Tag Archives: open source

Introducing the Boston Azure Project

Cloud Computing on Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform is still new, but will be big. I believe that. That believe fueled my interest in starting the Boston Azure cloud computing user group (henceforth in this blog post, simply “Boston Azure”) back in the fall, even before Azure was released. Boston Azure is a cloud computing community group focused on learning about Azure.

Currently Boston Azure meets monthly on the 4th Thursday of the month in Cambridge, MA in the USA. This is an in-person meeting. I have received a loud and clear vibe from the Boston Azure membership that there is a thirst for more hands-on stuff. That was fueled further first by the hands-on Azure SDK meeting we held April 29, then again by the all-day Firestarter held May 8. But we need more. So, I had this idea for an ongoing community coding project that we can hack on together at Boston Azure meetings and other times… I bounced the idea off the community at the May meeting… since I received a really positive response, I now officially declare I plan to go ahead with it…

Introducing the Boston Azure Project

Why are we doing this Project?

The community wants to code. There is a desire to learn a lot about programming in Windows Azure – and what better way to get really good at programming Windows Azure than by programming Windows Azure.

The primary goal of the project is to learn – to get good – really good – at Windows Azure.

How will the Project work?

To be hands-on, we need a project… so here’s a project to provide us with focus:

We shall build a “gently over-engineered” version of bostonazure.org.

This “gently over-engineered” version of bostonazure.org:

(a) will provide a productive environment where participants (developers and otherwise) can learn about Azure through building a real-world application by contributing directly to the project (through code, design, ideas, testing, etc., …), and

(b) will do so by taking maximum advantage of the technology in the Windows Azure platform in the advancement of the bostonazure.org web site (though thinking of it as “just a web site” is limiting – there is nothing stopping us from, say: adding an API; exporting OData or RSS feeds; being mobile-friendly for our visitors with iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7 devices; etc.), and

(c) will serve the collaboration and communication needs of the Boston Azure community, and

(d) will provide an opportunity for a little fun, meet other interesting people, and enhance our skills through sharing knowledge and learning from each other.

When will we code?

We will reserve time at Boston Azure meetings so we can collaborate in-person on a monthly basis. Participants are also free to hack at other times as well, of course.

Wait a second… Does it make sense to port a little web site like bostonazure.org to Azure?

It does not make sense – not in isolation. Go ahead and crunch the numbers on Windows Azure pricing and compare with an ISP-hosted solution. However, this is the “gently over-engineered” part: we are doing it this way to show off the capabilities of Windows Azure and learn a bunch in the process.

What is the output of the Project?

This project will be feature rich, easy to use, accessible, flexible… and open source.

Keep in mind: Since bostonazure.org is the web presence for Boston Azure community…

It Has To Work!

This project is for and by the community.

Anyone can contribute – at any seniority level, with any skill set, with many possible roles (not just developers).

Then how do we reconcile anyone can contribute with it has to work? The community process needs to be able to make the code work before we put it into production. We have to make this work. And we will.

So, now you’ve heard it all – the whole idea – at least the Big Picture. I will post more details later, but for now that’s it.

Next Steps

Please contact me (on twitter or by comment to this blog post or by email) if you want to be one of the very first participants – I would like a couple of folks to be in a “private beta” to get some details squared away before I make the CodePlex site public.

Update 23-June-2010: The project is now live on CodePlex at bostonazure.codeplex.com.

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The Fountainhead of Open Source

Just watched the The Fountainhead movie from 1946 (yes, from netflix).

Howard Rourke hacking Open Source code

Howard Rourke hacking Open Source

Here is the plot summary, brought up-to-date:

  • Open Source is represented by the protagonist, a brilliant architect named Howard Rourke. Rourke is idealistic, does his own thing, is uncompromising, and is not driven by money or recognition – and certainly not by Big Business.
  • Big Business is  represented by newspaper magnate Gail Wynand. Wynand wields substantial influence and is in perpetual pursuit of any means to incite the populace – an energized populace buys more product.
  • Consultants and Certified Vendor X Developers and Vendor Partners are represented by  architect Peter Keating. Keating goes with the flow, producing whatever the powers that be say is desirable. At one point, he mentions to Ms. Francon he’s polling folks on what they think of Rourke’s latest building to which she responds (with some disdain) “why, so you’ll know what you think of it?”

Lessons:

  • Talent != influence. Keating’s influence is limited to those who recognize his greatness. Most only recognize as great what they are told to recognize as great.
  • Passion can be directed constructively (Rourke pours his love into his life’s work) or destructively (Wynand devotes his career to controlling the masses through his newspaper).

The movie is based a book of the same title. The author, Ayn Rand, became well known for her Objectivism philosophy of life, exemplified in the movie by Gary Cooper who played the lead character, Howard Roark. [I wonder what Richard Stallman thinks of the book?]

I wonder how many professional software developers identify more with Howard Rourke or Peter Keating? And which is more desirable?

Any my clean analogies fall apart when one considers the combinations of Big  Business and Open Source. Microsoft just announced CodePlex.org and the CodePlex Foundation “to enable the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities.”

A dirty little secret of Eclipse, Linux, Apache and other high-profile projects is that they also have professional, full-time staff – sponsored by Big Business (like IBM) – since the success of these endeavors is strategic for their business.

Maybe Open Source isn’t as pure as the romantic notion of developers from around the world contributing since it was a nice thing to do. The world-wide altruistic contributions may still be there in some cases, just supplemented by Big Business. Which is okay with me, though might not be with Howard Rourke.

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