Recently, Rhea Anthony, widely known to long time osCommerce users as Vger and a former member of Harald Ponce de Leon’s osCommerce development team launched a bid to assume control of the osCommerce code base and community. She and a number of other major contributors to osCommerce have relocated their oscanswers.com forum to a new domain – http://www.oscommerceproject.org , and releasing a distribution based on the most recent osCommerce release 2.2 RC2B which they are calling osCommerce 2.0 Final.
That community members involved as long as this team can’t recall that the current osCommerce 2.2 development work was preceded by an osCommerce 2.1 release is a clear indicator of the necessity of this action if osCommerce is to survive as a project at all. 8+ years between releases is entirely too long.
In her first blog post as osCommerce Project leader, Rhea tells a bit about herself and comments on the reasons for this drastic action. If you have any interest in osCommerce at all, I strongly encourage you to read this post. It is an interesting description of one view of the osCommerce community from a member who has been persistent and energetic in contributing to others. But, it is one view.
The term “believer” has been a very powerful term in the osCommerce world in both positive and negative ways. I can easily sympathize with Rhea’s obvious disappointment at the disdain directed towards community members who claimed to be or were described as believers. Having been among those who were disparaged by groups of “osCommerce beleivers” because my own beliefs differed from their own, I also understand the disparagement. We all beleive in something. But some community members have and do beleive that the rest of us should beleive what they do and nothing more.
This lack of tolerance from and courtesy towards others is a deadly poison for any community. The cure begins with leadership. So, it is an encouraging step that Rhea has made the effort to establish regular communications via her blog early in the process of transforming the oscanswers forum into the oscommerce project site. Keep it up, Rhea. I can’t say I’m a great blogger either. But I can say it does get easier with time. Along the way, I hope to see you create a more open and accepting osCommerce community. Towards that end, here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t settle for a development team. Build a development community whose activities are open to all. When viewpoints differ, establish working groups to represent those viewpoints with code that can prove or disprove their theories. This is the one of the most powerful uses of branches. They feed the tree, they don’t starve it.
- Build a documentation group. Insist on performance from them, and cooperation with them so that technical documentation is available to all. You can’t build consensus without it.
- Open the community to discussion of related projects in some way. No project can benefit from code comparison and evaluation when the discussions are splintered across dozens of forums. At the very least, branches should be able to post links and route discussion accordingly.
- While disparagement and exclusion of community members should be avoided like the plague, the same can not be said of code contributions. Once API documentation is published, contributions which fail to comply with coding standards should be ruthlessly separated from the rest or even deleted. Establishing separate management of experimental API code is essential.
- Open development discussions. Smoke filled rooms are great for monopolists. They have no place in Open Source. So what if crackers can see your plans. It is not like they can’t read your code. Keep your code discussion lively and take some time to explain things. Knowledge is power, but its like manure – its got to be spread to be effective.
At this early stage, it is hard to see much difference between this new osCommerce Project and the old one. Time will tell, and I’m sure the differences Rhea mentioned will become apparent soon. The sooner, the better.
It is good to see new osCommerce releases, and active development. As one old Democrat to another, I’m happy to bid the new osCommerce Project welcome to the open source ecommerce community.