I’ve long been an admirer of Tasktop, for a number of reasons: First, as Eclipse users already know, Tasktop has built some really cool Eclipse technology, including the Mylyn task-focused interface. But many companies have built cool open source tools. It’s much harder to take those tools and build a growing, dynamic company around them. But plenty of companies have also done that, usually by following the standard open source business model: package services and a bit of value-add around a captive open-source offering, and wait for customers. Tasktop takes a far more challenging and rewarding approach: It nurtures a healthy open source eco-system around core technologies, but then re-imagines and re-purposes them, leveraging unique products that address real customer pain. That takes real vision, and to me it’s a clear signal that the Tasktop leadership is able to imagine and execute at an entirely different energy level.
So rather than admire Tasktop from a distance, I joined it! I first worked with Tasktop last year as a consultant developing the initial implementation of what has become the Mylyn Model Focusing Tools project. That was a great opportunity to get to know some of the team and the Tasktop way. Everything I saw then fit nicely with what I’d already intuited. We have a really great combination of engineering excellence, creativity and lightweight organization.
It’s nice to say “we” again — I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed having colleagues to work together with on challenging problems. The morning I joined Tasktop, I saw a stream of emails from everyone welcoming me to the team. I must admit to some cynicism about the whole “team” thing — like so much else, it can be an empty word that doesn’t match up to reality — but in this case it feels very genuine. So heartfelt thanks to everyone.
It’s an exciting time to be building software tools. It might sound funny, but I like to think of software development as a helping profession. That’s because I think that software products really can help people live more fulfilling, interesting and even happy lives. When I tell my family and non-techie friends that I’m working on Automated Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools I get a blank look. So instead I remind them that almost everything we do relies on software and that software programs are by far the the most complex artifact that humans have ever created. And I tell them that software development communities are growing ever more diverse, distributed, interwoven and complex. So what do we do at Tasktop? We build software that embraces those complexities.
Tasktop Dev tackles the issue of software complexity. It handles a lot of the repetitive and boring stuff, simplifies and clarifies everything else, and is deeply and imaginatively integrated with other development tools. Tasktop Sync and Code2Cloud — along with other exciting tools that we’re working on — tackle the even more challenging issue of community complexity. Even a relatively small software product might involve code developed by a rich community spanning companies, technologies, continents, and even (think about the Open-Source movement) different economic models and incentive systems. And in larger projects thousands of developers might be collaborating across all of these dimensions. Software development efforts are intimately connected with customers, management, marketing, support, regulators and every other imaginable kind of stakeholder. All of these people need to talk to one another, and it seems that everyone uses different tools to manage the unique aspects of their tasks or work environments. Tasktop builds software that helps those tools to work together so that everyone can focus together on the stuff that matters. In short, we break down boundaries and help people communicate. That’s worth doing.