Gnome Developer Experience Hackfest 2013Publish date: February 11, 2013
Tags: conferences fosdem hackfest hacking mono open source
After finally getting rid of a really bad cold, here I am reporting about the DevX hackfest that took place right before FOSDEM, at the Betagroup Coworking Space, a very nice coworking place in Brussels with excellent access and great facilities. The hackfest, organized by Alberto Ruiz (thanks!) and sponsored by the Gnome Foundation, had the goal of improving the application developer experience on the desktop, and lasted for three days, with plenty of discussions on a variety of topics, from tooling and IDEs, documentation, languages, libraries to bundling, distribution and sandboxing (and more).
It was a pretty interesting experience, there were a lot of people participating and due to the nature of the facilities (i.e., we were all in one room together), and lot of discussions bounced around the room and spilled over from group to group. My goal for the hackfest was to work on (and hopefully finish) the tooling required to create Mono bindings for the Gnome desktop in an automated way, so that packagers and developers can make bindings available for any library that supports gobject-introspection. By the end of the hackfest, the bindings tool (called bindinator) was able to bind Webkit with no user intervention, and with gstreamer bindings 95% done (two bugs still pending), things are looking good for automated C# bindings.
Between hacking and sneezing, we discussed tooling and IDEs, particularly what an IDE should have in terms of features, and what features a language should have to better support an application development environment; i.e., in the case of dynamic languages, a built-in AST is a very good thing to have, since you really want good code completion in your IDE, especially when you’re starting on a new platform and aren’t comfortable with the available libraries and APIs. Other useful features that went on the list for an IDE would be syntax highlighting (a must on any good code editor), responsive UI, good build infrastructure integration (preferably hiding away the specific build tool details and possibly with its own project format that’s independent of specific build tools (looking at you autotools)), debugger support, modularization (for user extensibility). And, preferably, being built with the same tools and languages that are recommended for the platform (dogfooding++).
All in all, it was a great hackfest, three days of very productive discussions and hacking. Kudos to Alberto Ruiz for a great job organizing everyone, and thank you to the Gnome Foundation and Andrea Veri for the sponsorship and assistance.