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Fri, 15 Oct 2010

Open Source Projectmanagement

I wrote the following as a foreword for the great German book Open Source Projektmanagement that Michael Prokop wrote. Unfortunately the foreword didn't manage it in time into the book because of various circumstances. As I'm not a person to throw away already written material, here is it for your reading pleasure. Maybe it makes you consider obtaining a copy of the German language book for yourself!

The Whole is more than the Sum of the Parts

When I first met Mika at a Linux conference some years ago I quickly noticed that he had potential. The way he asked questions and tackled issues did impress me. We did meet again at various events, joined forces in various projects and knew that the result would be good.

Back in the year 2004 the only real live CD was Knoppix. It always was too sluggish for me because I never really liked KDE and also OpenOffice.org was too bloated for me. I was working since a year at an Internet provider, felt comfortable in the shell and was missing the tools on Knoppix which I used daily.

Often enough the frustration with the status quo starts the best projects. And so I had the idea spinning around to start a sysadmin live CD. There was just one problem here: Exactly at the same time Mika had already started such a project. And I knew one thing: it would had been a lost race to compete with him in creating the better live CD. So I joined his team and helped with the best of my knowledge. The name choice alone showed that he was the right person for the job: Grml—an expression of the frustration that even he felt which spoke directly to the heart of so many.

But it wasn't just the chosen name that showed that Mika was the right person for the job of the project leader. It's always the sum of the parts, no matter how minor they might look. He quickly managed a first release and in light of that also created an event which was fitting for the release of the first version: the OS04—an Open Source event which managed to get Jon Maddog Hall as keynote speaker.

Mika managed through his welcoming way to lure more people into helping out. The team grew over the years, further regular releases increased the fan base, not only through the creative release names—which are surely one of the parts that helped create the success. He always was open to suggestions for new tools that helped to extend the project.

The lived openness did lead among other things to the case that other live CDs started to use the grml build system. JUXlala 2.0 (the system for preschool kids) is just one example.

Why do I write primarily about Grml, one could get subliminal advertising probably cheaper? I do it because Grml is an extremely good example of the experience revealed in this book. And even though every project is different, it is still exactly the sum of the parts that leads to the success of a project. And exactly these parts are covered in this book—and can be considered for the project at hand and get implemented accordingly.

Good luck—whether in large or small.

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