Matt Asay ponders "what happens to the open-source development community if the world moves to cloud-based computing?".
His blog provides an interesting angle on a discussion I had over the weekend with my 12 year old son.
My son is hooked on the ROBLOX Virtual Playworld, which is a free online Multiplayer game where you play in user-created worlds with blocks. When I asked my son what he likes about Roblox, he said: "Roblox combines Legos and scripting...two of my favorite things!". My reaction was "Scripting? Show me what you mean.".
So he proceeded to show me Roblox Studio, a development environment where you can create your own customized "Place" and publish it to the Roblox servers. It's actually a pretty cool development environment. Roblox enables you to customize the behavior of elements in your virtual world via the open source Lua scripting language.
For example, you can add special "admin" doors to buildings that only let in people with the right permissions. Actually, my son likes setting up the door so all people without the necessary permissions explode upon contact with the door. Typical 12 year old. :-)
Anyhow, there's extensive online help, a community forum, a developer's blog, and the ability to freely share Places, Objects, and Scripts.
It is cool to watch my son develop his online world; he scours through the shared online scripts, grabs a script that sort of does what he wants, modifies it to suit his needs, tests and perfects it, then uploads it to the server. He laughs out loud when one of his friends explodes upon contact with his new "admin" door.
So I will ask a question in response to Matt's original question:
Is Roblox, and other online destinations like it, grooming the next generation of open source developers?
UPDATE ON FEBRUARY 6, 2008:
I wrote "ROBLOX Redux" in response to a followon blog written by one of the ROBLOX developers that details the corallary between the ROBLOX model and the open source model.