PowerTools Gotchas

Welcome to the influx of new members on the PowerTools Flow Dock. Here are some useful "gotchas" for those interested in helping with or following the SDL Tridion PowerTools.

Setup

  • Your SVN (Subversion source control) word is not your google password. You need to be added to the Google Code site as a committer and then you'll get your Google Code-specific password.
  • If you change your setup (create a new .NET project), don't forget the virtual directories.
  • The core service DLL is intentionally not included in the .NET project. Read the text file in the references folder for the reason and instructions.

The Plan

Unlike the Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, we only have an informal plan and schedule for the PowerTools at best (sorry, couldn't resist the geek joke). We rely on the voluntary contributions of a mixed group of internal, external, technical and even non-technical (like me!) volunteers. Our results are not always according to schedule, but we're making progress towards a release. We currently estimate a 2012 Q2 release for the tools; however some of the tools are already done. Despite an informal plan, we do have a guiding principal to make our results repeatable.

Follow-able Code

A few of the community members started with a simple plan at the the SDL Tridion 2011 MVP retreat to set up something the community can join and follow. Chris Summers (of Urban Cherry fame) has reminded us from day one that we need something others can learn from. Considering we have a few tools that work, documentation explaining how to make a GUI extension from scratch, and a growing community, I say we've accomplished at least this much.
Unfortunately, comprehensive Tridion technical expertise spans two or more Web programming platforms with a few frameworks as well as general systems programming and content management concepts; all on top of the "typical" developer background including life cycles, source control, IDEs, etc. It can be a high bar for newer developers or those that don't eat, breathe, and sleep Web content management. If any of this made sense to you, consider following the discussion and maybe even introducing yourself to the team.

Supports 2011 SP1

We're targeting support for the current version of SDL Tridion (at 2011 SP1 as of Dec 2011). We're not intentionally trying to break old versions and actually anyone's free to improve the tools, even by working on backwards compatibility and following the Midas Rule of Open Source Projects.

The Midas Rule of Open Source Projects

We use "the Midas Rule" to encourage each other to own something we're interested in. For those of us that come from a corporate or consulting background, it's sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to improve something. The "rule" says:
Whoever touches something first (takes initiative) and cares the most gets to decide what to do with it.
Yes we want consensus, especially on important decisions (e.g. which open source license, what programming languages, and which supported versions), but I'd rather not have individuals waiting for permission to try something out or to improve the PowerTools in the way they see best.

Go for it! I'm more worried people will get bored than break the code. Paradoxically code's both eternal and fixable! People's interest and emotional well-being? Not as guaranteed. When in doubt, try a branch or change your local code and report back if you're not sure.

This Aint Work

This is different. Your value to this type of project isn't in just quality or even quickly developed code (see the point on "follow-able code" above), but on things like attracting talent, motivating others, and sharing (oops, I said it).

Your reason for participating is uniquely yours. It doesn't matter if you're doing it for fun, for your company, for honor & glory (immortality even), or as an intellecual exercise. You could be practicing your design skills, learning how to create SDL Tridion extensions, building up your resume, or just taking a moment to chat with your peers or professional "heroes."
Even if you don't know why you're participating ("so-and-so told me to") we almost don't care--help where you can, ideally leave the code in a better state than when you got here, but do enjoy your stay with us.
You're also not just working with technical consultants, developers, or even your coworkers. Don't hesitate to ask a question or help a fellow volunteer. The SDL Tridion market is strong enough that we should "play nice" as if we'll work with the other members in real life; there's a good chance we will run into each other (or each other's work).

Recap

The PowerTools setup is simple with minor caveats around dlls (it's always the dlls). The plan is "organically" created by all of us while we attempt to keep the code follow-able. In the end this isn't work. Yes, focus on your regular job, even using the PowerTools as a way to learn or help your peers, but don't hesitate to work with, learn from, and help those external to your organization.

*The PowerTool's GNU GPL license lets you, your company, or even SDL to do what they want with it, even charging for distributing the code. The PowerTools authors have no plans on charging (we're more concerned about keeping the good stuff going). But even if someone did charge for services related to a revised version of the PowerTools, the source code itself will remain open and free forever. How's that for leaving a legacy?

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