Saturday, 28 February 2015

My February CPAN PR Challenge: Template::Plugin::Autoformat

For this month's CPAN Pull Request Challenge I was assigned with  Template::Plugin::Autoformat, a module that lets you easily format text and numbers in your Template Toolkit templates, using Damian Conway's excellent Text::Autoformat. If you ever needed to adjust text right/left/center justification, alignment, capitalization, bullets, indenting, without being able to resort to CSS - for example, if your templates are not for HTML or if said text is inside a <pre> tag - this module could make your life much easier!

A different challenge

It was an unusually busy month for me and I didn't get a chance to tackle it until yesterday - I even got Neil's "One week left!" email reminder, which was nice. Even so, I figured it would be ok, because the original PR Challenge email mentioned this module had several CPAN Testers FAIL reports, CPANTS issues, and hadn't seen an update in several years.

Except now when I finally checked it out and it saw it was last released a month ago, had zero failures on CPAN Testers, no open issue on either RT or Github, no CPANTS issues, pristine documentation, even complete META resource information! I thought I had been assigned to a dist needing help, but instead what I was looking at was a stable and well-maintained one.

As it turns out, Template::Plugin::Autoformat hadn't seen a single update between 2008 and 2014, when it was adopted by Peter Karman. Peter started making several developer releases until he was satisfied with the results, and released a stable version in January 2015 (which is probably why it was still in the CPAN PR Challenge's list, created prior to said release). His new version fixed all open issues, had a great test coverage and felt like one of those modules that do one thing and do it very well.

And now I had 1 day to send a nice pull request to a module that looked like it needed no pull requests, or I'd lose the challenge :X

Starting small

Okay, instead of being caught in analysis paralysis, I cloned the repo and looked for low hanging fruits. Turns out there were some!

  1. The copyright year was still 2014. This is the first place I look because it's also the first place I overlook in my own projects :) It's such a simple patch that it almost feels like cheating, but you have to start somewhere, right? Done.
  2.  The README was not in Markdown. I love markdown READMEs, because they make the Github project page look *so* much nicer without compromising reading it from the terminal. Even better, "" is fully supported by PAUSE & CPAN \o/. As I was making the conversion, I noticed the README's contents were just a copy of the pod, so I tweaked it a bit to include installation instructions and just a teaser pointing to the full docs, online and via perldoc. This is a good thing for the developer too, as there's less duplicate content to worry about. Done.
  3. The distribution did not declare a minimum perl version. CPANTS Kwalitee is a terrific free service for the Perl community, letting users and authors know whether a given module passes or fails several quality assurance metrics. While, as I mentioned before, Template::Plugin::Autoformat passed all core CPANTS metrics, this extra metric was not being met. In fact, it was the only extra metric not being met. Thankfully, the excellent perlver tool makes it very easy to find the minimum perl version for your module or app. It reported 5.6.0 as being the minimum version so, after a very simple addition to the Makefile.PL, I had my third pull request of the night.
  4. The Changes file was not fully compliant with the CPAN::Changes spec. This was also an easy one to fix, since the only standing issue was formatting the release dates to something CPAN::Changes would understand. Next!
  5. Test coverage was almost 100%, but not exactly 100%. This is another great way to help other projects: check the code coverage and see if you can improve it in any way. In this case, after running the great cover tool, I found out it had 100% statement coverage, but 50% pod coverage and 91.6% branch coverage. The pod coverage was actually a mistake - there was a private function being counted as public. Adding the missing branch test was also pretty straightforward. After the patch, Template::Plugin::Autoformat got 100% coverage in everything - which is pretty cool!
  6. The "NAME" key in Makefile.PL had the distribution name, not the main package's name. Now, the builder is clever enough to do the right thing, but nevertheless it was triggering a warning every time I ran "make" - which was quite a bit while I played with test coverage. Easy fix again, just s/Template-Plugin-Autoformat/Template::Plugin::Autoformat/ and I was done for the night.
So after a couple of hours having fun with Template::Plugin::Autoformat, I had 6 PRs to show for on the PR Challenge. Woot! Best of all, just a few hours later Peter Karman merged all my PRs and made a new release \o/