Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Announcing the new Chandler Users Advisory Group

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

We are pleased to announce the formation of the Chandler Project User Advisory Group. Over the past 3-6 months, it’s become apparent to us (OSAF staff) that there is a lot of energy in the user community and that a more organized approach to harnessing that enthusiasm would do the project a lot of good.

Open source projects run the gamut when it comes to governance and decision-making. One of the challenges we face is ensuring that users continue to have a prominent voice as a volunteer developer community emerges around the re-architecture effort. The formation of the advisory group is a first step towards taking on that challenge.

So I am happy to say that 3 of our most active users on the users-list have agreed to form v.1 of the User Advisory Group. You probably know them from the list. Davor has been involved in the project for over 3 years. Andre, for over 2 years and Keith for a year and a half. Their contributions have ranged from providing user feedback to painstaking debugging and helping new users get started.

(I’ll hand it over to Davor, Andre and Keith to introduce themselves.)

DAVOR CUBRANIC (Vancouver, Canada)
I have always had interest in personal and group information management. Prior to Chandler, after much searching I had settled on EccoPro as my PIM, and was very happy with its speed and power. Unfortunately, it was also Windows-only, closed-source, abandoned by its developer, and wasn’t designed for syncing outside the LAN. Just around the time that the syncing was starting to become an issue for me (since I needed to maintain my calendar/pile-of-info both from home and office), Chandler started to be stable and capable enough to be used on a day-to-day basis. I slowly left Ecco behind for everything except as a legacy reference store, and—just like Keith—wouldn’t want to live without Chandler any more.

What excites me about the project.
At a project level, it has to be Chandler’s openess and its willingness to explore new forms of personal and small-group information management and collaboration. At a technical level, it’s both the basic idea of creating a distributed system for flexible information management, and the opportunity to see it (re)implemented using some very interesting programming techniques (viz. the Trellis framework, which forms the foundation of the rearchitecture branch).

ANDRE MUENINGHOFF (New Jersey, United States)
As did many past and present users of the venerable Lotus Agenda
(MS-DOS) application, several years ago while searching the web for a worthy replacement, I found the Chandler Project. I was also browsing for new PIM tools to use in my implementation of the (then new) Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. Given the promise of the early roadmaps for the Chandler application, the ground-breaking thinking, and the warm welcome and support by the Chandler team to newcomers and neophytes, I became and remain hooked as a user and a contributor. As is well documented, the project has had many successes along with its share of challenges. The 1.0 release is an important and satisfying milestone for users. With the help of an active user community, it is my hope that the 1.0 release will be able to be marked as the “end of the beginning” of the Chandler Project.

What excites me about the project.
The early goals for the Chandler application held great promise. The 1.0 release delivers on many of them, and foreshadows many more. Chandler delivers ground-breaking thinking about managing personal workflows, sharing calendars, and small-group collaboration on top of cross-platform support, Web 2.0 tools, and an extensible architecture. Maybe one day Chandler will be able to pick up where Lotus Agenda left off and also sync bidirectionally with my Palm handheld. What excites me is the continued commitment to ensuring users are involved in the front-end of this open source project as the transition to an all volunteer organization is completed.

KEITH WINSOR (Norfolk, England)
Having been a Palm user for years, I found myself looking for a replacement with a future. I had spent years searching for the ultimate PIM, without success. I’d found Chandler some time before and kept half an eye on it, even though at the time it was little more than vapourware. Starting my own business meant I was on the lookout for a way of sharing a PIM and everything just fell into place. I’d be the first to admit there are still one or two rough edges, but I can’t imagine being without Chandler: it just sort of works the way I do.

What excites me about the project.
Chandler seems to me to be the ‘openest’ of open source projects. It genuinely seems that the future direction of Chandler will be driven by the user community and I’m very excited at the prospect of playing a role, however small, in the evolution. It’s already very usable: who knows where it could go from here?


We will be working out the scope of roles and responsibilities individual members of the group will take on in the coming weeks. Here is an initial brainstorm of project areas.

A few projects we’d like to start right away include:

  • Creating a users web forum. – Davor will be sending out a proposal for comments in the next week.
  • Crafting an advisory group “charter”. – To be worked out publicly on the Users-List over the next month.
  • Recruiting more members! – Ongoing.

