Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Eclipse Freeloader Award

The future of eclipse in in danger: The problem is that there is no real pressure for companies to contribute back to the community and it is easy to use the eclipse "for free" for the own products. There are some interesting blogs on this topic by Doug Schaefer on the future of eclipse and Bjorn on life at Eclipse in the new world.

According to wikipedia, this is called free loading: "choosing not to do work and letting others do it".

Eclipse is open source and companies can take advantage of the open source work. There is nothing legally that can prevent them from doing so. But the eclipse community should create peer pressure to prevent the freeloaders and parasites from getting away without punishment.

A few ideas to increase the pressure for freeloaders:
  • Create an eclipse freeloader award
  • Have an "eclipse supporter" logo
  • Have a list of of freeloaders prominently on the eclipse page
  • Create an eclipse pillroy

Is this too harsh? Well, it is less harsh than to take advantage of the work of others and letting eclipse die. It seems that positive stimulus is not enough. I want eclipse to succeed in the future. But if everybody is only thinking about his own agenda the entire system will die. Eclipse has to defend itself. The eclipse foundation is to polite to upset some companies. That has to change. It has to be an honor being part of eclipse, and is has to be crystal clear that eclipse is not for free!

Disclaimer (not sure if this helps, but it seems common to add a disclaimer to anything that could potentially upset an employer): This is my personal opinion and not the opinion of my employer.


  1. I think companies help Eclipse survive if they need it. They won't contribute if it just works... so far it's been the case. You might want to have ways to help people get familiar contributing with Eclipse rather than threatening them.

  2. We could start looking at download stats more carefully.

    If a company downloads, say, 100 seats of Eclipse (or from 20 different projects sites) without contributing to a newsgroup answer, wiki/FAQ/recipe, blog, conference, or line of code, The Foundation could send them a box of peeps.

    It's like sending a clown nose, but for freeloaders. Where a clown nose implies you broke something or otherwise screwed something up, this one's all about exacting peep pressure. :)

  3. Antoine,

    sure, encouraging and helping people to get familiar contribution to eclipse is important and has worked to some extend.

    The sad thing is that such calls (pointing to the freeloaders in a community) usually gets perceived by the ones who are already contributing and the real parasites simply don't care.

    But there are companies that base their products on eclipse that are not willing to contribute accordingly. This is in most cases not a problem of the developers, but a problem of the company strategy.

    This is a classic dilemma: If you can win more by not investing why should you invest? Especially if you know there are enough "stupid community members" that do invest.

    If we cannot create benefits for supporting eclipse, we have to create punishment for those not supporting eclipse (which is essentially the same, because in that case the benefit is not being punished)....

    Another problem is that if companies invest they want to have some direct advantages. Investing in infrastructure is usually not really as rewarding as investing in a specific area of interest. That is why I support the idea of having independent developers that are payed by the community (= the eclipse foundation).

  4. :) I'm not sure such an award is healthy for the community, but the suggestion is a great way of showing our frustration.

    Mind you I don't blame all freeloaders. Some of them are struggling and can't afford the investment. But that's where sharing in the cost with other companies might help.

  5. But you might loose some potential here. If I think of my company, the reaction would be very quick: drop Eclipse.

    You might say: well, it's your problem, not ours. But that seems only partially true, because even a developer whose company doesn't officially support Eclipse (or even support the developer doing something for it), will report a bug, answer a question or just spread the word from time to time.

    And if someone can try out to use Eclipse for an own RCP-Project without the fear of "punishment" if he can't / is not allowed to contribute, who knows, maybe the policy changes or the developer contributes in his spare free time. But if there's such a fear, he won't even give it a try - and this conflicts with the Eclipse as I see and like it.

  6. I really think there isn't many freeloaders out there.

    The perceived advantage of doing things at Eclipse is that you gain a lot of mindshare by doing so. You kill the competition because you create, for example, the open source BPMN modeler over Eclipse. No competitor can fight it. Our competitors actually bought into it, and now we speak the same language.

    However, with the advent of github, working on an Eclipse project doesn't have as much style. I mean, it is easy to get started on github, do a website for your project, and be forked by a dozen of people.

  7. eclipse can't die if it is needed. No matter what if it loose support, it can only means the new features are not really helpful, or usable.

  8. Do it in a positive way...

    Eclipse has something that companies want. It's called attention and traffic.

    I think it's a good idea to award this attention to companies that contribute.

    As an idea I propose that download pages could contain logos of the companies that contribute(d) to that plugin.

    Put a list of top contributing companies on the first page based on commits of the last week (I know this can be faked but it's a good start)

    And so on.


  9. Use the stick, or use the carrot?

    Can't help but be reminded of some recent relationship advice column I read not long ago: treat your partner like you would a dog trainer--ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior. Over time, they'll come around.

