Adobe, Day and Open Source: a dream and a nightmare

July 30, 2010

What does the acquisition of Day by Adobe mean for Day’s open source activities? Some people are disappointed by the lack of comments about this in the official announcements to date.

Thankfully, Erik Larson, senior director of product management and strategy at Adobe, commented on Glyn Moody’s blog post quite early in the frenzy of tweets and blog posts that followed yesterday’s announcement.

Quoting him:

…we are very excited for Day’s considerable “open source savvy” to expand Adobe’s already significant open source efforts and expertise. That is a strategic benefit of the combination of the two companies. I have personally learned a lot from David Nuscheler and his team in the past few months as we put the deal together.

Not bad for a start, but we’re engineers right? Used to consider the worst case, to make sure we’re prepared for it.

Me, I’m an engineer but also an optimistic, and I’m used to start with the ideal, happy case when analyzing situations. It helps focus my efforts on a worthy goal.

So let’s do this and dream about the best and worst cases. This is absolutely 100% totally my own dreams, I’m not speaking for anyone here, not wearing any hat. Just dreamin’, y’know?

The Dream

This is late 2011.

The last few months have more than confirmed that Day’s acquisition by Adobe, one year ago, happened for strategic reasons: a big part of the deal was filling up gaps in Adobe’s enterprise offering, but Day’s open source know-how and network have brought a lot of value as well.

Day folks have played an important role in expanding the open development culture inside Adobe; Photoshop will probably never be fully open source, but moving more key components of the Adobe technology stack to open source, and most importantly open development, has paid off nicely. In terms of reaching out to developers and customers, in getting much better feedback at all levels, and in terms of software quality of course. It’s those eyeballs.

The Apache Software Foundation’s Incubator has been quite busy in the last few months. The new platinum sponsor enjoys a fruitful relationship with the foundation.

With JCR moving to their core, Adobe’s enterprise applications are starting to reach a new level of flexibility. Customers are enthusiastic about being able to access their data via simple and standards-based interfaces. Enterprise-level mashups, anyone?

JCR is not just that minor content repository API pushed by that small swiss software vendor anymore: being adopted by a major player has made a huge difference in terms of market recognition (I’m sure my friends at Hippo, Jahia and Sakai, among others, will love that one). The added resources have also helped improve the implementations, and people love the book!

With this, Apache Jackrabbit and Apache Sling have reached new levels of community participation and quality. Although quite a few new committers are from Adobe, a number of other companies have also pushed their developers to participate more, due to the increased market visibility of JCR.

Adobe’s additional resources, used wisely to take advantage of the Day team’s strengths, have enabled them to fully realize the CQ5 vision. Everything is content, really.

As in all fairy tales, the former Day team and Adobe live happily ever after. (Editor’s note: this is not Disney, can we strike that one please?)

The Nightmare

This is late 2011, and I can hear the programmers complaining in their bland cubicles.

Aaarrggghhhhh.

The few Day folks who still work at Adobe did try to convince their management to continue on the open source and open development track. No luck – you can’t argue with an US company making 4 billion a year, can you?

CQ5 customers are too busy converting their websites to native PDF (this is about documents, right?) to realize what’s going on. The most desperate just switched to DrooplaPress, the newest kid on the LISP-based CMSes block. That won’t help business much but at least it’s fun to work with. If you love parentheses, that is.

Adobe’s competitors who really jumped on the open source and open development train are gone for good, it is too late to catch up. You should have sold you shares a year ago.

Luckily, Apache Jackrabbit and Apache Sling are still alive, and increased involvement of the “Benelux Gang” (ex-Day folks spread over a few Benelux content management companies) in those projects means there’s still hope.

You wake up wondering why you didn’t accept that job at the local fast food. Computers are so boring.

Coda

I know life is more complicated than dreams sometimes, but I like dreams much better than nightmares, and I’m a chronic optimistic. So you can easily guess which scenario I’m going to work towards!

I’ll keep you posted about what really happens next. Once I wake up, that is.

Just dreamin’, y’know?

Related reading

Open Source at Adobe by my colleague and fellow Apache Member Jukka Zitting.

Open innovation in software means Open Source, a recent post of mine.

See also my collected links related to the announcement at http://delicious.com/bdelacretaz/adobeday.


CMIS could be the MIDI interface of content management…

April 28, 2009

MIDI – the Musical Instrument Digital Interface – was created back in 1982 by a consortium of musical equipment manufacturers including, if I remember correctly, Roland, Yamaha, Sequential Circuits, Korg, Oberheim (I’ve got a Matrix 6 to sell BTW ;-), maybe Ensoniq (did they exist already?) and others. Companies that were fiercely competing in the market, individualistic industry leaders who agreed to get together to create a bigger market for their instruments and equipment.

My diploma work as an electronics engineer was about MIDI, in 1983 – I created a MIDI output interface that could be retrofitted into accordions. The spec was not final at the time (or at least I could get a final version – that was before the web of course), all I had in terms of specs were a few magazine articles, a Yamaha DX7 and one of the first Korg synths to have MIDI. Both synths had slightly different implementations, and some compatibility problems, as can be expected from an early and not yet widespread spec.

What’s happening with CMIS today sounds quite similar: competing vendors finally agreeing on an interoperability spec, even if it’s limited to a lowest common denominator. If this works as with MIDI, we’re in for some exciting times – the few years after 1982 saw a boom in MIDI-related electronic instruments and systems, as suddenly all kinds of equipment from different companies could talk together.

