

  • Show new user message if self bookmarks page has no results

    When a new users starts up and logs in, they default to their own page of bookmarks...which is going to be empty. So we should detect this in our JS code that fetches the results and displays a set of default content with links to things like importing instructions, where to get the chrome extensions, and other handy new user tips.

    Some of this might also be nice to use for the email that a new user gets when they've been invited to Bookie.

  • Add firefox bookmark importer

    Ok, so this one is a bit more involved, but really, it's a single class and a couple of Python methods. The hard part is reading in and figuring out how to match bookmarks to tags in Firefox's JSON dump of bookmarks. Once we get the Firefox extension rolling, it'll be great to have a good import system for the browser as well.

Well, here are four things I'd love to see happen in the near future to help make the experience a level nicer for everyone. If you're interested in all or have any questions, ping me in #bookie in irc or shoot me a comment below. I'd be happy to help walk anyone through these or any other ideas you might have.

Bookie PyCon 2012 Sprint Report


So PyCon sprints, what can you say? You go, you hack...and hack...and some some point you take a break for a beverage...and hack some more.

Last year I got the real movement behind Bookie. So this really marks the one year anniversary for Bookie. I've had it as a side project to hack on in my spare time for the last whole year. In that time, honestly it's not crazy different from where it started. However, it's gone through multiple JS rewrites, two different UI designs, and a whole lot more. I've really learned a lot about development, testing, and making some hard choices over the last year. I hope by this time next year I'll have announced Bookie on some big site (reddit/hacker news?) and survived.

This sprint though wasn't the time. So what did I get done?


Bookie got improvements

  • Better JS tests
  • Better PY tests
  • Start of HTML5 history
  • Invite system
  • Threaded content fetcher
  • Start of celery background runner

First, I started out by working on getting the html5 history stuff going. It's not perfect yet, but it's started and I really realized I needed to have a better way to do JS tests, so...

Next I redid the JS tests. I don't want to have to fire up the application in order to run my JS tests. I also don't want to have to hit the database and such. This means I had to change the API tests. Rather than making real requests/responses, I test that the classes build the right type of requests. I verify the url, data payload, etc are correct.

Once the JS tests were redone, I realized that I hated how I had yXXX.js as the filenames and redid those as well. While I was cleaning up I dumped a bunch of old code we no longer needed. Basically tons of gardening cleaning out the weeds.

With that out of the way, the next day of sprints was all about getting an invite system underway. I originally wanted to do a throttled signup process, so anyone could sign up, but then I realized that really, invites will work better. The people using Bookie now will know who'd be interested in testing and if someone really wants to get in, they'll contact me in some fashion.

With that up, I got to spend the next day fixing bugs in everything. Wheeee! What was cool was that I managed to get a few people at the sprints curious about Bookie and testing things out. Nothing exposes bugs like new users. During this process I spent some time cleaning house on the Python side of things and making tests easier to run/write.

Finally, I've started work on the background processing using Celery. I've got a big hurdle in that, but my cron'd stats processes are working and I've almost got imports running as out of process celery children. That should really help with new users. You know at some point they'll come flooding in right? :-)

Overall, while I didn't get a ton of new user facing features going, I did a TON of clean up and maintenance. As one person expressed "Wow, there's a lot more in here than I expected when you said it was a bookmark application". Bookie has really grown over the last year and she needs me to spend some time giving things some love before moving forward too fast. The sprints really gave me a chance to do that, all while hanging out and chatting with really smart people. What more can I ask for?

PyCon 2012: What a ride!

Phew, tiring trip to PyCon this year. This was my second year after hitting up my first last year. The conference definitely felt larger than last year as they crossed 2,200 attendees. It's unbelievable to see how large the Python community has gotten. I can't stress what great job the people that put this together.

Last year I hardly knew anyone. This year, however, I got to put faces to people I've interacted with over the last year, welcome back those I met last year, and get some face to face time with new co-workers from Canonical. The social aspect was a larger chunk of my time this year for sure.

Side note, I listen to The Changelog podcast from time to time, and I love their question on who you'd love to pair up/hack with as a programming hero type question. I got to meet and greet mine at this PyCon by meeting up with Mike Bayer. He's behind some great tools like SqlAlchemy and Mako. What I love is that, not only does he rock the code part, but the community part as well. I'm always amazed to see the time he puts into his responses to questions and support avenues. Highlight of my PyCon for sure.

I'll post a seperate blog post on my sprint notes. I feel that if you're going to go, you might as well stay for sprints. I get as much out of that as the conference parts itself. I think I made some good progress on things for Bookie this year. The big thing is that an invite system is in place, so if you'd like an account on Bmark.us let me know and I'll toss an invite your way.


