Great Expectations

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Don’t worry, it’s not about that book, but rather a response to the feedback i’ve had about my previous post (BeClan a failure so far). I’ve had a nice range of feedback from people who read it and it’s led me to believe that more explanation is needed!

When I started promoting the concept for BeClan I kept using the term “community” in relation to users and developers of BeOS/Zeta. In hindsight that might have been a mistake! The demise of Be led to a slowly diminishing group of people who tried to keep BeOS alive through various means, fair and foul 🙂 As is perfectly natural and understandable many of these people developed attitudes towards the extremes, which over the years has resulted in a larger than average number of zealots with any sampling of BeOS/Zeta users. (If you need evidence look at the reaction to the first few yellowTab announcements about Zeta at TBJ). Like all zealots change of any kind is undesirable and unwelcome, to be greeted with criticism and derision. Look at any site that caters to BeOS/Zeta news and you’ll see many such people (sadly this is especially true at TBJ).

Another trait that seems to affect almost all developers for BeOS/Zeta is a remarkable desire to work alone and in secrecy. Even now people are starting applications and working on them alone, revealing nothing but an occasional screenshot and rejecting all efforts to contribute! Are these really the actions of sane developers?

When you have an OS that has a limited market you normally also have a limited pool of developers. In this situation any effort expended to provide an easy route to starting to develop or use the OS is time well spent, but while BeOS/Zeta are amongst the easiest OS’s I’ve come across the mixture of zealots and secretive developers together constitute a serious obstacle to new developers/users! Additionally some of the larger OS projects are cross platform, have large pools of people working on the “core” features and so for only small amounts of effort can be brought to such OS’s – only BeOS/Zeta developers seem unwilling, with rare exceptions, to even try and get involved (the Apache httpd server and PgSQL prove this to be the case) .

Having met some BeOS users/developers I know that these people can interact with other human beings, so why the reluctance? BeClan was an effort to try and create a “community” where people would work in a co-operative manner, hopefully shedding the reluctance to work in groups in the bright light of day rather than lone and in the dark. I always knew it would be a long, slow road, but rarely in my nightmares did I realise quite how slow it would be!

Part of the problem no doubt lies with the way that BeClan is setup and so I’m hopeful that steps can be taken to correct these issues before too much longer (more information on this soon). Part of the problem may lie with BeClan not getting enough attention, so there is now an official newsletter person who will try and make sure that all projects hosted by BeClan get more attention than they have been receiving. The majority of the problem though lies with the people that BeClan was setup to help. It was the fact that despite all the efforts that had been made (by several people, not just myself) there was little sign of any change in general attitude.

Why is this important? Well, Be’s business model realised that with a small workforce it would need independant developers to provide many of the applications that would be needed. Be worked with developers over a number of years and also provided good assiatance to new users – but it wasn’t enough. Zeta’s business model seems to be very similar and they too have been working with developers. Ultimately the success of Zeta could be determined not by their efforts but by how succesful the independant developers are at creating applications that people want to use. For proof of how succesful this approach can be look at Linux.

The big difference is that many Linux developers play well together. They band together when problems need to be solved, respecting each others abilities and striving for the best possible results. Their zealot “lunatic fringe” is also proportionately smaller and as Linux has grown and matured it has become less and less vocal. Let’s hope the same is true one day for BeOS/Zeta!