How does a Framework Scale and not splinter?

One of the discussions that came up at BarCamp Grand Rapids was how can a framework (and language) scale and grow, without splintering too much. There were a disproportionate number of Java developers present, and one of the few complaints they had about Java was the large number of frameworks that were available. None had a market dominance, or clear set of features. Every week new frameworks pop up.

Compare to the few of us that were Rails proponents. Currently, Rails is the only Ruby framework with any market share (are there even any others?). The question was, in the future will more Ruby frameworks show up, steal market/mind-share, and splinter the community. Diversity is good, new ideas help spur innovation. However, large fracturing confuses new developers and makes support and interoperability difficult.

One definite way to address this possible problem is by keeping the core framework simple and effective and having good support for extensions, plugins, and additions by other developers. Rails currently does this very well, and it looks like this will become even more solid in the future.

A Ruby on Rails Plugin Repository is being realized and should be fully supported soon. Luke Redpath has a good discussion on the current progress and future path. To date, the plugin repository has been wiki based, or required knowing the appropriate subversion repository for a plugin. This new effort will centralize plugins, promote proper documentation, annotation, and testing.

Perl has CPAN, an absolutely incredible repository of modules that has probably kept Perl alive and made it a very powerful language. Ruby Gems provide a very similar infrastructure for distributing great enhancements to the language. Hopefully, the Ruby on Rails Plugin Repository will keep the community united and working to support and build on a single framework while still allowing them to bring in their application specific features.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.