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Introduction

I've been using Maven for about 6 months now, and more recently I have been trying to integrate it into our team software development environment for production use. This is a starting place to reflect on the process and make a few notes to other who attempt this too.

Retrospective

About October 2010 I began to formulate a new architecture to replace some of our legacy product infrastructure.By December there seemed to be enough buy-in from the rest of the team to take things seriously and do some serious technical investigation. Our manager decided that if we were going to do this then we would have to make a decision by the end of January 2011 on how to proceed. I spent most of January implementing technology proof of concept experiments to support my architectural choice.

Along the way I had to rapidly learn a lot of new technologies I had no real experience with. One of the most memorable was Hibernate, because it was so excessively difficult to do the most simple basic things. I used Google to search for some good "getting started" examples, but most of the example were atrocious, and the few good example there were all required you use Maven. I really had no idea what Maven was, I had only heard the term a few times, but it really pissed me off having to learn a whole new technology before I could simply write "Hello World" in Hibernate. Eventually I figured out on my own how to write a simple "Hello World" program in Hibernate, but it is still sad I could find no such examples via Google.

Eventually January was over and the team settled on my proposal and I had to take proof of concept code to the next level - proof of technology. I always promised myself I would investigate Maven further because every where I search it kept popping up and people kept raving about how wonderful it was. I settled into actually beginning a completely new project with Maven and started with the Sonotype m2e plug-in for Eclipse - mostly because I despise editing XML files. Getting started was not easy. While the Sonotype manuals for Maven and Eclipse appeared well written it turned out they were more pretty than useful - but they were still enormously better than anything else I found. I was able to get started fairly quickly with Maven, but it was incredibly stressful.

Astronaut's View

After actively using Maven, and associated technology, for about 6 months I have come to the following conclusions:

  • I truly understand the excitement people have over Maven. Conceptually it is an extremely innovative tool and approach to things.
  • One of the things I like most is the 'convention over configuration' attitude about things. Don't give people choices and unnecessary flexibility, just encourage everyone to do the common things all the same way.
  • When I read how people in the open source community faced the challenge of moving from one open source project to another, and they were all different, I could appreciate how much of a burden it was having to grok yet another software project. Maven seemed to address this problem directly.
  • Because I was hard pressed to deliver a lot of promised functionality with scant resources, I had to depend on open source artifacts like we never had before. The dependance management in Maven supports this extensively well. At first it was incredibly easy to Google for solutions for problems I had and then find their Maven coordinates. However, it took me several months to grok the concept of artifact coordinates - there is no documentation that I have found that explains it clearly.
  • I learned to really appreciate the life-cycle approach to things. At first it was hard not doing things procedurally in terms of Ant, and to learn to trust the more declarative style of Maven, but now I really appreciate it.

OK, if you are squeamish about criticism of Maven - stop reading now. Click the back button on your browser and move on. You have been warned!

  • From the broadest perspective Maven is too high in functionality and too short on usability. No offense intended - but it appears to be designed by hackers for hackers.
  • Sonotype seemed to have stepped up to the usability issues with both free and value added products. I commend them, but there is still a long way to go.
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