Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Querki: what I'm trying to accomplish

As described in my last post, I'm thinking about seriously diving into the Querki project, probably starting part-time after Pennsic, then maybe ramping up to full-time in October if it looks like it's a business idea worth pursuing. And as I do, I'm likely to be looking for interest and assistance of many kinds.

The project is, frankly, scary as hell. In part, that's because the idea isn't as unique as it was when I came up with ProWiki ten years ago -- both XWiki and Twiki have gone down somewhat similar paths, and have a serious foothold in the enterprise market.

But the thing is, I'm not *going* for the enterprise market. There's a huge market out there that is currently poorly-served: people who just want to keep track of *stuff*.

This shows up in a thousand places -- the infinite little websites that get built for special purposes, each its own little special snowflake. Hell, just within Carolingia in the past year we've built at least two of these: the new Carolingian Site DB, and the Cooks Guild Recipe DB. Both are functional, but both took more work to assemble than they should have, and both are kind of limited. And I find myself going, "We could do *so* much better than this".

So the notion is to focus on that market: the many people who just want an easy way to build little specialty sites for simple small databases. Whereas XWiki focuses on power, Querki focuses on ease of use. It's not about building huge enterprise databases, it's about making it Really Really Easy to build little databases of hundreds or thousands of Things. It's an online database for the consumer market, for the people who wouldn't normally even thinking about building a "database". (Indeed, I may deliberately avoid that word in public.)

And yes, I know that there are lots of cloud-based DB systems out there. Suffice it to say, I'm trying something quite different in some critical details: a prototype-styled OO DB instead of a conventional relational one. All my experience says that that is *way* easier for many real-world problems, so long as you don't care about scalability, and it fits nicely in a loosely-structured wiki environment.

So please forgive the burblage to come. This could prove to be a brief phase -- a week's enthusiasm that then burns out -- but it doesn't feel like it. I think I'm onto something here, and step one is going to be proving it to my friends.

Specifically: once it is at least basically up and running, I'm going to be looking to put projects onto it. I'm going to ask y'all to think about projects -- those things that you've built little sites for, or hacked in a third-party tool, and would like to do better. In some cases, I may ask if I can try replicating an existing site, and I won't kid you: my agenda is going to be to demonstrate that I can build something that is both *better* and *easier* than what you already have. I'm going to ask for honest criticism about any shortcomings you find, especially about anything existing systems can do that Querki can't. My hope is that I can prove that Querki is just plain better for 80% of the online-data problems you need to solve.

I'm also going to be looking for technical input. This time around, I'm going to try to avoid the go-it-myself of CommYou (one of the dumber mistakes I've ever made), and instead go for radical transparency, with a fully open-source project. That's a tad scary, but enough systems have demonstrated that you can build a good cloud-based solution that is completely open source that I'm inclined to give it a try. So if you're interested in participating in a really deep technical project (all the way down to language design), comment here and we can all talk about how we'd like to set it up. (In the long run, of course, I want to run the project via Querki itself, but for the first few months we're going to need some third-party project tools to communicate.) I would dearly love to get a couple dozen technically-inclined friends involved in the discussion. Those who want to actually get their hands dirty in the code would be more than welcome, but I'd also like folks who just want to muse on the architecture, the use cases, the usability and so on.

I think it's time to change the world, just a little bit. With some help, I think we just might be able to do so...
Tags: querki

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