Snapcrafters – One for all, all for one

by Igor Ljubuncic on 17 December 2021

In mid-2017, a small group of techies banded together and formed a team that would specialize in creating community-supported snaps of applications for which there was or would be no upstream support. This team called itself: Snapcrafters.

Over time, it slowly, gradually grew, attracting more people and bringing yet more snaps under its umbrella, some fairly popular ones, others a bit more obscure. Then, for a while, the effort lost some of its momentum, and the Snapcrafters settled into a steady rhythm, with a few passionate contributors who couldn’t really cover it all. Fast forward to early summer 2021, the community veterans felt it was their make it or break it moment. They could close shop, or try to infuse their team with a breath of fresh ideas and work. They decided on the latter, and thus the Snapcrafters community effort was revived.

What have Snapcrafters even done for us?

In the past six months, the team has been rather busy reestablishing its brand and its presence in the community. Before the reboot, the team had about 15 members on its roster, with just a handful continuously contributing to the upkeep and maintenance of the community snaps. Today, there are more than 30 people on the team, with a good third to half actively involved in the work.

Snapcrafters has crafted itself a charter – there is a mission, there are rules. The team is divided into three groups – the admins, the core members, mostly veterans and active contributors, and regular members, anyone with a desire to participate in the effort. The team has its own channel on Telegram, where discussions take place, focused around general ideas and improvements, bugs, problems, and public relations.

More testing, faster updates, plenty of bug fixes

The important end result of a bigger, stronger and more collaborative team is in its ability to run through testing and snap updates more effectively. The idea is for each of the 90+ snaps under the team’s responsibility to have an owner – a person who will take care of updating the snap when there are bugs or security fixes, perform a first round of testing, and do any additional work required. At the moment, a large number of snaps do have an owner – but the team is still looking for additional contributions and help.

Does it work? Yes, and quite effectively, too. Over the past six months, just to name a few of the milestones, Snapcrafters has done the following:

  • Defined a process for testing and updates. There’s still a lot more work to be done in this area, and at the moment, the team is trying to balance quality and speed of release for its snaps.
  • Added a two-person review process to any PR on the team’s GitHub repositories, to ensure there’s additional scrutiny and thus higher quality of code in the new updates and revisions.
  • Introduced GitHub Actions workflows, to simplify, automate and accelerate work.
  • Proposed a range of fixes to a variety of snaps, including prominent names like Discord and Eclipse (maintained by Snapcrafters); added fixes for support for the latest Nvidia drivers for the sommelier-core snap; added debugging symbols for easier troubleshooting to GIMP; added LZO compression and the use of newer bases to many of the applications, which will improve startup performance; removed a number of non-free codecs from the ffmpeg snap; updated several snaps that had lain about untouched for a while; and more!

One of the many high-profile snaps under the Snapcrafters umbrella.

Summary

The Snapcrafters team is heading into 2022 with renewed enthusiasm and a long list of ideas on its plate. It aims to be a trusted, cherished publisher and a role model for community work and collaboration. You can visit the Snapcrafters publisher page in the Snap Store to get a glimpse of the mission statement and peruse the arsenal of snaps maintained by this fine team!

If you want to be part of this effort, you can. There is an ongoing Snapcrafters reboot thread on the Snapcraft forum. Please join the forum and reply to the read if you’re interested. Any type of contribution is welcome. The team needs owners for some of the snaps, additional automation in the update and testing process, or you could volunteer to install and test new snap builds, provide documentation, or even just improve snap descriptions and screenshots.

The past six months have been a wild yet happy ride. Looking forward to 2022.

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