Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Focus for 2009

Hello All,

We are winding down 2008, after a good year's development that culminated in the current 3.2 release. The features of 3.2 both evolved and matured the 3.1 functionality, but also include several new fundamental capabilities. We are excited to see new 3.2-based solutions.

Besides working with consultants in the service group, we also work with community members and have acknowledged several areas where focussed effort should be made for the coming year:

Vastly improve our documentation. The docs are currently in a woeful state. They are spread out in a hard to navigate structure and are written too abstractly and are not helpful to new users. Here's how we are going to improve them:
  • Consolidate all the docs into one medium and one site.
  • Use a Wiki instead of Forrest. A Wiki is a much more fluid way to keep docs up to date. Also we can easily add community members to help contribute.
  • Make the documentation "How To" oriented. These are short focussed explanations on using ControlTier software for a typical use case

Merge "Elements" and the ControlTier "base" libraries into a single source code module and build artifact. You may not know this, but Elements is a library of ready to use modules interfacing with J2EE and other application infrastructure. It is currently hosted at Moduleforge. To improve out-0f-the box productivity we'll:
  • Consolidate Elements and Base into a single controltier project "seed" and CTL extension
  • Write documentation that will assume the Elements library is already installed
  • Write tutorials revolving around Elements use cases

Improve release process. I admit it... our release process was very erratic. 2008 releases were all driven by some external project schedule and did not serve the community well. Here's how we'd like to change:
  • Roadmap and milestone based scheduling
  • Regular release points
  • Publicize releases better including mailing list, news, freshmeat, etc
  • Change lists
  • Standard use of Duke's Bank demo for QA testing

ControlTier Demo shall work out of the box. ControlTier software is a pretty general purpose process automation system which sounds great until you want to see it actually do something. In 2008, we began using the J2EE tutorial's sample application, "Duke's Bank" in our demos. This demo shows quite a breadth of ControlTier use cases and helps make its functionality and applicability more concrete. It should work out of the box. Here's what we want to do:
  • Simple demo setup that is well documented and quick to set up
  • Tutorial documentation revolves around the Duke's Bank use cases to establish a consistent set of examples
  • Supporting slide presentation that lets you run your own demos when you want to show other people in your own groups

Increase community involvement and support
  • Take better advantage of the Sourceforge features to allow contributions of all kinds. We barely scratch Sourceforge's surface now and there's some useful tools to take advantage of
  • The community really is the best authority on how to move the project forward so we want to better facilitate comments from the community discussion areas
  • Run a ControlTier IRC. Sometimes a person wants to ask a quick question or just bounce some ideas. 

Of course, development is not frozen for 2009 but we want to shift priorities to make sure the ControlTier project is healthy and the software usable on its own. We are looking forward to driving these improvements and welcome any feedback or helping hands.

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