One of the areas we expect to work on continuously is the issue of governance. What “rights and responsibilities” does the advisory group have with respect to volunteers who are writing code or contributing in other “tangible” ways, e.g. writing documentation, submitting art work, etc. What is the make-up of the group? # of people? How are members elected? Are there “term limits”? To get things started, OSAF staff has drafted 3 founding members. Going forward however, we want to establish processes for growing and sustaining the group.

Our first governance project is to look for models in other projects.

  • Davor brought up Apache Project’s notion of a “core developer group”.
  • What about non-software development models? e.g. Wikipedia “stewards”?

There are a few points of process we think we’d like to implement right away.

  • The group will work primarily on the Users List. Mails will be tagged [UAG] in the subject line.
  • There is a public, shared Chandler collection to keep track of projects.

I imagine that in the coming weeks, we will be bringing these issues to the users-list, looking for input from the broader community. So stay tuned for more discussions!

Note Some of you may be wondering what my role is specifically with regard to the advisory group. I am not technically a member of the advisory group. However, during this initial period as the group is finding its legs, I expect to be actively involved in getting this rolling.

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Scratch Your Chandler Itch: 1.0 Community Chat Sessions

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

As part of our 1.0 release, we’ll be hosting special live chat sessions on IRC for developers and users interested in contributing to the project. If you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re also invited to bring your laptop and join us in person.

User Support Hour

When: August 4, 2-3PM PDT
Where: IRC
Channel: #chandler

To kick things off, we’ll be holding User Support Hour. Please join us
if you’d like to share or learn how others use Chandler or simply want
help getting set up or troubleshooting a problem.

Then stick around and provide input for developers:

Scratch Your Chandler Itch

When: August 4, 3-5PM PDT
Where: IRC
Channel: #chandler

If you know a little Python, and would like focused help from the Chandler development team, we have a few projects we think might make good starter projects both for introducing Chandler’s code to new
developers and addressing real pain points in the product. Please feel free to add your own!

  • More alarm snooze options
  • Shortcut from the reminder pop-up to the item details
  • More commands for the Quick Entry field (e.g. for filing items, etc)
  • Download flagged emails (IMAP)
  • Customize App Bar: Add Tasks, define a “Notes-only” area, etc)
  • Print Triage List

See full list.

If you want to participate, start by checking out Chandler using SVN

Hack On Chandler Server

When: August 5, 3-5PM PDT
Where: IRC
Channel: #cosmo

We’ll finish off our community sessions with a session aimed at people conversant with Java or Javascript who’d like to improve the server.

  • Port the iGoogle quick entry widget to iPhone, OSX Dashboard, Vista
    Sidebar, Yahoo Konfabulator

  • UI for setting up Notifications (via email)
  • UI for importing .ics calendar files through web UI

If you want to participate, start by checking out Chandler Server using SVN.

RSVP

We’d like to get a head count of who might participate. If you’re planning on attending, or if you’d like to participate but can’t make those times, please let us know by this Friday.

Thanks,
The Chandler Team

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Free Seminar: Can Chandler Be Useful in Managing Nonprofit Projects and Tasks?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Aspiration, an organization that connects non-profits with software solutions will be hosting a free Chandler seminar to introduce Chandler’s personal and small-group task management and calendaring capabilities to potential non-profit users. Sheila (our product manager) and myself (product designer) will be there to demo Chandler and answer questions. Other members of the OSAF team may attend as well.

The seminar will be held at the San Francisco Technology Center at 1370 Mission Street near 10th Street on the 4th floor on Tuesday, July 22nd at 5PM.

If you work for a non-profit and would like to attend, please RSVP here.

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Chandler on TechSoup: Staying focused on users while growing our developer community.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

We have been having a rather interesting conversation over at TechSoup, an online forum where non-profits can discuss and learn about available technology solutions.

The thread, originally begun with the title: “Chandler maturing as an Outlook alternative” has grown into a more general discussion of sustainability and open source projects and in particular, our own plans for building a volunteer development community.

Much of the conversation has revolved around how we maintain a user-centered focus as a project as we work to attract volunteer developers. (A challenge all consumer-facing open source projects face.)

Don C in particular has had some useful words of advice based on his experience on The Sahana Project.

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Chandler and Google Summer of Code 2008

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

For the past three years Google has run an outstanding summer program for students
interested in becoming involved with open source software development.
Summer of Code offers students a chance to
develop relationships with living, breathing software communities by coordinating with
as many as 130 organizations and 900 students on 3 month software projects.
Stipends
are provided to both the mentor organizations and students, making it a very sweet deal
from almost any angle.

