How Not To Manage A Software Project In Public

Back in February, I picked up a link to Cairo, an Explorer replacement for Windows that appeared to be heavily influenced by Mac OS X Finder. The screen mockups looked good, and I’d love to have a column browser-style file manager for Windows, so I subscribed to their feed to keep an eye on their progress.

Progress that came to a halt in March.

Finally, in April, we got an update:

Coding of Cairo started last August, by one single developer. Over time, we have hired and lost developers that haven’t contributed to the building of Cairo. This one developer had been quite devoted on the creation of the Milestone 1 build and promised us that we would be able to release it in February. Over time, we have had a lapse of communication with him for several weeks at a time. After two warnings, we have decided to release him from the team and to pass the Cairo development on to our newly joined members. However, he still has all of the code which has the desktop nearly done, as well as the menubar and explorer started and partially populated with features. [emphasis mine]

Not good. Not good at all. But if you look at this thread in their forums, it gets worse:

To answer your question, Cairo will in fact be free. Though it is free, Me and Mike have decided to keep it closed source. This will help detour people from making harmful clones.

That thread is full of misguided and/or bone-headed views of what Open Source means. It all boils down to the principals refusing to trust outsiders. So their code was stolen by an insider. That’s irony, Alanis.

But wait, there’s more. Notice who posted that “making harmful clones” comment? If you read it now, it’s billed to “Anonymous”, who has 150 posts, on a board that doesn’t allow anonymous posts. In other words, the developer who stole the code, his identity expunged by the remaining team members.

A forum poster brought up the cautionary tale of Aerobrowser, a mythical web browser that was really nothing but sexy “screenshots” that were only mockups and a half-assed “beta” that barely implemented anything. Meanwhile, Cairo has nothing but mockups and a donation link to show for their efforts.

At this point, I’m not sure donating money is the answer. Perhaps a copy of The Cathedral & The Bazaar would be more appropriate.

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2 responses

  1. Your post is absolutely on target. However, we are learning from our mistakes and will carry on with development. Our private alpha is tentatively scheduled for June 29, 2008. I look forward to your future comments.

  2. Cumpewta Jooza

    Hmmmm. Seems Microsoft aren’t the only boneheads to promise a program that copies features of the Mac OS, and quickly fades into oblivion. Don’t get me wrong – I’m mainly a windows user, but it seems so many people in the windows market want to copy the work done on Mac OS. Problem is all they can produce is a bunch of empty promises. Better to simply give it up and think up a new idea that someone has NOT done already. Honestly people – want to keep windows above the rest? Then the first thing you’ll need to do is QUIT COPYING OTHER OS FEATURES, and come up with some REAL innovation. The thing thats probably killing windows (Other than MS) is the over-abundance of knuckleheads and illiterates that insist on calling themselves “software developers”.

    Weed out the morons and we’ll be left with a better future. Flood the market with these morons and linux will quickly steal most windows users who desire a REAL OS that actually thinks up a new idea once in a while.

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