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How the Referendum Project Can Help The Eiffel Community

The world six months from now

Imagine this: At the end of the year 2000 there are several dozen installed instances of the referendum toolkit, each with a distinct community tree and area of focus. About 100 thousand people use referendum regularly. The referendum home page and each referendum installation point out that referendum was written in Eiffel, and continues under active and open development.

One of the first installations to come out was www.hacktree.org, which started out with about 40 root groups and targeted the programming community. Over the last six months the group hierarchy has been fleshed out by hacktree's users, so that now hacktree includes groups all the way from the python DB sig to the squeak smalltalk Morphic UI framework to the referendum development group. All of these groups, by the way, are children of the Object-oriented group.

The Eiffel community in particular has benefited from hacktree's structure. All the major open source Eiffel projects have groups in the system. Since referendum is written in Eiffel, the Eiffel groups have been particularly instrumental in extending and testing the system. Since referendum is useful to all the major open source Eiffel projects, a great concentration of Eiffel brainpower is centered around referendum and its development is very active, with new patches arriving daily. In fact, referendum 2.1 looks nothing like the 0.9.1 beta that was released in May.

Since thousands of other programmers from dozens of different language also use referendum regularly, these group members too have provided valuable feedback on needed features. In fact, many people have been nudged in the direction of Eiffel development directly by way of scratching their own itch, and improving referendum in the process.

Not only is the Eiffel community better organized and more understandable by its members and other outsiders, but many other programmers associate Eiffel with a useful application under active open source development.

How do we get there?

The first priority is to get the system running so we can do some serious beta testing. We should keep it in the Eiffel community for now, since we simply can't publicize things too much until we know the system is stable. Other programmers must see a robust and scalable system.

We want to involve the Eiffel community as much as possible. Other Eiffel users should see contributing to a stable and active referendum project as a service to their community.

So the plan is as follows:

Design the hacktree community structure
Here we will need input from all kinds of Eiffelists, whether they specialize in programming languages, operating systems or whatever. I have a rough draft which is mostly organized around programming languages, since that is what I know the most about. For hacktree to be a good tree we will need lots of input from knowledgeable people. Get Involved!
Setup the hacktree referendum server
This involves someone actually installing referendum on a high-speed connection and defining the initial hacktree root and child groups.
Populate the Eiffel groups
Convince other eiffelists that hacktree is useful and just really cool. Create lots of hacktree groups under the Eiffel group. Let Eiffelists pound on the system and submit bug and feature reports.
stabilize and enhance the system
Based on the feedback from Eiffelists, clean up the system and resolve any scalability, security or robustness issues that come up during beta testing.
Spread the word
Start advertising the existence of hacktree in other programming forums. Eiffelists who use other languages can take the lead and create new, specific child groups around those languages, or other programming disciplines. Meanwhile, keep the development of referendum open and solicit contributions from new users. Remind people that hacktree is just one possible community tree, and that they can define their own trees with referendum.

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