Public Lab Research note

GSOC 2016 : Expanded Q&A System

by jiteshxyz | March 11, 2016 23:36 11 Mar 23:36 | #12835 | #12835

Name: Jitesh Kumar Jha

Affiliation (school/degree) Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal - 4th semester, Computer Science & Engineering

Location (where you are): Manipal, India


Phone: Will email

Project(s) you're working on or want to

Project title Expanded Q&A system for

Project description

  • Abstract/summary (<20 words): A community-driven question and answer site for users which allow questions to be re-answered over time, while preserving links into the wikis and notes of
  • Describe the need your project fulfills: Currently, the same kind of 'Getting Started' questions are being asked on the mail forums, and the answers posted by community members get obsolete overtime. Hence, this site will enable users to ask questions regarding any topic and get answers from the community members of
  • How will your project meet this need: [Need to add more content here] The question and answer website will serve as a platform for users to ask and answer questions.
  • Timeline/milestones:
April 22, 2016 - May 22, 2016 [Community Bonding]
  • Gain greater insight into plots2 codebase.
  • Bond with the community members and become accustomed with the's culture.
  • Learn the tools and technologies necessary for the project.
  • Start a blog about the project to help my mentor track my progress.
  • Create mockups to finalize the UI of the site.
May 23, 2016 - June 06, 2016
  • Create question model and schema, referring existing user model[I'll primarily target the existing User model instead of DrupalUser, and if time permits, could integrate both the schemas].
  • Create answers model and schema and refer existing user and question models.
  • Nest answers within questions.
  • Add views for question and answer.
  • Write unit/integration tests for question and answer model/controllers.
June 07, 2016 - June 20, 2016
  • Create comment model and schema, referring existing user, question and answer models.
  • Add comment view and more interaction with JS.
  • Create subscribe option to questions[form] and subscription content.
  • Write unit/integration tests for comment model/controller.
  • Write documentation of code so far, tidy up the site's codebase, clean up JS and CSS files.
  • Any bugs encountered to this point or project goals not implemented yet to be tackled by this time.
June 21, 2016 - June 28, 2016 [Midterm Evaluations]
  • Mentors and students submit their evaluations of one another. These evaluations are a required step of the program.
June 29, 2016 - July 27, 2016 [Most challenging weeks]
  • Add and use acts_as_votable gem and create vote schema.
  • Allow answer model to be voted.
  • Add and use acts-as-taggable-on gem and create tagging schema. [Important!]
  • Allow question model to be associated with multiple tags.
  • Add and use sunspot_rails gem. Add filter-search capability for tags.
  • Improve the filter capability [if possible].
  • Write more unit/integration tests for the existing and new models/controllers.
  • Add Newest, Interesting, Unanswered and Leaderboard sub navs to the index page.
July 28, 2016 - August 15, 2016
  • Complete any remaining tasks/fix unresolved bugs.
  • Display reputation and level according to the number of contributions on the homepage, after every answer by any user as a subtext.
  • This week will ideally be devoted to improving the site's UI.
  • Position the visual items of the site according to mockup and fix the CSS bugs generated as a result.
  • Create a sidebar to the index page, add important links to wikis, research-notes, etc.
  • Deploy the site for users to play with and fix the bug(s) reported.
August 16, 2016 - August 24, 2016
  • Add documentation for all the new stuff written since Midterm evaluations. Tidy up the ugly parts.
  • Clean up the CSS and JS files, remove useless code from controllers.
  • Add relevant comments to the ruby code.
  • Submit sample code to the mentors.
August 24, 2016 - August 30, 2016
  • Mentors review student code samples and determine if the students have successfully completed their Google Summer of Code 2016 project.

  • What broader goal is your project working towards? Making more genial and accessible to new and existing users.

  • What resources will you need: people, documentation, literature, sample data, hardware if applicable: [Can't think of any, at the moment. Need help here]


Have you forked the relevant codebases? Installed them in a dev environment such as Need help doing so? Please provide a link to each of the above.


