Hollywood could learn a lot from software devs, says GitLab founder

Everyone's a critic? It'll be worse when everyone's a director

Hollywood will be turning to the worlds of DevOps and Continuous Delivery to make movies in the future - at least they will if GitLab is right about where developer collaboration tools are heading.

Sytse Sijbrandij, co-founder and CEO at GitLab, emphasised the product’s Continuous Integration and collaboration features when the vendor launched version 8.5 of the platform last month.

“Nobody else has [CI] integrated in the interface,” he said. Gitlab relied on Travis, he said, while Atlassian used Bamboo.

At the same time, he emphasised the continued focus on collaboration in the GitLab product, including the launch of Todos. As the firm puts it: ”Whenever you’re assigned to an issue or merge request or have someone mention you, a new to-do is created automatically. Then when you’ve made a change, like replying to a comment or updating an issue, the to-do is automatically set to Done. You can also manually mark to-dos as donelists.”

The point is that “developers need only reply to one query, and other references are resolved, so that they don’t continue to receive messages about issues they’ve already resolved.” In a similar vein, users can rank issues in terms of “votes” while it has tweaked the issue sidebar, to make it “smart, prettier and more accessible”.

But at what point does the focus on collaboration mean GitLab is less a software development management product, and more a general collaboration tool?

“We want to make it a tool to collaborate on any digital product,” said Sijbrandij. He said software developers were now exploring models “Where everyone can contribute by offering a suggestion - you don’t have to be invited, as long as you can read what’s out there you can make a suggestion.”

“That’s the difference between Google Docs where you have to be given edit rights and Git, where any developer in the world if [they] see a project ... can make a suggestion.

“Any digital project is always a collaboration,” he said. Which if nothing else, shows he’s never seen how The Reg works.

Sijbrandij said that O’Reilly uses Gitlab as the back end for its book publishing business, while the legal profession was using the product, as was the gaming industry.

“Over time more and more formats are going to be open to suggestions,” Sijbrandij claimed. “So for example Ashton Kutcher is an investor in us and he and I talked about the movie editing process, which is still like you lock two people up in a studio.

“If you change the format in which you describe how the movie’s edited, fades in etc, then suddenly it becomes a format that’s also open to contributions. So that’s our mission, making sure everyone can contribute.”

So, perhaps, we’ll see the end of over-indulgent director’s cuts - or the beginning of culture by committee. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether either sounds like a good idea.

“We hope people will leverage GitLab for all professions but that’s the dream. This is something all knowledge workers need, to collaborate and [we hope] it becomes the Microsoft Office (of collaboration).”

This leap into the creative and other industries wouldn’t need any fundamental changes to the underlying product, Sijbrandij said. “We always do the gradual incremental change but at a very rapid pace.

“We see people starting to use GitLab for these alternative workflows - we need to hear their feedback and make it better.”

Much of this innovation was coming from people who are collaborating with the community edition of the product, he said, “And where it makes sense, we’ll make sure to apply those innovations to GitLab itself and make it better.”

As for GitLab’s revenues, it’s seems safe to say it’s traditional software development organisations that will be paying for the product for the foreseeable future.

Sijbrandij said the firm has about 1,000 paying customers, out of its user base of around 100,000 organisations. Once a company hits around 100 devs, that’s when it starts looking at the enterprise edition, he said.

“They use GitLab for a while, they’re happy with it, but it’s become such a critical asset that they need some of the features of the enterprise edition and they want support and that’s when they reach out to us.” ®


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