A Pragmatic E4

So, yes, I was at the e4 summit last week. I’ve been meaning to blog about it but it’s taking some time for me to realize what it was all about. And I think I am finally able to put it into words.

For those who don’t know the history, e4 kinda tripped into existence as a side effect of the creation of an Eclipse incubator project to allow people working on it to check in prototypes and stuff. It was pretty innocent but it did scare a lot of people with the appearance that a new Eclipse platform was being developed without guidance from the community.

Of course, the dust has settled and fears subsided and IBM hosted the e4 summit last week to give people the opportunity to offer their guidance and, more importantly, to offer their help. It was a good, yet standard summit in my view. Lots of good ideas, but few actionable items, especially beyond what has already been actioned.

And to be honest, that’s the way it probably should be. If anyone thinks that we can write a whole new platform and discard backwards compatability, they’re kidding themselves. I think we’d all be fired if we came to our product teams with a plan like that. So I’m not worried in the least about that.

I think McQ has the right strategy and he tried hard to get the point across. You can rewrite the world with the best API and architecture and write a facade over top to let old plug-ins continue to work with as little change as possible. You can have your cake and eat it to. And, yes, it’s a lot more work. But as I said, we’d be fired if we didn’t do that. That’s what will constrain the community from going hog wild on e4. And that’s a good thing.

So if e4 isn’t a great new platform, what is it? Lots of people are wondering that and I’m sure we all have different answers. To me, what e4 is, is the opening up of the platform to new contributors. It’s a change in mindset of the platform team who have been maniacally focused on controlling change (justifiably so in my view) that they have scared off or rejected many a contribution. e4 gives them a chance to loosen up and be more accepting. And it is really up to the rest of us to take advantage and get in there and make the tactical improvements we need while this door is open. It would be our own fault to miss this great opportunity.