Yesterday I’ve had an interesting evening at the combined Eclipse Democamp & Holland Open Network meeting (organized by TSI Industrial). Lots of suits, but interesting technology nonetheless. I was actually surprised at the cool stuff going on in the Eclipse community. Both in terms of development (you MUST have a look at Mylyn - think Nepomuk in KDevelop) and concerning the community. They still depend for some 45 % on IBM to do their development, but there are also 25% individual contributors and hundreds (actually coming up to a thousand) companies officially contributing either money, manpower or both. They have over 800 contributors, many full-time. And they’re growing at a >30% annual rate.
Why? Because they have clear goals and a strong vision about how to accomplish them. Resources make a difference as well, of course – but it’s definitely in the non-coding area where they probably benefit most from IBM’s support. Creating an ecosystem needs more than good code. They have lawyers who check new contributions, they have this partnership thing for companies, all kinds of stuff.
I believe we can learn a lot from Eclipse, how they do things, how it works out. I have no idea as I’m not a developer but I’m also wondering if there could be cooperation in terms of code or design, or just interaction. Cool stuff is going on in the Eclipse camp, really. And having a commercial ecosystem is a huge benefit we would love to have as well. Meanwhile - I suppose you did have a look at that Mylyn thing? No? Go back and do it.
Ok, I’ll explain a bit. Mylyn is a plugin for Eclipse making it aware of activities. It automatically connects files, bugs and other stuff together to create them and hides the rest. It helps taskswitching enormously, making work much more efficient. It works with all kinds of bugtrackers etcetera, and automatic – no tagging and such, it figures things out by itself. I’ve seen it in action, and it’s bloody cool. The first thing a non-developer thinks after seeing it: I want this for my whole desktop!
And now a company is currently working on bringing that stuff to the Windows desktop. Yep, task/activity based computing. We’ll have to light a fire under Nepomuk (-integration) if we want to get there first, as they’re very far already. And at the very least we can learn from Mylyn how to approach many things in the UI and interaction.