Buried in the sand(box)
Creating a sandbox project
So you go about and create a sandbox project. But there are these key differences between "sandbox" and "full" projects:
- Sandbox project pages display an Experimental Project warning message with a yellow background.
- Sandbox project URLs are /sandbox/username/node-id, rather than a human-readable short name such as /project/views.
- You cannot create releases (downloadable files) of sandbox projects; the only way to obtain them is via Git.
- Sandbox projects do not appear in the Main project issue drop-down. To add an issue to a sandbox project, you must do it directly from the project's own issue queue.
What's the problem with that?
IMO this procedure causes a lot of gems (i.e. very useful modules and themes) beeing buried in the sandbox where no one will find them except other applicants which want their own sandbox project getting reviewed and promoted.
Finding a sandbox project
To engage more people to review other peoples' code this code has to be findable in the first place. As it happens to find a sandbox module which provides a certain feature (e.g. "ownership") you have to follow at least these steps:
- Search on drupal.org: https://drupal.org/search/site/ownership
- Filter by module: https://drupal.org/search/site/ownership?f=ss_meta_type%3Amodule
- Set status to also include sandbox modules: https://drupal.org/search/site/ownership?f=bs_project_sandbox%3A[%20TO%20]&f=ss_meta_type%3Amodule
- Only then will you find "Delayed Ownership" (which happens to be my current project in the application issue queue).
So IMO it's no wonder that it's only other applicants which stumble across sandbox modules and review them. Another way to find sandbox modules is http://drupal.org/project/issues/projectapplications and http://ventral.org/paissues but I suppose that these pages are only visited by other applicants.
(NB: No sandbox module is listed on http://drupalmodules.com which IMHO is still far better for finding modules than drupal.org.)
I think the main flaw of the whole review process is the fact that sandbox modules are hidden from the masses. Why not make them more prominent to engage more people in the review process?
Make sandbox projects easier to find
IMO this should involve changing most of the current features of sandbox projects (see above). Please notice that this doesn't necessarely involve changing the application process itself.
- Don't hide them in the attic but make them more prominent.
- Make "All projects" the default setting when searching for modules on drupal.org. In fact, a filter should be set by default to provide the largest possible result set and then be used to further narrow your search, not to broaden it.
- Mark them appropriately but don't give them a warning as if the code were dangerous. If for example the Media module can get away with an 7.x-2.0-unstable7 release I see no reason why the community must be protected from - mostly harmless - sandbox project. Security issues should be one of the few main concerns in a formal review process. Everything else can very well be handled by the community.
- Give them a human readable short name so they are more easily findable.
- Create releases for download so also people without any Git knowledge can test them.
- Show them in the Main project issue drop-down.
I don't have anything against nudging people to contribute more to Drupal but the resources should be applied where they are most useful. I contribute to quite some issues depending on problems I'm facing in current projects.
Reviews of sandbox projects should preferably done by people which have an intrinsic interest in the sandbox project features not by other applicants only doing the review to earn their bonus points to get their own project promoted.