    Instead of using the stick--trying to shame the "freeloaders" which I think people would take as a pejorative, why not try to rank by top contributors? The "freeloaders" should be visible near the bottom, but it at least has a positive tone.

  10. Am I a "free loader" because I have nothing to contribute to Eclipse?

    If you don't want people "free loading" don't license your work under an open source license. Pressuring "free loaders" will just make you look stupid.

    There is a danger worse than "free loaders". It's people - like you - who are going to scare off others from trying out Eclipse. Why would a company risk experimenting with Eclipse and get humiliated on a "free loaders list" when you they can use some other IDE? If they decide not to use Eclipse then there is no chance of any contribution at all.

  11. I have to agree with Moggers87, with some additional points.

    At the last EclipseCon, I informally asked a few people this question: besides money and code, what can people do to contribute to Eclipse? A small sample of answers included documentation, blogging and contributing to the wiki, reporting bugs.

    I realize that in the end, what you need is code, and money. Some of us don't have money, and some don't code well enough to get their patches included, some don't code in Java at all.

    I'd be willing to go so far as to say the future of Eclipse is uncertain; but I think saying it's in danger is inaccurate fear mongering.

  12. Just made a mental note: "Do not use Eclipse."

    Getting punished for following a license by bad publicity is not what I ever want.

  13. A freeloader is someone who has others do his work and does nothing in compensation, thus making himself a burden. It costs a free software nothing when others use his work, therefore there can be no freeloading. There is a limited resource that is being given to the authors of Eclipse: audience share. The authors should be more thankful for this.

  14. If you want contributions (money and or code) you need to create a value to do so.

    I am an open source author and contributor, and while I don't use Eclipse, I understand your feelings.

    You need to create a "value" package. An Eclipse "super-bundle" that pre-integrates a number of typical packages that are available for free. Sell the CD or ad-supported download separately from the open source basic package.

    I do not, and neither do you by the way, contribute to every open source package I use. So you should not get your panties in a twist when someone doesn't contribute like you want them too.

    If you need money, you are dealing with capitalism. If you are dealing with capitalism, you need to value scenario in order to get capital.

  15. How about changing the Eclipse license to the GNU GPL? That should improve things, I think.

  16. Eclipse to GPL would solve this. It would also eliminate IBM's stranglehold on Eclipse policy. Oh wait, IBM has a stranglehold on Eclipse policy, this won't happen anyway... ;)

  17. Just some quotes from the "About us" page from Eclipse site:
    " The Eclipse Foundation is a not-for-profit, member supported corporation..."
    " We consciously promote and encourage software vendors to use Eclipse technology for building their commercial software products and services..."
    I see you are a member of the Architecture council. Well, you better decide for yourself whether do you want to be a part of Open Source product or not. Creating open source solutions and giving names like "parasites" to people who use them, really does not go together. It's like offering someone a ride home, and complain to him that you're sick of people driving with you all the way.
    Anyway, thanks for pointing thit out. I will make sure I remove Eclipse from my PC and never use it again. Even if it means writing all my code in vi. Speaking of which... Did the author of vi ever call anybody "parasite"? Yet I'm sure that far more people use vi and do not contribute to it.
    Just have to wander what inspired you to write this.
    If you want a "fair" price for your product, just put a price tag on it - do not offer it for free. Are there any other Eclipse community members sharing your opinion? If so, then I must have had a completely wrong opinion of Eclipse project.
    "...it has to be crystal clear that Eclipse is not for free..." - well, it just became clear to me. But I never would think that the price would be calling me "freeloader" and "parasite" just because I do not have anything to contribute.

  18. I was talking about companies taking advantage of eclipse and not paying back. Not individuals. Companies act different than individuals. Companies usually want to make profit -- often short term profit seems more important than long term thinking. Open source needs long term investment and companies that make (or save) money using eclipse should be "encouraged" to think long term (see the tragedy of the commons)... That was the idea/background behind this blog.

  19. The risk of negative comments being posted in a public forum while complying with all license agreements is far to great to allow this our company to even look at Eclipse, much less USE it.


  20. If you don't want people to use the software for free, don't offer it for free.

  21. Eclipse should charge something for IDE to big companies they should keep it free for individual developer but get some money from various software or financial firm which uses Eclipse IDE for development.

    How to setup eclipse remote debugging in Java

  22. Hi Michael,

    Sorry I missed this for a year...I believe your comments are right on...and nothing has happened in the past year to change the predicted decline of Eclipse (due at least partially to freeloading). It's sad that others choose to respond to this message (given repeatedly by multiple people) by attacking the messenger. You in this case. But there it is.