Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Qt: the process is broken

After reading Albert's thoughts about the state of openness in Qt, I felt like I had something to contribute, and contribute I did in the comments on his post, but I don't think it is enough.

While I encouraged him to "please do stick in there", we're not exactly just at the start of this process anymore; Qt's moves towards opening up have been well received, but in the words of Thiago, "now we have to do more".


At the heart of it, I think it all boils down to two things:
  • Lack of manpower
  • The process to integrate merge requests is clunky and slow
So... what do we do?

Lack of manpower
This is actually probably is a much bigger problem than just merge requests in that there just aren't enough skilled people working on Qt itself (with push access), and the amount of work they have to do on their own tasks means there simply isn't enough manpower left over to work on the merge request queue, especially given the hoops that the current process requires the committers to jump through, which amount to an awful lot of effort and manual checking.

Solution:
Get more people. Perhaps it's not even out of the question to dedicate a few people to working on community management at a technical rather than twitter-level.

While marketing Qt is great, and I'm far from knocking those efforts, you also need to have a healthy developer community around Qt itself, and right now, that doesn't exist. If you have developers dedicated to furthering that community, you will reap that investment further down the road.

I imagine that people in this sort of a role would act as the 'grease in the wheels' while Open Governance moves slowly but surely along, helping in reviewing merge requests (knocking back those with simple mistakes) and working together with others inside of Qt to integrate the finished ones, basically moving all of the burden of integration off of the product developers.

Think community managers on steroids. With push access and the knowledge to use it.

The process is clunky and slow
Work on the process. Open Governance is addressing this, but so far, there's been a lot of talk, and little (visible) action thus far.

It needs to become more of a priority. The quicker this is solved, hopefully, the more manpower Nokia will gradually have to shift onto people other than their own tasks, and let the wider community worry about what concerns them.


Conclusion
(also known as, "where I state the blindingly obvious")

Let's face it, it's great to have access to the source repository, it's great to be able to submit changes, it's great to have an open license.

It's not so great to have your work ignored after making requested changes, or worse still, ignored completely.

This needs solving.

So, Nokia, are you really invested in making Qt as good as it can be?

[usual thanks to my good friend, John Brooks, for proofreading and putting up with my horrible use of English]