SD Times NewshoundLast week, I attended EclipseCon 2012 in its new East Coast location. It was a great conference, both in terms of speakers and attendees, and over the three days, I had the pleasure of talking with some of the top dogs in the Eclipse world, both in sessions and at the bar. I also got to learn more about some of the up-and-coming Eclipse projects that I’ve been watching for the past couple years.

With all the great content that was presented at EclipseCon this year, I still found myself attracted to the projects that keep making Eclipse the best Java IDE in the world. Going into the show, I was really excited to learn more about the Eclipse Code Recommenders project, a relatively new project described as such:

The Eclipse Code Recommenders Project was created in early 2011 to tread new paths on how the next generation of IDEs could enable developers to share knowledge with each other over their IDEs and to improve tools like code completion, code-search, and even to enrich existing documentation by leveraging the knowledge of the masses.

What really caught my attention was the “leveraging the knowledge of the masses” idea. With all the great teamwork that goes on in the world of open-source development, I’ve always thought that there must be more we can do to share and work together at a more basic level of development.

In Marcel Bruch’s (project lead for ECR) session, he gave a great overview of ECR, but more importantly, he talked about his vision for the future of this important project. What intrigued me was that he wants ECR to become more than just a simple productivity tool within a developer’s local environment. Instead, he is planning on connecting the tool to a broader community of developers around the world, with the idea of sharing open-source code from other projects and places.
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This idea is really compelling and sets the stage for a whole new level of productivity using Eclipse. So while the demo of the current version of ECR was quite compelling, the idea of getting an in-line code search engine that pulls from other public code repositories around the world gives me the promise of a new level of productivity.

Bruch asked the audience: “Who uses code search engines?” Surprisingly, only a few hands went up of the 120+ people attending the session. With open-source code search engines like koders.com, opensearch.krugle.org, grepcode.com and antepedia.com already available to help developers find and use code, ECR potentially opens up a new opportunity to leverage these vast databases of open-source code in a tightly integrated way within the Eclipse environment.

One of the other things that intrigued me about the project is that there are 60+ students helping to build the software! This kind of approach to innovating and leveraging bright young developers is just the kind of approach needed to think differently about coding. Oh, and the project won the Eclipse Community Award in the “Most Innovative New Feature or Eclipse Project” category.

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