MIDI had serious shortcomings: a slow transmission rate, serial transmission meaning each note in a thick chord is delayed by nearly one millisecond, and somewhat limited data ranges for some real-time controllers. But the basic idea was great, let’s get something done that allows our instruments to talk together in a usable fashion, even if it’s not perfect. MIDI has survived until today, 27 years later, which is quite amazing for such a standard. It’s been tweaked and workarounds (including hardware extensions) have been used to adapt it to evolving needs, and often travels via USB or other fast channels today, but it’s still here, and the impact on the music equipment industry is still visible.

I must admit that I was quite disappointed with the CMIS spec when I first looked at it, especially due to the so-called REST bindings which aren’t too RESTful. And CMIS seems to consider a “document” as the unit of content, whereas JCR converts like myself prefer to work at a more atomic level. And don’t tell me that hierachies are a bad thing in managing content – you might want to ignore them in some cases, but micro-trees are a great way of organizing atoms of content.

Nevertheless, seeing the enthusiasm around the soon-to-be-incubating Apache Chemistry project (that link should work in a few days, how’s that for buzz building?) made me think about MIDI, and how amazing it was at the time that “commercial enemies” could get together to do something that finally benefitted the whole industry.

I still don’t understand why WebDAV can’t do the job if this is about documents, and still prefer JCR for actual work with content (considering that everything is content), but I’m starting to think that CMIS might make a big difference. It will need a test suite for that of course- software engineers know that interoperability without test suites can’t work – and this week’s CMIS plugfest is a good step in this direction. I’ll be around on Thursday, looking forward to it!


The CMS vendor meme

March 18, 2009

Yesterday my colleague Michal Marth launched a cool CMS vendor meme, challenging other vendors to self-evaluate their products according to the we-get-it-checklist suggested by Kas Thomas.

Many vendors have already responded. Except those who don’t know about Twitter or blogs, of course. You don’t want to buy from them anyway ;-)

To help people find pages related to this meme around the web, I suggest adding the string 9c56d0fcf93175d70e1c9b9d188167cf to such pages, so that a Google query can find them all.

As I said on the dev.day.com post, this number is the md5 of some great software, the first person to tell me which file that is gets a free beer or equivalent beverage!


Looking for use cases for a semantically enhanced CMS

March 10, 2009

iks-logo.jpgDay is participating as an industrial partner in the Interactive Knowledge project, which aims to provide an open source technology platform for semantically enhanced content management systems.

We are starting to collect use cases for a semantically enhanced CMS – although I’m not 100% sure what semantically enhanced means (and I assume that means different things to different people), I have started with use cases like the following:

When I drop an image of a house in my content, the system allows me to see images of similar houses, and pages that talk about houses.

When I start writing a new piece of content, the system optionally shows me similar content that’s already in the repository, even if written in other languages.

The system allows me to formulate queries like “recent pages that talk about houses to rent in the french part of Switzerland”.

If you have additional ideas for such use cases, or examples of systems that provide such features, I’m all ears!


Does OSGi work for you?

February 25, 2009

apachecon-eu09.jpgI’m looking for additional input for my Tales from the OSGi trenches talk, at ApacheCon EU 2009 next month in Amsterdam.

My main angle for this talk is how the move to OSGi changes the way developers and customers work. Day‘s complete product line is based on OSGi (using Apache Felix and Apache Sling), and this has a tremendous impact on how our developers work. Users of our products, depending on the level at which they decide to interact with them, can also reap big benefits from OSGi’s modularity and service-oriented features.

However, while OSGi might look like a silver bullet on paper, rethinking modularity and services has an important impact of the way people work, and on how we test our systems.

For this talk, I intend to describe the impact that OSGi has on our ways of working, including the potential downsides, or misuses, of extreme modularity and extreme dynamic behavior of services and components.

I’d be very happy to include other people’s opinions (converging or not) in my talk, so let me know if you have similar experiences to share. Either in comments here, or by mail, bdelacretaz () apache.org. All contributions will be duly acknowledged, of course!


A Sling-based blog in 46 lines of code

December 15, 2008

That’s the topic of my first post at dev.day.com. It’s a simple introduction to the “take the J out of JCR” Sling features.


City of Zurich goes live with CQ5 and Sling

December 5, 2008

stadt-zuerich.jpgStadt-zuerich.ch is the first public website to run on Day’s new CQ5 Web Content Management System (aka The Big Release). That’s apart from Day’s own website, of course, which our CTO happily updated on the very evening of the general availability release, in eat-your-own-dogfood mode.

Apart from the fact that it runs on stuff that I helped create, I think the website is very well done, with efficient navigation and search features – congrats to the project team!

I gave a very early alpha training to members of that project’s team in October 2007, while CQ5 was still taking shape. That was an interesting experience, which also led to an extensive rewrite of Sling. Glad to see that it has worked out!

The website, associated WCMS and custom applications all run on Sling, which confirms this quote from Adam Constabaris‘s excellent introduction to Sling:

From a technical perspective, Sling’s fairly stable and has at least one full-fledged “release” under its belt. The main issue is that most of the developers work for the same company (Day Software). The Apache Software Foundation requires projects to establish that they have a sustainable, distributed community of committers, and that’s why it’s still in incubation. Since the project’s getting more attention though, I don’t expect it to be too long before it “graduates.”

Sling has indeed been getting more attention lately, so hopefully more people will jump in and help in diversifying the community.

(The quote sounds familiar though, not sure if it’s really Adam’s words).

See also dev.day.com.


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