In any endeavor in life and in business, you face ups and downs. Some things are easy, some things are extremely difficult, and some fall somewhere along that spectrum. This is definitely one of the more difficult blog posts I have had to write. I regret to inform you that the company and Shaun Walker have decided to part ways.
As all of you know, Shaun is the creator and original steward of DotNetNuke and was one of the founders and board members of DNN Corp. Shaun has been instrumental in the adoption and growth of both the open source platform and ecosystem. Over the last 12 years, Shaun has been the leader that everyone looked to for guidance, and the one we all rallied around as we worked together to grow the platform, the community and the ecosystem. Shaun’s passion, vision and dedication to the platform attracted many people to DNN and it is largely the result of his hard work that DNN grew to be the largest Open Source project on the .Net platform.
Everyone at DNN Corp. appreciates Shaun's commitment and efforts, and we wish him the very best both personally and professionally. I will personally miss working with Shaun as he has been a big part of my professional life for over a decade. Shaun is still a major shareholder in the company and will continue to informally advise the company, and interact regularly with our CEO Navin Nagiah.
Earlier this week, Navin asked me if I was willing to step up and assume a bigger leadership role at DNN Corp. – in his words, to play a very proactive and forward-looking role for both the platform and the community.
Navin went on to say: “Your challenge will be to ensure the platform is still relevant 5 and 10 years from now. The toughest part is having the willingness and fortitude to focus on the long term, and make any short term trade-offs required to ensure the platform’s long term viability and success”.
To me, challenge and opportunity are synonymous. This is a lesson I was taught as a young Plebe at the US Naval Academy and is encapsulated in a quote from a naval hero of the American Revolution:
“Those who will not risk cannot win.” – John Paul Jones
I have actively sought out challenging roles my entire adult life and as a result I wholeheartedly accepted Navin’s offer.
I started working with DNN in 2003 when it was still called IBuySpy Workshop. I immediately became passionate about the software and it’s potential. The more I worked with DNN, and the more I got to know the people in the community, the more passionate I became. Since that first day of working with DNN, we have come a long way as a product, as a community and as an ecosystem. While I am proud of our successes to-date, I strongly believe that our best is yet to come.
Just 3 months after I started using DNN, I quit my job and created a new company focused exclusively on DNN. That company is long gone but my passion and belief in DNN remains as strong today as it was then. What I knew then and still believe today, is that in order to realize our potential as a product and as a community, we must be forward-looking and creative. We must be willing to take risks, to make some mistakes and to learn from those mistakes.
We need to continue pushing the platform. Pushing to keep the platform on the cutting edge and relevant. Pushing to grow the platform user base. Pushing to increase the size of our ecosystem. Pushing to continue collaboration with our community in delivering a platform that our users love.
Beyond how web applications are built, we have also seen a dramatic change in how web applications are deployed. Ten years ago, most web applications were hosted in a customer’s private data center or through a traditional hosting provider. Today, more and more customers are moving to the cloud where servers are provisioned and de-provisioned in mere minutes; where applications can be scaled up and down as website load demands; and where applications are being scaled across data centers spanning the globe.
During this same period there has been a revolution in the mobile and social space. Ten years ago smart phones didn’t exist and mobile websites were a rarity. Today Android and iPhones are everywhere and having a mobile website is a must for any serious business. Facebook was just a small project created by a group of Harvard friends, and it was only available to fellow classmates. LinkedIn was just over a year old and Twitter didn’t even exist yet. Today billions of people interact through these social networks, and the underlying concepts and technology are beginning to change how businesses communicate and interact with their employees and their customers.
In this same ten year span Microsoft has fundamentally changed the way they build and deliver software. Windows Vista was released in 2007 after nearly 5 years of development. Since that release, MS has moved to a model where software is delivered in smaller increments over a much shorter time span. Feature delivery schedules are now measured in months rather than years.
Not only has Microsoft changed the frequency of their releases, but they have also embraced community and Open Source in ways that were almost unimaginable a decade ago. Almost the entirety of the ASP.Net stack has been released as Open Source. Microsoft now works collaboratively with their user community to drive the ASP.Net roadmap and actively encourages community contributions to the platform. This is a major shift from an era where Steve Ballmer famously said “I don't really know that anybody's proven that a random collection of people doing their own thing actually creates value”, and that “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”
These are but a few of the many technological changes that have occurred over the last decade. We need to take a hard look at how we modernize DNN to once again be on the cutting edge of development trends. Making these modernization investments will likely mean that we will need to make some hard choices. Can we support these new technologies while maintaining backwards compatibility? Should we plan for a gradual shift spread out over a few years, or should we make a major generational leap like we did with DNN 3 and radically change the architecture to support future growth – even if it means introducing breaking changes and some heartburn for those who want to stay on older versions of the platform and/or have no easy way to upgrade? None of these questions have easy answers – what is clear is that being wedded to the past means being irrelevant in the future. What is also clear is that we need to take some smart risks to move the needle again on the power of our platform, and on the opportunities it offers to people who embrace it.
Even beyond the technology, I think it is time that we revisited how we build DNN and see if the current development model is still the right one for DNN and the community. DNN has been on both ends of the spectrum from a fully open project developed by community members on the core team, to a fairly closed model where DNN Corp was responsible for the vast majority of the development effort. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models; we need to evaluate our success as a product under both development models and make the changes needed to ensure our continued growth.
I will share more details about my thoughts on the future in due course, but here is a snap-shot of some discussions we are having internally and with members of the community:
1. DNN Platform and Community prominence on DNNSoftware.com
2. Technology Roadmap
3. Community growth – both in size and in level of participation
I will go into more details on each of these topics in future posts. I will also soon be presenting to our MVPs to discuss these and other issues. In the meantime, I am interested in what you think. How do you think we can improve the product? What technology should we embrace and which technology should we leave behind? What development model would you like to see us adopt? How can we better serve the community?
Exciting Times Ahead
I am excited about my new role at DNN. I am excited about working with all of you. I look forward to bringing my leadership skills to bear, and in making a difference to the platform, to the community and to the ecosystem. I am positive that with your help, our best days are ahead of us. There is a lot of work to be done but I relish the challenge Navin has given me and look forward to working even more closely with our community to drive this next phase in DNN’s growth.