SitePens Lifeblood

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-04-14 Print this article Print

As far as tooling to support the 30-person team of developers and other professionals that is SitePen, Russell said the company uses a Jabber server. Jabber is an open-source instant messaging service. SitePen has 30 people spread across 13 U.S. states and a location in London-SitePen UK, where Joe Walker resides.

"Jabber is the lifeblood of the company," Russell said, adding that it's important for a distributed company to be able to see who's around and what they're doing. "We also have internal wiki-like collaboration and information management tools. But the most important thing for us has been Jabber. It's kind of like our IRC [Internet Relay Chat] if we were an open-source project."

Darryl Taft offers his list of 15 open-source business influencers. Check it out. 

I asked Russell if he thought the SitePen team could stay together or if the lure of greater recognition at a bigger company might draw some of the team away. He said the core team has been together for four years and has worked through previous job changes. Yet, "things inevitably go south in any environment. And it does get more complicated when you're talking about an employment situation, but we have advantages that most employers can't dream of, right? We see people's code. Not only that, we've vetted peoples' code. We know the people that we're talking to; we know what they're good at. We know that they're not BS-ing us."

I also asked Russell if he thought a technology shift might impact the company. He said the team knew all along that AJAX was "a transitioning technology, and we said so. We're solving problems that your browser vendors should be solving for you." But the company will continue to work through technology shifts, he said.

Meanwhile, Russell acknowledged the downsides of some OSS efforts, such as "outsized personalities" and folks who do not play well with others.

"There can be a lot of anti-social behavior passed off as the building of a meritocracy. I find that troubling," Russell said. "Our goal is not to set up fiefdoms. Our goal is to get software written."

The element of not playing well with others also "has had significantly detrimental effects with regard to how open source is viewed in general, not least of all by potential contributors," he said.

"People talk about where are the women in open source," Russell said. "Why would you [as a woman] show up if you didn't have a bone to pick and a testosterone fix, if that's the environment that you're going to walk into? I just don't understand how people can separate out the participants from the process in such a discrete way. The participants define the process, so in many ways, participating in an open-source process is kind of a precursor for coming to work at SitePen. But we've set the tone differently, and so it follows."

Meanwhile, it all comes down to what you can deliver. "When our clients engage us, they're not engaging a bunch of open-source hackers; they're engaging people who are going to build a product to get their problem solved," Russell said.


Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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