Four letter word

Stop asking when things will be done and start contributing is one of the messages in Bert Boerland's post Done is a four letter word on the Drupal project. There is a lot of truth in what he says. Open source projects like Drupal are made better with more cooks, not less. This is true. As there usually is, however, there is more to the story.

Backtracking the Drupal project the code freeze for the next release (4.7.0) was scheduled for September 1 and then pushed back to September 15. In the same announcement it was noted that a 4.7.0 release might take "several weeks" after the code freeze. And, now several months later here we sit without a released 4.7 and little progress. Though the latter bit, about little progress, isn't correct. The feeling to many people, namely the many folks implementing Drupal on servers around the world, those folks checking to see if this next great version of this great tool, don't see much progress. November came and went with more hopeful talk and now we're into the new year with Beta 2 aging a few weeks.

While it can be really frustrating watching and waiting, helping out in the forums etc. the frustrating part is feeling like little progress is being made. The truth is that gobs of work are being done each and every day. However, if like many Drupal users you don't get into the nittiy gritty details it seems to be posts every few months, or weeks, that speak optimistically of an upcoming release punctuated by waits that grow ever longer in the mind's eye. While it takes a little digging at least with open development processes you can see proof of progress if you take the time to look for it. On the other hand with closed development processes it's a different deal.

Late last year Chronos made good on its promise for a fourth quarter release of SOHO Organizer. The 30-day trial offered the promise of being able to test the software. The side-bar on the page said a converter to migrate older Group Organizer data into it's successor product would be available by December 31st. Late in the day last Saturday the December 31st promise changed to "We expect the converter to be available for download as soon as possible. Please check back for updates." Pardon me, but what in the heck does that mean? It probably means something less than every five minutes but more than once a week. What preparations are being made to enable the import of data before the demo times out?

These two situations are opposites in so many ways. Open Source vs. Closed, near perfect releases vs. buggy betas as "release" versions, rich feature sets vs. limited releases etc. but they share a common problem, the need to focus more energy on communication. The answer lies not in harping on people to get involved, many will gladly pay that price for excellent software, the challenge lies in harnessing the great minds at work to communicate without interfering in the great work being done. Figure that one out and you're golden. This is the key not only to successful software development but also to success in any realm of professionalism.