Yep, I realize I haven’t been keeping regular updates with the blog and this is pretty overdue but here’s the proposal I submitted last week to the professor =)

1. Introduction

My aim is to create an Extension for Thunderbird that visually represents search results according to different criterion. This will allow the user to navigate content of long email threads that may appear in Search results as well as intuitively follow the email threads that may have become too long. Currently, the search function of Thunderbird shows the volume of emails related to the search plotted against the date as a simple barchart. On the left frame of Thunderbird, a list of filters is listed(according to people, folders, mailing lists, etc) that allows the user to narrow down the search results. As shown in Fig 1.1

Fig 1.1

2. Suggestions for Project

While researching for ideas as to how to represent this data in a simple visual form, I found several interesting methods to use.

Fig 2.1 Email Thread Visualisation

Fig 2.2. Google Wonder Wheel

Fig 2.3

Fig 2.4 Tag Clouds

3. Project Proposal

Fig 3.1 Conceptual

My idea is to create an extension that allows users to see search results in a form that represents the email as well as the relevant threads it might be linked to quickly. This will complement the actual list of search results by providing contextual information about the email. The inspiration for this idea was the “Google Wonder Wheel” which simplifies search results by representing it in a mind map form, expanding and filtering searches by providing the user with suggestions that are related to the actual search term. This not only helps by prompting the user to better filter his/her search results, but provides an aesthetically pleasing and interesting view of the data.

4. Milestones

Week 6 (19 Feb 09): v0.1: Tabular/Textual Representation of search results and connections Given the complexity of creating a viable visual representation of search results in such a short amount of time, I aim to first create a textual form of the extension, possibly similar to the “Tag Clouds” as shown in Fig 2.4. This will allow me to visually show that the search results are relevant and how they are related to other search results. With this data I can formulate better forms of representation for the search results. My main focus up to this stage will be to process the data I am able to retrieve from the search function built into Thunderbird and rank/link them according to relevance and whether they are part of a particular Email thread.

Week 9 (19 Mar 09): v0.2: Visual Representation of search results and connections Following which, I will proceed to incorporate a simple visual representation like the “Google Wonder Wheel” or an improved visualization of the “Tag Cloud” that would be easier to navigate and understand intuitively for the human eye.


While looking for ideas as to how to visualize the search results I thought of the “tag” clouds used in blogs to show the frequency of topics/word uses.

If I am to pursue this project of search visualization, I will probably aim to create a “cloud” like prototype that represents the search terms. Following which I’ll create a more visual representation of the data.

Ok, just a quick post on bugs that I’ll probably be tinkering with and solving to learn a little more of how Thunderbird works.

Bug 236512 – “Get Mail” button stops working after successfully getting mail several times – imap
Bug 236588
– please add an auto-update function for the addressbook
Bug 238398
– checkbox for copy to Sent folder
Bug 305902 – Wrong ‘total’ and ‘unread’ number in saved search folders in some cases

These should help me figure out the main functionalities of the client.

As for what I plan to accomplish this semester..

My initial plan was to create an addon that helped stream online radiostations(In particular, my own University’s), but I realised it’s probably going to be much too ambitious.

Another idea is to add a threaded view for messages, ala Gmail, where the messages are concat-ed into a long conversation like view(with forwarded parts compressed). Currently, you can see the thread in the “subjects” pane and in a conversation window. Not sure how useful this is but some might prefer it.

The search function of Thunderbird looks interesting too.(strangely it is also less laggy in response than the main window but oh well). Can’t think of any improvements off the top of my head but I’ll bring it up in class and see if anyone has any suggestions.

Or maybe work with Simon on Mozmil(Which Gary initially started), we work well as a team and he did mention that it’s a pretty heavy.

Food for thought: I have only been using Thunderbird for a week and it has taken some time to get used to the interface and explore the features. It helps to be familiar with how a user would view/use the application. Right now I’m finding trouble making improvements because I have not used it for very long.

Heyo! This is Chris keeping a record of my experience in CS3108, a course that gives us a taste of open-source development. Since this is my first post, I’ll give a short introduction of myself and my reflection of the work I’ve done so far.

I’m a second year student in the NUS(School of Computing). I’ve mainly had experience creating and maintaining web sites, dabbling in PHP, Ruby on Rails among other things. I believe that technology has developed to be much more than a tool for everyday purposes and now Open Sourced development is a powerful force in driving innovation with limited resources and a whole lot of passion.

I first heard of this course through prof Damith and thought it sounded interesting. but also a little out of my league. considering I’ve only been doing pretty amature coding so far. but I’ve always dreamed of creating my own addon/ contributing to the open source community.

When my friend Simon(link) emailed me and asked if I wanted to join in, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn!

Anywho, I’ll probably insert bits of my random ramblings among my reflections on the course.

Reflections of the 1st couple of weeks

The first couple of lessons were casual, with us absorbing the experiences of the previous batches, thanks Jason and (link) for sharing their insights with us. getting into the ubuntu environment was a litlle jarring. But at the same time, I found myself spending hours lost in experimenting and tweaking the system, fun times.

after the second lesson I started exploring Bugzilla and the different bugs marked “Student-Project” for Firefox. I quickly realised that it probably wasn’t a good idea just yet. Though the projects seemed doable, it would probably take me much more time than I could possibly find in the semester. So I followed Gary’s suggestion to start to take a look at Thunderbird, Mozilla’s email client.

I started off my actually using the Client everyday, I’m more of a webbased client kind of guy simply because I’m more familiar with the format. But I think there can be some ideas that are implemented in Gmail’s web client that could be ported into Thunderbird. I’ll probably run them by Gary some time this week. Mean while, I found a few interesting bugs that I’ll poke into to get a feel of it.