McDonagh versus Eclipse

The Captain, AKA Rob McDonagh, takes issue with IBM’s implementation of Eclipse as its base design tool of choice, and the man has a point:

Are you actually trying to make it more difficult for people to build apps for your systems? Is there some ulterior motive to weed out the less geeky and drive up salaries for those developers masochistic enough to continue working with your tools? Seriously, WTF?!?

I think I know where Rob’s coming from, and I do sympathise. He draws parallels with Microsoft’s development tools and there are indeed many arguments to be made in MS’s favour when it comes to Visual Studio et al. Nicely put-together, they look good and work seamlessly. But it is realistic to expect Eclipse to be the same when you’re trying to code something as specific as composite applications? I don’t think so. Visual Studio is designed for one specific environment, over which Microsoft have absolute control. Compare that with the herd of wildebeest that Eclipse tries to shepherd.

Eclipse is many things to many people. As a plain ole’ Java development environment, it rocks out of the box. Add a few plug-ins and you can do some great stuff with web technologies, enterprise Java development, PHP, testing, modeling, the list goes on. But that kind of configurability means that having stuff that “just works” is pretty darn tricky.

For composite application development, Notes 8 development and so forth, there’s clearly a long way to go. I think Rob is right to criticise IBM’s attempts so far, but to add balance, I would say you need to criticise the right tools. Composite application development in plain ole’ Eclipse is always going to be challenge right off the bat. Composite application development using the forthcoming Eclipse-based tools from IBM (plus Lotus Expeditor right now), have to be a lot easier than the steps outlined in the composite apps weblog (check them out. Oof!). developerWorks and the other resources IBM are throwing out there rock. We know they’re listening to developers too, but make no mistake: developer tools are hard to get right, and there’s a lot more work to be done before IBM can really challenge Microsoft in this area.


  1. Damn it, Ben, why did you have to go and get all reasonable about this? I had a good rant on, and you want to be logical?!?

    Seriously, the headline was misleading, because as you pointed out, I wasn't really ranting about Eclipse itself. I was ranting about the way IBM insists on making things difficult for people who want to work with their technology. You'd know much better than I how well Eclipse behaves when you're working inside it. I just keep seeing the setup instructions for the simplest demos IBM can produce, and throwing up my hands in disgust.

    It's not just the Eclipse stuff, I have the same reaction to the Websphere Portal side of the house, and I haven't tried them personally but I get the impression (ok, it's mostly the screaming from Dublin that gives it away) that Connections and the SameTime gateway suffer from similar issues.

    Anyway, I felt the need for a good rant. Reasonable discussion of the topic is quite well represented here at Chez Poole. Those of us in Oblivia will try to keep the raving to a minimum. heh…Rob McDonagh#
  2. LOL Oh I love a good rant, don’t get me wrong. Here’s how typical “Enterprise Java” development works at my current employer (caution: rant):

    - Inherit application X, something horrible that isn’t documented, and needs a thorough re-write
    - … in approx. 3 weeks
    - … actually, make that 2 weeks
    - … the original developer has left the firm for a proper IT job
    - (makes you sick, doesn’t it)
    - … oh, but you also have to support application Y that went live last week, at the same time
    - (and applications B. C and D)
    - … by the way, ”support” means answering questions from users all over the world about why your outsourced infrastructure doesn’t work
    - … breathe deep and count to ten when you get the umpteenth mail from some bigwig enquiring why the site is down
    - resist the urge to point out to said bigwigs that it’s all their fault for outsourcing at the lowest price in the first place
    - start to design & code application X using MyEclipse (fine)
    - … but you need to use database Z
    - … scrabble around for an instance of database Z you can use
    - … there’s a server running it, but you can’t access it over VPN (thanks to the Slammer virus)
    - … of course, you only discover this when working from home one day. Needless to say, the fact that you can’t access database Z over VPN isn’t documented
    - yes, database Z == SQL Server
    - OK, give in and install a local instance of SQL Server to work around this
    - … oh dear, SQL Server Express requires XP SP 2
    - … so carry on using the server instance
    - … discover that your server login doesn’t let you create, drop or edit tables

    Get the picture? Development environments are a nightmare. If developers had stuff that just feckin worked think of the things we could accomplish!Ben Poole#
  3. IBM must understand that today most developers are proficient in different IDEs, platforms and stuff. Nobody has the time to fiddle around with some crazy bonus-setUp steps, which anyway can be excecuted by a computer (code in Expeditor plug-in) much better than a human being.
    Axel Janssen#
  4. Looking forward to your project start to finish rant Ben.
    Reckon about five screens worth should cover it. I'll fill in the blanks if u miss anything.John Z Marshall#
  5. It’s too exhausting mate. Besides, I’ll be busy when I get back sorting out the mess left before I went on hols eh [smiley poke_tongue] Ben Poole#

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I’m a software architect / developer / general IT wrangler specialising in web, mobile web and middleware using things like node.js, Java, C#, PHP, HTML5 and more.

Best described as a simpleton, but kindly. You can read more here.