Click here to close now.


Open Source Cloud Authors: Yeshim Deniz, SmartBear Blog, AppDynamics Blog, Philippe Abdoulaye, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers

Open Source Cloud: Article

Managing an Open Source Project

A first-person perspective from idea to code complete

In December 2004 it was decided that DotNetNuke would break out its existing core modules into separate Projects so that they could be enhanced, released, and supported independently from the core Web Application Framework. It was further decided that some additional modules would also be added as official Projects to provide an increased level of richness to the platform. The first modules that we determined were going to be added were the TTT Forum and TTT Gallery, authored by Tam Tran Minh of TTT Corporation.

I was already working closely with Tam on these modules, and I volunteered to co-lead the development of these Projects and to help morph them into modules that take full advantage of the DotNetNuke Web Application Framework.

When the projects were first starting, the current DotNetNuke framework was in a transition. This transition included breaking changes that would not allow modules developed for the current released version, 2.1.2, to operate in the new upcoming version 3.0. My expectations were that Tam and I would work with members of the core team to convert the modules to work in the new 3.0 environment. After the modules were running in the 3.0 environment we would fix a few bugs that already existed in the modules and then have our first release. After this release we would start to form teams that would aid in enhancing the modules and fixing additional bugs, which I knew would surface over time. I expected it would take about three months until we were at the point of forming teams. What I expected and what actually happened were quite different.

Incubating a Third-Party Module Project
Because I was a member of the core team since its inception, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of what it would take to make these modules follow the unwritten rules of the current DotNetNuke core modules. The first part of this process was to convert the namespace and assembly names to follow the current patterns used by the other core modules. While doing this we also added in the copyright that was included in all current core .vb files to the .vb files of these modules. This process was pretty straightforward and required minimal effort; however, it took slightly longer than I had anticipated.

Once this was completed the remaining changes were not so obvious. Prior to these Projects, no outside module was ever brought into the core, so there was no preexisting checklist for us to follow. Another challenge we faced is that none of the core modules that are currently available were as complex as either one of these. After several discussions with other core team members we formed a plan. This plan was to focus on a single module - the DNN Forums - and get it released first. This decision, as we would later find out, would also speed up the development of the DNN Gallery project because it gave us a checklist to follow.

Now that we were focused on the DNN Forum project alone, we outlined what we knew had to be done prior to a release. The first item was to rename the custom class names that used a pattern not consistent with any of the core modules. At the time we thought it best to make use of the existing classes that were included in the default skins. We would later determine that because the module uses its own custom themes implementation, we should rename all classes to use a more standard ModuleName_ prefix to avoid conflicts with the preexisting classes.

Once the renaming was completed, the next item on our list was to remove any dependencies the module had on third-party assemblies. The reason this had to be done was due to licensing. Even though the only dependency was on a freely available assembly, this assembly did not have the same BSD license that is distributed with the DotNetNuke Web Application Framework. This meant that if the authors of this assembly decided to change their license, which they could do at any time, we could be forced to remove a release that was available for download to avoid legal ramifications. This dependency was on an assembly that allowed the module to interact with newsgroups. Removing support for this was no easy task because it existed throughout the entire module. This process seemed to only take a few weeks, but we would later find out that some of the remnants were causing one of the major bugs at the time.

Preparing for a First Release
When developing any project, you must determine a set of goals that should be accomplished to reach a release point. When dealing with an open source project that is constantly in development, this is even more important because you lack a well-defined set of requirements that you must achieve. Lacking these requirements makes it all too easy to keep developing and never reach a release point.

With the project now underway for almost three months, I knew the community was getting anxious to see the first official subproject release. I knew there were bugs in the existing code, but with only two of us actively working on the module, we were having difficulty filling the roles of architect, developer, and the Q&A team. We were trying to stick to the original plan of releasing then forming a team, so we decided to release a beta and use the community as our Q&A team.

Before we could release, we had to make sure that what we released is what people would expect from a DotNetNuke module. Among these expectations were the following:

  • Installable as a standard packaged module
  • Support the standard DotNetNuke data access layer and object qualifier
  • Allow the source code version to simply be copied over on top of an installed version
  • Support upgrades of this install in all future releases
  • Not altering the core Web Application Framework
  • Implementing ISearchable to expose to core search indexing
Once all this criteria was met we hit another road block. Since no module had been released separately from the core before, there was no proper procedure for releasing a module independently from the core. Since DotNetNuke has always been in the habit of installing its releases on prior to distributing, we took this approach with the DNN Forum module. After fixing several bugs that we determined was necessary prior to public release, we finally made the module available for download.

After the First Release
With the module now available for download to the community, I prepared myself to start answering usability questions and to start focusing on bug fixes. To support the module release, we created a set of groups and forums on This turned out to be the most critical part of this project's development. It allowed me and other core team members, along with a few community members, to use the module on a daily basis as users and not developers. Using the module daily brought out many usability issues that were overlooked in the local development environment. It also was a place for others who would not normally test the module to see it in action and report any feedback they had on it.

After making the module available for download, there was no shortage of feedback. During the first week or two the module was available I found myself spending roughly two hours a day in the forums and in the project's bug tracker answering support questions and logging bugs. Trying to keep up with the feedback and fix the issues logged was becoming increasingly difficult.

