Maintaining possibly unused modules
My participation to the CPAN Once a Week contest forces me to find a module to create or update every week. And because I don't want to cheat, it has to be a meaningful change (I also try not to make a new Acme::MetaSyntactic release every week).
This week, I decided to look at my module list through the filter of CPAN Testers. One of them was really not looking good
Given that it's a web scraper, it's not a surprise that the test suite started failing at some point.
12011910 FAIL 2011-05-06T14:46:43 # all FAIL from that point on 11941549 PASS 2011-05-03T00:25:17
Anyway, it turned out relatively few things had changed, and I could fix the module in a few hours of work.
There was a tiny bit of discussion on questhub, which led me to write this post. Here's the message we want to get through:
When you find a module is broken, do not just move on, and please let the author/maintainer know. They might have ignored the FAIL reports, or think their module is not really used. After all, it's easier to ignore a machine-generated report than a personal email (most web forms for reporting bug end up sending us emails, anyway). Letting them know they have potential users might give them the motivation to fix the issue.
I wrote the module in 2002, when I was still struggling to actually create stuff worthy of being put on CPAN. This one is just a successful script that I used to dump the http://www.heavens-above.com/ database for a friend. It had an interesting enough "paging" algorithm, that I wanted to put it on CPAN and talk about it at YAPC. So when I found out about WWW::Gazetteer, I had a good excuse to actually release it. I was actually surprised to have a genuine user in 2009.
I still like the way it gets past the 200 results limit of the web site, but I also think it's not a very useful module. At least I scored another week in the contest, and CPAN is somewhat less broken for it.