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A week making OpenMOLE great (again): report from the 2017 coding camp

A warm week of June, a mansion in the French countryside, unlimited coffee and delicious meals ready in the oven.

That's the context in which the second OpenMOLE hackathon took place last month.
What is now becoming a regular event in the OpenMOLE community is a yearly gathering of the community, from advanced users to regular contributors.

We find this event a very efficient way to progress on some important milestones. It's also, and maybe more importantly, a central point of the community life that we are all looking forward to attending again every year. It's always nice to meet again with some pals that haven't seen in a while.

OpenMOLE's mindset is intrinsically decentralised. Be it for computing or the people we work with, we go distributed. This year, the coding camp gathered members from as far as Senegal, Greece, the United Kingdom and France where the core team is rooted.

The days are organised in a loose fashion with self-organised subgroups working on common projects for a day or two before switching to another project.

OK but what about the concrete things that happened during the week?
Monday Morning: establish the battle plan

Everyone gets to the venue in the morning, and after a quick tour of the premises by the Master of the House (ready with a handshake and an open palm), it's time for the first meeting. This is when we go through all the milestones we've put together when planning the week. This year, it was clear that a lot had to do with the global communication around the project:

  • the grand challenge of revamping the website
  • refocusing the message towards the modellers community
  • produce the graphical description that would do better than words to explain the exploration methods
  • highlight the projects in the ecosystem
Graphics

After a successful stint getting their hands dirty in CSS and jQuery during the previous edition, Paul and Etienne have pushed their artistic talents and creativity one step further, and have produced the figures that will populate the new website in the weeks to come.

DevOps

Another team, another story. We've had some great devops efforts led by Sakis and Mazihar, investigating the use of Kubernetes and Docker containers to deploy HTC clusters and storage on the fly. This is a tool we're eager to be able to release, as it will enable users without access to computing infrastructures to deploy their own cluster on a given set of machines effortlessly.

Reproducibility

Romain and Jonathan were kept busy finalising a new way to embed models and applications in OpenMOLE. We're pleased to announce that we're now able to use Docker images as tasks in an OpenMOLE workflow! I won't say much more about this future feature as it won't be released with the next version and it will be the topic of a future post.

New website

So much hardwork has been put together by Mathieu and Paul to offer a new website to the community. You can see it evolving at https://next.openmole.org and feedback we welcome feedback to make it even slickier. This is also one of the easiest bit to play with if you want to become an active contributor in our community. Correcting spelling, fixing a typo or making a message clearer can be more valuables than the most ambitious pull requests!

Tutorials / demonstrations

A very close effort to the documentation process is the production of comprehensive and easy to follow tutorials. We reuse these tutorials during the training sessions and they also serve as online training material for the unfortunate people who didn't have the chance to attend one of our trainings yet.

Julien, Paul and Mathieu teamed up to build a new tutorial showcasing how the exploration method PSE (Pattern Space Exploration) could be used to generate diversity in leaf shapes.

B-side

We don't work all day long. There're also some relaxed times that bring everyone closer together.

However, we remain ambitious at any time, so losers have to write CSS. I know, it's harsh, but that's the way you push your team further.

That looks awesome, I'd love to join!

And we'd love you to! But since the OpenMOLE workshop is invite only, we need to get to know you better before :)
Why don't you drop by our github and start hacking on one of the projects there? And if you're not sure where to start, come and say hi on the community forum, we'll see what we can find ;)

Many thanks to the CNRS and Complex Systems Institute for awarding us the funding allowing this event to happen. Kudos to Mathieu who's been in touch with all the participants and organised our stay at La Pepiniere.