CodePlex: The XBox for Community Developers
I once blogged about "Glory and Danger" and the idea of taking on GotDotNet. One of the things I hinted at was, while we would do a revamp of the site, we did want to consider something from scratch that would be a step above. Then, I patiently stayed quiet about what we were doing. Well, the cat is clearly out of the bag now. A year or so ago, I was asking people how we should support community development going forward. After a year where we primarily stayed under the radar, CodePlex is now live and ready for the world. The team has even started their own blog. Having watched the thing in development over the past year, I can't help but smile when I cruise around the site. So many of these features were once little more than slideware. To those who think the "little guys" at Microsoft can't come up with a pretty good idea and have it supported, we are proof that anything is possible if you fight hard enough for it. I can still remember sitting in my old office, talking to Jim Newkirk about how we could affect the greatest amount of change in the company. We both believed that community software development was (and still is) vital to the health of the developer ecosystem and finding a place where people could do it easily would be so important to Microsoft. In our case, we both ended up leaving the patterns & practices team to join the Microsoft.com Communities Team to make it happen. As time went along, we were fortunate to add some killer talent to the team--guys that could've worked anywhere, but joined us because they saw the possibilities of what this team was doing. I couldn't help but think that this was what Microsoft is still all about--get a bunch of smart guys in a room and let them work on what makes them passionate. Then, open it up to the world and continually iterate to make it work better for them. Of course, it's never that easy. Jim and I have had countless late-hour IM conversations, trying the navigate the project through the many challenges that any software project (especially at a large company) goes through. I honestly believe no one else I know could've pulled off the project better than Jim did. The guy is top-notch both technically and personally and I am five times happier for him than for me.
As the team got closer to the finish line, I was reading a book about the development of the XBox and it was amazing to see the parallels. The leaders of that project knew that the secret to its success was creating a platform where developers could do their magic. While it's specs were awe-inspiring for that time period, the standalone XBox was useless, It's really about the games and what the game developers could do with the power of the XBox. My hope is that we do for community development what XBox has been doing for game developers--make the process easier and more enjoyable.
While this release is something to be extremely excited about, I am even more excited about what I think we can do in the future. We already have tons of ideas and we are hearing from many customers who have their own input that is helping us guide our roadmap. Comment on my blog or on the CodePlex blog and let us know what you think. Plus, there is the discussion board on the site itself. We really want to hear what you think, so let the team know. And keep poking around the site--I think there's gonna be some killer games, er, projects that will debut in the coming months.