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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

MapGuide shaping up

I have had a couple of positive experiences with MapGuide  over the last year. I took part in a training course in in February at Sejong University and MapGuide was well represented in recent series of GITA workshops.

The good news - it is time (for me at least) to take MapGuide seriously.

Is it the source code? Not really - I expect that of an open source project. I find the PHP code examples easy to follow; and the applications I have seen built up around this base seem to be clear and straight forward. A few things came across as difficult: I listened to tails of how hard it was to change selection color from blue to anything else (apparently it was hard coded).  More troubling was a constant theme of difficulty building (both in February and on the recent GITA workshops). Making a project easy to build is always a priority for me - if a developers is willing to build the code they are *exactly* who I need to produce and submit patches to my project. So the source code could use some work.

Is it the license? Well I always admire an LGPL project - generally less hassle for me as a consultant to find work with. But I am willing to work with anything so it is not the license.

Is it the product? The demo provided during the GITA workshop was well suited to the audience and really illustrated a point I often try to make - namely that open source projects need to be fast to try out and see results. If you are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a product chances are you going to try and use it for a couple of days; and perhaps read the documentation. An open source project operates under no such illusions - installation needs to be quick; and the applications as straightforward as possible. So I am afraid the product is what I have expected (it actually reminds me a lot of the Deegree experience).

What changed this time around for me was this ... the people.

Or more to the point one person; Zac Spitzer was an real live developer overjoyed to get things done; and enthusiastic as all get out. He had the usual tails of grabbing patches from trunk and applying them to a system just in time to make delivery; all the kinds of things that we forget are amazing in the open source community.

An advocate such as Zac was exactly what was missing from my previous experiences with Map Guide.

Zac it was nice to meet you; I look forward to seeing what trouble we can cause in the future.
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