  • Introduction to Metaclasses
    • Basic but reminded me how the bits worked and had some good examples. I like this because I often write 'the code I want to be writing' and then write my modules/etc to fit and metaclasses help with this sometimes.
  • Fast Test, Slow Test
    • Just a reminder that fast tests are true unit tests and run during dev which helps make things easier/faster as you go vs the whole 'mad code' then wait for feedback on how wrong you are.
  • Practical Machine Learning in Python
    • mloss.org - check out for lots of notes/etc on ML in OSS
    • ml-class.org - teach me some ML please
    • sluggerml - app he built as a ML demo
    • scikit-learn : lots of potential, very active right now
  • Introduction to PDB
    • whoa...where have you been all my life 'until' command?
    • use 'where' more to move up stack vs adding more debug lines
  • Flexing SQLAlchemy's Relational Power
  • Hand Coded Applications with SQLAlchemy
    • <3 SqlAchemy. Some really good examples of writing less code by automating the biolerplate with conventions.
  • Web Server Bottlenecks And Performance Tuning
    • lesson: if you think it's apache's fault think again. You're probably doing it wrong.
  • Advanced Celery
    • check out cyme https://github.com/celery/cyme, possible way to more easily run/distribute celery work?
    • cool to see implementations of map/reduce using celery
    • chords and groups are good, check them out more
  • Building A Python-Based Search Engine
    • Good talk for into into terms and such for fulltext search
  • Lighting talks of note
    • py3 porting docs: http://docs.python.org/howto/pyporting
    • bpython rewind feature is full of win over ipython
    • 'new virtualenv' trying to get into stdlib for py3.3, cool!
    • asyncdynamo cool example of async boto requests for high performance working with AWS api (uses tornado)
    • I WANT the concurrent.features library...but it's Python 3 :(

Bookie Sprint Summary

Bookie Sprint

Today we had the first Bookie sprint of the year. The five of us got together at my place for the main purpose of working on starting a Firefox extension for Bookie.

We ended up pairing up into a couple different tasks. Will and Adam started work on the firefox extension. It looks like they started to get a feel around the sdk and some real progress got forward on that front. It's not quite doing API calls, but I'm excited about how that's going together now.

Matt and Craig worked on some updates for the Chrome extension. We pushed a new updated 0.4 dev version with the delete functions restored and some spinner updates working. It took a bit of time to get things figured out, but what's nice is that the change was really pretty small once everyone got their heads around the JS driving the extension. In a way I like that adding in a feature was so little amount of code. Hopefully we'll be doing some more cool things with the extension going forward.

I spent time working with helping people get up to speed. I also finally updated all the Python side unit/functional tests to pass after all the changes that have gone on under the hood. I also worked on fixing a bug where the API calls wouldn't work unless you had logged into the bmark.us website. Now API calls with valid username/api_key credentials should work just fine. This will hopefully reduce some confusion with getting the extensions going.

We're down to the last few items to getting the 0.4 release out the door. I'm excited with the changes in this release and really excited to start tackling some exciting new changes in my time at PyCon next month. I hope to sprint on some user registration backend and some background processing of tasks. That should get me back into some fun Python side of things vs all the JS code I've been doing recently.

As always, we'd love to have help with any of these projects and anything else you'd like to see updated in Bookie. Hop in irc at #bookie and let's chat.

Thanks again to Will, Craig, Matt, and Adam for a great time sprinting and getting a lot done today. Always good to see others getting interested and involved in the work you do. Maybe one day, we'll get a real community going around Bookie. That'd be awesome.

Bookie Sprint! Feb 25th 10am-4pm

What's that I hear? A Bookie sprint is going to take place. We've got a clear mission, to get a Firefox extension going for Bookie. Since all of the rework has been going into the JS driving Bookie, the hope is that we can get a Firefox extension to do everything the Chrome one can do.

We'll be playing with the newish Firefox Add-On SDK to build it and it should serve as a great run down of the new JS code for everyone involved.

The new project for the Firefox extension is starting up at: https://github.com/mitechie/bookie-firefox

When is this fantastic event you ask? Well 10am-4pm at my place. If you're not sure where that is, just ask me. You can also participate virtually in #bookie on Freenode.

Firefox extensions not really your thing? That's ok, I'm sure there will be lots of side hacking going on and with everyone in the same room, we should be able to crank out some great work. Check out the Trello board for ideas on things that need to happen before the Bookie 0.4 release is out. Mobile-izing the view, updating docs, adding features to the Chrome extension, are just a few of the fun things to hack on.

Book status report...the JS UI is alive!

Well that took a while. Back in September I opened a branch of Bookie to try to do some cool Backbone driven UI stuff. I decided that maintaining a separate mobile UI was going to kill me. So I needed something I could tweak to make mobile friendly without dual sites. Between a JS drive UI and responsive design techniques for the CSS, I should be able to make things not suck so much.

So today, the first part of that has gone live. https://bmark.us now has a UI driven by API calls through Javascript. It's using the YUI MVC stuff that's in their 3.5pr. You might have noticed that Backbone isn't in there any more. I started the app with jQuery thinking it would be a bit more friendly to outside contributions. However, after trying to put together jQuery, Backbone, HistoryJS, etc. I kind of got tired of making due and moved to YUI. It's my choice for JS frameworks and since there's not exactly a pouring of external commits, moving to YUI doesn't hurt me much.

So finally, after waaaay to many months I feel like the site is moving forward. An updated UI that needs some responsive love. An API that need some more methods, logging, etc. Phew.

There are a number of bugs and tweaks that still need working on. I'm going through them and to help be transparent I've started a public Trello board for Bookie so that everyone can see exactly what I'm in the process of, what's next on the board, etc. Hey, if you see something on the board that's on your hot button list, feel free to take it and run with it. Patches welcome :-)

Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day: My Loco!

So on Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day I want to toss a big thanks out to the Michigan Loco. It's a great bunch of guys and gals that I talk with online every day and have helped keep me sane, taught me new things, and overall have just made this community thing work for me. If it wasn't for them, I'd not be running Ubuntu and working on Launchpad today. So hats off to everyone in the Loco and here's to all the other great people making this community rock!