Not every day is a sunshine day, also not in software development. This is my credo about the last few days which I spent debugging Hermes a bit, motivated by a kind bug report saying basically that the digest mails suck. Well, I had to kind of agree on that, so I revisited that topic.
Do you remember what Hermes is? We use Hermes in the openSUSE infrastructure to handle notifications. Since we do not want to send people emails they do not explicitly agree that they want it (otherwise it would be spamming, right?), we invented a system that recognizes all kinds of events that happen in the openSUSE world, than check if a certain user wants to know about it and finally send it to these users. The benefit the user of the system is that he can pick from a huge variety of events and control if and how he gets informed about. Hermes does not only serve users with email but also maintains RSS feeds, it Twitters and does even more. And as another bonus, it can collect similar events for you and later send a digest with a collection. That way, you for example can get a mail with a list of failed package builds in OBS each hour instead a mail every fife seconds for each and every failing package.
But back to my debugging fun: I was mainly fixing the appearance of the digest messages: They now in the subject tell you how many events are digested and how frequently the digest comes, such as hourly, minutely etc. In the mail body, you now find a numbered “table of contents” of the mail and the individual events nicely listed. So much more useful.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the most time efficient debugging session I ever had, I stumbled over some things that weren’t optimal now in an environment where Hermes processes between 40,000 and 70,000 events a day for more than 25,000 users. Some of the problems are ugly to identify. I got lost a bit which is not good for the overall mood, so I decided to cry at Susanne, one of our colleagues. She asked me quite a few questions and than she left home for dinner. Ten minutes later I could nail the bug.
So this is my strong suggestion: If in debugging trouble, talk to your friends. Tell about the problem, share your misfortune. A few question can guide you to the right path which you did not see before. Not new? Well, yes, of course we knew that already from other topics in live, talking helps 😉
The other suggestion I wanted to make: Check Hermes digests! Go to the Hermes Subscription Page and change one of your subscriptions to digest mode, will be fun. Let me know what you think.
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