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Sharesource looks rather promising

Posted on | December 28, 2007 | No Comments

I had a chat today with Tim Groeneveld, the creator of Sharesource, a new kid on the block in the city of distributed collaboration tools that are offered as a service. I wasn’t simply slinking around the sourceosphere in search of the next big thing to emerge, I was looking for a Mercurial friendly service that “felt sort of like Launchpad” but allowed me to make code available using multiple source control systems. Sharesource offered both Mercurial and SVN management, a simple and pleasing UI and no crazy advertisements or “Market Service” links.

I found Sharesource from a link on the Asciidoc news board that indicated that they had switched to Mercurial (yay!), I followed the link to Sharesource and began exploring out of curiosity.

The service is currently in its first revision but already commands a majority of the features that we (as developers on a distributed project) want. To put things in better perspective, I can proudly say that I am an avid and enthusiastic Mercurial user and supporter, however I don’t know what half of those switches do, I don’t need to know, I rarely need to use them.

Sharesource strongly fosters the “Sign up, publish, pull in code, your done.” approach, which I really appreciate. Anyway, without further delay, on with the nitty gritty.

Signing up was painless. A few simple questions, validate your e-mail and your logged in ready to go. Initially, the system presents you with a list of features that are available and asks you if you plan to use them. I checked everything, SVN repo, bug management, Mercurial repo, hosting, etc.

Immediately after, I was able to hg push to my Sharesource HG repo from my desktop via http, using the login / password that I provided when I signed up. My bug tracker was ready, my SVN repo was ready (tools in soon to be released versions will keep them in sync) , in essence, I was done within five minutes. I have yet to populate the SVN repository, but take a look for yourself.

I was impressed, especially after seeing the list of features due out for the next release (scheduled in the first week of January 2008). Projects can soon maintain multiple repositories, extensive ACLs for developers attached to the project, direct SSH -> Mercurial access to the repositories and more. Pretty much everything that I want and need for the stuff that I’m managing repositories for, but hardly any learning curve.

Chatting with Tim some more, I picked his brain about things that will be appearing soon. In addition to the features listed, he revealed some plans to facilitate digitally signed code of conduct agreements (or key management for signing archives), as well as plans for an asciidoc-centric collaborative documentation system.

I really like Launchpad, however its just ‘too much’ for the bulk of other hobbyist developers that I’ve talked with. Many others are getting a little worried about the steps that Sourceforge is taking, all citing the fact that both Sourceforge and Launchpad lock you in to one version control system to begin with. I don’t want to put up a Bazaar mirror just to pull code into Launchpad just to use the translation features. Likewise, who has time to keep dis-similar mirrors in sync?

I never did care much for Google code, not knocking it, I just never found it very intuitive.

Sure, I’m going to continue to maintain my own mirrors for stuff, but Sharesource gives me a simple way to put releases out to the world and manage things without worrying about stupid administrative things.

My one gripe – I wish people would remember to keep the “Free” in open source. Die hard GNUs like me always call their stuff “Free Software”, even though the term is dying. Not a major gripe, but I had to find something to nitpick :) Not all “Open Source” code is truly “Free”.

A neat find, worth checking out, especially since free Mercurial hosting is scarce but in demand. Incidentally, Tim plans to release Sharesource (the code) under an OSI approved license. So, yes, boys and girls – run your own if you want :)

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