The future of Iron

In my martial practice one of the tenants that comes up often is “Freedom tempered with responsibility.”  With all the hoopla about IronRuby and IronPython being released to the public yesterday, I’d like to speak a bit toward that.

First and foremost, let me address the fact that I am a Microsoft MVP– but that doesn’t mean I think they get it right all the time.  As with any other company, Microsoft acts imperfectly and in ways I may not agree with.  But, as I am not in charge of Microsoft– I will (and do) provide my feedback, make decisions on what I need to do, and let the rest be their issue to deal with.

That said, despite the large amount of negative commentary, I believe that Microsoft has handled the IronRuby and IronPython projects incredibly well.  To take on a project, fund it, dedicate resources to it, allow it to be freely consumed by the public, to allow them to contribute into it, and then release it to them when you decide you are done– is pretty awesome.  The sheer fact that we have any discussions about IronRuby or IronPython today at all is because Microsoft made it happen.  We should first recognize this as an awesome contribution and be very grateful for their support.

I have discussed with others (and Jimmy) inside the IronRuby community that I didn’t entirely agree with how Jimmy Schementi handled his leaving Microsoft.  I found, personally, his blog post to be inflammatory and a bit inappropriate.  As the key figure of IronRuby (and now one of its co-leads), he has a responsibility to the community to act in it’s best interest.  By offering speculation of what Microsoft may or may not do with the project as if it was a fact was wrong.  All his blog post accomplished was to make a whole bunch of people upset and then complain a great deal to Microsoft about something Microsoft had not made any statement about.

What followed his post (via comments, news articles, and whatnot) was downright shameful.  The Microsoft bashing began, the evil empire ruined everyone’s lives, everyone “told you so”, and people started to make rash decisions.  As a community leader, I would hope to avoid this type of nonsense as often as possible.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, Microsoft announces that they are indeed releasing the IronRuby and IronPython projects to the public.  Internal work that had been done was also released to the public as a part of this agreement (including visual studio support *sweet*).  Yet still, despite continuing to act in a fair and responsible way– Microsoft hating continued.  People have claimed the project is now “free” from Microsoft, and thus better.  But outside of having now lost funding and dedicated resources, I am unclear on how things are going to be magically different.

Every project I have ever seen, open sourced or not, has had leadership involved.  People had a vision, they put together a team and made it happen.  Some projects offer opportunities for others to contribute– but there is always a vetting of those people before they can contribute beyond libraries.  This is a common and successful structure and likely to be the one we see for both projects going forward.  So again, I posit– how is this any different now that Microsoft has left?  Projects do formal releases when they are ready for it to be formally released– that’s also not uncommon.

So what’s the beef? I mean really?  If Microsoft’s involvement in a project really bothers you that much– fund and start your own projects and contribute back.  Corporations will support projects as they see fit, some better than others.  In this case I think what they have done is excellent and is worthy of praise.  I’ve seen good people and code thrown to the wind by companies when they are through with them– this was clearly not the case here.

It’s time to move on.

(p.s)

In case this needs to be expressly stated, I actually like Jimmy–I am happy he is helping run the project, I congratulate his marriage, and I wish him well in his new position.  I don’t agree with all of his decisions, but like I said before– I give my feedback, make a decision on what I needed to do next, and move on.

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