Over the past two or three years, I’ve tried — really tried — to love CruiseControl.NET. It’s a great idea to help people like me who need good SCM tools to do our job. Unfortunately, CCNET has two major, glaring problems:
- It’s unfriendly as hell to configure and use.
- It doesn’t get updated more than once a blue moon.
It’s that second point that has me thinking about open source vis-a-vis strategic planning (hey, even solopreneurs have strategic plans!). CCNET has been updated twice in 2007, most recently in June, and that release didn’t even address the main issue (point #1). Draco.NET, another continuous integration product that I use (and like), was last updated in January 2006. FIT, a third tool that I haven’t used but which seems like a great idea, looks like it hasn’t been updated to any large degree since April 2005.
How is it possible to scramble, be agile, adapt to new tools, new processes, new best practices, if you are relying on tools that are old and unsupported? Most of the developers, who are volunteers, have moved on to other, sexier projects, got married, had kids, whatever. Now you either (a) use what they left you back in 2005 or (b) move on to a new product, abandoning your investment (in time, not dollars, but which is more valuable for the young business? Hard to say).
The way I *think* these things should work is for the good projects to move to a paid model, a la Jamie Cansdale’s TestDriven.NET. This was a free product for a long while, started by a (very talented) hobbyist, which then turned into a reasonably-priced for-profit product. I was happy to pay the $100 or whatever it was to buy a copy, because the advantages are well worth it. In the meantime, Jamie continues to work on the product, Microsoft notwithstanding, and I have every confidence that this won’t become a “dead” product anytime soon. Last update: two months ago.
I have no idea if Jamie makes a living off of TestDriven.NET or not. I hope so, but the point is that profit tends to keep the legs under a product in ways that are different from the open-source ethos, and it’s important to take that into consideration.