Archive for September, 2007
After proposing these back in June/July (and getting held up by August’s vacation!) I have gotten around to releasing three packages on PEAR which are required for an OpenID package later on.
All are released as beta. Next step is getting the OpenID Consumer proposed…
Update: I forgot to thank my PEAR peers whose feedback and assistance on the proposal road was exemplary.
Over the last year in open source PHP I’ve spent time wheeling through various projects making proposals and it’s apparent that some I work really well with (some people are a genuine joy even), and others just end up getting me worked up to the point of ranting. I rarely rant – it’s unconstructive, often makes you look like an ass, but given enough motivation I’ll do it anyway to vent a little.
The problem with ranting from a Project POV, is that it’s coming from the one person a proposal process is supposed to motivate: the proposer. When a proposer turns up, you are lucky to have found someone willing to give freely of their time. To write code and documentation. To shepherd or advocate some idea which (hopefully) would be useful to a project’s users. So you really don’t want to give these folk the wrong message that they are wasting their time, or contributing to so much empty air, or will be beaten into submission by everyone else with an IDE and a PHP Manual.
But I’ve ranted twice this Summer already. So let’s go simple.
What features would Paddy’s preferred style of proposal process have?
1. A proposal is not judged on how much code it contains unless code is the basis of its acceptance
Because it’s a proposal – for code that WILL be written. Judge on its merits – it’s goals, objectives and ultimate utility. Don’t put code on a pedestal. Put goals on a pedestal. If code IS required – then for God’s sake say so up front instead of wasting my time. Otherwise the code is likely some tracer implementation for illustrative purposes.
Here is the last comment I made about such code in one proposal:
“Please be aware the svn code is only intended as an experimental example and it has known issues which may require hand editing. It has served its purpose to demonstrate what actual production code could be implemented.”
2. A proposal is not an invitation for others to implement its content
My number one frustration is having others dissect, implement, re-implement, and spend unbelievable quantities of email/IM space debating meaningless, implementation points. I do NOT care whether the “example” (i.e. cobbled together in 1 hour) code used array() or ArrayAccess. I propose, I advocate and if lucky I will later implement – with whatever development methodology I prefer – probably while thankfully deleting the cobbled up tracer code.
To an agile developer this sort of stuff is about as bad as it gets. NO TDD, no BDD, no set defined goals that have been discussed, no timeline other than a version number – and everyone with a pastebin full of code I’ll be judged against. This while at the same time witnessing serious talented people take that example code and using it in production because it’s so incredibly useful. And it works – mostly .
3. A proposal sets goals – so take a hint and debate the goals.
Implementation is something a monkey can do, if you set the right goals. I may propose we do A, and you want B. So fine, explain B and see if I’ll compromise and adopt it. When the goals are finalised (and minimised to their core) I can assemble a picture of how the eventual code will behave.
4. A proposal does not lead to the belief nobody trusts you (well, unless it’s deserved )
It’s sad, but after everyone has implemented their pet vision of your proposal, and compared it to your cobbled together code which has scarce test coverage, and then detailed why yours sucks – well, you start to wonder why. Do they think you’re an idiot? Do they not trust you to go away and implement it yourself?
It’s not even funny when the proposal is accepted after everyone else has implemented it.
5. A proposal should leverage off the proposer’s strengths
Some people know a topic, and know it insanely well. So when they propose a new library or class which draws on that experience a project (if open to that idea) should be pretty happy. Now re-read points 1-4.
That’s not an environment I ever want to spend time in.
6. Stealing a proposer’s thunder, alienating them, and ignoring their work without real cause is just plain wrong
Irishman makes proposal X. Adds Y some time later. Announces Y to a public mailing list for comment. Project informs Irishman on the same public list, to the same subject, that they are about to propose something like Y. They are going to announce that same week. Irishman predicatable goes a bit crazy – being Irish. Irishman figures out in time this new Y that nobody else knows about took 3 days to cobble together. Irishman gets slightly more crazy. Irishman goes to PEAR and has actual fun. Project figures out that they are missing X (secret component to make Y useful). Irishman eventually re-proposes X and Z but not his Y.
Irishman gets invited to Y’s Foundation in Europe as a Member-Subscriber advocating OpenID in Europe. Irishman finally sees the funny side. It gets funnier still later on.
7. A proposal should be granted a timeline for review and acceptance.
This way the Proposer isn’t on vacation when it’s supposed to be reviewed.
8. A proposal should have an informed motivated proposer
Not one so out of the loop they decide they’re clueless about how the proposal process actually works outside it’s documented workflow (or if the workflow just plain makes no sense).
9. A proposal process should support (or allow for) best practice in development
Not quite literally work in such a way that the only option is to take anything written by Martin Fowler, Kent Beck or Ward Cunningham and toss it out the nearest window. That not only sucks, it basically tells anyone who actually likes those guys that you don’t want them.
I really like those guys. Why don’t you?
10. Acceptance notices will not hamstring the proposer’s core methodology until they have sufficient time to review the notice and respond to it. I don’t care how long the vacation was.
This ends the mighty list of proposal process wishes. Way better than my earlier rant!