BETA: Incubator for .NET Open Source Projects

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There’s been a lot written about whether or not Microsoft is doing enough to support Open Source Projects on its platform. In the past, Microsoft’s report card in this area was not one to take home to mom.

Lately though, there’s been a lot of improvement, with initiatives like CodePlex as well as the many projects that Microsoft has opened up and moved over there. Many have expressed that there’s more that Microsoft can do and I for one believe that Microsoft is starting to listen.

If not Microsoft, at least Sam Ramji of Port 25 is. He’s effectively the Director of Open Source at Microsoft, though his official title is Director of Platform Technology Strategy.

Several members of the .NET open source community have been bouncing ideas around with Sam looking for ways for Microsoft to support these communities. I think we’ll see some big things come out of that, but it won’t happen overnight.

Meanwhile, as we wait for Microsoft to hammer out the details for potentially larger initiatives (with the help of the community), how can we as a community start supporting open source projects ourselves? How about an Open Source Incubator?

Like a good agile developer, the first iteration of the idea will start very small as a means to test the waters. Will developers participate? Will companies support this? Who knows? Let’s find out!

What’s In It For Me?

So far, Microsoft, via Sam, has agreed to support this effort (so far) with some MSDN licenses and MaximumASP has agreed to offer hosting (details being hashed out as we speak).

At the moment, this is a relatively informal idea, but if it catches on, we hope that more companies will want to support it (cheap publicity!) and we’ll have a successful model of not only how Microsoft can support the community, but how the community can support itself.

What about existing Open Source projects in need of licenses?

Good question! At the moment, this is a relatively informal experiment. If it works out, we’ll probably want to support both existing and new projects. An incubator doesn’t have to be just for new projects, does it?

If that answer doesn’t work for you, try reading the comments of Rob’s post. Maybe you can smooth talk Sam into giving your worthy project a license.

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Comments

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12 responses

  1. Avatar for Owen
    Owen May 23rd, 2007

    Great idea, the start of these projects seems to be the hardest as i'm finding out. Got to fight the urge just to start coding.

  2. Avatar for Luke Melia
    Luke Melia May 23rd, 2007

    This is an excellent step in the right direction. There's one big thing off, however. Open source projects are (generally) the embodiment of personal interest and passion. The idea of assigning someone to "run" a new opensource project is a little odd.

  3. Avatar for Marcos Meli
    Marcos Meli May 23rd, 2007

    WOW !! great news Phil !!
    I need to read that again in the morning to know if I understand all the idea :P (is 1.30 am here now)
    The licenses idea is good and I have a hand up on that, we work hard to keep the filehelpers updated and some licenses can make our work easy.
    Takes a lot of tiem to maintain and support an open source project, and you know how hard is to balance our pasion for open source projects, the work and the personal life, some motivation is needed to keep thing alive and running.
    Here I go with another small idea that maybe you already think, but I want to share it anyway:
    I feel that the "big problem" is the trust of the community (read here Enterprises) on some open source projects.
    M$ theact the big enterprices to trust only on them, so is a mantra out there that a library or tool is good if is from M$ or only if is used for more than 1 millon of developers.
    I think that if you can create a site when some "open source specialists" like you and others great blogers and respected people talk about the main projects, with the best and the bad of each one, so the spirit of the open source raise up.
    Thats the most important thing to build and ecosystem where the main people guide to others to the right set of tools like the "hanselman tools list" something like that but about open source projects on .NET
    What do you think about that.
    Thanks for all, and good luck at your new job
    Marcos
    Open Source developers
    www.FileHelpers.com

  4. Avatar for BarryD
    BarryD May 23rd, 2007

    Weird, I'd commented last week on Channel9 on how MS should hand out MSDN subscriptions to particular open source contributors, but how could you measure and decide; how much code contribution is enough?
    (Of course part of that is driven by the fact that my subscription has ran out; it was donated by an MVP to me last year)

  5. Avatar for Rob Conery
    Rob Conery May 23rd, 2007

    @Owen - it's not an "assigment" at all :). If you read my post on this I'm looking for someone who thinks this is a neat thing to move forward (our initial project, that is).
    The CSK wasn't "assigned" to me, but I was asked by PayPal/MS if I'd like to run with it. It was an amazing opportunity and has sprung into good things. I think our hope here is that we can create these opportunities for others.

