After the publication of the raodmap of Delphi (see my second-last post), there are been a flur of thoughts in the Delphi community. Among others, Allen Bauer in his blog post [Passionate producers = passionate consumers] and Nick Hodges in two posts [Allen makes me swoon] and [Dignity is Deadly] have covered a few relevant points. Some of the readers comments to these posts and other blog posts have provided further insight. Let me recap some of the ideas (in my own words):

  • In trying to be professional to enter the high-end consulting and enterprise market, Borland has lost its barbarian attitude of the early days. This might be OK for selling ALM and Together, but not for selling Delphi to its dedicated (or should I say devoted) community.
  • Delphi is not an IDE, like JBuilder. Sell the Delphi compiler with no libraries as a VS add-in, and you've killed it. Sell an IDE with a compiler with no libraries, and you've killed it. Sell IDE + libraries + compiler but loose the community (say, with buggy ALM-driven products), and you risk of killing it as well. The community is an integral prt of the Delphi experience, as I metnioned in my Why Delphi entry introducing this blog.
  • Delphi is a passion, not only a business. This has been hardly understood by any Borland CEO after Philippe Kahn (which was there before the Delphi days, but shipped Delphi version -8.0, that is Turbo Pascal). And marketing rarely addressed this, with the exclusion of some recent operations like the delphi super heros... (see Jason Vokes blog).
  • In a separate discussion I've had recently, I noticed how the Delphi community is getting older and older in age. Few young developers join it.

Now, what could be done about these issues? As I posted to Allen's blog:

Borland should shepard and help building this community, help the Delphi -related open source projects in any possible way (like you are doing with fastmm, fastcode...), keep the community gurus in the business loop (I seems to be unable even to be a formal Borland partner, these days, and that's not just me): with the last printed magazine going online only Borland needs to put effort (and money) into this!

Let me expand on this a little. It is true Borland has its BDN site, which is nice, but the amount of information published could be better if Borland had more people looking after it and more money. I remember I was involved when it started and there was a dedicated editor, a team of authors providing weekly articles, and more. Now there is handly a person of the small DevRel team for it. Too little (even the DevRel team is doing a lot with so little).

Community involvement via open source projects is now getting back with FastCode and FastMM, but many other communities have been somewhat abandoned (JEDI, to mention one). It is true that not every project is worth being pushed and some communities see a reduced anhusiams, but the involvement in an open source Delphi project is and would be a great community building tool. Another are the newsgroups, but these have always been superb in Borland's history, from the CompuServe forums (mentioning which I'm revealing my age) to the current newsgroups. Also thanks for TeamBers. I see the same community involvement in the Italian Delphi newsgroup I help running.

Another isssue, related with the age problem (but not only) is the lack of distribution of a free or entry level version of Delphi. Make it a GPL-only (all the project you build with it must be free and come with full public source) or use any other constraint (but not the silly ones, like removing a few components people can find for free), but let any developer in the world and any It student have a legal copy of Delphi for free or a very small fee, to play with and to help in open source projects. Borland is the company that was started by a crazy guy who sold a pascal compiler for 50$ , a quarter of the price of its most known competitor (Microsoft), providing a better tool. MS Pascal is now long forgotten...

Finally, the keep the gurus in the loop might seem a self-interesting recommandation and it is indeed. If it wasn't for the passion me and most other Delphi gurus would have moved elsewhere. I've started training on Delphi a few months after it was released, and I've never been able to be a formal Borland training partner: but Cary Jensen or Bob Swart (just to mention two others) are in a similar situation. Is Borland making money with its Delphi training program? I really doubt. If they are not making money, why they keep stumping on the feet of their best friends? This is a mistery I'll never fully understand.

Now the Delphi Magazine is becoming an online publishtion, the last two versions of Delphi have seen a book each in the US market... I'd be worried and would try to invert this trend. Now that we need more printed material. Online is equally OK. But the problem is that if I browse the last (still on paper) issue of the Delphi Magazine I see no (zero, zilch, nada) Borland ad! And this is the only printed Delphi magazine left in the world, AFAIK! I have 3,000 pages of Delphi material I'm sitting on: If BDN makes me a good offer they'll probably use a yearly budget!
Well, you can see from this post. I'm getting passionate as well... it is a passion for Delphi and for its community, in which I have countless friends. We live in a Delphi world!