Some quick thoughts about the new Codeplex OSS initiative

You can read more about the new CodePlex OSS initiative from Haack’s blog (not that there’s a lot of detail anyway).  I’ve got just a couple quick thoughts:

  1. A little optimism doesn’t hurt here.  Yeah, MS has basically crapped all over the .Net OSS ecosystem in the past and certainly hasn’t nurtured it the same way that the Java vendors did.  It’s not like this CodePlex thing is going to make things worse.  Let’s see what they come up with here.
  2. I’ve thought for quite a while that OSS contributions should be a major factor in awarding the MVP and the resulting MSDN license (it’s not today as far as I’ve ever been able to tell).  Contributing MSDN licenses to the people who do OSS development would be positive.  The MVP program as it stands is more or less a farce.  This way it could be useful.
  3. I’d really like to see MS show a little bit of love to existing OSS projects that didn’t start on CodePlex.  Maybe MS saying things like “you know, NHibernate or Castle or log4net or RhinoMocks are good tools that you Mr. Corporate Developer can use to build systems and here’s where to find out more…”  I think a simple endorsement from MS would do more than anything else they could possibly do.  There’s a thread on Twitter about how much MS’s implicit endorsement of jQuery last year did for its adoption by .Net devs (or maybe it’s just that jQuery flat out rocks).
  4. I see some people making the old whiney refrain about there being too much diversity and “duplication” in OSS projects.  Waa.  In all seriousness, diversity is good.  Bring on the competition and new ways of doing things and new ideas and let genetic selection weed out the weak.  I wrote the very first IoC tool in .Net and yet there’s 6-7 others — and that does not bother me in the slightest.  Even Unity, the weakest of all of them, added something new to the IoC story and I’ve stolen features or ideas from almost all of the later tools.
  5. “Jeremy, haven’t you been one of the people that criticizes Microsoft for duplicating OSS tools?  Why isn’t that diversity?”  Good question, but you don’t “got me.”  The MS equivalents of open source projects (MSTest, MSBuild, etc.) aren’t a work of love like the OSS projects are and they are so frequently just a means for Microsoft to fill holes in their offerings.  I thing MSTest and MSBuild were no better than half-hearted efforts just because they needed to check off a box that says “we’ve got one of those in our stack.”  Instead, they could have just supported or contributed to NAnt and NUnit or MbUnit or later to xUnit.Net with a lesser effort and gone on to enhance Visual Studio with the saved resources.  Microsoft squandered an opportunity cost by duplicating OSS efforts in the past.  That’s why the jQuery support rather than writing their own was and is such a big deal to me.  Plus there’s also the fact that OSS projects innovate much faster than Microsoft projects.  Sorry Phil, but I’d point out the ASP.Net MVC framework as an example of a Microsoft tool that always seems to be playing catch up to OSS efforts.
  6. MS needs to reach out a lot more to the OSS community.  I don’t see a lot of actual OSS contributors involved in that thing.

About Jeremy Miller

Jeremy is the Chief Software Architect at Dovetail Software, the coolest ISV in Austin. Jeremy began his IT career writing "Shadow IT" applications to automate his engineering documentation, then wandered into software development because it looked like more fun. Jeremy is the author of the open source StructureMap tool for Dependency Injection with .Net, StoryTeller for supercharged acceptance testing in .Net, and one of the principal developers behind FubuMVC. Jeremy's thoughts on all things software can be found at The Shade Tree Developer at http://codebetter.com/jeremymiller.
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  • http://weblogs.asp.net/fbouma Frans Bouma

    re point 2: an MVP license is given out more or less as a thank you for doing free support work for MS on one side and a thank you for doing free marketing / PR work on the other. So in that light, it’s an OK award, however it’s promoted as an award for people who really stand out in the crowd. I don’t think that’s really the case.

    re point 3: what’s often overlooked is that although NHibernate is OSS, it’s owned by JBoss, which is owned by RedHat. Hosting OSS projects is all about ownership and I think the real reason for this foundation is to make sure there’s no problem with ownership if you look at the company hosting the works. That said, what surprises me is that Redhat or JBoss, both OSS companies, apparently fail to host NHibernate and contributing projects on their own, and why should another company/foundation do that for them? Isn’t that the job of the owner of the work, i.e. Redhat?

  • http://developingux.com Caleb Jenkins

    Great post Jeremy. I would love to see OSS contributions as one of the “tracked” events that MVP’s could report on. I wonder if the new CodePlex foundation could “grant” msdn licenses to OSS project contributors without them having to be MVP’s (like MS BizSpark for OSS projects). Good stuff.

  • http://blogs.msdn.com/nblumhardt Nicholas Blumhardt

    You nailed it. Good thoughtful post, thanks Jeremy.

    +1 on the endorsement of key OSS offerings.

  • http://phatboyg.lostechies.com/ Chris Patterson

    I’m optimistic that we’ll see good things come of this. And with some open-source love in the form of mono (Miguel de Icaza is on board), I have a solid hope that things will go in the right direction.

    Some MS endorsement of other OSS projects like they did for jQuery would be great to see, let’s hope that it happens!

  • http://codeplex.org Sam Ramji

    Thanks, Jeremy. I appreciate your support of the CodePlex Foundation concept, and I agree with your comments about Microsoft needing to embrace .NET open source projects like NHibernate.

  • http://weblogs.asp.net/bleroy Bertrand Le Roy

    Hey, I agree 100% with what you’re saying here. :) It’s a slow and tedious change to make, and we still have so much to learn, but I think the Foundation is a step in the right direction.
    Also, thanks for the kind words about the jQuery deal ;)

  • http://codebetter.com/members/jmiller/default.aspx Jeremy D. Miller

    @Ollie,

    I think that’s partially because big shops keep their developers beaten down and passive. I had a hard time when I moved out of corporate IT and into a smaller Agile/XP shop. I remember being floored when I realized that I had a say in how the project was going to be done and that I could suggest and even enact changes in process.

  • Ollie Riches

    Great Post!

    I am seeing changes occurring in the ‘corporate ‘developer’ market – they are starting to use the tools but not accepting the concepts…

    An example – I see the use of unit testing but not the learning and progression into advanced concepts like BDD. They still expect to be handed the next technology on a plate…