Hula Hype - KDE is already there

If you want to learn something about developing software look at Jamie Zawinskis funny story about Hula. I know I'm not the first one to reference Jamies blog and I'm also not the first one to mention Hula, but I still have the hope that I will get a bunch of flowers and a voucher for three free downloads for being the one millionth. Other than that I'm serious, Jamie's lesson is one of the most focused contributions about software development I have ever read.

Why that? Because Jamie bluntly tells what should be the goal of each and every software developer: "Help a 22 year old student living in the dorms getting laid.". You can imagine variations of this for other target groups but it essentially comes down to the one an only requirement for software: "Be useful" or stated differently "Make your users happy". Being useful doesn't include protecting the operating system from viruses, spyware or dialers, helping to move around files between the internet and home or defragmenting your harddisk. These are all solutions to problems I never would have had if I wouldn't have started to use a computer, they are trying to cure unhappiness instead of striving for everybody's happiness. I'm really fed up with this kind of software that only addresses software-related problems. I want software that actually is useful and helps "the 22 year old college student living in the dorms getting laid." or whatever is really important to the user.

Now talk about groupware, wait, let's call it collaboration. That's what Hula is all about and that's what Jamie is talking about in his blog and it's just so right. Calendering is the key. That's why I started to work on KOrganizer five years ago. I felt that calendaring was the one missing piece making a computer useful. Ok, email already worked and it still somewhat works, despite of spam, but all the difficulties when bringing together people, trying to remember dates or planning events are crying for a real solution. Whole forests have been chopped down for producing paper calendars, post-it notes and plain paper to be scribbled with unrecognizable symbols. We all know that this doesn't work, but if we had the right software addressing the needs of people and not the buzzword requirements of managers, we could imagine a future where the computer would actually be useful to organize your time without constanty getting in your way.

There is a long way to go. I remember that some years ago I was sitting at a pub at Heidelberg together with this crazy guy wanting to write a virtual community system, drinking beer, discussing. He was a freelance software developer, said he was a server guy and painted his plans to write a calendar server in bright colors. He talked about iCalendar and CAP and it all sounded great. A couple of weeks later he even sent me a big tarball with code (a very nice C++ implementation of iCalendar) and then he vanished from the planet.

That's kind of prototypical for calendar servers. There just isn't a good sustainable solution and that for years. Sure, there are lots of groupware servers providing calendaring functionality, but they all suck. I have personally implemented support for at least five different calendar servers in KDE Kontact, I have used almost every conceivable technology for talking calendar with a server, but I'm still not convinced that there currently exists a single good solution. The answer I put most hope into is GroupDAV, because it's a pragmatic solution driven by implementations. That could work. We already have support of multiple servers (OpenGroupware.org and Citadel) and multiple clients (Kontact and Evolution).

So there is hope. But the fundamental reasoning that software must be really useful still is valid, so I'm hoping that in the future my collaboraton client will help me with getting people together for drinking beer, prevent my wife shouting at me because I have forgotten a date with her and let me know when I have to turn up for club duty. If Hula is part of it, ok, great, time will tell, but I certainly know that KDE right now provides a great base for this. Jamie says: "Our focus in the client group had always been to build products and features that people wanted to use. That we wanted to use. That our moms wanted to use" and KDE is just that, it's developed by users not by companies and it's going down to the point where it is becoming useful and making users happy. If you have dreams about the future of software you have to look at KDE.


nail. head. on.

hula is, right now, all steam and no fire. let's hear it for marketing. maybe it'll turn into something big eventually, you know, once it actually builds and what not.

but one thing i know for certain is that if it does become viable in a real way=kontact will have support for it no time. and GOOD support.

you are so right that KDE is the future of software today. time to tell the world. software takes genius, but marketing doesn't. it just takes savvy.

By Aaron J. Seigo at Thu, 02/17/2005 - 09:07

> hula is, right now, all steam and no fire.

Yup, that's the sum of it. As I pointed out back in February 2005, Hula wasn't groupware, it was abandonware and vaporware. Combined with the Friedman/Zawinski hype machine. And of course all of their ideas were directly stolen from Citadel.

Now that the Hula project has finally been cancelled by Novell, we can move on in a more sane fashion. Good riddance to a project founded upon stealing the ideas of others and then building up a big bubble of hype and noise.

By art cancro at Wed, 12/20/2006 - 19:22

This is why I like KDE - it's not just the software, but the really interesting comments you get from people.

The first thing I thought when I saw Hula was "Not another f****ng groupware solution!" Haven't we got the basis for all of this stuff in the open source world anyway? Someone beat me to it. Hula is just yet more vapourware driven by total hot air. Mind you, the logo looks pretty :). Don't they have their hands full supporting the NLD and Mono in that part of Novell?

However, there's something missing from Jamie Zawinski's blog with respect to the open source world and open source development. The difference between software that people will not just want to use, but software that is actually good enough to use, is quite huge and for an open source software project you can't afford to go around the same mountain continually re-launching the same old things. Checklist:

  • The community has to be there.
  • The technology has to be good enough (it has to do more than fricking build, and it gets worse at the desktop end).
  • The structure of both the project and the software has to be good.
  • Only then can you go off and make all of those things that you, your friends and your mam will want (massive task in itself).
  • You then have to stick to it.

It is something that extends well beyond mere hyperbole, and should be familiar to many people around here ;).

I think the next time that someone, or a certain group of people, decide to launch YAPFOT (Yet Another Project Full Of Tosh) they would be best served by keeping that in mind and asking themselves: "Surely someone has thought about and tried this before and is actually doing it?"

By segedunum at Fri, 02/18/2005 - 00:35

There has been a lot of activity lately in this area. There is the recently formed The Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium and CalDAV proposal for a standard protocol to enable calendar access via WebDAV. John Udell have some information on his weblog too.

Robert Brandis
Quantum Logic Corporation

By rbrandis at Sat, 02/19/2005 - 04:03