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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Microsoft: Make WiX a priority

I've been following the WiX-Users list where Neil Sleightholm politely started a new thread titled `How do I submit code? Do you want my changes?`:

I have tried to submit code changes to WiX but no one seems to respond. Here is what I have done:

- Applied for a “assignment agreement”, heard nothing…
- Applied for a “assignment agreement”, heard nothing…
- Applied for a “assignment agreement”, heard from Microsoft asking me to help with a new system. I helped, submitted the “assignment agreement”, heard nothing…
- Ok I thought, you guys have better things to do than paperwork, so I worked on a code change to fix a bug in the NAnt task. I submitted a bug (1715295) and followed the advice given here to email the devs list. I did this on 9 May 07 so I don’t think I am being impatient but you guessed it, heard nothing…
- Not one to give up I tried again. This time I submitted a bug (1715298) with the code to fix it. Again, heard nothing…

So what do I have to do to get code accepted? WiX has made making installs much simpler for me and I have 2 clients using it on my recommendation. I would really like to contribute to the code but don’t want to spend the time doing it if there is no way of getting the code accepted (or rejected).

Bob Arnson (MSFT) replied:
It's all a matter of time and priority. At the moment, Rob's the only person who looks at external contributions so we can't load-balance. Your fixes look fine but they have workarounds so that's pushing them down the list too.

To which Neil replied:
Bob, Thanks for your reply but it doesn’t really answer my question. Submitting code and not hearing anything for 6 weeks is a bit demoralising. Virtually every day on this list someone writes a comment along the lines of “if you can fix this please do” but it sounds like you don’t have the capacity to accept code. It would be nice if there was a process for submitting code so at least we knew that our contributions had been received. On other open source projects I have worked on it was easier to submit code.

So my question still stands, do you really want my changes? I appreciate you all have day jobs and this is part time but the same is true for us and there is little point in submitting code if you don’t have time to look at it. The longer the delay is between submitting change and the code being reviewed the harder it is for you as our changes could be based on an old code base.

To me this is a symptom of FOSS. It's a symptom of giving a fine software engineer program management responsibilities and then giving him very little time to do it all. It's a symptom of not being responsible to concrete customers and budgets. It's a symptom of combining the control freak aspects of the `Benevolent Dictator` model with the control freak aspects of super-megacorp needing all the legal I's dotted and the T's crossed with `assignment agreements`. At the end of the day you have dozens of people wanting to help, either with design suggestions or actual code merges, but so few people in the inner circle that very little actually gets done. What should have been accomplished in months takes years.

The irony is that Rob Mensching once posted this rant against InstallAware:
Yet InstallAware the company is directly benefiting from the many, many volunteer hours people in the WiX community have put in creating, discussing, debugging, and releasing the WiX toolset. Nothing wrong with that, the license is written in such a way to enable that very thing. But I think that InstallAware is missing out on a huge opportunity by choosing not to participate in the WiX community (the very people who are most likely to want such a product) until the product proves "commercially viable". There has been absolutely no discussion about WiXAware on the wix-users mailing list.

Given how Rob says he is `100% not the target ( of a GUI designer )`, and that design suggestions and code submissions go completely unnoticed, how exactly can you be upset at InstallAware for not `participating`. ( Which really isn't true.... I've seen K-Ballo (InstallAware WiXAware lead) participating on the mailing list... he just doesn't announce who he works for. )

WiX has done great things, but there is clearly a log jam here. The solution is pretty simple to me and I've rambled on about it before:

But what if Microsoft just threw a bunch of money at InstallAware and bought them? What if Microsoft was to tell Rob Mensching that he had a staff of developers and that they wanted to transform WiX into a full fledged open source enterprise installation authoring tool capable of competing with InstallShield toe to toe?

And what if all of this was to be targeted for Visual Studio Orcas so that when you bought Visual Studio you'd be completely covered for deployment?

1 comment:

  1. I think we can all agree that Atlantis will be found and Eutopia created before any of this happens...