Insights from EclipseCon 2012 – Leveraging the Knowledge of the Masses

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Last week I attended EclipseCon 2012 in its new east coast location. It was a great conference, both in terms of speakers and attendees, and over the three days, I had the pleasure of talking with some of the top dogs in the Eclipse world, both in sessions and at the bar. I also got to learn more about some of the up-and-coming Eclipse projects that I’ve been watching for the past couple years.

While preparing for the conference, I’d decided that I wanted to attend the session on the Eclipse Code Recommenders (ECR) Project. What caught my eye about this project was that it was focused on making the lives of developers more productive, and that it would “leverage the knowledge of the masses.” Here’s Marcel Bruch’s (project lead for ECR) description of ECR:

The Eclipse Code Recommenders Project was created in early 2011 to tread new paths on how the next generation of IDEs could enable developers to share knowledge with each other over their IDEs and to improve tools like code completion, code-search, and even to enrich existing documentation by leveraging the knowledge of the masses.

Prior to attending the conference, I checked out ECR on Ohloh to see how it was progressing and was thrilled to see that its codebase had grown more than 5x over the past year! And then when I attended the Eclipse community awards on Monday evening, I was even more psyched to see that the project had won the Eclipse Community Award in the “Most Innovative New Feature or Eclipse Project” category.

During his session, Marcel gave a great overview of ECR, but more importantly, talked about his vision for the future of this important project. What intrigued me was that he wanted ECR to become more than just a simple productivity tool within a developer’s local environment. Instead, he is planning on connecting the tool to a broader community of developers around the world, with the idea of sharing open source code from other projects and places.

Marcel asked the audience: “Who uses code search engines?”  Surprisingly, only a few hands went up of the 120+ people attending the session. With open source code search engines like already in place to help developers find and use code, ECR potentially opens up a new opportunity to leverage these vast databases of open source code in a tightly integrated way within the Eclipse environment.

One of the other things that intrigued me about this effort is that there are 60+ students helping to build the software! This kind of approach to innovating, leveraging bright young developers, is just the kind of approach needed to think differently about coding.

This project surely has a bright future and the potential to make a huge impact on the lives of open source developers around the world. Big KUDOS to Marcel and his team for their innovative, great work and we’ll look forward to future releases of ECR, and leveraging the knowledge of the masses!


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