Friday, March 14, 2008

So How Can *I* Use Spaces?

So I got an EclipseCon email telling me I should share my code using this nifty new thing called Spaces. And to be honest - I'd love to use it. But is it just me, or it is only possible to use this service via AOL XDrive? First of all, I have never heard of this service (I mean, who uses AOL outside of the US?), but OK, fine - I figured I'd give it a go.

Well, I tried to set up an account and they only accept US zip codes. What's a poor Canadian supposed to do? Make up a US zip code, and fake phone number. Check. Well, after 5 more minutes and about 10 tries at trying to figure out why it won't accept my username, or password, or captcha input (I'm still not sure which is wrong - it seems to be telling me the captcha is wrong, but it looks right to me...) I'm giving up in disgust. Their website totally sucks. There is no way to check the username availability without typing everything in and seeing if it fails (forcing you to type it all in again), and I can't seem to type in correct information no matter what I do.

So - I *really* want to use the Spaces feature. Honestly I do. But why is it tied to AOL XDrive? Surely there has got to be a better service than this?? What about hooking into something like Google Code or Sourceforge? Henrik's blog suggests there may be Sourceforge support but I don't see it anywhere in my installed version. Am I missing something here? I'm about to just throw it onto my Linux server at home, but it certainly won't stand up to more than a few people downloading at once (although that's probably all I need anyway...).

But wait! I just read Henrik's next post about using instead, along with a fake ZipCode and it worked (after jumping through way too many hoops)! OK, so now I have an XDrive account and AOL or has a lot of information about me (most of it fake). Hmm...this had better be worth it.

Is there anyone else out there using Spaces? It looks like a great idea, but currently seems to be crippled by a crappy back-end. Maybe the Eclipse Foundation should consider providing some storage space for Eclipse-related projects? Either that, or the Spaces project should start supporting other backends very quickly. I'm a fairly patient guy when it comes to this sort of thing (I sign up for a lot of crap), so I can see the majority of people quitting after the first sign-up screen.


Bjorn Freeman-Benson said...

AOL XDrive is just the first "provider adapter". The extension points and APIs are all there to add other providers: we'd love to have you step up and write a Google Code or SourceForge adapter!

(Note that the Eclipse Foundation is not going to provide Spaces back-end storage because we only host Eclipse Projects with the whole IP and development process. Spaces is designed for smaller and/or non-Eclipse-process-conforming efforts, and thus the Foundation is not the right place to host hose.)

Mark Melvin said...

Yes - I'd love to have the time to write one. ;)

I realize that Spaces can be used for *any* type of project but for things like EclipseCon, or...say...future code in the Eclipse Examples Project, an Eclipse-provided storage mechanism would be handy. Of course, that does mean the code would have to be blessed somehow, and that could involve a lot of overhead.

Anyway, kudos to the Spaces team for their efforts. Let's hope others aren't turned off by the AOL XDrive bit.

Chris Aniszczyk (zx) said...

They are still early in development, don't bash them yet. I do see promise in this work too.

Mark Melvin said...

Nobody's bashing! Just musing, that's all.

Mark Melvin said...

Actually, I am bashing - but only the developers who came up with the AOL XDrive signup process. ;o)

Karl Matthias said...

"Let's hope others aren't turned off by the AOL XDrive bit."

... or your blog post...

Mark Melvin said...

Hey, Karl.

I was thinking more along the lines that others would see my post before they tried to sign up. Then when they had the same difficulties I had, they at least would have had a heads up and maybe push through to the end via the site or whatever.

As usual, I guess you can take written things more than one way. I think my post was critical, but focused at AOL's sucky site, not the Spaces project.

My only question towards the Spaces project in particular was their choice of a "first provider adapter" that alienates non-US people. Especially considering this is a pilot project (according to the EclipseCon email presenters got) for sharing EclipseCon code, a *very* global conference.

Although I guess the EclipseCon thing may have been more of an afterthought; like "it would be cool to use this for EclipseCon". In that case, I guess there just wasn't enough time to get together a more global-friendly solution.

At any rate, I certainly applaud the Spaces guys for *their* code sharing utility, and I think that rings true in my original post. I look forward to trying it out, one I get the corporate red tape taken care of so I can post my code.

Robert said...

I lead Personal Media and Community Applications for AOL and Xdrive is one of the products within that business.

With that out of the way, I actually agree with aspects of Mark's comment. The registration process for xdrive should accept any email address and not require fields like zip code and phone number that prevent international registration.

The good news is that we are on our way there. When you register for BlueString, which uses the Xdrive backend, you can use any valid email address. This actually creates an xdrive account. In this registration flow we have eliminated the need for a phone number as well.

In the next release of xdrive, scheduled for April, we will have a new registration path that accepts any legal email address and eliminates both zip code and phone number. The BlueString registration path will be updated a little after that.

So, from a registration perspective we are moving in the direction that Mark identifies. On the rest of the comment..... If we continue to build great applications and do innovative and valuable things like Eclipse Spaces well.... more people will want to use AOL services.

Mark Melvin said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the comments. And I apologize if my original post seemed harsh (it wasn't meant to offend anyone). Next time I'll wait an hour or so before posting in frustration.

So it seems I now find myself in the relatively new position of having my foot occupying the general vicinity of my mouth. ;) As I was figuring out my EclipseCon schedule, I just noticed last night that AOL is actually going to be presenting a talk along with Cloudsmith and Bug Labs and it looks quite cool (I'll definitely be attending that talk)!

So I guess I should have done a bit more homework before posting. I didn't realize AOL was actually working with Eclipse in getting this stuff going. I just *assumed* (and you know what happens when...yeah...yeah) the choice of a first provider was somewhat arbitrary.

At any rate, I'm glad this generated a bit of discussion (and perhaps even some improvements). I hope to meet everyone at EclipseCon!