September 11, 2007 by jimstogdill
Does an OSS project’s language need to be “cool?”
We are in the process of starting up a new open source project. I think we have a pretty cool idea and as soon as we can get our collaborative infrastructure set up we’ll be opening it up to community. We are prepared to do most of the development if necessary but a key measure of success for us with this project is community building. We are starting this project up on behalf of our DoD customer and both we and our customer believe that the project should be a demonstration of the power of community. Plus, we just think there will lots of cool things it will be used for if it is open source, and it might be a nice demonstration of government OSS as public good.
So… with that as context, last week we spent a few days kicking off the project and thinking through some key architectural issues, a development roadmap, and the like. In the process of discussing architecture it became clear that, assuming we wrote the service in Java, OSGi would make a really good framework for building it. If we weren’t doing an open source project, we’d be done thinking about it. We’d be moving forward on our first few sprints of work (at least) coding in Java in an OSGi framework. But…
…it is an open source project, and we care a lot about early and significant community involvement. So, how to consider the impact of language / framework selection on community? Does Java and OSGi make this too “enterprise integration” in feel and potentially distance us “spiritually” from important potential contributors?
In some of our other open source projects, JBI ESB components that are firmly in the “enterprise integration” world, this wouldn’t be an issue. Developers in that world would be comfortable in enterprise Java and would probably be eager to incorporate OSGi into the mix. But what we have in mind is not really in the “enterprise integration” space (at least not in my mind). In my view this project will appeal much more to the constituents of “web”, “VoIP”, and “collaboration” worlds. Outside the DoD, I think the community for a project like this is likely to be more “Web 2.0 Summit” or “BarCamp” than “Gartner Enterprise Integration” – though I can imagine at least a little bit of “Office 2.0” or “Enterprise 2.0” zeitgeist mixed in.
So, other than a bunch of gut feel BS, how much does language selection influence audience and community? That is the question we are wrestling with.