I love it when I see questions like this…

A couple days ago, I came across this entry in the DLTK mailing list:

We are using the Python component, but we are a small startup company and don’t have the resources to work on it ourselves. We would be interested in code completion for the Python component and debugging with Jython.

I would be interested to talk to other Python users about sharing the costs to sponsor infrastructure work like the aforementioned items.

I love it. They want some new functionality, but they’re not demanding it, or complaining about it. They’re offering to participate in the construction; they don’t have the skills themselves, but are willing to help fund the work of those who do.

It made me think of a question sent my way at a recent conference. The question was along the lines of “My company depends very much on project X. Development seems to have stopped completely on project X. What is the Eclipse Foundation doing to ensure that project X continues to exist and grow?”

So what is the Foundation doing to ensure that certain “key” projects continue to exist and grow? Well, for one, we talk about them. We talk about them with anybody who will listen. At the recent JAX/Eclipse Forum Europe conference, I presented a new talk, Ten Eclipse Projects You Should Know More about, in which gave an overview of all Eclipse Projects and focused on ~10 projects in particular, including Higgins, ACTF, Nebula, STEM, Linux Tools, and more. We also help projects create and develop community. The Technology PMC, for example, has started to do periodic reviews of community development efforts being undertaken by the projects. Part of the process is to help each project figure out what they can and should be doing to develop the community, and broaden the diversity of the contributors (and, ultimately, committers) on the project. I’m planning to expand this work into other projects. Ultimately, committer diversity is probably the best bet at ensuring the continued existence and growth of a project.

So I turned the question around. I asked the questioner what he was doing to help project X continue to exist and grow? “If a piece of technology is important to you or your organization,” I reasoned, “isn’t in your own selfish best-interest to participate in it? At least a little?”

There’s been a lot of talk recently about “freeloaders” and how it’s not fair to the organizations that invest in open source projects that other individuals and organizations can just breeze in and take advantage of all the hard work of others. To this discussion, I’ll add that so-called “freeloaders” are leaving themselves at a disadvantage. Participation (at least a little) in an open source project is your best bet at protecting your investment in that code you’re betting some part of your business on. It may not be exactly free, but over the long term even some small investment in that open source project could save you a lot of money.

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3 Responses to I love it when I see questions like this…

  1. Kim Moir says:

    Exactly. This is a great perspective. Being a back seat driver doesn’t mean that you’ll have any impact on the direction the car is going. Active participation and contributions to Eclipse means that your requirements have a better chance of being incorporated into the release.

  2. Doug Schaefer says:

    I picked up on one important point in the Python guys’ post. They are willing to fund the work. But it’s not always easy to do that. What can the Foundation do to ensure that companies that have the dollars to spend on sponsoring development match up with contractors willing to do that work? We get that often in CDT-land, or at least we used to, but I have no good answer for them.

  3. Wayne Beaton says:

    @Doug one thing I try to do is to draw attention to it. I’ll talk to Don about this tomorrow to see his perspective on the issue.

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