Friday, February 17, 2006


Eiffel History: Eiffel Liberty Journal

One of Eiffel's most prolific activists from the mid-90s to 2002 was Geoff Eldridge from Australia. He spent most of his spare time hanging out in places like comp.lang.eiffel spreading information to help people to use Eiffel.

After the demise of Eiffel Outlook magazine, Geoff decided that the Eiffel community still needed a magazine, but that it should be online instead of paper-based. With that in mind, he talked a dozen or so Eiffel notables into writing articles for the first issue, and he soon published it on a website at the University of Technology, Sydney.

The magazine was named "Eiffel Liberty", inspired by the fact that Gustav Eiffel had designed the framework for both the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. The word Liberty also reflected that Geoff had visions of helping to "set Eiffel free" from the chains that were restraining it.

The first couple of issues of Eiffel Liberty were very popular, and Geoff moved them across to his newly-registered domain where he continued to publish a new issue every two months or so.

The increased webspace, and availability of scripting tools, allowed Geoff to expand the scope of the site considerably, and soon Eiffel Liberty was hosting a huge amount of content besides Eiffel Liberty Journal. Geoff's interest in Object Technology featured strongly, and as a result the site gained widespread readership beyond the Eiffel community.

As Geoff's interests broadened, he also covered scripting languages, methodology, functional programming, extreme programming, software quality and componentry. Geoff also latched on to the burgeoning interest in open source software and featured it strongly.

Despite these broadening interests, Geoff kept up the Eiffel content. He maintained GUERL, Geoff's Eiffel Resource Locator which had links to every possible resource useful to practitioners of Eiffel. In time, this overflowed into the OO Soapbox where links to other languages and technologies were featured.

As if this wasn't enough, Geoff also introduced ELJ Daily, a regular posting of the latest snippets relating to Eiffel and Object Technology. Today we'd call this a blog, but the word hadn't been invented yet. Indeed, Geoff was one of the world's first bloggers.

All this time too, Geoff was also writing open source Eiffel software and inspiring others to do the same. Talk about a powerhouse! He was also having to pay a sizeable chunk of his own cash for hosting costs and bandwidth. He never carried ads on the site.

As the site grew, Geoff and others referred to it good-naturedly by a number of alternative acronyms, including Extremely Large Jumble, which it had certainly become. It was a very useful and much-appreciated jumble nonetheless. The nickname caught on, and soon the homepage itself carried the new slogan.

But all was not well. Geoff felt that he wasn't getting much support from the Object community. He contrasted this with his other interest, photography, where he found the online communities to be highly engaging and supportive. His massive workload might have been getting him down too, and it wouldn't have helped that his girlfriend Jenny (later his wife) had cancer.

A major blow came in late 2000 after some people had strongly criticized the GUERL page as being full of disorganized rubbish. Geoff took this to heart, and erased the page, announcing that "This page has been retired ... I suppose no impression is much better than a bad impression". Many pleaded with him to restore the page, but it was not to be.

In a way, that was the beginning of the end. Although Geoff plugged away for a few more years, the zest was never there quite like it had been before, and Geoff was devoting more time to the newly-emerging hobby of digital photography. On 24 September 2002 Geoff took down the whole of

No-one in the Eiffel community seems to know what Geoff is up to now - and quite a few of us have tried to track him down. The home page is still live, though it contains nothing more than an invitation to click through to Cetus Links. (Does Geoff realise that a three-character domain name can be sold for quite a lot these days?)

Geoff, if you're out there, why not post a comment and let us know what you're up to?

You should mention that Geoff also produced the popular elj-win32 distribution of the Smalleiffel compiler. This and were my introduction to Eiffel. I have a lot to thank hom for!
Geoff has kindly been in touch to let me know that he and Jenny are keeping fit.

Geoff is actively involved in digital photography and dragonboat racing. He is still "interested in Eiffel, though now as a very silent lurker".
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