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The Power, Agility, and Speed of a Community

CommunitySo what is SDN anyway?  If you’re answer sounds something like “some website where you can ask questions”, then you have missed the train, my friend.  Don’t get me wrong, the SDN forums are awesome and they are my main source to get answers when I need them.  However, SDN is much more.  I have seen this more than ever in the last week or so since TechEd ’06 in Vegas.  I have always believed that there is power in the relationships that we build within the community, but now I am floored by its potential.  Lend me your ear (or eyes), and I would love to share my story… PowerThe first event I attended at TechEd was the preconference  SDN day.  This was the foundation for what was yet to come.  It gave us the opportunity in an unconference style to meet fellow SDNers, participate in on-the-fly, ad hoc sessions, and hear from some of the SDN leaders.  The event was really well organized and planned out to be perfectly “unorganized.”  I’m not sure how to explain it, but you have to love an event that had inspirations, as told to us by Mark Finnern, from burning man and foo camp…sweet!  (Incidentally, Finnern has actually been invited to foo camp twice!)  During the event we had the opportunity and honor of meeting some SDN celebrities like Mark Finnern, Craig Cmehil, Thomas Jung, Rich Heilman, and even some non-SDN celebrities like’s very own Ryan Lowe.  On Tuesday, the SDN clubhouse had quite a buzz.  To be honest, I didn’t want to leave the clubhouse during the week because I was afraid I would miss something cool.  How can you go wrong sitting around sharing, collaborating, and talking with some of the greatest developers in the SAP world? We even had my man Dan McWeeney running around showing off his new Ruby on Rails app with BI BPS backend integration, and drawing quite the crowd.  I think if they offered an SDN only admission pass to TechEd at a cheaper rate, I would just go that route instead.  It would also give others the opportunity to attend that could not afford to otherwise.   On Tuesday evening, Dan and I presented SAPlink at the demo jam.  If you have not heard about SAPlink yet, it is a  tool created for developers by developers that will provide the ability to easily distribute & package custom objects, such as programs, classes, BSPs, etc.  It was awe-inspiring to see the SDN guys on their feet cheering us on.  We were welcomed as one of their very own.  It was a truly awesome, humbling experience.  (I can’t wait to do it again in Amsterdam!) We even got to do a Demo Jam ’06 Winners: Ed Herrmann Dan McWeeney with the one and only Craig Cmehil! AgilityOn Thursday, we were given the opportunity to present a SAPlink @ Demo Jam – TechEd 2006 Vegas in the clubhouse theater.  We decided to keep up the unconference theme, and turned our presentation into a release party; woohoo!  We did a quick demo for the standing room only crowd, and then everyone busted out their laptops to be the first people to download, install, and use SAPlink. It was totally cool to stray away from doing a boring presentation to having a bunch of geeks sitting around playing with a new toy. 🙂 (We also got to celebrate with champagne; thanks Mark!)  For the rest of the day, we all started talking about the possibilities that SAPlink could bring to the community. We had some great conversations with Craig, Mark, Rich, Thomas, and Leonardo De Araujo. (Read more about my friend Leonardo’s take on SAPlink Open source and SDN community development take-off during SAPTechEd’06 …) The project was gaining momentum, just by the power of conversation.  Some of us even went out to get some drinks that night to continue our talks.  We had a good time, but alas, TechEd was coming to an end. We knew it would be interesting to see what would happen next, if anything at all.  SpeedIf you are still with me, not only do you have my gratitude, but the best part is yet to come. So, one business day later, on the Monday after TechEd, we started getting a lot of emails about SAPlink and interested people wanting to join the SAPlink google discussion group.  When Thomas Jung and Rich Heilman decided to join in though, it was quite different.  That evening over the next 8 hours or so, Thomas, Rich, Dan, Phil Young, and Ryan Quackenboss, and myself were hacking away in coding mayhem.  The relationships that we had built at the SDN clubhouse were still working.  These guys were working on bugs, enhancements, and plugins already!  It was great to see the tool being utilized to improve itself.  Thomas would send a nugget with some classes in it, and we could install them in seconds.  Rich would send an updated verion of the base plugin for programs and we used it to install over itself.  Good times! Rich even apologized a couple of times because he felt he was having a little too much fun. We soon put his fears to rest when he found out that we were all hackers and geeks who were loving it just as much.  Bringing it all togetherTo really drive the point home, I can only tell you what came out of our little hack fest that night.  This is where the true power, speed, and agility of the community all came together.  In the initial release of SAPlink, we made plugins available for:

  • classes
  • basic programs
  • BSPs

On Tuesday morning, after all was said and done, we had not only fixed some typical betabugs, but for our next release, we now have plugins for:

  • Classes
  • Programs with dynpros and gui status enablement (Rich)
  • BSPs
  • BSP Extensions (Phil)
  • Tables (Thomas)
  • Data Elements (Thomas)
  • Domains (Thomas)
  • Lock Objects (Thomas)
  • Index (Thomas)
  • Search Helps (Thomas)
  • Structures (Thomas)
  • Table Technical Settings (Thomas)
  • Table Types (Thomas)
  • View Technical Settings (Thomas)
  • Views (Thomas)
  • Function Groups…in progress (Rich)
  • Documentation for all objects (Phil)

Now that’s just crazy!!  All this in one day!?! These guys are so good it’s scary.  But that’s just it.  Not only was it fun to work on, but when you have an open source project that developer’s want and need, you don’t have to beg them to participate. They are the innovators and the creators with the real power. You couldn’t pay for that kind of productivity.  (Not to mention, I would hate to see the total  billing rate that these guys could charge.  ouch!) All the project management, requirement gathering, feasibility (insert other grueling, boring, useless types here) meetings in the world couldn’t produce that kind of quality work with that kind of speed.  This is just one example of what can start happening once we really start to leverage our community and take it to the next level.  These guys are just a few of the many disruptive innovators that can change the world.  I know that there are more out there right here on SDN; so we are waiting to hear from you. Don’t miss the train my friends, there is plenty of room for all of us! Release early, release often…now this is truly The Enterprise and the Bazaar. 😉  -ewH

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