Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Encouraging openness at Intuit

Yesterday, Intuit (the company that brings you such well-known software products as Quicken, TurboTax, and QuickBooks) announced the launch of, their new open source community for "developers interested in creating connected online applications for small businesses". While the company isn't opening up any of its own software right now, the goal of the new community is to rally folks around its Intuit Partner Platform. I can't boast any experience with this platform, but from what I've read and seen about its various key components, it looks pretty slick!

You might be wondering why — given my lack of personal experience with these products and platforms — I'm writing about this at all. What's the connection between and me? Two words: "open source". The Intuit folks were discerning enough to recognize that while they wanted to create and nurture a true, viable open source community, this was a new venture for them. So they've assembled an advisory board consisting of open source veterans to help guide them as they develop their new community. I am a grateful recipient of the invitation to participate (along with Jay Sullivan of Mozilla, Michael Coté of Redmonk, and Jason van Zyl of Apache Maven) on that initial advisory board.

I'm really looking forward to being a part of this, not so much for what I can bring to the table but for what I can learn from the others in the process. It will be interesting for me to see how the experiences I've had with the Subversion and other open source software projects — and even with my employer's own community site — will apply here. One thing's for sure: I definitely need to re-read Karl Fogel's Producing Open Source Software book!

For more information, read the full Intuit public announcement at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

If your first flush won't succeed...

Upon dealing (again) with the temperamental handle on the men's restroom toilet at the Rocky River Coffee Co., I was reminded of another such beast that I was privileged to visit daily when I was working with CollabNet's Subversion development team in a small office in Chicago's centenarian Old Colony Building. The building doesn't offer bathrooms on every floor — we had to travel a couple of floors (from our 10th floor office space) to use it. It's diva-esque disposition was such that only precise manipulation would convince it to function properly. My co-workers and I, having reverse-engineered the requisite love this bowl thrived on, one day decided to share our results with other building tenants by way of a posted, poetic sign above the tank:

If your first flush won't succeed, A second flush this bowl may need. (The most effective second flush Comes while the first is in mid-gush.)

We were thankful, of course, that the thing could be forced to work at all. There was a more convenient urinal which lived in a tiny closet halfway up the stairs between the 9th and 10th floors — a men's toilet with no women-targeted counterpart (reflecting the realities of the workforce balance 100 years ago) — which at some point simply stopped flushing altogether.

I'm not sure which particular quirk of my psyche compelled me to share this story. But there ya go. (Karl, Ben, Fitz: I miss you guys.)