Retrospective on Marten at 2 Years Old

I made the very first commit to Marten two years ago this week. Looking at the statistics, it’s gotten just shy of 2,000 commits since then from almost 60 contributors. It’s not setting any kind of world records for usage, but it’s averaging a healthy (for a .Net OSS project) 100+ downloads a day.

Marten was de facto sponsored by my shop because we intended all along to use it as a way to replace RavenDb in our ecosystem with Postgresql. Doing Marten out in the open as an open source project hosted in GitHub has turned out to be hugely advantageous because we’ve had input, contributions, and outright user testing from so many external folks before we even managed to put Marten into our biggest projects. Arguably — and this frustrates me more than a little bit — Marten has been far more successful in other shops that in my own.

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how the Marten community came together and how much positive contribution we’ve gotten on new features, documentation, and answering user questions in our Gitter room. At this point, I don’t feel like Marten is just my project anymore and that we’ve genuinely got a healthy group of contributors and folks answering user questions (which is contributing greatly to my mental health).

Early adopters are usually the best users to deal with because they’re more understanding and patient than the folks that come much later when and if your tool succeeds. There’s been a trend that I absolutely love in Marten where we’ve been able to collect a lot of bug reports as a pull request with failing tests that show you exactly what’s wrong. For a project that’s so vulnerable to permutation problems, that’s been a life send. Moreover, we’ve had enough users using it in lots of different things that’s led to the discovery and resolution of a lot of functionality and usability problems.

I’m a little bit disappointed by the uptake in Marten usage, because I think it’s hugely advantageous for developer productivity over ORM’s like Entity Framework and definitely more productive in many problem domains than using a relational database straight up. I don’t know if that’s mostly because the .Net community just isn’t very accepting of tools like this that are outside of the mainstream, we haven’t been able to break through in terms of promoting it, or if it just isn’t that compelling to the average .Net developer. I strongly suspect that Marten would be far more successful if it had been built on top of Sql Server, and we might test that theory if Sql Server ever catches up to Postgresql in terms of JSON and Javascript support (it’s not even close yet).

For some specific things:

  • Postgresql is great for developers just out of the sheer ease of installing it in developer or testing environments
  • I thought going into Marten that the Linq support would be the most problematic thing. After working on the Linq support for quite awhile, I now think that the Linq support is the most problematic and time consuming thing to work on and it’s likely that folks will never stop coming up with new usage scenarios
  • The Linq support would be so much easier and probably more performant when Postgresql gets their proposed JsonPath querying feature. Again, I don’t think that Sql Server’s JSON support is adequate to support Marten’s feature set, but they at least went for JsonPath in their Json querying.
  • A lot of other people contributed here too, but Marten has been a great learning experience on asynchronous code that’s helping me out quite a bit in other projects
  • The event sourcing feature has been a mixed bag for me. My shop hasn’t ended up adopting it, so I’m not dogfooding that work at all — but guess what seems to be the most popular part of Marten to the outside world? The event sourcing support wouldn’t be viable if we didn’t have so much constructive feedback and help from other people.
  • I think it was advantageous to have the documentation done very early and constantly updated as we went
  • After my FubuMVC flop, I swore that if I tried to do another big OSS project that I’d try much harder to build community, document it early, and promote it more effectively. To that end, you can see or hear more about Marten on DotNetRocks, the NoSQL podcast, the Cross Cutting Concerns podcast, a video on Channel 9Herding Code, a recent conversation on Hanselminutes, and a slew of blog posts as we went.

Let my close by thanking the Marten community. I might fight burnout occasionally or get grumpy about the internal politics around Marten at work, but y’all have been fantastic to interact with and I really enjoy the Marten community.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Retrospective on Marten at 2 Years Old

  1. Pingback: The Morning Brew - Chris Alcock » The Morning Brew #2443

  2. Pingback: Dew Drop - October 16, 2017 (#2582) - Morning Dew

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s