The usual collaboration
What usually happens when you ask a code-related question in the forums?
- 1. You write a forum post with some piece of code.
- 2. Some asks a few questions and makes a suggestion on the parts of the code.
- 3. Someone answers the post and makes suggestions on another part of the code posted
- 4. Someone asks questions about your original post …
- 5. ….
Here is one example of such a Cannot convert string to date from the Portal Implementation forum. I used this one as an example but there are thousands of other examples as well.
You notice that as the post gets longer, the more difficult it becomes to know what the impact of all these suggestions on the original code piece might be.
The suggestion: Combining the wiki and forum posts
My suggestion is to combine the wiki with code-related forum posts. Users could post the forum post with a reference/URL to a wiki page with the piece of code. One idea might to reuse the Code-Snippets area of the wiki as the location for these forum-related posts. Other community members could work on the same piece code without having to always recopy the code that they have changed. The initial creator of the forum post could then watch his piece of code as other change it. If desired, others could change the code without having to post in the forums.
Advantages of this suggestion
- The Wiki editor is better than the forum post editor making the creation/formatting of code easier. (Of course, the wiki editor is not the Eclipse editor with all its great features…)
- Version control is already present in the wiki. It is possible to follow who has made changes and when the changes took place. Of course, there is no link to your local NWDI but it is probably easier to follow code changes via this built-in mechanism than the attempting to follow a long thread of forum posts
- Collaboration on one single piece of code is possible rather than multiple texts that are split over various forum posts.
- Users can track changes of the code via email just like in the forum posts. Just click on the letter symbol in the wiki to track changes in the page
Disadvantages of this suggestion
- Work on a one piece of code will be split between two collaboration methods (forum and wiki) increasing amount of time to jump back and forth between the two
- Wiki is still currently under-used and therefore, community members may not be comfortable in using it.
Now you might be saying that the hassles of jumping between the wiki and the forums may not be worth the benefits of this combined collaboration. This might be true but it doesn’t lessen the relevance of this type of collaboration in our community. I’m always looking for ways to deepen / improve how we collaborate. My intention is to improve how such developer-related tasks take place. Of course, the best solution might be where each community member could load a piece of code into his/her development environment to make the appropriate changes and then “check-in” his changes for the community. First of all, the differences in development environment (different WAS versions, etc.) might make this local development work rather difficult. Second, this would require that the SDN/BPX communities acquire more features dealing with typical development infrastructures. This might be an option but would require a pretty radical change in the basic philosophy of this community.