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Under the Duck: An Afternoon in Open Source

· 6 min read
John Reilly
OSS Engineer - TypeScript, Azure, React, Node.js, .NET

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes of open source projects? One that I'm involved with is ts-loader; a TypeScript loader for webpack. Yesterday was an interesting day in the life of ts-loader and webpack; things unexpectedly broke. Oh and don't worry, they're fixed now.

How things panned out reflects well on the webpack community. I thought it might be instructive to take a look at the legs furiously paddling underneath the duck of open source. What follows is a minute by minute account of my life on the afternoon of Wednesday 22nd February 2017:


I'm sat at my desk in the City of London. I have to leave at 4pm to go to the dentist. I'm working away on a project which is built and bundled using ts-loader and webpack. However, having just npm installed and tried to spin up webpack in watch mode, I discover that everything is broken. Watch mode is not working - there's an error being thrown in ts-loader. It's to do with a webpack property called mtimes. ts-loader depends upon it and it looks like it is no longer always passed through. Go figure.


I've got to go. I'm 15 minutes from Bank station. So, I grab my bag and scarper out the door. On my phone I notice an issue has been raised - other people are being affected by the problem too. As I trot down the various alleys that lead to the station I wonder whether I can work around this issue. Using GitHub to fork, edit code and submit a PR on a mobile phone is possible. Just. But it's certainly not easy...

My PR is in, the various test packs are starting to execute somewhere out there in Travis and Appveyor-land. Then I notice Ed Bishop has submitted a near identical PR. Yay Ed! I'm always keen to encourage people to contribute and so I intend to merge that PR rather than my own.


Rubbish. The Waterloo and City Line is out of action. I need to get across London to reach Waterloo or I'll miss my appointment. It's time to start running....


It's rather nagging at me that behaviour has changed without warning. This has been reliably in place the entire time I've been involved with ts-loader / webpack. Why now? I don't see any obvious mentions on the webpack GitHub repo. So I head over to the webpack Slack channel and ask: (conversation slightly abridged)


Hey all, has something happened to mtimes? Behaviour seems to have changed - now undefined occasionally during watch mode. A PR has been raised against ts-loader to work around this

However I'm wondering if this should actually be merged given behaviour has changed unexpectedly



i removed it. I thought it was unused.


It's definitely not!


it's not in the public API^^

Any reason why you are not using getTimes()?



Okay, I'm on a train and won't be near a computer for a while. ts-loader is presently broken because it depends on mtimes. Would it be possible for you to add this back at least for now. I'm aware many people depend on ts-loader and are now broken. #### sokra

sure, I readd it but deprecate it.



@sokra is this the change you just made for that watchpack bug fix? Or unlrelated, just wanted to track if I didn't already have the change/issue #### sokra


This is what the present code does:

const watcher =
watching.compiler.watchFileSystem.watcher ||

And then .mtimes

Should I be able to do .getTimes() instead?


actually you can't rely on watchFileSystem being NodeJsWatchFileSystem. But this is another topic


but yes


Thanks @sokra - when I get to a keyboard I'll swap mtimes for getTimes() and report back.


Despite various trains being out of action / missing in action I've made it to the dentists; phew! I go in for my checkup and plan to take a look at the issue later that evening. In the meantime I've hoping that Tobias (Sokra) will get chance to republish so that ts-loader users aren't too impacted.


Done at the dentist and I'm heading home. Whilst I've been opening wide and squinting at the ceiling, TypeScript 2.2 has shipped. Whilst this is super exciting, according to Greenkeeper, the new version has broken the build. Arrrrghhhh...

I start to look into this and realise we're not broken because of TypeScript 2.2; we were broken because of the mtimes. Tobias has now re-added mtimes and published. With that in place I requeue a build and.... drum roll.... we're green!

The good news just keeps on coming as Luka Zakrajšek has submitted a PR which uses getTimes() in place of mtimes. And the tests pass. Awesome! MERGE. I just need to cut a release and we're done.


I'm home. My youngest son has been suffering from chicken pox all week and as a result my wife has been in isolation, taking care of him. We chat whilst the boys watch Paw Patrol as the bath runs. I flick open the laptop and start doing the various housekeeping tasks around cutting a release. This is interrupted by various bathtime / bedtime activities and I abandon work for now.


The boys are down and I get on with the release; updating the changelog, bumping the version number and running the tests. For various reasons this takes longer than it normally does.


Finally we're there; ts-loader 2.0.1 ships:

I'm tremendously grateful to everyone that helped out - thank you all!

ts-loader 2.0.1 has shipped; thanks @wsokra@bancek and @mredbishop

— John Reilly (@johnny_reilly) February 22, 2017