Communitas Digitalis

(C) 1998 Andrew C. Stone

    It was ten years ago this summer when the Usenet news groups comp.sys.mac.* were all abuzz about the NeXT great thing. Version 0.8 of NeXTStep, the grandmother of Mac OS X Server, was being shown at select campuses around the country, infecting those who saw it with cyber lust. New Mexico, being a bit out of the way, didn't receive its dog and pony show until the following spring. However, the effect was the same - those of us into Computer Science and object oriented programming knew that the NeXT machine was, as it turns out, a decade ahead of its time.
    After all, there were not very many people who had email accounts and read News back then. The NeXT Community differed from its predecessors because the user group, spread thinly across the globe, was tightly connected via the newsgroup. Whether you had a hardware question about cabling modems, a sysadmin request for UUCP configuration information, a user request for "How do I do X in Icon", or a programmatic query on how to use the AppKit, your answer would be forthcoming in moments from the gurus participating in the newsgroup. And more than likely, you'd be reading news in NewsGrazer - Jayson Adams' free news reader for the NeXT.
    Perhaps because the original market was academia, where altruistic values reign supreme, a philosophy of sharing emerged as a core belief of this new cyber community. The FTP sites soon filled with new apps and apps ported from standard UNIX sources, many of which were freeware. A digital newspaper from Georgia, the BUZZNug, was created from contributors around the Net. The New York based user group, GUN, under the direction of Tim Reed, began a free online database of icons.
    From these original efforts, new ones have sprung. The
FTP sites continue to get new, cool apps. You can join the mailing lists available at to keep up with the latest without being overwhelmed by the noise of newsgroups. And there are at least two collaborative endeavors that carry the original spirit of the community into the next millennium: the GNUstep Project and Don Yachtman's MiscKit.
GNUstep is an attempt to provide an Object-Oriented application development framework and tool set for use on a wide variety of computer platforms. GNUstep is based on the original OpenStep specification provided by NeXT, Inc. (now Apple, and currently referred to as the Yellow APIs).
    The GNUstep Project is minimally our back door should Apple ever drop the ball in regards to the Yellow Box API. In the best case, it means that Yellow Box developers will be able to deploy their applications to a much wider audience, including the
Linux and the [Free | Net | Open]BSD worlds.
MiscKit truly embodies the community model - reusable objects developed by various donors which can be used on commercial products, free of charge. Recently, I needed a TableView subclass which allows the user to reorder rows. I asked around, but no one had written one yet. After haqueing one out, I submitted it to the MiscKit so others wouldn't have to suffer. However the real benefit comes when another developer uses your code, improves it, and then resubmits a better version. Recently, StepWise's webmaster, Scott Anguish has been tweaking the TableView subclass so that it gives more responsive user feedback. Where else can your code get more correct and robust while you sleep?
    I encourage you to learn more about these undertakings and become an active participant in our extended digital family.

FLASH! Web Objects Developers: check out