Unintentionally stirring a bee’s nest (by suggesting Maven)

I just had an odd exchange, someone has a great piece of open source software that I totally depend upon, it’s a complex beast of a thing, and I wanted to a.) express gratitude, b.) offer some help with the build. You see the build for this particular system is an Ant build script with a preamble of instructions, and the project itself is this megalith of code in one big src/ directory. Every time I want to use some new component that is in development, I have to download someone’s tarball, uncompress the thing and then fish around for JAR artifacts to upload to central. Some of the JARs that are included have specific Subversion revision numbers in the JAR file name. This makes using the binary artifacts from this particular project a royal pain in the neck.

I follow the project, I’m invested in the code, I thought it might make sense to *ask* if there was *any* interest in migrating the build to Maven on the grounds that it might make it easier for people to contribute and participate. Now note, I didn’t volunteer to switch the build the Maven, I simply “asked if there was any interest”, and not even on a development list. I asked one of the main contributors directly because I didn’t want to ruffle feathers.

What I got in return was this total tirade against Maven. How it isn’t flexible enough, how this particular person wanted to “send an invoice” to whoever was responsible for Maven because he had wasted so much time on it. Ending with the quote: “If our not using Maven as a build system is a problem for those who
do then it’s not our problem but the problem of Maven for not being
flexible enough.”
In other words, my very diplomatic inquiry was met with “#$@! off”.

Not “it’s been a while since I’ve looked at Maven, here are the problems I had, if you can get it working alongside this Ant build, be my guest…”. Or even, “No, I’m not interested in that. I had some problems in the past, and I don’t think it makes sense to distract from the current development.” I didn’t even get a chance to make an argument on the “merits”. So here it is…

The Argument

  1. If I can’t go to your website and figure out how to checkout the source code and build in 5 minutes, your project is a pain in the neck to contribute to. The casual contributor has no incentive to learn how your build system works.
  2. If, in order to use your library, I have to go download some archive, unpack it and then futz around with JAR artifacts, your project is a PITA to use.
  3. I don’t even care if you use Maven, all I really care about is that you publish regular SNAPSHOT builds to a repository. When I see some development release of a JAR that is wrapped in a tarball, contains a README file, and it bundles with other JARs, I end up having to upload all this noise to a repository manager crafting my own groupIds out of thin air.
  4. Yes, I understand, you hate Maven because it called you a bad name two years ago, and you didn’t know anyone qualified at the time to help you. If you had problems in the past, it was probably because you didn’t understand the tool. No offense. I can probably help out there.

If you disagree with some of the assumptions, that’s another matter.