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[technology-pmc] Review and recommendations for the ALF project

I've done a review of the ALF project.

By way of background for new PMC members, the ALF committers were approached some months ago [0] to rationalize continuation of ALF as an Eclipse project. At that time, the Technology PMC expressed concern that ALF was had not yet managed to develop a community around the project and, it seemed, had seemed to have given up any attempt to develop community. Their initial response was to defer the discussion. It seems that, with passing time, they have chosen to ignore the PMC's request for discussion (IMHO, the onus should be on them to follow up, not us).

I have summarized some of my own findings below. My take-away from the information is that ALF has not done enough to encourage community involvement. While it is relatively easy to determine what the project provides, it is difficult to obtain the code, engage the committers, and get directly involved in any meaningful way.

According to the Foundation database, their first committers were given status in August 2005. This means that ALF has been a Technology project for more than three years. I humbly suggest to the Technology PMC that this has been long enough for ALF to establish itself and that it is time for ALF to establish an end-game plan. More specifically, ALF needs to either (a) move to another Eclipse top-level project, (b) become a top-level project, or (c) be retired as an Eclipse project (archival).

Upon approval of the PMC, I intend to announce this requirement for ALF to establish an end-game on the alf-dev list. If ALF intends to pursue either of option (a) or (b), then they must produce a detailed plan for the move. I intend to give them two weeks to respond after which time an archival review will be scheduled on their behalf.



Here are some of my findings:

I apologise if these comments seem overly negative. There is many positive aspects to this project; I have not focused on these as much as I probably should.

Description on home page is informative. However, there is no link to the "Project Info" page from their web site. The link off their main page titled "Requirements" points to a wiki page in *edit* mode.

ALF Blog [1] has been inactive since March 2006.

Project planning page [2] has not been updated since 2006. They have not provided a project plan in standard form.

"ALF Team" page [3] has some layout issues. George Stanchev is not included on this page (he is a committer according to the Foundation database).

Latest downloads are dated December 2008. The "ALF Downloads" page does include a reference to CVS. The organization in CVS is not easily understood. After some searching, it seems that they've nested Eclipse projects inside an Eclipse project. Ultimately, I had to download the latest build to determine what I should be looking for in the repository. It'd be nice to see a link to a Team Project Set or Buckminster scripts to make it much easier to add the code to an Eclipse workspace.

There have been 503 downloads of the latest milestone build (ALF1_0M8-2007-12-04-0018-incubation.zip). 15 of those downloads occurred this past Saturday. This strikes me as a little curious. Any idea why this might be?

Activity in the mailing list is slow. For the past several months, most of the conversation has been around the topic "Is ALF still alive?". Granted that much conversation was initiated by the Technology PMC, but at least two community members has weighed in ([4], and [5]). Response from the committers has been muted.

The project summary page [6] does not layout well. It seems as though they're just linking their landing page as the description.

The newsgroup, eclipse.alf, has had no activity since August 2008. Activity on the newsgroup has been very light and seems to be almost entirely communication from committers. There seems to be very little evidence of community involvement on the newsgroup.

The project plan [7] is a PDF rendering of a Microsoft Project document. The use of Microsoft Project is not, in and of itself, a problem. However, the document itself is intimidating. It gives the impression of an entirely closed shop, leaving no room for others to contribute. It's also out of date. The release date indicated on the project summary page is in the past and needs to be updated along with the plan.

Almost every one of the 222 bugs raised against ALF was created by a committer. Despite the fact that the 1.0 release has had milestone releases for 10 months, there is no 1.0 version provided in Bugzilla (so that adopters can raise bugs against that version).

[0] http://dev.eclipse.org/mhonarc/lists/alf-dev/msg00722.html
[1] http://eclipsealf.blogspot.com/
[2] http://www.eclipse.org/alf/alfdates.php
[3] http://www.eclipse.org/alf/alfteam.php
[4] http://dev.eclipse.org/mhonarc/lists/alf-dev/msg00734.html
[5] http://dev.eclipse.org/mhonarc/lists/alf-dev/msg00736.html
[6] http://www.eclipse.org/projects/project_summary.php?projectid=technology.alf
[7] http://www.eclipse.org/alf/includes/ALF_Project_Plan.pdf