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Happy Birthday to the Eclipse Foundation

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[img_assist|nid=7662|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=67|height=100]This week the Eclipse Foundation celebrated it's fifth year in existence. We’re all pretty familiar with Eclipse as an IDE, a platform, or a set of frameworks. But to truly appreciate Eclipse and the community, it’s important to understand a little about these people that keep the community going.

Ever since I started working on EclipseZone, about a year ago, I've found the people at the foundation extremely helpful - whether I needed some information for an article, or an introduction to a project lead. One of the highlights of 2008 was getting to meet Ian, Wayne, Lynn and Ralph at Eclipse Summit Europe. Congratulations on five very successful years - I can't wait to see what happens over the next five.

This article will give an introduction to what the Eclipse Foundation is, and what the staff do. This will be followed with some quotes from the staff about Eclipse and 2009. You can expect a lot more of this from EclipseZone in the coming months, including details of my adventures getting involved in an Eclipse project.

What The Eclipse Foundation Is All About

The Eclipse Foundation is funded by annual dues from members. You can find out more about membership here. It's worth considering membership, which isn't without it's benefits, if your company is working with Eclipse technologies. The foundation is governed by a Board of Directors, made up of representatives from the those companies who choose to become Strategic members.

The foundation was created in January 2004 as a not-for-profit corporation to act as the steward of the Eclipse community. The Foundation employs a full-time professional staff to provide services to the community. In general, the Eclipse Foundation provides the following services:

  • IT Infrastructure
    This includes the CVS/SVN code repositories, Bugzilla databases, mailing lists and newsgroups.
  • IP Management
    All the Eclipse projects are licenced under the Eclipse Public Licence (EPL), enabling people to use Eclipse for building their products. There is a due dilegence process to ensure all contributions to projects are made by the rightful copyright holder and under the EPL. All code related to submissions also go through an IP approval process.
  • Development Process
    The foundation help implement the Eclipse Development Process, organising member community reviews for projects to ensure consistent interaction across the community. This work helps maintain the reputation for providing quality software in a predictable fashion
  • Ecosystem Development
    The foundation organises a number of activities such as marketing events with member companys, conferences like EclipseCon and SES.


A Few Words From The Staff

Looking through some of the plans of the foundation staff it's difficult not to get very excited. With plans to get more involved in universities, to create more regional communities, you get the feeling that we're all lucky to be involved in Eclipse at this relatively early stage. Very soon, Eclipse is going to be huge.

Wayne Beaton, Eclipse Evangelist:

[img_assist|nid=7661|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=100]One of the things that I've been focusing a lot of attention on this year is University Outreach. Our member companies are concerned that too many of the new graduates that they consider for hire just don't have a solid enough background in Eclipse technology. Further, postings on numerous job and employment-related sites pain a clear picture that there are a lot of employment opportunities for graduates with Eclipse skills. It's beneficial for students, our member companies, and the industry in general, that we help develop Eclipse skills in the undergraduate population.

In my experience so far, Eclipse is used primarily as a Java development IDE by many post-secondary institutions. This is great. However, my experience has has also shown that students aren't making the most effective use of the Eclipse in this regard, so that's something I'm trying to address. Specifically, students seem to be using Eclipse in very basic ways and are not generally leveraging valuable functionality such as debugging, refactoring, code completion, and quick fix/assist. I find that, when I get a chance to show this sort of functionality to students, it's like I've changed their world.

At the graduate and post-graduate level, I'm seeing a lot of development of Eclipse plug-ins, and applications built using Eclipse as a platform. At this level, students are leveraging the real value of Eclipse. But we're not seeing that same level of understanding of the broader value of Eclipse at the undergraduate level, so I'm trying to address that.

I'm spending some time putting together some programmes to help students better make use of the power of Eclipse the IDE and expand their knowledge of the various Eclipse technologies, the projects, the community, the eco-system and more. Last year, with Dr. Dwight Deugo, a professor at one of our local universities, we assembed a Learning Course Management System  which aims to provide instructors with a place to share Eclipse-based (and licensed) presentations, demonstrations, and labs. I'm also actively trying to get more students to consider doing their thesis work as open source projects at Eclipse.

I've been working, along with Professor Deugo, to spearhead the development of the "Eclipse IDE for Education" (IDE4EDU) project . IDE4EDU provides an Eclipse-based IDE that is streamlined specifically with the needs of undergraduate students in mind. We're taking some of the rough edges off the Java development tools, adding support for Scheme and Prolog language development, and exploring other options such as automating the assignment workflow and collaboration.

Working with students, and showing them our world is a great source of pride for me. It's shaping up to be a great 2009.

Lynn Gayowski, Marketing Events Manager:

[img_assist|nid=7660|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=100]In 2008 we started a "regional Eclipse communities" program, to encourage people to connect with other Eclipse users and developers in their local area. A year later, we now have regional communities set up in 19 countries. Some are still fledgling groups, but some places - especially in Germany, India and Poland - have had great success organizing face-to-face events. The program is special to me because it's driven directly by people from the ecosystem. I find it very exciting to see people so passionate about Eclipse that they volunteer their time and share their knowledge with others. For 2009, I'd really like to see more groups started in Asia - especially China. China has more downloads of Eclipse than any other country and I think it would be valuable to learn more about the user community there. 

Ian Skerrett, Director, Marketing:

[img_assist|nid=7659|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=100]The diversity of the Eclipse community is what makes my role at the Foundation so interesting.  Eclipse technology range from enterprise Java, mobility, runtimes, modeling, PHP IDE, grid computing, embedded development and many more.  We also have active and passionate communities around the world.   It is great fun to support and interact with these individuals and organizations that make Eclipse a great place to be.

Bjorn Freeman-Benson, Director, Committer Community:

[img_assist|nid=7658|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=78|height=100]2009 is going to be an exciting year at Eclipse: the next generation platform (e4) effort has been making good progress and will be "coming out" during 2009; the Eclipse ecosystem has matured and is really starting to pay off in terms of support for companies who are adopting Eclipse; this year's EclipseCon has truly the best technical program I've ever seen (I'm telling everyone that you really need to be there this year); and, from the Committer Community side of the house, we've set ourselves the goal of enhancing the supporting infrastructure to enable more contributors to become committers: for example, we're going to provide a common build infrastructure for all projects and we're going to expand/co-equal the Babel translation system with a user-contributed help files system (code named: Gutenberg). I see Eclipse continuing to be a bright spot especially as more companies realize that cooperation on the base infrastructure (Eclipse) is the road to higher profits.


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