Supported vs. unsupported

by Volker Weber

Jeff comments the announcement of an OpenNTF project:

Announce your tool finally supports SVN, just as the industry is moving to distributed systems like Git and Mercurial. Feel the irrelevance.

Jeff is always very blunt, but I am less concerned about the irrelevance comment. What I find interesting is that IBM seems to lack the resources to incorporate important* features likes this into the supported product and has to publish through OpenNTF. It appears that many if not most of the submissions to OpenNTF are from IBM engineers.

*) Lesser important features would be a set of pretty database icons.


While it doesn't affect all organizations that use Lotus Notes and Domino, I have been finding some companies that, no matter how well promoted or how good the tools on OpenNTF may be, they will not download or use them. They have strict policies against using open source or free tools. So, if this feature is not incorporated in the IBM Lotus gold product, it will not be used. I suppose that also is true for pretty database icons.

This policy may affect only a small portion of the total Lotus population, and may seem a bit archaic, however without support, these tools will never be used by some organizations that could benefit from them. Rolling them into the gold product would really help with acceptance/usage. So, while some people may be happy with this announcement, there could be quite a few people saddened to see them available on OpenNTF, knowing that they cannot leverage them.

Gregg Eldred, 2010-11-04

Exactly... that's the same reason Fedora exists: redhat is so under-resourced they have to publish all their important features in an unsupported context.

...or perhaps they've simply found that introducing significant changes in an open, experimental context allows for effective crowd-sourcing that ensures higher quality once the feature is fully baked into the supported product.

IBM used to be heavily criticized for being so closed. Now they're being criticized for ramping up their contributions to an open source community. I know there's some third option that would make everyone happy, but for the life of me I can't seem to remember what that is.

Tim Tripcony, 2010-11-04

Just because the headline includes "SVN" doesn't mean the tool is limited to SVN.
AFAIK it supports generic Eclipse Team providers, and given there is one for
GIT, it should work with that just fine.
Ditto for HG...

Thomas Gumz, 2010-11-04

@Gregg - "We plan to incorporate this into the product as soon as we can. Will have more info at Lotusphere" (Pete Janzen of IBM, in the comments on the announcement)

It'll be in the product at some point. It'll be supported. And, in the meantime, it's free for anyone who wants to try it. So... what's the downside here?

Tim Tripcony, 2010-11-04

@Tim - Thanks for that quote. Then, to answer your question, there is no downside. :-)

Gregg Eldred, 2010-11-04

Yes, this is overall a Good Thing (tm).

Mary Beth said that they want to incorporate updated icons into an official version of N/D but that it was too significant a change to make in a point release, so... let The Community do it now, for later baking into an official version.

The extensibility library works the same way. OpenNTF is there for you to use the latest and greatest at any given day, but for those who say "we won't install it unless it's part of the official server release" they just have to wait longer.

It's win-win.

Erik Brooks, 2010-11-04

Interesting. Do you assume that all that stuff that IBM dumps on OpenNTF will show up in the product?

Volker Weber, 2010-11-05

Not all - but many. My bets are:
- Extension Library
- Version Control
- Pretty database icons
- ... more designer plug-ins ...

Stephan H. Wissel, 2010-11-05

And not all of the Extension Library will get folded back in... many of the components will be a good fit, like the iNotes views, the REST API stuff, but many may prove to just be experimental, something that seemed like a good idea but didn't prove to be as useful as the others. This applies equally to the components already published by IBM and to those that will be added to the project by the community. But keep in mind, adding something to Domino is easy... removing an already supported feature that any of their customers may now be relying upon is always controversial. So providing a way to screen features ahead of time to find out what really should be a supported feature before they add it to the product is a very good thing.

Sure, that means that IBM has now opened themselves up to having to separate the chaff from the wheat, so to speak, but there's finally a channel for that where none previously existed... in the past, in order for anything worthwhile written by a member of the community to make it into the product, IBM had to hire whoever wrote it.

But now, if I choose to donate a component that they later want to add to Domino's native featureset, but I also want to keep the job I already have, that can happen. I have the satisfaction of knowing that I contributed in some small but discernible way to the improvement of the platform, which would look great on my resume if I chose to highlight that, customers have access to a new, useful feature that the product wouldn't otherwise have, and IBM didn't have to acquire or hire just to add that one feature. Everybody wins. Well, everybody except those who will always find some way of spinning anything that happens into something negative.

Tim Tripcony, 2010-11-05

I'm the one who asked the original question in the OpenNTF post comments about IBM supporting the SVN plugin. I did it partially because I wanted to know, but also because I had strong suspicions that they *would* be incorporating it into the product and I felt it was important that they put that statement out there in the public.

There's plenty of precident here. Just look at IBM's history of integrating open source tech into their products. Apache -> Websphere is one example.

Another is the full-time devs at IBM that contribute to Dojo for the sole purpose of later pulling that feature or bug fix into an IBM product. Domino 8.5.0 shipped with Dojo v1.2.1, 8.5.1 ships with v1.3.3, and 8.5.2 ships with v1.4.1. I may be slightly off on the version numbers but you get the idea.

Niklas Hiedloff is an example of an IBM employee who is constantly contributing things to OpenNTF, on IBM's dollar.

However unlike those initiatives, this is the fostering of an open-source effort *after* the commercial effort, instead of the other way around. They're just coming at it from the other end, but the result is the same.

I expect big things at Lotusphere, with 8.5.3 due out in Q2 2011 and some info about Notes 9/Vulcan, plus emphasis on IBM's own 500+ page XPages book due this January.

Now if they can just figure out how to market all this awesome stuff.

Erik Brooks, 2010-11-05

Don't get me started on OpenNTF - never before have I committed and wasted so much time on such a pointless cause. They're about as "open" as a bank on a public holiday.

Ben Rose, 2010-11-05

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