FW: [IP] Dan Gillmor on Technology: Monday October 21,2002: Software idea may be just crazy enough to work

Luis Villa louie@ximian.com
11 Mar 2003 09:12:26 -0500


On Tue, 2002-10-22 at 10:24, Jeffrey Kay wrote:
> Haven't FoRK'd anything in a while -- here's a piece on Mitch Kapor's
> new PIM that's being funded through www.osafoundation.org.  I heard
> about this a while ago.  There's no software to look at yet, but it
> sounds like an open source version of Outlook, more or less.

[I know this email is old, but thought it was worth replying to anyway.]
He's specifically pimping it as a non-Outlook- similar functionality but
a completely different UI and approach to many things. He was
(marginally) involved in one free software Outlook work-alike already
(ximian's evolution, he was a board member for a while) but that
approach was not sufficient for him.

Luis

> jeffrey kay 
> personal weblog <www.k2.com>
> pgp key <www.k2.com/keys.htm>
> 
> "first get your facts, then you can distort them at your leisure" --
> mark twain 
> "golf is an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional
> miracle" -- sports illustrated 
> "if A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y plus Z. X is
> work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut." -- albert einstein
> 
> > Updated: Monday October 21, 2002
> > Dan Gillmor on Technology
> > 
> >  
> > <http://krd.realcities.com/click.ng/Params.richmedia=yes&site=
> > krnational&pr
> > optype=krd_vertical&webprop=siliconvalley&product=mld&subprodu
> > ct=siliconvall
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> > 
> > Software idea may be just crazy enough to work
> > 
> > By Dan Gillmor <mailto:dgillmor@sjmercury.com>
> > 
> > Mercury News Technology Columnist
> > 
> > Mitch Kapor smiles at the half-serious question: ``Are you 
> > crazy to try something like this?''
> > 
> > Kapor, a pioneering developer of personal-computer software, 
> > is definitely not nuts. And it's no surprise to see the 
> > founder of Lotus Development now leading an unorthodox 
> > project that could have an outsized impact.
> > 
> > For more than a year, Kapor and his small team have been 
> > working on what they're calling an open-source 
> > ``Interpersonal Information Manager.''
> > 
> > The software is being designed to securely handle personal 
> > e-mail, calendars, contacts and other such data in new ways, 
> > and to make it simple to collaborate and share information 
> > with others without having to run powerful, expensive server 
> > computers.
> > 
> > As with other open-source software, the source code (programming
> > instructions) will be freely available along with the working 
> > program. An early version of the calendar part of the 
> > software should be posted on the Web by the end of this year, 
> > and version 1.0 of the whole thing is slated for the end of 
> > 2003 or early 2004.
> > 
> > Code-named ``Chandler'' after the late mystery novelist 
> > Raymond Chandler, the software will run on the Windows, Mac 
> > OS X and Linux operating systems. Initially, it will be aimed 
> > at individuals and small businesses, but it's also being 
> > designed as a platform upon which other developers can build 
> > useful software and services of their own.
> > 
> > The planned features alone would make the project noteworthy. 
> > If the desktop software world needs anything, it's more 
> > innovation in the once-competitive area of personal 
> > information management, now overwhelmingly dominated by 
> > Microsoft's inelegant but overwhelmingly dominant Outlook, 
> > part of Microsoft Office. No sane venture capitalist would 
> > fund a company in the financial vacuum created by the 
> > Microsoft monopoly, Kapor says.
> > 
> > That makes the Chandler business plan perhaps as important as 
> > the product itself. Kapor, founder of the software company 
> > that sold the influential and hugely successful Lotus 1-2-3 
> > spreadsheet program in the 1980s, is funding the initial work 
> > through a non-profit foundation. Why does this matter? For 
> > one thing, it may succeed. For another, it could be a model 
> > for other such projects.
> > 
> > Kapor, who has remained active in the industry as an investor 
> > and cyber-activist (he co-founded the Electronic Frontier 
