So who cares about developer communities anyway?
It’s a reasonable question and many companies are starting to ask themselves this question due to the rising prevalence of enterprise “app” software application development in all its forms and that term: developers, developers, developers.
Perhaps it’s not so much a reasonable question as a provocative one.
Every vendor currently producing a database, content management system, creative studio, cloud hosting environment etc. now declares that they have a “platform” and so, logically, it wants to propagate and spawn a developer community
But what are the unexpected benefits of having a developer community supporting your software application?
Developer critical gravitational mass
Does developer community engagement reach a point of critical mass where tools and components start to germinate and circulate under the gravitational pull resulting from their own positive momentum?
Is it at this point that language packs, plug-ins, community meetings etc. start to proliferate and develop and disseminate? Is it at this point that the community starts to share knowledge and make continuous improvements to the code base being worked upon.
So, once again, who cares about developer communities anyway? Quite a lot of people it would appear because the number of software developers active in an established developer program now exceeds 79%, representing a 60% increase from 2008 when only 49% of developers were in such programs, according to Evans Data’s Developer Relations Program survey 2014.
Solid application developer and data-centric (e.g. DBA, sysadmins, DevOps etc.) communities understand that a more refined and expanded skill set in every individual gives them the opportunity to potentially earn more.
Solid developer communities understand that their power comes through community. It’s almost a throwback to socialist left-wing politics if you like i.e. through unity comes strength. The collective power of the group provides the weight and gravitas needed to convey a desire for change when products need to be altered, augment and/or expanded.
The seldom-seen benefit
The more subtle point that is often overlooked and perhaps not understood here…
… is that contributions made by members of an open source community ultimately also very directly benefit commercial license holding customers just as much as the community itself.
Going further still, commercial customers often share their developments with the community, so a positive virtuous circle is created for all.
There is often an unhelpful segregation of ‘community’ versus ‘enterprise’ and this should not be so.
Pentaho’s community leader, Pedro Alves says that the biggest challenge is establishing a cooperation model between the community driven developments – extremely fast paced, innovative and following no ‘product road-map’ – with the needs of an enterprise grade offering, heavily PM driven and focused on stability, scaling, testing, documentation.
“Defining rules to combine the best of these worlds – the ‘community speedboat’ vs the ‘Enterprise aircraft carrier’ was the main motivation that led Pentaho to come up with a 2 lane Maturity Cycle Classification document with clear rules around how to migrate from the Community Lane to the Customer Lane,” said Alves.
“Working with a Developer Community comes with challenges that most companies are not prepared to face. Probably the biggest one is having to embrace the fact that those companies can’t actually control their own roadmap. And that’s both the more frightening and more powerful impact of a having a successful Developer Community!
“Perhaps more than anything, solid developer communities understand the fact that major vendor brands have a persona all of their own. Because of this the community needs to coalesce and start to form its own beast or being as an intity in its own right. Only then can the community start to exercise influence and show its will to develop products in one direction or another,” added Pentaho’s Alves.
Pentaho Community Spirit
The Pentaho Community suggest that by using Pentaho CE (community edition), you become part of an active and engaging community and benefit from its open source contributions.
According to the company, “The Pentaho open source projects deliver better, faster, and more reliable products that are time-tested by the community. Developers, testers, writers, implementers and most of all users are directly involved as a team to make high-value software contributions.”
Given the influence of Linux and what is now an entire ecosystem of enterprise level open source software platforms, components, languages and ancillary technology components it is surely wise for all vendors to embrace open community development engagement at some level with their product sets.
Proprietary development design and methodology is far from dead, but it has been impacted by professional developer community growth from all sides — things will never quite be the same again.
This post for Bloor Group Inside Analysis is written in association with Pentaho. The firm has exerted zero editorial influence over the content presented here and simply seeks to fuel dialogue and discussion based around its mission to provide a cost-effective business analytics platform that fuels growth and innovation.