Rich: I’m speaking with Chris Kelly who is a member of the Gallery Project.
Rich: Gallery is a PHP Web photo gallery solution, to and it’s been around for a good 10 years. A little bit more than that. Thanks for speaking with us, Chris.
Chris: It’s good to be talking to you.
Rich: How long have you been on this project?
Chris: It’s tough to count the actual years. I’ve been around for some time. When Gallery 1 was kind of getting wrapped up, and work on Gallery 2 was beginning, they were looking for a project manager to help Gallery 2 get launched, and I applied for the job and they interviewed me, and I’ve been working on Gallery ever since doing project manager kind of things, and writing a little bit of code now and then.
Rich: So you say they interviewed you? It sounds like this is a really well-organized project, as compared to some of the more organically organized things. How did that interview process go?
Chris: It’s a pretty tightly organized core team that does a lot of the work. Bharat Mediratta worked for SourceForge, and a couple of other guys who were distributed over the world, but they all worked together in chat rooms and everything, and there’s a core team email list that a lot of the work happens on. So they put up a blog post looking for a project manager, and I think 20 people applied and submitted resumes like you would with a traditional job. It was a little unusual for someone to come on board in open-source projects, just popping in, instead of slowly working their way up through the community, but they really want someone who was just dedicated on doing the project management tasks.
Rich: Yeah, that is a little unusual. How does the community organize itself? What’s the governance structure?
Chris: We’ve got “Bart”, we call him, that is our dictator, I guess. That is, benevolent dictator, but the final word comes down to him. And as people have started to get involved in the project in a technical capacity, when we identify that they’re pitching a lot of time and effort helping things out, we add them to the core team. They influence decisions, and work with security issues when people report those, and work on getting releases out, and get to have some say in the direction of the project.
Rich: With regard to the project itself, what makes Gallery stand out from other things in its space?
Chris: Gallery’s definitely been around for a while. It’s your photos on your website, instead of your photos on someone else’s website. That’s the thing thing that differentiates it from Flickr, and Picassa, and all those sorts of tools. The reason to actually use Gallery instead of some of the other Open Source ones: we’re on Gallery 3 now. The first one was home-grown – Bart built it to put his photos on his website, and it grew organically. We did the second system – “Syndrome” – complete rewrite for Gallery 2, that was over architected, overengineered, overdesigned that works really well and scales all right but it was really really hard for people to get in there and learn things. Over Gallery 1 and Gallery 2, we ammassed a large user base. So to do Gallery 3 we were able to do some user studies, have some usability experts come in and do wireframes as part of Google’s Summer Of Code, and the Season of Usability that OpenUsability put on, and taking everything that we’ve learned, we were able to make Gallery 3 three using small, lean, agile design, good unit tests when needed, but not trying to do comprehensive test coverage, and take into account the user experience. So Gallery 3 is a pretty polished product that we built to meet the needs of most for users, based on their feedback, and we’ve got a lot of smart people working on it.
Rich: A project like Gallery that is so universally recognized, and seems very mature … What sort of things do you all do going forward? What do you have planned for upcoming releases? Or are you kind of in maintenance these days?
Chris: It’s kind of tough to say. The momentum has definitely gone down. When there were lots of fires to fight, and lots of complex things to architect a lot of people were involved. But Gallery 3 kind of just works, and if you want to put photos on your website, the features we picked we try to follow the 80/21 rule – so 20% of the features meet the needs of 80% needs of our users. If those features work for you, Gallery is … you can just install it and use it, and it will meet your needs. And it’s simple enough that if you need to do some customization, you can do a little bit of that on your own.
The core e-mail list, and core development stuff has been a little bit quite. There’s a bit of community activity – building teams and building modules that interact with other services and add some functionality. But we don’t have any big surprises up our sleeves or any fancy things planned for the future just yet.
Rich: I posted something to the SourceForge blog a couple of days ago and it ended up on Slashdot, regarding what defines project success. In your mind what is it about your project that you consider to be successful.
Chris: To me it’s almost that things have slowed down, and this meets people’s needs, and they’re pretty happy with it. It’s been going on for long time. I’ve been working on the product a pretty large number years. Bart, the person that started everything is still around and we got a lot of team members that have been around for some time. We do get-togethers every now and then where we fly everyone in. Its a community of people we all know. Bart works at Google, and I got an internship at Google through him. The company I work for, we hired someone I met through working on Gallery that was a contributor to that and a contributor to the PHP project. So it’s enabled team members to move forward in their careers, and network while providing a really awesome product that a lot of people use, and makes people’s lives easier when you don’t want to give up the control of their data by putting on some service that, who knows what they’ll do with it.
Rich: How often have you participated in the Google Summer of Code?
Chris: I forget how many years we did it. The first year we were pretty ambitious and took on a whole bunch of people, and was a little bit more than we can handle. So we toned it down the next year. I think we did one more year after that with just one to three developers working on things. Some of the stuff we got out of that was pretty useful. Some was a little bit less useful, but I think people learned a lot of things. For example we had a guy from Serbia, I think, that got to contribute to this project. We flew him to the U.S. to one of our meetups. He got to get a lot more out of this than just the little bit of stipend from Google and the open source experience. So that was pretty fun. We actually got a lot more use, I think, out of the Season of Usability that OpenUsability put in, which is similar to Summer of Code, but on usability stuff. We got a couple of people that were getting their masters in user experience, to do user studies for us, and work with us to lay the framework for Gallery 3, which was a lot of fun.
Gallery is definitely a fun project. We’ve been a little bit quiet as far as new things, but that’s because things are in a pretty good place. A lot of the core team members are moving on, careerwise. But if anyone’s interested in jumping in to contribute to something that gets 10,000 downloads a week then Gallery’s a pretty easy thing to hop into, and we’d love all the help we can get.
Rich: Thanks so much for talking with me.
Chris: No problem. Good talking to you.