This is a list of books currently on my To Read shelf... literally. I do not suggest or anti-suggest any of them at this time as I haven't read them yet.
This is not the home of dotProject or web2project. It is the home of CaseySoftware, LLC. Any dotProject support questions should be referred to their support forums.
I try to stay out of politics and policy here, but I just couldn't pass on this one.
I'm in relatively good health and CaseySoftware is nowhere near the place of having a health plan, so I'm in a bit of a dilemma. Do I attempt to go without health insurance and be one of those 40 million Americans or do I pay through the nose for a plan with reasonable coverage?
The answer: Neither.
For those of you who are in relatively good health, have you ever considered a Health Savings Account? When that Prescription Drug boondogle when through Congress last year, Health Savings Accounts managed to sneak through also.
For those of you who haven't read this blog entry, do so and then come right back. There is some appeal to building a behemoth application that will replace Exchange/Outlook/Evolution and rule the world... muhahah... Realistically, unless we rule the world, that doesn't really do much for CaseySoftware, our developers, or our the bank account.
We believe firmly that a unifying layer of glue between a set of robust Open Source applications is the best way to go. Having a monolithic application is great in a completely homogenous environment where all users fall into the same set of roles and usecases, but the world doesn't work out that smoothly.
This is why we are taking a core set of existing applications - if you don't know, here they are: SugarCRM, Mantis Bug Tracker, and phpBB - to fit them around the core of our favorite application: dotProject. [As a side note, dotProject has just announced: "Target date for 2.0 rc1 is no later than 31 March 2005." - KC] We believe wholeheartedly that dotProject is not only a great tool, but it can serve as a great platform.
Therefore, you Project Manger(s) and developers can use dotProject for all of their work. Your QA people only need to use Mantis for their work. Your support forums - both internal and external - can be in phpBB. And you business development people can use SugarCRM and make sure that projects are progressing as planned. And at any time, the Project Management can look at dotProject and see the status of everything. Each person can do their job and doesn't need to be worried about all of that "other stuff".
But the most important part is what it all boils down to from the original blog entry. NO ONE would be excited about developing an application like this from the ground up... but lots of people are excited about SugarCRM, Mantis, phpBB, and dotProject and the people writing the glue layers are all paid.
Hopefully, we can reap the benefits of both worlds.
Now, let's see if Hula fits into the equation...
In case you missed the first installment, go check it out. With the advent of CaseySoftware's first non-founding member coming aboard, I thought I'd revisit the Distributed Development Teams and the related project management issues that are raised.
First of all, CaseySoftware is based in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. This has never been a problem because all of the players, cohorts, and advisors have also been in Northern Virginia, usually within just miles.
Obviously, this has always put us within a simple phone call of each other, but more importantly, it allowed us weekly time to get together to review priorities of projects, check status of tasks, and lay blame where it was due. Now things will change just a bit. Our new developer is based on the Baltimore side of DC. While this looks like a short distance on a map, it can turn into a major pilgrimage to meet up. It will mean a slight shifting in priorities as tasks will have to be a bit better defined in advance and the vast majority of communication will occur via im/email.
Therefore, we are going to be using dotProject and Mantis to its fullest extent and potentially expanding the scope and interoperability with other tools. In fact, this is the first area of development which he will be assisting in. Our goal is to bring the dotProject/Mantis integration to completion and eventually move into other areas of project management in order to make dotProject the one-stop shop for online collaboration tools.
I believe whole-heartedly that in order for a tool to be successful, it must be simple to use and nearly transparent in its usage. Like the original Napster, ICQ, and a variety of other applications, it must be simple to use and perform a large amount of work with just a bit of effort. I believe that dotProject is approaching that point. As of now, a project manager can create a project, assign tasks, view Gantt charts, and a variety of other things, but it's not quite there. Integration with a groupware application - eGroupware, Lotus Notes, and Outlook all seem to be candidates, an improved robust forum system - phpBB is my favorite, and an integrated workflow with a Customer Relationship Management System - SugarCRM is another of my favorites - must happen in order to complete the effort.
A project manager must be able to accept a proposal, assign labor, create documents, track discussions, schedule tasks, and track tasks in order to have a complete snapshot of the lifecycle of the project... ideally all through a pda.
In the three weeks since CaseySoftware.com has gone fullstream, quite a bit has happened some good, some bad:
But there's something more important going on here...
We are tracking all of our opportunities in SugarCRM - obviously - and we're getting to the point where there will have to be decisions made on which contracts to take and which to not bother with. Just to get to this point, projects are reviewed to ensure that they are worth the time, but this will further prioritize within there.
Regardless, it appears that revenues are up by nearly 75% in the last month...
As a result of these factors, we are bringing on our first outside person (ie. non-founder) to help with the workload. It will be incredibly useful having a second person on staff and the risks involved are well-known by everyone in the industry. The person was carefully selected and he and his work were already known to all the relevant participants.
Great idea with some smart people (GoF, Martin Fowler, etc), but within 2 minutes, there are already big problems.
I registered with my account here: webmaster@(guess the rest). It let me register just fine. Unfortunately, I'm character limited when logging in. I can't type more than "firstname.lastname@example.org".
As a side note, I hope to review one of Fowler's books soon...
An interesting article came across my radar today. It was Satya Komatineni's blog entry on CVSNT, Eclipse, and some lessons in OpenSource where he experiences one of my only complaints against Open Source Software: User Documentation is Almost Always Out of Date.
I work to keep an eye on the latest and greatest things coming down the line. As a result, I've had the fun of working with some of the earliest public versions of Jakarta Tomcat, Apache Ant, SugarCRM, and of course, dotProject. All of these except SugarCRM suffered from the exact same problem. I believe the only reason SugarCRM differed was due to the fact that it was supported by a commercial company.
The development on all of these applications moves quickly and the bulk of involvement is in terms of development, not in terms of technical writing or UI designers. Therefore, it's incredibly difficult for first time users to jump into an application without some serious searching and hammering themselves. This has always been the case with early adopters, but it becoming more and more prevelant as the applications are becoming more and more common in both the development and regular consumer worlds.
As Satya mentions, this turns the standard communication channels on their heads. It's becoming less and less common for OSS groups to generate documentation. They're starting to move in the direction of community forums policed by some of the developers and a few dedicated users or towards a Wiki which allows for documentation to created, editted, and commented on by just about anyone.
Some may feel that this is akin to McDonald's requiring you to fill your own drink, but it provides many people an opportunity to contribute in ways not normally available. After all, this is how CaseySoftware got involved with dotProject.