Eclipse is ... an Opportunity

Despite Doug Gaff’s wish to have the last word on the Eclipse is You/Me/Who? issue, I do have one more thing to say on it (Sorry, Doug :). I was at the Device Debug meeting in Toronto last week, and for me it was deja-vu all over again. We had similar meetings on the CDT many times in the past, ones where a big number of people, 30-40 say, get together to talk about Eclipse projects, but in the end only 4 or 5 of them are actually planning on contributing anything to the project despite there being a need for many more.

Who are the rest? Well they are developers sent by their managers to make sure they keep tabs on what is going on. What it really tells me is that these companies don’t really need anything from the project, not yet at least. But if something does come up that they can use, at least they know about it and can start making plans for it. But really, they are a long way off from having the compelling business reason that their managers need to allocate resources towards making any contributions back.

We’ve talked about the difficulty at making that leap from user to contributor. The biggest is just the expense of allocating developers to something that may not be their core competency. And, in fact, they may not have the Eclipse expertise on staff to actually do it. And it’s really unfortunate, because without help, Eclipse projects have a hard time getting to the point where they would be useful enough to justify contribution. I feel Doug G’s frustration at trying to start new projects in this environment.

So it got me wondering, looking at other examples in the industry, whether these companies would be willing to pool, not people, but money towards hiring shared developers. I know of a few small consulting companies that get paid to work on open source. I think this has the potential to solve some of the staffing problems that we’re seeing on these projects. But I’m no expert on whether this is a good, or at least sustainable, business model. It would be interesting to see if people are willing to work together this way. And I encourage such consulting companies to ask around and see if they can make it work.