> > Foundation), says he has committed up to $5 million of his 
> > money. But he wants to make the project self-sustaining by 
> > 2005 through a variety of funding sources. These include 
> > sponsorships and contributions from outsiders -- he likens 
> > this to one of National Public Radio's fundraising strategies 
> > -- as well as selling services and collecting licensing fees 
> > from people who want to build commercial applications on the 
> > Chandler base.
> > 
> > Call it a socially conscious, post-bubble strategy -- ``to 
> > have an impact and be self-sustaining, not to generate 
> > revenue, profits and a high market capitalization,'' Kapor says.
> > 
> > The legal vehicle is called the Open Source Application 
> > Foundation (www.osafoundation.org). Including Kapor, the 
> > project team numbers eight. All but one (a marketing 
> > specialist) are programming veterans. It will grow to 14 when 
> > fully staffed, Kapor says.
> > 
> > If the software lives up to the developers' plans, it will 
> > have wide appeal. It should be highly adaptable to personal 
> > tastes, with robust collaborative features. I'm especially 
> > hopeful about a feature to build in strong encryption in a 
> > way that lets users protect their privacy without having to 
> > think about it.
> > 
> > The Chandler architecture builds on other open-source 
> > projects. These include Python, a development language and 
> > environment that's gaining more and more fans among 
> > programmers, and Jabber, a communications infrastructure that 
> > started life as an instant-messaging alternative but has 
> > evolved into a robust platform of its own.
> > 
> > One of the Chandler developers, Andy Hertzfeld, is 
> > volunteering his services. Hertzfeld is well-known in the 
> > software community, partly for his key role in creating 
> > Apple's original Macintosh and Mac operating system. An 
> > open-source company he co-founded a few years ago, Eazel, 
> > died during the Internet bubble's immediate aftermath.
> > 
> > ``I hope we make a great application that I love to use 
> > myself, and that eventually millions of people will enjoy 
> > using,'' he says. ``Hopefully, we'll be able to make e-mail a 
> > lot more secure, without encumbering the user with technical 
> > detail. We can make accessing and managing information of all 
> > kinds more convenient if we're lucky. And we'll be helping to 
> > pave the way for free software to displace proprietary 
> > operating systems at the center of the commercial software industry.''
> > 
> > The paid team members aren't going to get rich on this deal. 
> > Non-profits don't go public, and they don't grant options. 
> > ``What matters,'' says Katie Capps Parlante, a developer, 
> > ``is creating something I'm really proud of.''
> > 
> > How much does Kapor's longstanding antipathy toward Microsoft 
> > count in this effort? ``I've gone to great lengths to make 
> > sure that my strong feelings are not a motivation,'' he says. 
> > Negative motives are ``not enough to sustain a five- to 
> > 10-year effort.''
> > 
> > Still, it's possible that only someone like Kapor could put 
> > together and lead such a thing. He's rich, with an unusually 
> > powerful sense of social justice, and he enjoys the 
> > development process. It's fun, he says, and that's one reason 
> > to do it.
> > 
> > But the Open Source Application Foundation also could be a 
> > template for other efforts to restore some choice and spark 
> > more innovation in markets where dominant companies have 
> > squeezed out serious competition. I'd like to see some 
> > foundation fund an ongoing effort to ensure that files in 
> > Microsoft Office formats can be translated, opened, changed 
> > and saved with competing programs. Microsoft has used its 
> > proprietary formats as part of an effective lock-in strategy. 
> > I'd also like to see foundations help keep Internet standards 
> > from being locked up by commercial interests, as some now threaten.
> > 
> > For now, it will be fascinating to see if Kapor and his team 
> > succeed. This is potentially a big deal.
> > 
> > ``No,'' muses Kapor, ``I don't think it's crazy.''
> > FURTHER READING  
> >  * eJournal <http://www.dangillmor.com/> 
>