Report from the 2015 Evergreen Hack-A-Way

MassLNC sponsored this year's Evergreen developer hack-a-way, which was held at NOBLE headquarters in Danvers. There have already been several wrap-ups in the community about the hack-a-way, but I wanted to focus on some highlights of interest to MassLNC.

  • Several of the MassLNC participants met to discuss integrating course reserves into Evergreen. Both C/W MARS and NOBLE are using Syrup to handle course reserves, but would like to see the Syrup functionality moved into Evergreen proper. C/W MARS developer Dan Pearl and MassLNC developer Jake Litrell participated in the discussion so that they could start looking at the underlying work needed to make the move. Full notes on the discussion are available at http://wiki.evergreen-ils.org/doku.php?id=scratchpad:course_reserves. I will begin work on requirements and mock-ups ,and Jake will use those to write up the technical approach to this project that will be shared with the community.
  • I also led a discussion on Evergreen search, using the MassLNC Search Vision as a starting point for discussion. Much of the talk focused on search speed, but we also highlighted concerns with relevance. There was general consensus that it is worthwhile to do an evaluation of search, exploring the possibility of improving the current full-text search while also considering potential external search engines, like Solr or ElasticSearch, that might also be viable solutions. Several participants also highlighted the need for local sites to make tweaks to Evergreen and its underlying PostgreSQL database to improve search performance. Some next steps include:
    • I will start a discussion at the community level defining what our expectations are for search. Part of this discussion will include defining what should be considered good relevance, establishing baselines for performance, and clearly articulating what features a search platform should support, even if they aren't implemented right away.
    • Mike Rylander from Equinox indicated there are some performance tweaks that can be made to Evergreen in the short term to see if we can get our search times down, particularly for broad searches. Evergreen sites might also want to consider sponsored development projects, including ones for PostgreSQL, to improve performance in the short term.
    • Local tuning tips will also be shared with the community.
    • We agreed to bring this topic up again in April at the Evergreen conference. With more discussion on this topic in the intervening month, we may have more data by which we can set a direction for search.
  • Marlborough Public Library patron Ken Cox attended the hack-a-way for two days as he worked on an Android app he's been developing for Evergreen. The app is already available for C/W MARS, and we hope it can become a more generic app that can be used by other Evergreen sites. He also provided a presentation on the app for Evergreen developers.
  • Some testing was done with the hatch installer. Hatch is what will be used to handle printing to multiple printers when libraries move to the web client. Evergreen 2.10 release manager Galen Charlton (elected during the hack-a-way) would like to get the web client ready for some production use in the next release. The hatch installer work is an important component of using the web client in production.
  • Twenty bug fixes, new features, and/or other code contributions were merged into Evergreen during the hack-a-way. One of those was MassLNC developer Jake Litrell's first contribution to the software, a bug fix related to searching for copy location groups. Congratulations Jake!
  • In addition to the many developers who flew in for the hack-a-way, we saw many attendees from all three of the MassLNC networks. Most had not previously been able to attend a hack-a-way because of the travel involved. They each had different experiences learning new things about the software, finding out how to make more contributions to the Evergreen community, and spending  time on their own Evergreen projects.
  • Although it wasn't officially part of the hack-a-way, a nice bit of post hack-a-way news came my way on the Monday afterwards when I was invited to join the Evergreen core committers – the group of people responsible for pushing code into the core Evergreen software. I am honored to be a member of this team of dedicated individuals who serve as the final gateway for allowing code into Evergreen.

I want to send along a big thank you to everyone who helped to make the hack-a-way a big success including the people of NOBLE who hosted the developers for three days, provided the equipment, arranged the food, and lived up to their reputation of never running out of coffee; to the MassLNC Board for approving funds for sponsoring the hack-a-way, thereby allowing so many of our local people to benefit from it; to Yamil Suarez for offering accommodations to one attendee so that he could catch an early-morning flight; and to the people who served as taxi drivers over the course of the event – Ken Cox, Martha Driscoll of NOBLE, Ron Gagnon of NOBLE,  Jim Keenan of C/W MARS, Suzanne Paterno of NOBLE, Dan Pearl of C/W MARS, and Ben Shum of Bibliomation.