As we have in the past, OSAF will be participating in SoC as a mentoring organization this
year. A full list of projects we believe will be both useful to the project in the long term
and stand a high chance of being included in our code base in the short run can be found
here, but
as in past years outside proposals are more than welcome.

Comprehensive information about this year’s program, including important bits like
eligibility
and application instructions
can be found on the the official
FAQ. Student
applications will be accepted from March 24 – March 31, so now is the time to find
a project and put together a solid proposal!

As always, feel free to ask on one of the Chandler Project
mailing lists
or in #cosmo or #chandler on irc.freenode.net for more information.

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“Not listening” in the best interest of users?

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Mimi and I were checking out Things the other day, which appears to be a thoughtfully designed task manager for OSX (similar space to Chandler). One of the developers had a recent post that I thought captured something important about good design:

Of course both Jobs and Schiller know that there are times when you listen to users and times you better not. And the interesting thing is, even when developers don’t listen, they might do it for the best of their users. But how is that?

By all means developers need to follow their vision without asking anybody. They need to think out of the box and innovate. How else could they surprise and ultimately delight?

One of the main responsibilities of a developer is to keep guard over the gestalt of a program. It is all too easy to let your application burst into a universe of hardly connected little features. We have all seen it happen. But it is equally easy to ignore your customers’ needs and to embark on a journey where nobody is following you.

It is not about listening or not, it is about what to do with all the things you have learned from listening. And that is integration. The best feature is worth nothing when not integrated properly. When we read a feature request, we don’t think about doing it or not doing it. After all, if software development is not about satisfying users, then what is it? We are thinking about how we could nicely integrate it with the rest of the application without diluting its identity.

Of course, as an open project, we’ve sort of given up the element of surprise.

One of the project goals has been to experiment with involving users, developers, and other interested parties throughout the design process, making design decisions in conversations on public mailing lists. During that process it can be tempting to use “what the user has asked for” as an objective criteria for making decisions. The quote above does a nice job articulating that doing so can be dangerous for the integrity of a design, without writing off the importance of paying attention to what users are saying.

Mimi did a writeup on OSAF’s open design process last summer in preparation for a presentation she did with Ted Leung at OSCON. She goes into some detail describing how we manage conversations and make design decisions in a way that tries to preserve both the “gestalt” of the design as well as the continued interest of developers who might be pursing individual passions and concerns. Getting this process right continues to be one of the more interesting challenges of the project.

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More Blogging and Fewer Mailing Lists

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

To help focus as a team, we have consolidated our various mailing lists in the following ways:

1. Chandler-dev is now the working list for all things pertaining to the Chandler Project. This includes planning, design and bug prioritization for both Chandler Desktop and Chandler Hub as well as general interest topics like the project wiki, evangelism, community, and governance.

2. Cosmo-dev remains a separate list for those interested in just the server. Planning and project management discussions that used to happen on Cosmo-dev will move to Chandler-dev.

3. General, Design and Service-dev are now inactive. These conversations will move to Chandler-dev. If you are on one of these lists and want to continue following the day to day work of the project, subscribe to Chandler-dev.

4. Chandler-users will remain the best place for users to ask questions and report issues. Email us at chandler-users at osafoundation dot org.

5. Announce will continue to broadcast major releases and other newsworthy information.

All other public lists will stay the same.

We are also maintaining a Chandler Project collection where you can keep up with more day-to-day work. This is where we’re keeping track of feature ideas, upcoming blog posts and meetings.

View-only URL: https://hub.chandlerproject.org/pim/collection/f9fe3636-c489-11dc-dba3-f100459c9336?ticket=37960wr571

Finally, we will be making more use of the blog to discuss design direction, product strategy and to keep everyone abreast of project status and new releases.

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Introducing: myself and chandler.el

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Katie’s post OSAF 2.0 Team
seems like a good opportunity to introduce myself in this space. When I first joined OSAF
I was asked to do this by Pieter
Hartsook
but a combination of a bad memory and busy schedule has kept this task triaged Later.

I’m originally from a small town about 45 minutes outside of Portland, Maine. My first brush with software development
came during the summer of 2006 when, alongside a 6 day-a-week summer camp job, I participated in Google’s inaugural
Summer of Code program. My project for the summer found me working with
the GNOME Project implementing an experimental “panel extension” system.

