Witnessing the birth of an open source project: Habari January 8, 2007Posted by Matsu in Habari, Information Technology, Open Source, Software, Technology, Web, Weblog.
I am not a programmer by profession, though I have done a lot of programming in my career. I am not involved in open source software, though I encourage the use of it at work. I have a college degree in psychology and a graduate degree in information systems. Since I know people and I know technology I have become a manager of technology people. But, this tale is not about me. It’s about the birth and first steps of an open source project.
Back in September 2006 I attended an open source conference with several friends from work. It was a one-day conference and at noon there was a long break to allow the attendees to get something to eat. I ended up tagging along with my colleagues and several other attendees from the conference. What I didn’t know at the time was that meeting was one of the earliest conversations about Habari, a new open source blogging application.
If I remember correctly, we had about 15 people in our group (did anyone get a picture?). We sat comfortably at a very large round table. While we ate, we talked about all sorts of topics that are of interest to technology professionals, but Chris and even Skippy kept coming back to the idea of doing some kind of open source project together. There was a strong interest in collaborating on some sort (any sort) of open source application.
As the meal ended and the group walked back to the conference venue the idea of creating a new blog server began to take shape. I don’t remember if the project naming started at that point, but it’s possible that some project names were mentioned (mostly for a good laugh). What I most remember is the sense of excitement and enthusiasm over the idea of creating something new and doing that work with friends. Before we arrived back at the conference I overheard Chris, Rich, Skippy, and Owen settle on developing a blog application.
I have worked with technology and all sorts of technology professionals for about 25 years, so I didn’t take the lunch-time discussion about the new project too seriously. After all, I see people come up with good ideas all of the time and usually nothing comes of it. As most people in management know, without a strong champion a project is unlikely to take off. And, as you might guess, I underestimated the resolve and commitment of that small group of open source programmers to follow through on their idea.
A couple of weeks later, Chris and Rich attended ApacheCon US in Texas. (I’m afraid I don’t remember if Owen and Skippy were there, too. I was attending a different conference at the same time.) During ApacheCon US I understand a lot of foundational work was accomplished. Not just in the development of software, but also in the sharing of the project vision with other open source developers. The outcome of that week and continuing in the following weeks was the beginning of the Habari code and the early formation of the Habari development team. I think it was sometime before (or during) ApacheCon that the project name Habari was chosen. I believe Chris began to use the project name for the first time at that conference.
Now, several months later, substantial work has been done by a very talented group of designers and programmers. Significant time and energy has been spent by a handful of people who are from all over the world and working around the clock to get Habari to this point. I have no doubt that it will become a valuable alternative to the many different blogging platforms that exist, today.
I have thoroughly enjoyed being on the sidelines and just witnessing the creation and first steps of this infant project. The level of cooperation and collaboration by the development team is not something I’ve seen before. Granted, many of the Habari developers and designers knew each other and respected each other’s work before they got involved in this project, but they continue to welcome additional people and are respectful of strangers who are interested in contributing to the project. They have passionate debates about the details and are all focused on doing things the best way. I don’t know if all open source projects start off this way, but if they do, I can see why people get involved.
In the past week, as the project has been forced into the open by its various founders and core developers, there has been a fast growing interest in what Habari is all about. In fact, many people have already expressed interest in using it just because of what they’ve heard about the project and because they know some of the people behind it.
If you are interested in learning more about Habari, you may want to read Khaled’s post, or Michael’s post, or see Chris’ site, which is the first live Habari site anywhere on the Internet. Of course, you can also head over to the newly created (tonight) Habari project web site or see first hand the development at Habari developers site hosted by google code.
Finally, for one more overview of Habari, check out what they are saying over at Blogging Pro. They are in the process of preparing a WordPress podcast (No. 18) which will include statements from Chris about the project.
Update: Owen, one of the ‘lunch founders’ has posted his thoughts and comments about Habari here. It’s well worth reading.