There was an interesting comment on an old CDT bug that raised my eyebrows.

it’s only been 3 years. other eclipse bugs that I reported
are are still open after 9 years.

Sad to say, but Eclipse smells a kind of dead.

Of course, those of us who work in the Eclipse community know that isn’t true, but it certain isn’t as alive as it was in the early years. Even from my experience on the CDT, we have a small handful of dedicated and productive committers, but we do have lots of bugs that don’t get addressed.

Building an IDE, especially one that supports so many environments, requires a lot more contributors that we currently have. It’s an age old problem that I’ve struggled with for all my years involved in Eclipse and many of those as a project lead. How do you grow your contributor community?

And there are some good answers that generally revolve around lowering the barrier to entry: having active mailing lists, good documentation, committers that help bring in new people. And these things definitely help when you have a contributor interested in contributing.

But let’s back up a step, assuming you do those things, how do you get potential contributors interested in contributing? You have to make your project something they care about, something that they will feel rewarded contribute to. For the people who contribute to Eclipse now, that’s certainly a strong motivator. And, of course, it’s important to get companies to see the value in it too, and that’s of course another strong motivator, you’re boss tells you to contribute :).

To that end, I think we need to figure out ways to make the Eclipse IDE exciting again, to be so alive that it’s hard to miss that fact as our commenter did. I think there are a couple of ways to do that. First, make it technologically interesting and modern. Make it a good learning experience that contributors can take with them so they not only get the value of having a great IDE but the value of adding knowledge to their tool chest.

Of course it’s a chicken and egg problem, we can’t do these things without new contributors, but we should start talking about and planning out features and rearchitecture they’d like to see. And, yes, e4 was supposed to be that, and maybe I’m getting this wrong, but e4 was more focused on adopters than users. And it’s really the users who I’d like to see get more involved. There’s so many more of them. And they’re the ones who really have a vested interested in making a great IDE.

The second idea that I’ve started pursuing is to have Eclipse release more often. We’ve decided this for the CDT. Yearly releases are way too far apart, especially when you want to inject innovation into our product. If you release more often, contributors get the reward of seeing their contributions in action sooner. And again, it’s that reward that we want to give them. At any rate, you can follow the thread here. It’s good to see like minded people in our community leadership think the same way.

We know first hand that Eclipse is not dead. But it could sure use some love.