There was an amazing response to yesterday’s post – not only did readers come up with plenty of names, but lots of people volunteered to help. As a result, I’m feeling under a certain amount of pressure for this project to actually take shape.
I figured it would be worth explaining a bit more about my vision for the project. Obviously I’m only one contributor, and I’m expecting everyone to add there own views, but this can act as a starting point.
I want this project to be more than just a way of getting better date and time handling on .NET. I want it to be a shining example of how to build, maintain and deploy an open source .NET library. As some of you know, I have a few other open source projects on the go, and they have different levels of polish. Some have downloadable binaries, some don’t. They all have just-about-enough-to-get-started documentation, but not nearly enough, really. They have widely varying levels of test coverage. Some are easier to build than others, depending on what platform you’re using.
In some ways, I’m expecting the code to be the easy part of Noda Time. After all, the implementation is there already – we’ll have plenty of interesting design decisions to make in order to marry the concepts of Joda Time with the conventions of .NET, but that shouldn’t be too hard. Here are the trickier things, which need discussion, investigation and so forth:
- What platforms do we support? Here’s my personal suggested list:
- .NET 4.0
- .NET 3.5
- .NET 2.0SP1 (require the service pack for DateTimeOffset)
- Mono (versions TBD)
- Silverlight 2, 3 and 4
- Compact Framework 2.0 and 3.5
- What do we ship, and how do we handle different platforms? For example, can we somehow use Code Contracts to give developers a better experience on .NET 4.0 without making it really hard to build for other versions of .NET? Can we take advantage of the availability of TimeZoneInfo in .NET 3.5 and still build fairly easily for earlier versions? Do developers want debug or release binaries? Can we build against the client profile of .NET 3.5/4.0?
- What should we use to build? I’ve previously used NAnt for the overall build process and MSBuild for the code building part. While this has worked quite well, I’m nervous of the dependency on NAnt-Contrib library for the <msbuild> task, and generally being dependent on a build project whose last release was a beta nearly two years ago. Are there better alternatives?
- How should documentation be created and distributed?
- Is Sandcastle the best way of building docs? How easy is it to get it running so that any developer can build the docs at any time? (I’ve previously tried a couple of times, and failed miserable.)
- Would Monodoc be a better approach?
- How should non-API documentation be handled? Is the wiki which comes with the Google Code project good enough? Do we need to somehow suck the wiki into an offline format for distribution with the binaries?
- What do we need to do in order to work in low-trust environments, and how easily can we test that?
- What do we do about signing? Ship with a "public" snk file which anyone can build with, but have a private version which the team uses to validate a "known good" release? Or just have the private key and use deferred signing?
- While the library itself will support i18n for things like date/time formatting, do we need to apply it to "developer only" messages such as exceptions?
- I’m used to testing with NUnit and Rhino.Mocks, but they’re not the last word in testing on .NET – what should we use, and why? What about coverage?
- Do we need any dependencies (e.g. logging)? If so, how do we handle versioning of those dependencies? How are we affected by various licences?
These are all interesting topics, but they’re not really specific to Noda Time. Information about them is available all over the place, but that’s just the problem – it’s all over the place. I would like there to be some sort of documentation saying, "These are the decisions you need to think about, here are the options we chose for Noda Time, and this is why we did so." I don’t know what form that documentation will take yet, but I’m considering an ebook.
As you can tell, I’m aiming pretty high with this project – especially as I won’t even be using Google’s 20% time on it. However, there’s little urgency in it for me personally. I want to work out how to do things right rather than how to do them quickly. If it takes me a bit of time to document various decisions, and the code itself ships later, so be it… it’ll make the next project that much speedier.
I’m expecting a lot of discussion in the group, and no doubt some significant disagreements. I’m expecting to have to ask a bunch of questions on Stack Overflow, revealing just how ignorant I am on a lot of the topics above (and more). I think it’ll be worth it though. I think it’s worth setting a goal:
In one year, I want this to be a first-class project which is the natural choice for any developers wanting to do anything more than the simplest of date/time handling on .NET. In one year, I want to have a guide to developing open source class libraries on .NET which tells you everything you need to know other than how to write the code itself.
A year may seem like a long time, but I’m sure everyone who has expressed an interest in the project has significant other commitments – I know I do. Getting there in a year is going to be a stretch – but I’m expecting it to be a very enlightening journey.