Describe your technical background; what languages you use, what projects you've contributed to before, links to GitHub or other code repositories or samples. Have you read the Contributor Guidelines at and are you comfortable submitting pull requests?

I have a decent amount of experience with Ruby, Javascript and Python. Also, I'm well versed with C/Java as they were in my college curriculum (Mostly worked on data structure and algorthims, as evident here, here and here) [Is this line relevant?]. I started contributing to the university Computer Science club website in Winter 2014, which sparked my interest in web development. Consequently, I have developed many projects mainly on Javascript(AngularJS) like Realtime Markdown Editor, Tabbed Browser and StatusApp. I have worked with databases like MySQL, Oracle SQL and MongoDB.

I started learning development with Ruby On Rails a year ago ago with Michael Hartl amazing book. I interned at Firexit Software in Winter 2015, where I worked with the web-dev team to create a dashboard webapp with Ruby on Rails + Highcharts and the learning process was startling here. Again, to refresh my Ruby on Rails concepts, I have created a RSS Reader. I have also contributed to plots2 repository. I am active in the Ruby On Rails Mumbai, India dev group where I have volunteered at many talks and events. In Microsoft Code.Fun.Do hackathon 2016, my app Who's up - A networking app for Windows Platform - was voted 'One of the top 5' ideas from my university and is currently on the stage of getting published on the Windows App Store.

I have read the Contributor Guidelines and I am comfortable with git and submitting pull requests.


Describe teams you've worked with before, whether open or closed source, and in what capacity you participated. Cite examples of how you were self-motivated and self-sufficient.

During my internship at Firexit Software, I followed the coding style guide of the organization and coordinated with the team I was working with, to make different visual modules for the dashboard web app. I'm well versed with the git pull request, compare and merge flow. Additionally, I am working with a teammate on a IMDB-like movie database webapp on Flask/Python for my Database Systems Lab, where we divide our work goals and merge our progress every week. I believe working in a team benefits the quality of code in general, speeds up the development and having a mentor is a great plus.


Would you describe yourself as especially good at or interested in some aspect of coding or problem solving, or open source science? Provide examples and links. Are you particularly suited to this proposed project?

I reckon that I am good at problem - solving and web development and well suited for this proposed project. I am well versed with plots2 codebase and have strong experience with Rails and Javascript. Along with that, I have setup the development environment here. I'm also acquainted with C/Java/Python and have extensive web application development experience through projects and past internships. I have already started implementing the basic functions of the project here.I believe in creating pretty and responsive UI and UX , which is important for a pleasant and comfortable user experience. Hence, I consider myself to be particularly suited to the proposed project.


Do you have prior interest in or work towards open science or environmental justice goals?

I have prior interest in environmental justice and nature conservation goals. I have previously volunteered in a mass plantation drive in my high school, covering small tracts of barren land with saplings. I have also worked on a tracking programme for a local NGO in Navi Mumbai, India to track the disappearance of roadside Royal Poinciana trees.


Whom will your work serve? Lay users, other programmers, non-technical people or nerds? While exploring advanced techniques is great, we especially appreciate proposals which make technologies and techniques more legible and user-friendly to non-technical users.

The Q&A site would serve the lay users, primarily those who are willing to get started with Likewise, experienced users could be benefited by the Q&A format. This project will bridge the gap between the non-technical users and the technical users, who are willing to help/contribute.


What motivates you to do the proposed work? Do you also have coursework or degree related reasons for pursuing it? This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing - if you are for example looking to explore work related to a thesis topic.

The idea of contributing to the open source and helping the non - technical people through coding and problem - solving skills is exciting; Development on Rails is easier and fun, and I would love to share my resources with those in need.

Ongoing involvement

Explain how you intend to continue being an active member of your project and/or Public Laboratory AFTER the summer is over.

I intend to regularly contribute to the plots2 codebase and be involved in the mailing lists and developer IRC. I will continue contributing to plots2 codebase even after the GSOC 2016 programme. Many more features, like personalized user stats is to be implemented and I intend to stay around and be a active member for after the summer is over.


