This is another product from the folks behind WixD. What I like about these people is the amount of work they put in on the product websites and blog — that is a very good, cheap and effective way of generating good PR.
Workspace is in very early alpha but might be handy for disparate development teams working in multi-lingual web environments. They let you connect to a number of FTP sites, and edit code on those files from within an integrated web-based editor. It has all the “cool AJAX goodness” that you see in Meebo and others.
From their blog, it seems like more than a thousand people are testing the workspace from all over the world. That, is oddly interesting.
Now for my brutally honest review (and remember, I could be proven wrong by your market and that’s ok):
Strictly from the point of view of “what pain does it solve?” I dont see one…yet.
I can’t use this to maintain production level systems because I wouldn’t ever want to tweak code directly on production machines.
I can’t use this within a LAN / shared dev environment because the cost for me to login to a website to get to my files becomes more than the benefit of easier file access.
Finally, I cannot see this product competing with time-tested IDEs as well.
That said, there might be a bright future for Workspace
Here is what I could suggest the workspace folks to consider putting into the product to make it more compelling (if they aren’t thinking about this already).
For Production Systems:
Dont just connect to an FTP — connect to the ‘environment’ or ‘workspace’ in itself.
When someone connects workspace to a production level environment, workspace should automatically create a “staging environment” copy on their own servers which can be fully tested and simulated.
Then people could tweak files and run and test code, all the while giving them a *safe local staging copy* to test for errors.
When the coding is done, click a “Ready for Production” button. However, this button will not just copy files, but execute a workflow.
The button would send a request to the SQA / SCM person, who can approve / reject the release and also schedule a particular time window in order to conduct the release.
When the release is finally done, workspace manages version controls on it as well and could ping web services when a new version is published.
Why would this be more compelling?
The bigger pains for dev teams that are not adequately served by current IDEs can be synchronizing production (remote) and staging (local) environments, , communications and negotiations during a SQA / SCM workflow, and version maintenance of production systems.
In addition to this you are automatically creating a local staging backup of production code.
If your users trust you as far as hosting that backup yourself, they may have an incentive to use Workspace for maintenance of production systems.
If they do not trust your hosting of the backup, then make Workspace a download-and-deploy-on-lan product.
For Dispersed Work Teams
Think Workspace + Meebo + Wikis.
The problem to solve (maybe globally, but important for Pakistan) is to let coders sit next to each other “virtually” to work through some tough code or problem.
Side note: This I’ve only seen in Pakistan so far, where a group of 3-4 coders will all be sitting starting at one screen trying to ‘figure out an issue’.
For that you’d have to create not just a MEEBO style collab platform but also link the code to the specific tasks from basecamp or specific Design Doc.
In that case you could become a collaborative coding environment.
Try opening up the platform to third parties. Create a webservice component as well as a plugin architecture and let it loose in the open-source community, and lets see what the world can create out of it in some time.
The strength of what you guys have is a clean easy-to-use front-end for coding. What you should do now is to figure out how to use that front-end to simply complex “backend” tasks, by letting the interface be a wrapper to existing tools plus some value-adds, rather than a replacement of them.
Your value-adds must be enough to keep people coming back to an online hosted service, but those value-adds doesn’t necessarily have to be made by you (could be made by an open-source community).
Finally, most of the above is from the perspective of “making a good service for humanity”. If you want to make money out of it as well then clearly chalk out your markets. It will help you prioritize your work around how you intend to make money one day.
Good luck and go make Pakistan proud.
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