A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to play around with Ruby and naively thought that it would be easy to get started. I’d download Eclipse, and a few Ruby packages that weren’t shipped with MacOS, and then be off to the races. Fat chance. What I thought was going to a leisurely evening of writing sample Ruby apps turned out to be a marathon debugging session, wrestling with dependencies, error messages, and anything else that could have possible gone wrong — before I had the chance to write a lick of my own code. It reminded me of being a sysadmin, poring over log files and reading cryptic StackOverflow posts trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with my setup. It just should not be this hard for someone moderately technical to start coding up a simple app.
Fortunately there are some companies building cloud hosted IDEs (definitely should have started there in retrospect), like eXo, Cloud9 and Kodingen, who will take slot of the “getting started” pain out of your coding experience. Spend less time monkeying around with libraries and dependencies and more time developing cool stuff. I like it.
The other cool thing about cloud hosted IDEs is that it opens up a ton of innovation in terms of 3rd party developers being able to expose their libraries to those IDEs as a web service. Individual users of the IDE could simply select modules and libraries from a service catalog of 3rd party devs, and it would just work, with no hacking or tearing out of ones hair :) I can also see someone making a play to develop some kind of middleware layer where 3rd party Devs could upload their libraries as-is, and that middleware would make the libraries available as a web service to the Cloud IDEs. Maybe github is the right home for that middleware-as-a-service?
I think this is a really interesting space but I’m sure I’m missing some of the nuances. Let me know what I may have overlooked in the comments. I appreciate any and all feedback.