Friday, 30 May 2008

Carefully Managing a Community

My tulips are blooming so the Eclipse Ganymede release cycle must be coming to an end. It's good timing, because planting season takes up quite a bit of my time.

Tulips are a beautiful reminder of my native land, the Netherlands, which I left behind so many decades ago. I seem to have a compulsive need to dig in dirt as well as a compulsive tendency to take on tasks that seem almost futile. Perhaps that comes from a genetic heritage that involves holding back the seas and then farming the land. Tulips are also interesting in their role as the fuel and fodder that drove the first economic bubble. But I digress as I am so often wont to do.

The Ganymede release cycle is winding to an end and that implies that the IP review cycle is in full swing. This year's swing seems to have taken on a particularly fevered pitch. I'm almost overwhelmed by it all, and I'm not a happy camper when I'm overwhelmed. The arrival of yet another note about a contribution questionnaire, about.html, or IP log sends shudders of apprehension up and down my spine and pangs fear into my heart, almost like the thought of a vampire shrimp loose in my aquarium.

Of course vampire shrimp is a misnomer for this innocuous but large filter feeding shrimp; look closely and you'll see that it has sieve-like feet to strain the water. And of course Eclipse's IP processes too are a good thing. They set Eclipse apart from other open source organizations. In fact, they set Eclipse above them, in my opinion. IP cleanliness is extremely important to the commercial adopters, so the foundation takes it very seriously and even more so this year. This is not so different from the fact that guppies tend to be ridden with parasites and diseases (just as the code we commit or use might be tainted) so it's safest to quarantine them and treat them (just as we IP review code) before releasing them into the community tank (Ganymede). I just finished the guppy treatment process yesterday; check out the beauty of a carefully managed and untainted community.

I'd also like to remind folks that however annoying this IP process might be to you as a committer, imagine being at the receiving end of this deluge of poorly organized and often incoherent data. Put yourself in shoes of Janet's team for just a moment, or imagine being Bjorn, herding a bunch of ill tempered cats with sharp claws. Not a pretty scene is it? I wanted to thank Sharon Corbett in particular for helping me and my extended global team navigate these troubled waters. The modeling project's component structure has made the burden to the foundation even more onerous and they've been great in their effort to support us. So while many might be tempted to point fingers at others for problems, I'd like to think that we committers need to take more responsibility ourselves for helping improve the processes. Spawning tadpoles and forgetting about them works well for the frogs, but we need to treat our code differently.

I'll certainly be talking with the other committer representatives about improvements at the next board meeting. Managing things like about.html files, IP logs, bugzilla contributions, and jars in CVS ought to be ammenable to automation and continuous monitoring so that the burden of maintaining them is spread out more evenly and hence the burden at the end of the release cycle is reduced. We need to work together to ensure that Eclipse keeps improving.


Kim Moir said...

Ed, your garden is beautiful. What are the white flowers that surround the tulips?

Ed Merks said...

Thanks Kim. They're anemones. They spread like weeds but are oh so pretty. They flower a little bit in September as well. And when they go to seed, they have fluffy heads that the hummingbirds like to use to make their nests.