One of the other things this release showed us was that most of the community was having a difficult time following and understanding the code. I don't think this was because the module was overly complex; rather, I feel it was because they had only been exposed to it for a very brief period of time. Our original goal was to start forming a project team now that we released, but with so many support issues I wasn't exactly sure where I would find the time. Working a full-time job and keeping up with other aspects of DotNetNuke, when was I going to form a team, teach them about the module, and manage them?

After spending a bit of time debating what would be best for the project, it was decided to continue development of the module as we were before, and then form a team after a release came out that we felt was fairly stable. This ended up taking two more releases and three additional months. Looking back on this decision now I feel that we made the right choice because I think even with a project team we wouldn't have stabilized the module this quickly.

Forming a Team
Now that the project had a release that we felt was fairly stable, it was time to start the recruiting process to form a project team. Once again we were at a point where there were no previous examples to follow. Until now, all those involved with the core were chosen and not recruited. We gave this some thought and decided that we would recruit members using posts in forums and ask the recruits to submit resumes so that we'd have an idea of their knowledge. I felt a bit uncomfortable asking for resumes from volunteers to work on an open source project, but I wasn't sure how else we were going to measure the recruits' knowledge.

We received about 10 submissions for the Forum Project. I wasn't really sure how many people we should have on the team, so I took the approach of accepting the eight applicants who seemed qualified. I e-mailed those whom I accepted and sent them the documents required to be a member of a DotNetNuke Project (an NDA and a Contributor License Agreement), and informed them that they were on a probationary period. The probationary period functioned to avoid their announcing publicly until we received all necessary agreements. Out of the eight, two never returned the agreements and two more resigned.

Managing an Open Source Project Team
It is my belief that regardless of whether your project is big or small, managing a development team in a commercial environment and managing one in an open source project are very similar. There are a few things, however, which are distinctly different. I think the aspect that is the most obvious, as well as the most difficult, is that you are managing volunteers.

In the commercial environment there is accountability. If someone is given a task, that person must complete it within a reasonable amount of time and if not, he or she must account for the reasons why it was not done on time. If the person fails to deliver repeatedly, there are some consequences that he or she might suffer. In an open source project, what consequences can you really dish out to volunteers? The only one I can think of is removing them from the team, but what do they really loose? So far I have been fortunate that all my team members contribute, but I am still unsure how I would handle it if things had gone differently.

Another one of those differences is communication. Everyone in the core team and in my projects speaks English. It may not be everyone's native tongue, but so far it has not been a barrier. Even with everyone speaking English there are still communication issues. Since we have no budget for traveling or phone conversations, it seemed best to use chat sessions for team meetings. This proved to be difficult because at our first chat we had one team member online at 8 p.m. Thursday and another online at 10 a.m. Friday. This wasn't so bad, except for those members who were online at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. for a two-hour session.

The last major difference I have found between the two is how you would decide who does what. In the commercial environment I normally ask people to do things and based on their results, I let them continue doing so or replace them with someone else. I am not exactly sure why, but in the open source environment it just doesn't seem to work this way. So far, I have just let everyone do what he feels he is best at. This seems to be working because everyone is getting a better understanding of his module and the projects are moving forward faster than before. I do worry about this from time to time though, because I think I will eventually have to address it.

Despite all of the differences, there are many similarities between the two environments. One is you have a set of tools and have to get everyone adjusted to using those tools. The usage may not happen as frequently in the open source environment, but I think it is more than enough to keep the project organized. Procedure is another thing that is common between the two. I think this is even more important in the open source projects because it helps fill the communication gap.

Before becoming involved with the DotNetNuke Web Application Framework, one of the things I heard about open source projects is that they are a thankless effort. I have found this to be far from the truth. Just as with anything else, there is some negativity involved. In my experience however, this has been almost negligible compared to the praise received. This praise, combined with what I learn by doing this, makes it well worth the effort.

The Future
It has been roughly nine months since these Projects began. To the community, it may not seem as though much was accomplished. From my perspective, these Projects have come a long way. The previous release of the DNN Forum Project had over 35,000 downloads in only a three-month span. Now with the support of a team, features can be added, bugs can be fixed, and time between releases can be reduced. This increased efficiency, along with the implementation of continuous integration, should lead to more users and a better end result.

More Stories By Chris Paterra

Chris Paterra is is the lead developer and project manager working on a variety of different DotNetNuke projects for client and internal use at AppTheory in Atlanta, GA. He is part of the DotNetNuke core team and is project lead of the Forum and Gallery sub-projects.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
Enterprise Open Source Magazine News Desk 05/05/06 04:11:45 PM EDT

In December 2004 it was decided that DotNetNuke would break out its existing core modules into separate Projects so that they could be enhanced, released, and supported independently from the core Web Application Framework. It was further decided that some additional modules would also be added as official Projects to provide an increased level of richness to the platform. The first modules that we determined were going to be added were the TTT Forum and TTT Gallery, authored by Tam Tran Minh of TTT Corporation.

Enterprise Open Source Magazine News Desk 05/05/06 04:10:52 PM EDT

In December 2004 it was decided that DotNetNuke would break out its existing core modules into separate Projects so that they could be enhanced, released, and supported independently from the core Web Application Framework. It was further decided that some additional modules would also be added as official Projects to provide an increased level of richness to the platform. The first modules that we determined were going to be added were the TTT Forum and TTT Gallery, authored by Tam Tran Minh of TTT Corporation.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...