Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: Will Dr. OpenACS survive? Or why I stopped worrying and learned to love the .LRN consortium?

Jeff and Nima's lines of thought are not necessarily orthogonal.

One of Jeff's point, I believe, is that the principal driver of innovation in open source is developers (students or otherwise) wanting to "scratch their own itch". Cool stuff is more likely to flow from a developer wanting to do something different with blogs or photos than programming from pre-defined specifications for a new LMS feature, no matter how important and valuable that might be for the relevant institution.

As an open source technical community OpenACS needs to continue to be attractive and inviting to developers so that they feel that they can do "cool" things. Lars left the community partially I suspect for this very reason. In his opinion, Ruby is a cooler and more flexible development environment.

The knock on OpenACS is that it's not mainstream. I think that's less important than the fact that OpenACS has the perception of being rather obscure ("medieval scholastics" is how one developer described it) and not terribly inviting to newbies. We compound the perception of obscurity by lack of visibility, not participating in the larger open source community. Perhaps this stems from an ultra macho attitude that only "real men" do OpenACS and its inaccessibility and obscurity is part of its strength. Let me enter as evidence the fact that for the fourth year in a row there will not be a presentation or even a presence at O'Reilly conference. If you are not at O'Reilly, you don't exist. It's as simple as that.

So, this is a challenge for OpenACS independently of .LRN. What is about the framework that should be attractive for developers? What can be done or needs to be done to make it more attractive? What can be done to make the cost of entry lower?

If the OpenACS web site had a sign "Developers Welcome, Enter, Come Here!", the question that needs to be answered is "Why". Why, compared to other frameworks? Why is it worth my while to join the OpenACS community? What can I do with it that I can't do with other frameworks? And how do I go about doing it?

I went to a talk by Rasmus Lerdof several years ago at O'Reilly. He was stunned by the success of PHP. Surprisingly, he attributed most of the success to the documentation associated with PHP. His paramount goal was to make it as easy as possible for newbies to pick up the technology and quickly join the community.