I found Chandler while looking for a Linux calendaring client during my senior year at Williams College
and after an internship on the Desktop team working on a project to better integrate the Twisted IMAP server into Chandler I was hired full-time
as a server/ web front-end developer.

Most of my work since then has straddled HTTP, working mostly at the protocol level on the server and client side, with occasional
forays down into the depths of our database layer and up to the shallow waters of user interface implementation. Most recently I’ve
been updating our JavaScript code to use the 1.0 release of the Dojo toolkit.

A second project I’ve worked on recently (alluded to in the title of this post) is the first of what I hope to be a series of
interesting hacks designed to expand Chandler into the maze of nooks and crannies that is contemporary personal information management.
One of the more important lessons I’ve learned while working in this space is that everyone has a different system
for tracking and managing the various things they want to accomplish both in work and in life. While semi-standard systems like Chandler’s
Triage Workflow and David Allen’s
GTD can help, even the most hard-core practitioners will make adjustments
to work with their own personal circumstances. As developers of software designed to
serve the way people actually work, independently and together“, I believe it is our
job to lead the way in bringing our ecosystem to people’s real needs.

So without further ado, let me introduce chandler.el, a module for interacting with
Chandler Server using Emacs, a popular text editing environment.
Instructions for installing and using it can be found at the link above. The current implementation is decidedly rough, but is ready for
some real world use and feedback.

This offering is definitely on the techie side, but I hope it serves as a proof of concept for a general class of lightweight
applications that have the potential to bring Chandler to the system you currently use to track your life. There is currently
a discussion on chandler-users@osafoundation.org
in which I’ve solicited ideas for more applications like this, please feel free to chime in there or in the comments to this post
with yours!

In the future, updates about chandler.el will be posted mainly on my personal blog occident.us alongside information about whatever I happen to be working
on or thinking about at the time. If you’re interested in what I do, do check out that space.

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OSAF 2.0 Team

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Several folks have asked who is staying on for the next phase — who is remaining on the staff.

Mimi Yin continues on as our Product Designer, Sheila Mooney in Program and Product Management, and Jared Rhine running the Hub Service. Jared will add more IT responsibilities, as well as build and release responsibilities to his plate. Mimi, Jared and Sheila will also be helping me with a wide variety of tasks for the organization, as one might expect on a small team.

Grant Baillie, Jeffrey Harris, Brian Kirsch, Randy Letness and Travis Vachon are all developers on the new staff. Phillip Eby continues to have a contracting relationship with OSAF, and is actively participating in strategy discussions with the team. Grant, Jeffrey and Brian had recently been working on the desktop team, Randy and Travis on the server team. Travis was an intern on the desktop team a few summers back, and Brian worked on the server team a few years ago. Going forward, developers will move around and tackle code on either code base depending on what is needed.

For the time being we’ll have a flat organization, and think of ourselves as one team. (Previously we were organized in server, desktop, qa, product, build/release and management teams). We’ve ended all of our older recurring meetings, and now have one daily sync up with the 10 people noted above. We’re currently doing this on the phone while we get our footing, but may eventually transition to IRC.

You should start seeing more posts on this blog about strategy and overall direction. We’re also starting to getting back into the groove of working on the lists.

I’d also like to emphasize that Chandler Project is bigger than these 10 staff members. Several former staff members intend to remain involved in the project. Andi Vajda will continue to maintain PyLucene and PyICU. Heikki Toivonen and Philippe Bossut will continue with Finnish and French translations. Heikki will continue to maintain M2Crypto. I continue to appreciate the counsel of Phillipe and Ted Leung, and am looking to find ways for them to be involved in an advisory capacity. Others have mentioned wanting to remain involved as well — I’m sure new roles will unfold as the next phase shakes out. Chandler Project also includes contributors like Andre Mueninghoff and Davor Cubranic, who helped immensely in getting out our Preview release. We also really appreciate all the users who speak up on the chandler-users list. We look forward to the project growing, even with a smaller paid staff.

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First Chandler-Users Newsletter

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Yesterday, I sent out the first in a series of newsletters for the Chandler-Users mailing list.

The newsletter is intended to be a summary of list highlights including a ‘Did you know…?’ Tips and Tricks section on using Chandler culled from the Chandler-Users list and a section on Upcoming Features and important Usability and
Workflow issues being discussed on the Design list.

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