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Importance of Community support when evaluating open source software

In my previous company we were evaluating ExtJS v/s SmartClient, we did lots of comparisons and SmartClient had lots of cool features and was up to the par with ExtJS but the only thing that was lacking here was traction in the community, finally we decided on ExtJS. When evaluating an open source product I give lots of importance to open source community around that product, namely I look for
  1. Does this product has a mailing list, how active is the mailing list? how many messages are posted by users per month and are there enough discussions going on?
  2. How frequent are releases for this product?
  3. How many users have written blogs and tutorials about this product?
  4. Are there any books from OReilly or Manning about this product (I rate Manning and Oreilly books better then other and I hate the SAMS 24 days books)
  5. How many bugs are closed,Open,In QA for this product
  6. How old is this product? Old product have their own baggage so if a newer kid is on the block with a vibrant community I would compare features and go for it.
That is the same reason I would prefer ExtJs over SmartClient, Struts over JSF, Hibernate over JDO.

Comments

  1. To make a correct assessment of this kind you have to understand the potential community size. SmartClient targets specifically high end enterprise web applications. Ext is used for lightweight applications and minor augmentation of otherwise static content. There are many many more simple websites than enterprise web applications.

    If you're trying to build an enterprise web application and you choose a product because there are a bunch of people using it for something entirely different, then what you've just done is set yourself up to wade through noisy forums and inappropriate tutorials and examples that don't address your use case.

    As with many products that target the high end, the SmartClient community has a very high percentage of enterprise architects. Ask a very hard question and you will often get a very astute answer. That's what counts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Charles,

    First of all Thanks for the comment. I recently started blogging so nice to have some feedback.

    Now coming to the point, well saying ExtJS is not sufficient for Business applications is a an understatement. I was working for an On demand supply chain application (www.onenetwork.com) and they are using ExtJs and customers love it. I recently moved to an Online file sharing and backup company and guess what they are also using ExtJS and have lots of customers loving it.

    As I said in my post already SmartClient had lots of better features and it was at par in terms of features in comparison to ExtJS. The only reason to pickup ExtJS was community support and in last 1 year it has seen explosive growth. (I still hate that ExtJS started charging license fees for using them). I compared and saw that ExtJS community was far more vibrant and active then ExtJS.

    Regards
    -Kalpesh

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Kalpesh,

    Can't really make out what you're saying - you say that Ext is not sufficient for business applications, but then that end users liked it. But end users see a product, they are not evaluating Ext vs SmartClient, so that didn't make much sense. Did you mean the customers liked the themes? That was a common complaint with SmartClient before the new themes. We don't hear that complaint now.

    Elsewhere you say the Ext community is more vibrant than the Ext community.. maybe a typo there too.

    Just to recap, it doesn't matter how many members there are in the community, it matters how many members are *doing what you're doing*. I would say, and many others have noted, that Ext has far fewer users building complex, high end business applications.

    But for many companies, the decision can also be made on the basis of features. If you go through the examples on the SmartClient site vs Ext's, there is plainly a massive feature advantage in SmartClient's favor, which we also show here:

    http://smartclient.com/product/competition.jsp

    So an evaluator needs to go through their requirements and find out how much more they get out of the box with SmartClient, and especially they need to think about what features they might want to leverage in version 2.0 of their product.

    Because a bunch of people chatting vibrantly about the lack of a feature in Ext also does not help you deliver an application :)

    ReplyDelete

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