I spent a couple of hours at CASCON 2008 today. The conference, brought to us by the good folks at IBM’s Centers for Advanced Studies (CAS). This conference brings together researchers from industry and university to learn from each other and share what they’ve been working on. I attended today to scope out the work being done with Eclipse in the Technology Showcase. Unfortunately, by showing up on the last day, I managed to miss out speaking with as many people as I would have liked. On the positive side, I had relatively little competition speaking with the folks that did remain.
The University of Victoria (UVic) was well-represented by at least two different projects from the CHISEL Group. The TagSync project is built on the Eclipse RT stack (an Equinox OSGi server with an embedded Jetty engine). [Updated: Thanks for the correction, Ian]. I spoke for a while with several of the students about Eclipse adoption at the university. We also spoke of earlier research done by the CHISEL Group which produced GILD (Groupware-enabled Integrated Learning and Development), a project intended to “address the shortage of tools providing pedagogical support for teaching and learning programming” which is built on Eclipse technology.
I spoke a PhD student from Concordia University in Montreal, Québéc who is building SE-Advisor, which provides “context sensitive guidance support for software engineering”. It’s difficult to summarize the work, but the focus is to improve software quality by building and maintaining an ontology of the various players involved in the development process (code, SCM, bug tracking, etc.) to establish traceability, and context-sensitive guidance for the developer. The work includes a integration with Eclipse and, frankly, sounds like an excellent candidate to become a project at Eclipse. The student is hoping to open source his project, so I am hopeful that he will bring it to the Technology Project.
A PhD student from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario showed me his project, User Interface Generation, which (oddly enough) generates a user interface from BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) documents. My first thought when presented with this was that I really need to learn more about BPMN… Anyway, his project generates an Eclipse RCP application that a developer can use as a base for further development and customization.
Finally, I spoke with two PhD students and their advisor from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. They were showcasing their “CnP: Supporting Copy-and-Paste Programming in Modern IDEs” project which is described as: “The CnP project, short for ‘Copy and Paste’, aims at providing tool support for copy-and-paste programming. Three Eclipse plugins will be demonstrated (1) CReN: Consistent ReNaming of identifiers in code clones, (2) CSeR: Support for Class SEgment Reuse via copy-paste, (3) Clone-Importer: Importing clone information from a clone detection tool. ” Something that struck me during their demonstration was that they seem to have many of the pieces in place to implement fully traceable copy and paste in Eclipse. I can imagine (and this may be way off base, but I can imagine what I want), automatically updating the copyright header in a file when a significant chunk of code is copied from one file to another. This would sure make the IP due diligence team’s job easier…
There were many other projects doing interesting work with Eclipse represented at the conference. I had hoped to talk with the JSCOOP from the University of Toronto, and Servus (which is already open source under the EMFT project) from the University of Waterloo, but their representatives must have been off in some hidden corner building Eclipse plug-ins; I couldn’t find them (not for lack of trying).
I asked each of the people I spoke with today why they chose to implement using Eclipse. They all chose Eclipse because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Eclipse made the work easy”. While the small sample taken today represents universities in Canada and upstate New York, this reflects my experience with other graduate and post-graduate students in universities around the world: Eclipse makes it easy to focus on the research; Eclipse provides a firm foundation upon which the “interesting” research work can be done. It seems that we have been doing a pretty good job of winning the hearts and minds of the researchers.
A lot of the work that we’ve been doing with the University Outreach programme and the Eclipse IDE for Education has been focused on the undergrads: first year undergrads in particular. But upper year undergrads, graduate, and post-graduate students are an important part of our effort as well. In the coming months, I’m going to be spending some time meeting with students and their instructors to get a better feel for how we can help them make better use of Eclipse in their research and programmes. Students and faculty: if you want to talk about Eclipse, drop me a line at evangelism_at_eclipse_dot_org.