A successful project depends on six things: smart people, smart planning, lots of hard work, and communication, communication, communication.
Surely, insightful planning lays the foundation for all work to come, and nothing is accomplished without muscle (including the grey matter kind) and heavy lifting. But none of that matters much if a team doesn’t communicate. Indeed, it’s probably safe say that once a project is fully-staffed and underway, the quality and quantity of information flowing between team members is the best predictor of the success of the project.
While things like the Web, instant messaging, and email have made communication cheaper, faster, and more convenient, digital chatter has had consequences, too: people work “remotely,” team members are distributed globally, and companies operate virtually. Today, how to communicate effectively with a large, potentially widely distributed team is as much of a challenge as what to communicate.
Luckily, the costs of electronic communication don’t outweigh the gains, and a large number of applications that collect, manage, and propogate information are readily available. From Usenet News to collaborative coding tools like CVS and Subversion to SourceForge itself, “groupware” lets project teams share critical information.
TUTOS, an acronym for “The Ultimate Team Organization Software,” is an open source, Web-based groupware package that manages events & calendars, tasks, bugs, and documents, and even includes mailboxes and address books. TUTOS was originally released in July 2000, and continues to be maintained and developed by a small group of developers led by TUTOS founder and project leader Gero Kohnert. Kohnert, 36, lives in Germany, where he works as a software developer and project leader for one of Germany’s largest companies.
Linux Magazine Editor Martin Streicher and SourceForge.net Site Director Pat McGovern recently interviewed Kohnert to discuss TUTOS, one of the most ambitious projects hosted on SourceForge.
Gero, how did you get started?
Kohnert: I switched on my computer and started programming (laughing). That kind of jumpstart often requires fundamental design changes later, but all that requires is a good keyboard.
Seriously, my employer started to pursue ISO 9000 certification and there was a need for a system like TUTOS.
What makes TUTOS unique?
Kohnert: TUTOS addresses all of the requirements of a typical project-centric business. With TUTOS, the entire project team — everyone with something at stake — now has a platform where they can collaborate and find the up-to-date information they need. TUTOS is a combination of groupware and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, just to name two of the day’s buzzwords. TUTOS is ideal for running projects in small- to medium-sized companies.
TUTOS also has few prerequisites. Any operating system able to run Apache and PHP can run TUTOS. You also need a database. TUTOS supports Postgres, Oracle, Interbase, and MySQL. And, of course, TUTOS is free.
How many people are using your software?
Kohnert: That’s hard to say. Each released version garners about 8000 downloads. To get even a rough count of end-users, I’d need to know how many people install the software after it’s downloaded, and I’d need to know how many users are served by each installation. I really don’t know the number of end-users, but the volume of feedback is huge!
TUTOS has appeared in the “Most Active” list on SourceForge, and at one time, was on the top of that list. That was a great surprise! Watching the download counters rise was very rewarding.
Do you work on TUTOS full-time?
Kohnert: No. I have a full-time job, so all development on TUTOS happens in my spare time. I probably spend about two hours per day on TUTOS, but before and shortly after releases, I spend a lot more time working on the project.
What’s your development environment like?
Kohnert: I use a 1 GHz Athlon with 512 MB RAM, running SuSE Linux 8.0.
For testing, I need a bunch of different Apache and PHP combinations and all kinds of databases. My machine runs MySQL, Postgres, Interbase, and Oracle.
Who are the other lead developers?
Kohnert: Jeroen Baten, a Linux consultant in the Netherlands, is creating a lot of documentation for TUTOS. Markus Leist, a software consultant in Germany, is working on some modules and added X.509 authentification. Dimitri Fontaine contributed TUTOS’ LDAP authentication system. Lots of others have contributed the translations and skins for TUTOS.
What’s been your greatest challenge?
Kohnert: It’s still a challenge to motivate people to take on TUTOS development. It’s difficult to find developers that are willing to help and have enough time to contribute to the project. But the biggest challenge is to officially introduce TUTOS at my own job.
How can people help?
Kohnert: Most contributions I receive are translations and localization patches, but other kinds of contributions can be easily added to TUTOS. The software has a modular structure that allows new features to plug in to the existing infrastructure — all developers have to do is comply with some simple rules.
What’s on your wish list?
Kohnert: I’d like to add support for more databases. I also want to write better documentation and expand the number of help pages. I hope to have a 1.1 release early in 2003.
Purpose: The Ultimate Team Organization Software (TUTOS) is an open source, Web-based groupware package that manages events & calendars, tasks, bugs, and documents, and even includes mailboxes and address books.
System Requirements: Operating system independent; requires Apache, PHP and one of MySQL, Postgres, Interbase, or Oracle.
License: GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL)
Project Leaders TUTOS founder and lead developer Gero Kohnert
Development Status: Production/Stable
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