This morning I had a real strange sense of Deja Vu. But not quite.
Back in the summer of '99 I had a month off between classes at college, and I decided to not get a job but instead try this new 'open source' thing that I had been reading so much about. The idea was to take some other technology, and do it with a free license. Kind of line Linux did with Operating Systems. My target? JavaServer Pages. It seemed like an interesting problem. I wrote up a JavaCC script to parse out the grammer, and then I wired in some code generation to create a servlet. Entertaining summer hack, or more like a spring hack since my developemnt kinda kit a roadblock quickly after it was released. You see two days later Sun announced the Jakarta Project.
"Holy cow I just wasted several weeks of my life!" was my initial reaction. But it wasn't so bad in the end. It took nearly six months to release the code, and in the end I revved my release once more to support TagLibs, and then I ultimately joined up with the Jakarta project in the end. I also found me a wife which quickly curtailed my contributions to Jakarta.
Fast forward eight years. About a month ago I was accepted to Groovy as a committer, mostly on account of my patch submissions for the SwingBuilder portion. I've done some damage recently, mostly relating to refactoring. And then this morning, Sun announces JavaFX Script (which is basically a rebranded F3). Dude, I could have spent more time in the last few months playing Halo or building lego towers with my son!
But this isn't quite the same, JavaFX is a total niche play right now (the niche being Flash and SilverLight). I also find it interesting that the FAQ specifically calls out Groovy to justify itself. But I don't see this as a zero sum game. Both can survive, and even thrive. And one way or another I see myself dribbling into various projects here and there because I find it as entertaining as playing Halo (but it ranks below quality time with the boys).
It's not like I'de turn down a job to hack at Groovy full time, I mean I see value in monetizing your hobby (I'm not saying I'm looking for a new job. I'm also not not saying I'm looking for a job either). But corporate sponsorship or not projects like this will continue and grow because deep down inside, people like me like to hack at code.