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Proposal: Grails Plugin Collective

The following is a proposal for, and a request for comment on, the idea of a semi-structured combination of social and technological systems and norms to initiate, develop and maintain Grails plugins.

The Problem Being Addressed

Typically, a plugin is born through inspiration or necessity. It’s not uncommon that the original author at some point stops maintaining or developing a frequently-used or promising plugin. There are many reasons for this and they are in no way unique to the Grails ecosystem. People contribute and move on as is their want and well intentioned developers can quickly lose interest in developing a plugin due to roadblocks and lack of knowledge, experience and feedback.As a Software Developer using Grails professionally, the availability of a high quality plugin makes a significant product difference; and conversely an unsuccessful attempt to use a plugin due to bugs or lack of documentation costs real time. Often when finding an issue and fixing it, getting that fix back into the community takes considerable effort in coordinating with the plugin developer/maintainer who may or may not be around.

As a plugin developer, during busy times it can be hard to keep up with bug reports, feature requests and Grails upgrades. It’s also concerning that knowledge and understanding of the plugins I have authored rest largely with myself, creating a single point of failure. It would be much better if there were other people who could (and did) maintain and improve things in my (or any other author’s) absence.

The Proposed Solution

To remedy this situation, I propose that a self-organised, distributed, democratic, collective be formed… to foster, develop and maintain Grails plugins. I am calling this idea the “Grails Plugin Collective” for the time being.

The social structure is what would be the most interesting and, ultimately, enabling. It would allow members to work across plugins, scratching their own itches, and getting those fixes/features into release with minimal effort without risking quality. It would also enable steering and guiding the direction of plugins while allowing members to freely propose ideas and alternatives. Due to Grails’ “convention over configuration” nature, this becomes critically important. Hopefully, the collective wisdom of a group of individuals results in a highly consistent, conventional approach to how plugins work.

Goals and Aims

Relationship with VMWare and certification

I propose that the collective should be an entity outside of VMWare. This does not exclude VMWare employees from participating in the collective by any means, or from having some kind of special role. It purely means that the entity is not bound to VMWare in any way other than through the licensing arrangement of any software owned by VMWare.

I also propose that if a plugin certification scheme is ever established, it be done completely separately to the collective. I imagine that many of the collectivised plugins would aim for certification if at all possible, but in this respect they would be no different to other community plugins.

Procedures and Principles

The collective should aim to operate with the least amount of bureaucracy and procedure that is required. The core idea is that as a democratic structure, all proposals are put to a vote. Members will have a relatively short time frame (proposed: 48 hours) to vote. A certain proportion of the votes cast must be affirmative for the proposal to succeed. It’s likely that there would also be some sort of veto mechanism for things that are extremely time critical.

I image the following kinds of things would be voted on:

Initial Membership

Being that what is being proposed is a self-organising, democratic social structure, I am hesitant to be to prescriptive about how such a thing might work in terms of my vision. I am interested in getting other people’s ideas.

An initial membership also needs to be put together. This will be somewhat of a challenge for a democratic outfit. To get the ball rolling, I suggest that the VMWare Grails team propose an initial membership of roughly 10 people (likely including themselves). From there, the collective can self organise and induct new members over time.

So what are your thoughts? Is such an initiative worthwhile? Could it work? Could it succeed in raising and maintaining the quality of selected Grails plugins? Are there other such initiatives that we could learn from? What kind of social practices could be put in place to support rapid development while maintaining consistency and quality?

Feel free to leave your opinion either here or on the grails-user mailing list.

Posted: Jun 7th, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

Tags: #software  #grails  

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