General Rules When Building OSS Libraries

In the last couple years I’ve built a few libraries for public and internal consumption. Mostly these have been internal things, but they are not much different from OSS libraries.

So far the most popular libarary I’ve released open-sourced is Cake.SqlServer but I’m mostly proud of NSaga though it is not as used, mostly due to lack of marketing effort on my part. Both of these are still on v1.x though these are young libraries – both under 1 year of age at the moment of writing.

In a sense libraries for internal consumption are easier to build – you can break things and then fix the broken things in the downstream projects (or tell people how to fix). If your library is publicly released you need to be much more careful in how you handle breaking changes and how you define your public API surface. Semantic versioning is supposed to help you manage the breaking changes, but you still need to minimise the possibilities of breaking things for other people. If you are not careful and break a lot of stuff, people will be pissed off and eventually move away from your library.

While building OSS libraries I had to excersise a lot of care to cater for wider audience and rules I draw below are mostly coming from OSS. So here they are:

.Net Framework Versions

You need to consider what framework version you build for. Nature of .Net framework – every version is an increment on the previous, so library built for v4.5 will work in v4.6.1. But not the other way. So you need to pick the lowest version of .Net you’d like to work with and stick with it. I think it is fare to say that no currently developed project should be below v4.5. There is no reason to stay on lower version and upgrade from v3.5 is relatively painful. So my rule of thumb is to target v4.5 as a baseline, unless I need framework features that are only available in later versions.

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