The MetaSieve Blog

March 5, 2010

Does Grails have a problem?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Björn Wilmsmann @ 5:29 pm

Recently (or rather over the course of the last half year or so), there has been quite some discussion about how the Grails community responds to open source contributions, mainly with regard to Grails plugins.

The main issue Robert Fischer takes offence at is that the Grails community seems less appreciative of contributions, especially with regards to plugin development, than other open source communities like Rails.

According to Robert, Grails users are more demanding in terms of support for open source components. There seems to be a notion of ‘You built it so support it!’ within the Grails community whereas other communities nourish a more cooperative DIY style.

Now, when developing software for commercial purposes ‘You built it so support it!’ is perfectly fine but given that most open source developers don’t get compensated directly for their efforts this is problematic at least. Sure, open source work can gain you a decent job, marketing buzz or new customers for your company but this alone in most cases doesn’t justify doing extensive and often painful support.

I think the root of the matter is the cultural background of Grails in contrast to the background of projects like Rails:

While Rails has been born out of explicit disdain for ‘enterprise’ culture with all its complexities and often cumbersome nonsense, Grails tried to build upon a few positive aspects of enterprise software culture like reliability, scalability and security and do away with unproductive, complex boilerplate code at the same time.

So, while those two frameworks aren’t that different in terms of features and what can be achieved with them, each comes from and mainly caters for a distinctly different background.

Regarding the matter at hand, the problem with the enterprise background of Grails chiefly is that enterprise customers expect to pay often bizarre amounts of money for software allowing them to hold the creators of said software responsible and demand extensive support from them.

In a way this notion maybe shines through here as well. In the enterprise segment people are used to getting support for the software they use so they also demand this kind of support from open source developers, who mostly happen to create their stuff in their spare time.

While I’m perfectly fine with releasing my own plugins under the Apache license and support them whenever I have time to, I can completely comprehend Robert’s point of view and his desire to get a different kind of compensation for his open source work. In fact, there should be plenty of space for both approaches (and anything that lies in-between) within open source software development.

However, in my opinion the Grails community – especially those relying on Grails for commercial applications – does indeed have a problem if one of its most prolific plugin authors feels like he has to resort to such rather unusual measures to gain appreciation for the work he’s doing.

Moreover, although I consider a commercial market for Grails Plugins an interesting idea, I don’t think this is a viable alternative for plugin developers and users alike.
This would first of all require a much wider adoption of Grails to allow developers to get a decent amount of money from plugin development.
Secondly, this would most likely exclude smaller enterprises from adopting Grails at all.

Your thoughts?

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