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RootsMagic Software Development Process

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#1 miams


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Posted 20 March 2019 - 11:39 PM



Before I begin, I'd like to preface this request.  I've been a RM user for about 8 years, an amateur genealogist for about 25, and for the last 20 years I've worked supporting software development for the Federal government. My views tend to be influenced by open source software development and Agile best practices.


I'm guessing the company may not be in favor of these ideas due to competitive reasons. I ask that you take a fresh assessment of those assumptions.  Genealogy software is among the stickiest products I can imagine.  Users just don't want to move to competitor products given their time investment. Also, I don't see competition in the desktop genealogy software market like there was 15 years ago. As to the upside, as evident from this community, RM users are tremendously invested in the RM product. They bring experience and knowledge a small company such as yours can leverage to save money while at the same time increasing the value of the product. Win - Win.


Treating the RM user community as stakeholders


1) Provide transparency to the Feature Roadmap.  Here is an example:  https://trello.com/b...sfinder-roadmap.  Only authorized staff can prioritize and promote issues across the board. But this provides users the ability to plan appropriately and provide (hopefully) constructive feedback.


2) Similarly, provide an open and transparent way for users to vote in favor of particular features. In Agile terms, this provides a data driven approach for the "product owner" (the company) to quantify value for "user stories" (product features defined in terms of the value they provide the user).  Value + Level of Effort will presumably drive the prioritization of the user story backlog.


3) Use one of the online services where users can contribute money to specific feature requests. RM is a relatively small user community so I'm not sure how successful this will be in raising a meaningful amount of money, but it is a no cost, no risk experiment that only provides upside.


4) I suspect Renee must spend a significant amount of better-used time just documenting and tracking feature requests. This could be off-boarded to a select committee of volunteers. The company would still maintain complete control of them. But I think the continuous process of grouping and documenting them would be happily maintained by some volunteers.


Adoption of a more Continuous Delivery type model


1) A software development principle is features have no value until they are adopted by the users.  Waiting to bundle up the features using an infrequent release schedule is analogous to company maintaining a much bigger product inventory than it needs to operate. 


2) Make beta releases available to licensed users.  They will appreciate access to features earlier while accepting the risk they may be buggy and will prove free labor in the form of testing and ideas how to address the issues. Everyone does that these days because it reduces software development costs.


Continuity Planning 


1) I suspect Bruce has been developing software longer than I have, and I go back to the days of CP/M with 8" inch floppy disks.  And at least for me, my genealogy work is literally a lifetime investment. I want the value of my genealogy data to outlive me. At some point the company may move on from developing RootsMagic. I hope the company will consider open-sourcing the software at that time. Even better would be a public commitment to do that when and if the company moves on from supporting development of RM. My hope is for RootsMagic software to live on and avoid the slow painful death competitor products have experienced the last 20 years. 



Finally, I want to convey my appreciation for the great product you provide at a very reasonable price. I know it is a labor of love for everyone that works at RootsMagic.


There are two main reasons I selected RM years ago.  First is RM's use of SQLite and a publicly available schema. For the amount of time I invest in generating the data, I want to make sure I have full access and control of that data. And second, the fact that RM is a desktop program is a huge benefit for me. Again, it is about me maintaining access and control of my data, both now and in the future.





#2 JimDavis79


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Posted 21 March 2019 - 06:38 AM

"Miams"/ Michael, well said! 


Some years ago I forced a users group onto a software development organization (abeit a Navy-only program), and watched the quality of the product increase greatly within a year.  I have been on software configuration control boards many times for federal and State programs.  I've spent lots of time developing ship control software as an acquisition manager, and have watched the "big bang" development theory fail repeatedly.  I like your idea of point releases and RAD for beta releases.  I worry that after RM8 releases that the passion being shown now by users will ebb, that users will sort themselves around the new product (some leaving) and that the RM company will continue as before.  I really worry about succession planning, so the idea of open sourcing the product after sunset truly appeals.

Best regards, Jim

"When you shake my family tree, nuts fall out."

#3 JCK74656


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Posted 22 March 2019 - 11:16 AM






Agree with both of you and glad to learn I am not a minority of one, the methods you describe would be my path to any goal.