Do you understand this is a serious commitment, equivalent to a full-time paid summer internship or summer job?

I understand that this is a serious commitment. I don't have any other major commitments and I will devote ~50 hours a week during the entire tenure.


Hi, Jitesh - great, very thorough proposal. A few comments:

One resource for Q&A is to look at existing questions, even if the prototype system we have is very crudely made.* will show you all questions currently asked, and any tag page, for example, will show the "Ask a question" button and current minimal interface.

Currently, questions are implemented as DrupalNodes with tags marking them as a question:foo on topic foo. We think this is fine, as the tagging system is robust, user-moddable without code, and quite flexible. This probably means that Questions don't need their own model, unless it simply inherits from DrupalNode but uses the same db table.

Informally, some questions are tagged answered once they're answered, but currently that doesn't do anything extra -- but it could be used to mark a question as answered, or a tag like answered:<cid> with the comment id could be used to indicate which question caused the answer, or perhaps answered:<uid> for who answered it.

We don't have a "voting" system for comments, which is a good idea, though I'm not familiar with acts_as_votable. @liz or @stevie, thoughts on the ability to vote-up a given answer?

If a student takes on the "Search/sorting" project, the Sunspot integration may be something they do, and you'd have to work with them on integration with your module. Establishing an API around the current search methods, perhaps with a Search model, would be a good way to compartmentalize this work, and some simple automated unit tests of the Search model would ensure that the other student's work would have to meet basic functionality before it was pulled in.

For resources needed, I think you should look to the Community Development team of @liz and @stevie for insights and context about how our community works and how the Q&A feature's design might support it.

Other things that could be great add-ons for this project are some better way to alert subscribers who've signed up to answer questions on a topic, as currently we rely on the posted questions being well tagged at publication time. But if they aren't (and question askers may not be familiar with our tagging, so they may not be), there's no additional trigger for tags added later to trigger notifications. Perhaps some way to scan the question body could trigger this.

A way to view how many questions people have answered is also interesting, as it may incentivize people to answer lots of questions in order to gain some kind of visible "reputation". Considering how "helpful" people are, and how that's displayed on the site, is also an exciting direction.

Finally, I appreciate your notes on testing in your work plan. As you can probably tell, our codebase has far less automated testing than we really need, and any time spent building out our test suite is probably going to be helpful.

One more thing! There's an interesting overview of Q&A sites here: which could be researched for more ideas.

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Hi! Great work here. As for the voting up an answer, technically, I'm not much help, but in terms of looking at this from a user perspective, I really like the idea. It's a natural process for social/online interface. It could help people get the answers they are looking for more quickly and it provides a way for new users to comment in right away ("which was the most helpful answer"), a nice task for new users. On the other hand, it can encourage people who answer to really develop a solid response so theirs would be voted up. +1

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Great points, stevie: also related to the new Reactions feature Github added:

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Interesting. My immediate reaction is just to have the "^" option for someone to bump up an answer, but other emotion options certainly have become more popular lately.

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Haha, we sound like old people -- "kids these days with their emoticons"...

I think upvoting is fine, just wanted to link to another community where it's been a big topic. Thanks!

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You know I love emoticons... but on Public Lab? @Liz might really be into it thought. But yea! Thanks for sharing.

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@warren The proposed Q&A site, I think, is primarily a FAQ-like introductory model, so associating a new question model to the users will be a more cleaner approach than using legacy Drupalnodes?

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That's true, but we currently use DrupalNodes for wiki pages, events, research notes, and questions, and it's nice in that other infrastructure around the site can assume a common content model and unique nid. There are lots of benefits, so I think we'd have to examine the exact benefits of creating a separate model before moving that direction.

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Right, having two separate models will be redundant. I'll make the necessary changes now.

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Hi, Jitesh - it looks like you have two proposals, which is fine. Is there one you prefer? Will you be posting final versions of each to the GSoC site?


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Hello! I have submitted my proposal only for "Internationalization of" as I have a definite plan for accomplishing it.


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