I have recently been working on the social media strategy for the launch of the Galileo Release of the Eclipse Platform. Unusually for RedMonk, we have not just provided advice, but have also provided one of the social media platforms Eclipse is using in order to build its community. I wasn’t sure how to structure this post so I fell back on my business partner‘s trusty, patented Q&A format.
Q: What is Galileo?
A: Eclipse has a simultaneous release process, whereby once a year it updates all of the components in the platform – that’s SOA, modeling, runtime, rich ajax platform, Eclipse project platform, mylyn. Everything. Managing a release schedule is hard enough, but what’s really impressive about Eclipse governance is that it manages this process across literally hundreds of developers and ISVs. Open source governance at its best, with a twist of agile development.
Q: RedMonk is in the analyst business, but you say you’re providing a platform. What’s up with that?
A: It is certainly true that RedMonk is in the business of providing advisory services. What might not be immediately obvious is that a great deal of the advice we provide is in the area of community development. Generally this advice concerns software developer communities, but we’re pretty strong in community management more broadly. Its also worth noting that in many respects RedMonk is just a social network, which explains the slogan “analysis by the people for the people”.
Q: Doesn’t providing a platform and associated community development services create conflicts of interest?
A: Potentially- sure. But then again the industry analyst business is all about managing conflicts of interest. RedMonk chooses to do so by being as open as possible, practicing full disclosure. I certainly had a few raised eyebrows over the last couple of weeks about my current Twitter avatar, which looks like this:
Was this the first sponsored Twitter avatar? Kind of. We’re getting paid for the project, and as a byproduct of testing and using the Eclipse Galileo Birds Nest this was my avatar.
Q: What is this Birds Nest You Keep mentioning, anyway?
A: The Birds Nest is a social network for Twitter users in the Eclipse ecosystem, designed to illustrate the release schedule through avatar timelines. That is- the Galileo release schedule has a series of milestones, and our idea was to offer twitter overlays for each release.
Q: Twitter overlays? How do you upload them to the system? Do users have to share their passwords with the Birds Nest? Isn’t that a potential security problem?
A: Not so much. Twitter has implemented OAuth, which is a brilliantly simple mechanism for API authorisation to web services. We all owe a debt of gratitude to @blaine, @daveman692, @factoryjoe and others. OAuth is the authentication mechanism the open web has always been looking for. It allows one service to call data from another, in a process managed by the end user. It overcomes the password antipattern, which was going to cause major security problems for social networks generally, and Twitter specifically. For more information read Marshall here.
Q: Why would anyone want to autoupload a new Twitter avatar?
A: Good question. Clearly many people do, as has been proved by the Iran situation this last week. Over 160k people have turned their avatars green in solidarity with the Mousavi movement. With one click.
Q: Can You explain what an avatar timeline is?
A: Sure. Most social networks give you an avatar, but they are usually static. You can upload a new one, but the service usually throws out the old when you do. Me and Chris Dalby, the guy that built the Birds Nest (with a bit of help from @fidothe), always felt this approach was overly constrained, if not silly. An avatar, like a face, changes over time. People get new haircuts, or want to look grumpier than normal, or want to go green, or whatever. People change, and so do avatars. I always find it slightly jarring when someones profile picture has jet black hair, while in real life they are salt and pepper.
Q: Storing avatars – is that all the Eclipse Bird’s Nest is for?
A: Not at all. The base platform is designed to capture and foster conversations among the Eclipse community. If I am entirely honest this is the area that needs the most work. Thus far, we have been getting the platform right, ironing kinks out and so on. But I am hopeful this week we can take it to the next level.
Q: Take it to the next level? What do you mean by that?
A: We don’t only support avatar changes in the platform. We also support twitter as a command line. People can update their Birds Nest Profile with a simple command in twitter. Users can register as Modeling, EquinoxOSGi, SOA, EnterpriseJava or PHP, like so:
@eclipsegalileo profile php
Then when they tweet about Eclipse, and use the hashtag #eclipse35 (we chose the tag name because its shorter than eclipsegalileo and this is the 3.5 release), the tweet will be under the tabs on the homepage.
Q: What is next for the Birds Nest?
A: Our initial goal, set with Eclipse marketing director Ian Skerrett, the brains behind the project, was 500 users. We breezed through that. Next job- get people using the hashtag more extensively. With that in mind, Eclipse is kicking off a competition – use #eclipse35 with an overlay avatar and potentially win schwag.
Q: Do you want other clients for the platform if they can see a use for it?
A: Damn straight we do.