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.

Good versus evil diversity - why the foundation must hire developers

In German we have two contradiction proverbs: "Gleich und Gleich gesellt sich gern" ("birds of a feather flock together" *) and "Gegens├Ątze ziehen sich an" ("opposites attract" *).

When applied to couples, I think both are true but for different aspects: for social status, education, religion etc, coming form similar background makes things easy. But when it comes to character, being of different kind is good because my partner might have something I don't have and together we are more "complete".

Diversity in open source is similar. There are areas where diversity is absolutely vital and other areas where diversity has a very negative impact.

Bjorn criticized the "lack of diversity" in the eclipse community because most projects are "mono-vendor". He is right, we need more diversity here!

But there is another kind of diversity that is bad: if there are many ways of doing the same thing. Excellent system are not designed by committee, but by a few people (often a single person) with strong ideas about architecture, design and the "right way of doing things" (Frederick Brooks calls this "Conceptual Integrity"). This leads to excellent systems. From my experience I learned that it does not matter much, which set of rules are applied, as long as the rules are consistent and everybody in the team believes in them and follows them.

Startup companies often get this kind of consistency "for free", because they grow form a small set of people and they hire only new people that fit into the "mind set" of the team. Open source projects, created by some enthusiasts, get it, because they attract people who believe in the system. The (original) eclipse platform is an example of such a consistent system.

I am afraid that the future of eclipse is in danger if this wrong type of diversity (I call it chaos) increases. (I wish the architecture council could help to defeat this kind of diversity, but I am afraid that the council is already way too diverse when it comes to "architecture")

It would help a lot if there would be a set of developers paid by the foundation coming form different backgrounds but with a common mind set when it comes to technology. If the foundation would hire people, I am sure we could find a great team of people that would be able make eclipse ready for the future.

Having a "vendor neutral" team of developers dedicated to the future of eclipse would give eclipse a boost. Else, I am afraid, eclipse is "auf dem absteigenden Ast" ("heading south" *)