Chandler, the uber-PIM project from the Open Source Applications Foundation, has had a major life event. Many people are calling it the end of the project, and it may well be. People are still working on it, but the funding is cut, and the future is very very unclear.
This is too bad, it was an ambitious and idealistic project, perhaps too much so. I don't really know what was going on over there. I haven't read Dreaming in Code, I don't read the mailing lists, I haven't even looked at their software in years.
Remarkably, Carlos Perez blames it on Python. His piece is really something, because he starts by admitting that he suspected from the beginning that Python wasn't up to the task, and now he's pretty sure his suspicions have been confirmed. Except that he doesn't do any analysis of what actually went wrong at Chandler. He repeats his biases against dynamic languages, and concludes that they are to blame. He comes to this conclusion even as he points out how strange it is that Python is only used in the client, and the server is Java!
The consensus seems to be, and it seems right, that the problems with Chandler were:
- Organization: too many heavy-hitters heading in their own directions. See the previous point about Python at the client and Java at the server.
- Lack of focused target: replacing people's email infrastructure, while at the same time re-thinking how those activities are accomplished is a huge challenge.
Carlos' viewpoint will probably perservere. Chandler was in some ways seen as a poster child for Python, and its demise I'm sure will cause at least a minor meme along the lines of, "We can't use Python, look what happened to Chandler." This is too bad. I think the choice of language matters to a project, but not nearly as much as we techies often think. So many other things matter a great deal more.
Carlos points to Eclipse as an example of what can be accomplished with Java. Eclipse is an amazing achievement, but it isn't Java that did it. There's a huge amount of effort that goes into the focus and support that makes Eclipse what it is. As an example, have you ever read their release notes? These are amazing! No project in the history of the world has had such thorough, helpful, and well-crafted release notes. That's got nothing to do with Java, and everything to do with the care and work that the Eclipse organization puts into producing and supporting their software.
So here's to Chandler, a (nearly) departed friend. I hope that it continues in some meaningful form. Here's to good craftsmen (and their kibbitzers) not blaming their tools. Here's to using your language of choice as just one tool in your tool set. And here's to seeing your projects for what they are: a collection of people trying hard to achieve difficult goals the best they can.