Questions & Answers with Sencha's James Pearce

by | April 2011 | AJAX Open Source Web Development

Believe in Open Source

 

 

 

 

James Pearce

James Pearce - James is a technologist, writer, developer & practitioner who has been working with the mobile web for over a decade. He is Senior Director of Developer Relations at Sencha. Previously he was the CTO at dotMobi and has a background in mobile startups, telecoms infrastructure and management consultancy. He speaks extensively on the topic of mobile web development, and has written books for both Wiley and Wrox.

James led the development of mobiForge, DeviceAtlas and ready.mobi, and is the creator of tinySrc, the WordPress Mobile Pack, WhitherApps, modernizr-server and confess.js.





1.    Packt: Firstly, I would like to thank you for taking part in this Q&A and we expect great things from the Sencha community for 2011. How important do you think the various communities of Open Source projects are to the progression and growth of its software?

James Pearce: We have a fantastic community – something over 1 million developers worldwide – and we’re proud to work with them. Our libraries are specifically designed to be extensible in an OO-style way (with community-authored controls, widgets and so on), and we use GPL and MIT licensing throughout (although we do also provide dual commercial and OEM licenses on certain products). And importantly, our JavaScript libraries are often used in conjunction with other web software – content management systems, design systems, mobile frameworks and so on – so we are very comfortable in working with other communities that need to interact with ours.
   
2.    Packt: For those that do not know, how long has Sencha been around? How did the creation of Sencha come about?

James Pearce: Sencha was previously known as Ext JS, a company formed several years ago with a fork of Yahoo’s YUI JavaScript library, and providing product support and professional services for developers creating rich internet applications. In 2010, the company earned VC funding from Sequoia Capital and Radar Partners, and was renamed to Sencha. At the same time the company launched Sencha Touch – the world’s first HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript framework for building rich web applications for modern mobile devices. These are now our flagship framework products, and are complemented with tools, services and a range of exciting, world-class open-source lab projects

3.    Packt:
How would you describe the Sencha community?

James Pearce: Very vibrant, and very loyal. Our forums are always a busy place, with tips, advice, problem solving and – yes – bug reports :) Our annual SenchaCon event is a sell-out, and we’re looking at more regular events to cater for the worldwide demand. Groups all over the world run local meetups, and our SenchaDevs developer directory grew incredibly quickly beyond our wildest expectations.

Generally our community is very professional and polite. We have a strong following in the enterprise space, where our frameworks are very popular – so perhaps we’re a little different from a lot of regular Open Source communities in this respect.

4.    Packt: What would you describe as the current strengths and weaknesses of the Sencha community?

James Pearce: One challenge we face is the huge bell-curve in skill sets. Sencha Touch and Ext JS can be very powerful and experienced developers do astonishing things with them. But at the other end of the spectrum, we want to make it easy for new entrants to the web application world. One of our challenges is working out how to smooth this learning curve and use the existing skills of the ‘advanced’ community to bring newcomers up to speed. But it’s happening around the world, with meetups, training and workshops and so on, so I’m very optimistic.

5.    Packt: How many code contributions does the Sencha project receive on a monthly basis?

James Pearce: It’s hard to generalize. We use GitHub for all our projects, and for several projects, we have thousands of followers and hundreds of forks. It’s also a tricky question because we’re avidly hiring at the moment. Several core community members are in the midst of joining the team as employees – and of course their contributions are going through the roof!

6.    Packt: How has Sencha encouraged its community to evangelize the software?

James Pearce: I'm always amazed by how fervent our developers are without any prompting. I think it might be something to do with the satisfaction of being able to build incredible apps with web technology – once you’ve seen what can actually be done with HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, you want to tell as many people as possible about it. We do also provide assistance and shwag for local community groups who want to get meetups off the ground and run their own training workshops, but frankly our community doesn’t need much encouragement!

7.    Packt: 2010 was a big year for the Sencha community, how does the project expect to improve in 2011 and build on the growth experienced?

James Pearce: Good question. In 2010 we had to work with the community to understand how and why we were evolving our business and embracing mobile as the next big frontier for the web. In 2011, the reality that the mobile web is a great long-term future is starting to be well accepted, and we need to make sure we help our users (Sencha Touch in particular) work with that opportunity. The Ext JS project is about to reach a significant milestone too: v4, and we’ll need to work sympathetically with our users and community members to go through the upgrade and re-education process that that will bring.

8.    Packt: as you may know, we’ve recently announced that we’ve hit the landmark of over $300k donated to Open Source projects, how important are donations of this kind to the Sencha community?

James Pearce: We’re in a fortunate position: since we provide commercial services (such as training and support) for our software, we are able to maintain the project and support the community ourselves. For us, it is our community’s time and enthusiasm that are the most valuable donation. Nevertheless, your support is invaluable for many types of project and you’re doing a great job helping keep the Open Source ecosystem healthy.

9.    Packt: We specialize in refining and distilling advice, provided by the community around Open Source projects, into easy to follow specialist information. How important is the sharing of information for the Sencha community? How do you plan to improve on your role as the hub of distributing information for the Sencha community in 2011?

James Pearce: Yes, this is a big area for us. We want to make our projects as approachable as possible to newcomers to web technology in general – and you can never have too many getting-started guides and introductory stuff. That said, there is so much going on in the mobile and HTML5 space right now, that a lot of our work is just about educating users about what’s possible in contemporary web environments. We live in exciting times!

10.    Packt:
Thanks for your time James, lastly what projects, if any, are you/Sencha working on at the moment?


James Pearce:
Ah… you really need to check out some of the cool stuff in our Sencha Labs area! My favorite right now is the PhiloGL project that makes it easy for JavaScript developers to hook into WebGL and hardcore graphics capabilities – there are some cool demos. But some of the vector-graphics stuff is fantastic too (e.g. Raphael and InfoVis) – together with CSS3, these sorts of things demonstrate possibilities that previously required proprietary browser plugins. The web is a changing place and we hope we can be a helpful part of its evolution.

To read more about Sencha, go to www.sencha.com

About the Author :


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