Simplicity

Can this Kickstarter fill the craters in Eclipse?

Diana Kupfer
Eclipse.1

Pascal Rapicault – the man behind the EasyEclipse proposal – tells us why he believes in a commercial IDE, and what’s behind Eclipse community dissatisfaction.

Last week we wrote about a  new Kickstarter
proposal to fund
EasyEclipse for Java
– an effort summarized as “Streamlined
Java IDE + Funding model for the Eclipse open-source ecosystem”.
Here, Diana Kupfer speaks to Pascal Rapicault, the Eclipse
committer behind it all.

JAX: Firstly, how is your Kickstarter project
related to easyeclipse.org?

Rapicault: I’m the new owner of
EasyEclipse.org. EasyEclipse.com is the continuation of
EasyEclipse.org, since it takes on the same mission of creating
awesome Eclipse distributions and contributing back to OSS.
However, the approach is different (commercial instead of OSS)
because the landscape of Eclipse has greatly changed.

Back in 2005 when EasyEclipse was created by the team
at nexb (www.nexb.com), the
Eclipse IDE, supported by large companies, was booming, Eclipse
packages did not exist, and finding plug-ins was complicated. They
were resolving the problems of the time. Now the situation is
different. Obtaining the Eclipse IDE and plug-ins is easy, the real
problem is the growing number of dissatisfied users and sustaining
an investment in the Eclipse IDE, which is why I decided to try a
commercial route.

When the idea of a crowdfunding campaign was discussed
at EclipseCon Europe 2013, I  felt it was the most intuitive
alternative to the current open source model, especially given the
success of Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc. and that many of the
attendees said they would be willing to pay for a good IDE rather
than contribute. That’s why I was surprised that the idea was
rejected at first. When did your idea for this EasyEclipse campaign
emerge?

I first discussed the idea of a crowdfunding campaign
with a couple close friends during the summer 2013. I had been
thinking about ways to reinvigorate parts of Eclipse, but the
tipping point was the Google Android tooling announcement. However
because of other ongoing work I did not take action before late
September where I took a week off to prototype, scope and confirm
that the crowdfunding route was the way I wanted to go. Since then
I have been refining the idea, discussing it with more people and
doing all the prep work.

The funding goal is 120,000 CAD. How long will
you be able to develop and maintain EasyEclipse with this
amount?

The first thing to know is that not all of this money
ends up in my bank account. Roughly 10% goes to Kickstarter and
Paypal, then around 25% goes to the development of open-source.
What is left will finance the actual development of the project
(integration and new features) and I hope this money lasts for
about a year.

And if the campaign doesn’t reach that goal,
will EasyEclipse simply not happen? Or do you have alternative
funding sources in mind?

Up to this point all our thoughts and energy have been
put on the campaign, no backup plan, safety net, etc. The only
thing I know is that if it fails, we will have tried our best with
our abilities, and we will have the peace of mind of knowing that
we’ve tried something.

On your Kickstarter page it says: “we plan to
work with the open source communities to fix the issues at their
root rather than maintaining our own fixes on top”. What do you
mean by that? I mean, you’re definitely the product manager that
the Eclipse IDE needs, but that also means all bug fixes will
ultimately be managed by your team, doesn’t it?

It means that if there is a bug or a missing feature
in a plug-in that EasyEclipse uses (note that it can be a project
hosted at the Eclipse Foundation or somewhere else), we have no
intention to fork the project. We will work with the community
behind the plug-in to make the changes directly in the project.
This means that either we will provide the code changes and work
with them to integrate it, or we will be paying for someone from
the project to do the work.

The bugs that will be addressed in priority are those
that directly benefit our users. However, fixing bugs is not
enough. We want to continue to innovate and some of these will be
done in the OSS. For example you can see some of the ideas I
submitted for Google summer of code: http://prapicault.blogspot.ca/2014/03/improving-and-exploring-new-ideas-for.html

Sneak peek: What will the look and feel of
this new IDE be like? Will it be similar to Eclipse or will there
be a totally new approach?

It will be an evolution of what is in Eclipse. We want
the UI to be less crowded. Less content in contextual menus (I had
an instance of Eclipse where the menu could not fit in my screen),
less buttons in the toolbar, so the user is not overwhelmed and he
has more vertical space for coding.

Now, concretely the first time you open, you are asked
to set up your IDE. You get to choose your SCM, and chose your
build system (and eventually more as EasyEclipse evolves). Your IDE
is ready.

Because you have installed the Git plug-in, the
launcher bar now contains a Git icon from which you can trigger
actions such as clone repo, or commit.

There is of course more than the eye can see. Here I’m
talking about all the preferences making the IDE easier to use.

Will it borrow concepts and features from
IntelliJ IDEA or NetBeans?

In terms of features, if EasyEclipse wants to be an
IDE worthy of the name, it will have to add features similar to
those two IDEs. However I’m also keeping an eye on text editors
(Sublime, Textmate, etc) since a lot of people are deserting IDEs
for those, and also cloud IDEs (Eclipse Orion, Microsoft Monaco,
etc.).

Will the pricing be similar to the major
competitors out there?
 

I’m not good at these sorts of business decisions!
 We looked at what the competition is doing and discussed
where we want to fit, but it is too early to comment on that. First
let’s see what happens with the Kickstarter campaign.

Provided the funding is successful, how soon
will EasyEclipse be available? How mature is the
technology?

At this time, the first complete version is expected
for December 2014. However, for all users with access to the betas,
I’m hoping to be able to provide a first version for the Luna
release. This will of course be minimalistic but it will be a way
to start the discussion with my users.

Imagine the campaign is a huge success, so
that you can not only provide a Java IDE, but also plug-ins for
other technology – what technologies are next on your priorities
list?

EasyEclipse will be user-driven so we will have to
see. But if I had to guess I would say Spring and Tomcat, because
they are very popular technologies. I also have a list of important
tools for Java developers (code quality, coverage, etc) and
additional goodies that I would like to make available.

What’s the reception from the Eclipse
community been like so far for EasyEclipse? 

It has been all over the map, from one extreme to the
other. Some people are really enthusiastic, they understand the
issues on the funding of the IDE, and they are fully supportive
because they think that having a new player in the field whose
value proposition depends so tightly on the open source ecosystem
will drive improvements in the open source.

Others, on the other hand, don’t want to see a paying
version of the Eclipse IDE – yet they don’t propose any viable
alternative. This is sad.

But the biggest difficulty is in how to reach out to
the millions of users of Eclipse and explain to them that there are
too few people maintaining the software they rely so heavily on,
and that some things need to change.

Author
Diana Kupfer
Working at S&S Media since 2011, Diana Kupfer is an editor at Eclipse Magazine, Java Magazin and JAXenter.de.
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