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Saturday, 5. July 2014


Microsoft, Open Source development and Codeplex

Filed under: .NET,C#,Diverses,F# — Steffen Forkmann at 12:37 Uhr

Recently Microsoft released all their major programming languages as open source and even started to accept pull requests. I didn’t think this would ever be possible at Microsoft, but they opened up and people like me started to contribute:

Personally I sent 29 (mostly small) pull requests to the Visual F# project. 5 pull requests already got accepted and 15 are still under evaluation.  In principle the development process seems to be working very well. Especially in the Visual F# project Don Syme and the Visual F# team are doing an excellent job to encourage the community. They are marking user voice issues as “approved in principle” and even provide detailed documents for implementation tasks (See CoreLibraryFunctions). This makes it very easy to get started and to hack a bit on the F# compiler. A big thanks to you guys.

A very important part of the open source is the review process. The F# community is awesome in this regards. On issues like a new “compareWith” function I got comments with remarks about coding style, test cases, documentation and lots of new ideas about possible performance improvements. It’s really exciting to be part of such an active and welcoming community. There is only one “but” and this “but” is the choice of the development platform. I really think CodePlex is hindering these projects to become even more successful. In this post I want to show some of my experiences with Codeplex. Remember I already sent 29 pull requests so I think it’s fair to say I tried!

Overall usability

The first impression on the Codeplex site is that every click feels so frustrating slow. Waiting 4s and more for a site to load doesn’t exactly feel like 2014.

If you want to comment on something then there is an “interesting” distinction between issues and pull requests. On issues you get a preview box and some buttons to make formatting easier, but you can’t edit your comments later:

Issue comment editor

On pull request you can edit your comments later but your don’t have the formatting buttons:

Pull request comment editor

 

E-Mail notifications

Like most online portals you can enable E-Mail notifications on Codeplex. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work. I tried to set all notification sliders I found to the max. and still don’t get notifcations if someone sends a new pull request to the Visual F# projects. Instead I’m getting annoying E-Mail notifications on my own activities:

E-Mail notifications on own comments

 

Things like this make you wonder if they actually dogfood their own stuff.

Code reviews on pull requests

As described above good code reviews are a very important part of any software development project, for open source programming language projects even more so. Unfortunately Codeplex has a really bad code review tool. I mean it is possible to comment on diffs:

Comments on diff

But if you update the pull request with a fix then the comment is displayed on the new fixed code and makes no sense any more:

Wrong code comments on diff

The whole code review is broken when you add commits to a pull request and it get’s even messier when you rebase your pull request on the current master. Rebasing pull requests is a very common operation in open source projects since it allows to move the merge effort from the project maintainer to the contributor. But unfortunately Codeplex gets confused by the rebase and now shows a wrong diff:

Wrong diff on rebased pull requests

A code platform shows a wrong diff – yep I couldn’t believe it myself so I tried again. #7040, #7045#7060, always the same.

Finding the needle in the hashstack

A couple of days ago I wanted to tweet a link to a cool performance trick and knew it was the last commit on a pull request. Now try to find the url:

Alphabetical order by hash

Yes that’s right – the commits are ordered in alphabetical order BY HASH or as I call it in “least useful order”.

Reporting Codeplex issues

Of course you may ask: “Steffen why didn’t you report these issues to the Codeplex team?” and that’s a valid question. Actually I went to codeplex.codeplex.com, which I believe is the home of the Codeplex project, and looked at their issue list. This is what I got:

Codeplex has quite some issues

 

Not a single issue on the first page is related to Codeplex and it seems they don’t even care to close this spam. So why should I care to log issues there?

What now?

It’s more than obvious – use the “move source code to github” strategy and people already created an issue on the TypeScript project. Unfortunately it got closed:

Business needs

After reading this I really doubt it was the decision of the teams to use Codeplex. Fortunately the ASP.NET team seems to be an exception to this. Somehow they managed to move to github.com/aspnet.

There are also other ways. Microsoft could really invest in Codeplex and make it a usable platform. But I don’t see this happing, because it will cost A LOT of money. Even if they would open source Codeplex I don’t see a community which is willing to improve this site.

So I appeal to the people in charge at Microsoft please answer the following questions:

  • What are the reasons for putting the Visual F# project on Codeplex, especially when the majority of the existing F# projects and community already operate on Github?
  • Do you think it’s more important to support Codeplex or to grow a community around the programming language projects?
  • If the F# community voted for the project to be moved, would you consider moving it?
  • If you insist on Codeplex how and when do you plan to fix these usability issues?

So please let your OSS teams and their community pick the open source platform they want!

4 Comments »

  1. […] usability and how it affects future of F# OSS contribution. Please read his arguments in “Microsoft, Open Source development and Codeplex” and share your opinion. Thanks. Take Our […]

    Pingback by Where should the source code of Visual F# Tools be? | Sergey Tihon's Blog — Saturday, 5. July 2014 um 19:28 Uhr

  2. Voting is open!

    Comment by Sergey Tihon — Saturday, 5. July 2014 um 19:46 Uhr

  3. I still have no clue as to why they use inferior toolchain.

    Comment by Nicolas — Saturday, 5. July 2014 um 22:41 Uhr

  4. […] Steffen Forkmann posted “Microsoft, Open Source development and Codeplex“. […]

    Pingback by F# Weekly #27, 2014 | Sergey Tihon's Blog — Monday, 7. July 2014 um 4:11 Uhr

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