  6. Avatar for Rydal Williams
    Rydal Williams May 23rd, 2007

    Sounds like an excellent oportunity, I've love to run with one of these projects - I've always wanted to do something for the community. The ultimate question is "who is going to make the final decision on the projects, the community or Microsoft?". As Luke mention, open source projects are usually from passionate developers and developers who couldn't find a better solution.

  7. Avatar for Chris
    Chris May 23rd, 2007

    I'm still fuzzy on the role of the "Incubator" - how is the incubator going to facilitate the projects ongoing and what role do they play in the day-to-day of things? Speaking a little to what Marcos is saying, is the Incubator going to perform code / design reviews in an effort to "get the buy-in"? Are we looking at a loosely typed (gosh I crack myself up) Patterns and Practices group that will orchestrate efforts? Questions and ideas, questions and ideas . . .

  8. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 23rd, 2007

    @Rydal - This is not being run my Microsoft. Who chooses the projects? Good question. For the first project, it will be the members of the community mentioned in Rob's post.
    Remember, in a way, this is a test run. We hope to learn from this first pass how to make this program work. We've never built an open source support network before. So we're approaching it like an agile software project.
    @Chris - More good questions! :) I think these are things we all need to think about and consider. My feeling is that maybe we'd have some experienced OSS leaders provide mentoring to others.
    As for code/design reviews? I don't think the idea is to get that much in the details of the actual code. From Rob's post, it sounds like he sees a few "gaps" where useful open source projects could fill in nicely.
    So the incubator role might be to create a high level "spec" for such a project and if it happens to align with someone's passion, that person (or persons) can run with it.
    Now if you ask me, I agree that we should look at supporting existing projects too.
    Keep in mind that this is not a funded operation. This is a group of OSS project leaders trying to think of a way to help other OSS projects. You're still fuzzy on the idea, because honestly, we're still a bit fuzzy.
    But a really good way to get clarity on the concpet is to try it out on a very small scale. I think we should set up a wiki to gather these ideas.

  9. Avatar for Chris
    Chris May 24th, 2007

    Ok, fair enough, I'm all for trying stuff out. I think the Incubator should start out with 2 or 3 "lofty" goals - things you *really* want to accomplish and see if you are able to pull them off. That would at least provide the incubator with some direction and the OSS project some guidance.
    Lemme throw 2 out for good measure:
    1.) The Incubator will facilitate the OSS Project(s) by introducing the OSS Project coordinator to at least 5 individuals that are viewed as Market Leaders in the OSS Project market space. (i.e. If forums is to be the first one, then the Incubator should farms it's contacts for 5 leading contacts in that space to provide additional market guidance and insight.) This may help minimize the "me-too" syndrome of OSS and open up some opportunities for niche products or something similar.
    2.) The Incubator will provide to the community at-large a web space where the community can suggest OSS Project(s). 3 Months (or some random number, I'm not going to banter on the details here) prior to the next round of project launch(es), the Incubator will present a "cleaned" list (get rid of redundant entries) for the community to vote on.
    Questions and ideas, Questions and ideas . . .

  10. Avatar for Scott B.
    Scott B. May 28th, 2007

    I found that the Producing OSS is a prime example of someone(Karl Fogel) who is very experienced with open source development and was willing to share.
    Since I had no experience at all with open source projects I used it to create a few "prior to launching" checklists.
    For example:
    o) Choose a Good Name
    o) Have a Clear Mission Statement
    o) State That the Project is Free
    o) Features and Requirements List
    o) Development Status
    o) Downloads
    etc. I also refer back to it from time to time.
    An incubator would be very useful for people to share this sort of experience and build their reputation amongst the open source community.
    We setup sharpforge.org specifically to assist with the infrastructure side of running open source projects. To make sure we're building something that is relevant for open source projects we're using it to manage the development of SharpForge.
    To support the incubator I can offer:
    o) free software project hosting on a project by project basis at sharpforge.org. Thats exactly why it was created and is ready for new open source projects right now.
    o) create a new portal specifically for the incubator
    eg. incubator.sharpforge.org


  11. Avatar for Community Blogs
    Community Blogs June 26th, 2007

    Last year when all the hubbub surrounding NDoc was happening, I tried to rally people around the idea

  12. Avatar for you've been HAACKED
    you've been HAACKED July 26th, 2007

    Microsoft and Open Source