Monday, March 24, 2008

Surprise: Eclipse is me, too!

My last word on the whole e4 thing will not be about e4 at all (since I'm following going through the instructions for the demo, letting the code speak for itself), rather it will be restating what's been said so many times before: Eclipse is me.

Now, I'm not the most active Eclipse committer/contributor (Dave and Doug are doing all the actual work in the XSLT tooling in the WTP incubator), nor am I a prolific, insightful blogger by any standard. Yet, my posting regarding e4 did not go unnoticed within the community. I think that's a sign of good health, and I was pleased to see Mike M following up on it.

What befuddled me a bit however, was finding out Reg Developer linking to the post, essentially using it as a news source, as an exponent of a general sentiment. That was just ... unnerving, out of proportion, and misunderstood. Planet Eclipse is a great medium for following what's going on, but is does not fairly represent the minds of all ~1000 Eclipse committers and the many members doing the hard work. The planet should always be read with that in mind.

Eclipse is you, but take care to express how.

P.S: For a laugh, read the Reg Developer comments, and try not to think of XKCD.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My EclipseCon un-schedule: Day 1

This year, I am also not at EclipseCon.
Rather than four days of Eclipse tutorials, talks, BOFs, and high quality chit-chat, I'm getting what should have been springtime in Denmark. Well, it isn't.
My un-schedule for today went like this:
  • 07:00: Why is everybody up now? I'm not running anywhere! Oh, breakfast.
  • 08:00: Traffic Ballroom Z: "Model driving gets kids to daycare" 101, and more.
  • 10:00: Coffee - I get that.
  • 10:30: Managing my small company's general ledger with a cool RCP based ERP (no, that was OOo Calc)
  • 12:00: Lunch and Eclipse smalltalk. Minus Eclipse smalltalk.
  • 13:00: Improvised BOF meeting with other Eclipse contributors people stuck in line in the hardware store.
  • 13:30: Heave 13 sacks (450 kg) of shredded bark mulch into family car. Prepare for contribution as foundation for the coming platform.
  • 15:15: Daily General Meeting with kids being picked up from daycare.
  • 15:30: Check Planet Eclipse for postings on EclipseCon.
  • 16:00: "Introduction to PDE/Build", or make that finally updating my XSL workspace for M5. Noticing how "Project > Cleanup..." is still required for combinations of target, project, and CVS changes.
  • 16:20: Fight against the snow build-up. It's not supposed to snow now that spring was here.
  • 16:30: Check Planet Eclipse again. Hmmm.
  • 18:00: ...
I hope you get the idea... Please enjoy EclipseCon!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"It's the architecture, stupid!"

When I first read the e4 project announcement, I was puzzled as in "Am I misunderstanding something here?". Reading through the early e4 diversity and openness complaints on miscellaneous blogs, I was very relieved to see I wasn't the only one getting (what is now confirmed as) the wrong picture, as to the intentions of the incubation effort (I was even looking forward to Ed Merks' images of unbalanced ecosystems or the proverbial big and small fishes in the pond).

But now we know: OK, e4 is a place to showcase the experimental code and grow ideas about the Eclipse 4.0 platform, not some coup d'etat. OK, the perception is not reality, just unfortunate communication. OK, the platform team wants to solicit feedback from the community. OK, so you would rather show it in code than in colorful diagrams (given the audience, that makes sense).

My day job is in software architecture, and not in Eclipse at all (which makes me a very small fish indeed). However, it also gives me a different perspective in which to view this controversy: It's the architecture, stupid. The future of the Eclipse platform is not just about the code, it's also the scope, the requirements, the stakeholders, the constraints, the APIs, the process, the resources, and it's the dependencies and dependents of the very heart of Eclipse. In that respect, we still don't know anything about e4.
Eclipse is built on a strong architecture, and architecture is all about keeping the stakeholders happy, but it looks as if there's still serious uncertainty with a number of stakeholders:
  • What is being worked on here? Are we talking runtime / SWT / RCP - stuff? Is this about the "IDE meat", where a lot of the identified "biggest architectural problems" reside)?
  • Why is this going on? Or, which requirements or innovations are going to be driving the effort? Why is this more important than anything else?
  • When is all this going to happen? (should we expect a 3.5 in 2009?)
  • How are you planning to do this without creating adverse effects for stakeholders?
  • Where will the impact be - will this be a distributed effort? Where will the parts which currently make up the Eclipse Platform end up (in case of a refactoring effort)?
  • Who gets to decide and prioritize? And implement?
(yes, those are Kipling's six honest serving men, inspired by their use in the Zachman EA Framework. Hmmm; Zachman - IBM - conspiracy?)

For humans, a common reaction to change and uncertainty about is to expect the worst, especially if you feel like you are out of the loop. OK, we know now that part of e4 is to find the answers to the questions above, except perhaps the first "who" which I would expect should be the architectural council (whose mailing list is just buzzing with e4 activity right now). There are processes in place to mend this.

But shouldn't we always start with the "why" rather that the "how"?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Think globally, link locally (updated)

Today I attended my first meeting in the local (i.e. Danish) Eclipse users group called, today's topic being the use of Eclipse RCP for the primary front-office business-applications in a bank, such as teller systems and in call centers.

In Denmark, banks are rarely among the early technology adopters -- to say the least (I assume this is partly due to the severe regulation in the sector). Not just adopting, but broadly betting on Eclipse RCP for in-house development is thus a bold decision, even when it's warranted and desired by the business users. It goes against the grain of the ten year industry-wide push of browser-based solutions, and didn't happen without some amount of "idea sales"; the architect having to refocusing his/her language to the audiences at hand (easier when you stick to the facts and leave the evangelism behind.)

The meeting featured a presentation, a demo, and lots of discussions about design trade-offs, architecture, etc. amongst the apprx. 25 attendees. Useful, inspiring, and not doable by IRC! This kind of face-to-face meeting around such a focused subject is a rare event indeed.

My message is thus: Find and join your local Eclipse user group - if you can't find one, go start one yourself. Show up, share, discuss, link up with people with similar interests.

Update: The Eclipse Wiki contains a page of local communities.