A Clean, Well-Lighted Workspace
Microsoft enters the world of distributed development collaboration.
By Jonathan Goodyear
Distributed development collaboration has garnered only marginal popularity on the Windows platform. Although resources such as SourceForge.net and Concurrent Versions System (CVS) are used for some open-source Windows projects, the vast majority are Unix- and Linux-oriented.
With GotDotNet Workspaces, all that might change. Still in beta, Workspaces promises to go a long way toward fostering an open-source mindset among developers who use Microsoft technologies. I spoke with Jason Pace, the lead program manager involved with the Workspaces project, and Shawn Nandi, product manager for ASP.NET, to get the inside story.
The GotDotNet Workspaces project consists of four main components. The Web-based Bug Tracker utility allows workspace members to track bugs from cradle to grave. File Share is similar to Visual SourceSafe, but you can access it over the Web. The Message Board allows members to collaborate in a forum-like setting, posting messages other developers can respond to. The Releases component enables workspace administrators to post code ready to be deployed and tested.
The beta version of Workspaces is open to anyone who wants to try it out. The only requirement is that the workspace remain active on a weekly basis. Inactive workspaces are removed from the system, then purged at a later date. Currently, more than 1,500 workspaces have been created. Shawn and Jason estimate around one-third of these workspaces are currently active.
Creating a workspace is extremely easy. Once you create your workspace, you can either send out invitations for developers to join it, or you can wait for developers to find it in the Workspace Directory and ask permission to join. You can add as many members to your workspace as you want, either as developers or administrators.
According to Shawn and Jason, the deployment of Workspaces has not been without its challenges. For instance, Workspaces requires a great deal more bandwidth than the GotDotNet Web site itself. Because both Web applications are housed on the same server, this has led to occasional Web site outages as the GotDotNet team adjusts to these new infrastructure demands. This is par for the course for a beta project, though.
Some features not implemented in the beta will be in the version 1 release of Workspaces. First, there will be better filtering and discovery options for finding workspaces to join and interact with. Second, there will be a ratings mechanism to help developers gauge the quality of the workspaces they are contemplating joining. Third, statistics will be added so developers can monitor the popularity and usage of particular workspaces. An unconfirmed but strong possibility is the addition of virus-scanning software to prevent attacks on the Workspaces community by malicious uploaded code.
To assuage any concerns you might have about intellectual property rights, I confirmed that Microsoft has no intention to use any code from any project on GotDotNet Workspaces. Microsoft only acquires the right to house your source code on its server and grant access to it to developers you accept as members of your workspace.
Remember, GotDotNet Workspaces is still in beta. The GotDotNet server that houses Workspaces is backed up regularly, but Microsoft takes no responsibility for the safety of your code base. Workspaces is expected to be released into production during the Visual Studio .NET "Everett" timeframe (spring 2003).
With the release of .NET, Microsoft has finally begun to sponsor and encourage a collaborative development environment. What does this mean to you? It means getting involved with .NET development is now a whole lot easier.
Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSoft (http://www.aspsoft.com), an Internet consulting firm based in Orlando, Fla. He's a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and author of Debugging ASP.NET (New Riders). Jonathan also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. E-mail him at mailto:[email protected] or through his angryCoder eZine at http://www.angryCoder.com.
Tell us what you think! Please send any comments about this article to [email protected]. Please include the article title and author.