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IronPython not so appealing

While it seemed good news that Jim Hugunin released another version of IronPython there are still some questions to be answered about the project going forward.

Right now, not all of IronPython 0.7 will run on Mono, due to dependence on certain .NET 2.0 features. However, I'm told some changes are going into Mono's development branch to remedy this. Perhaps more seriously, third-party patches won't be considered until after the 1.0 release. Hugunin encourages people to be involved, but only in filing good bug reports and feature requests. And when doing this involves a .NET passport, and using the GotDotNet web forums rather than good old mailing lists, it's a bit of a disincentive.

Added to that, there's some uncertainty about the freeness of IronPython's license. While it looks free, it's got the same name, "Shared Source", as several Microsoft licenses that definitely are not free.

So, a few things to be sorted out, and we're left in no uncertainty that it will all happen pretty much at Jim Hugunin's discretion. Although I applaud his stated intention that "IronPython is going to be run as a very transparent and interactive project", I'm afraid the track record so far isn't great. After the 0.6 release last year at OSCON, plenty of people invested time in experimenting and even sending some patches to the mailing list. Such efforts were mostly completely blanked.

I dare say that to some people coming from the Windows world, my complaints may seem odd. But from the Linux and GNOME traditions I spend my time in, the way IronPython is being run is unlikely to bring it much of a supportive community.

Note that I'm not making a personal attack on Hugunin here: he has good reasons, explained on the mailing list, for doing what he's doing. I am simply observing that the consequences of these actions will be to turn off a number of smart people from the free software world.

A final point worth making is that IronPython is not the sole keeper of the flame for dynamic languages in .NET. Maybe a year ago it had that accolade, but now at least Smallscript and Boo are solid examples of dynamic languages in .NET, and appear to be more mature projects.

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