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Release Early, Release Often?

A common open source concept is referred to as "release early, release often". The justification behind this concept is that the sooner you release, the sooner the open source community will be able to validate the functionality, and the sooner you will get feedback - either good or bad - which will help improve the overall product. This concept is often combined with a "public daily build" paradigm, where continuous integration is used to automatically build, package, and publish a new application version every day. These concepts make a lot of sense for single purpose applications; that is, applications which have closed APIs and have no external dependencies. But plug-in framework applications such as DotNetNuke possess a very different set of requirements - many of which are not complementary with the "release early, release often" model.

Consider the case of any entity which has developed plug-in resources for the DotNetNuke framework. These could include Modules, Language Packs, Skins, or Providers. Everytime a new core version is released, each of these resources need to be validated to ensure that they function correctly. In many cases this will involve extensive testing, packaging a new version of the specific resource, publishing compatibility information, updating related documentation, communicating availability and/or issues to users, servicing compatibility support requests, updating commercial product listings, etc... And you must also consider the issues for the resource consumer as well. Consumers need to feel confident in the acquisition and installation of application resources. They are not keen on analyzing complicated compatibility matrices in order to manage their investment. And resellers such as Hosters represent an even larger superset of application consumers. The effort involved to perform application upgrades becomes more complicated and costly as the release frequency increases. This is clearly a case where "release early, release often" can lead to issues for framework consumers and suppliers.

For the reasons stated above, DotNetNuke has always tried to follow a fairly well structured release cycle. This has resulted in fewer major public releases but a  much higher quality, more stable, core application. In general, this has provided the ability for DotNetNuke resource suppliers and consumers to participate in a functional product ecosystem. However, as the number of serious platform adopters have increased, so have the demands for better core release communication.

One of the unique benefits of the recently announced DotNetNuke Benefactor Program is private access to Release Candidate versions of the application, 1-4 weeks prior to the public release. This Platinum level benefit was included based on community feedback which indicated there was a critical need for advance notification and compatibility testing for the more serious DotNetNuke resource suppliers. The 1-4 week window provides the opportunity to identify and resolve compatibility issues prior to the public release. It also allows resource suppliers the ability to release fully compatible versions of their resources in conjunction with the core application release, resulting in a proactive rather than reactive community support model. I am really excited that the Benefactor Program finally allows us to open a communications channel with those community members who have the most vested interest in the long term success of the DotNetNuke Web Application Framework.


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