In it’s initial conception Chandler was supposed to be an open source personal information manager incorporating calendar, email, instant messaging and task management in a new and flexible manner. At some point the focus of the project shifted from being about common communication tools to focus on the intersection of task management and calendaring in a way that promotes sharing and group collaboration. The OSAF folks have been heavily influenced by David Allen’s Getting Things Done methods.
The Chandler project is currently at a 0.7.3 release state for its flagship desktop client. While I haven’t spent as much time with the current release as I should have, my brief forays into using Chandler have left me scratching my head in some confusion about how to make use of the product. In the meantime I’ve become completely captured by using the prerelease version of OmniFocus for managing my own sets of tasks and projects.
I subscribe to the Chandler design mailing list, so I at least casually keep up with the chatter and progress on the project. Lately there have been a couple of threads that might indicate that I’m not the only one confused – one thread titled What’s the ‘pony in the product’? and one titled What is Chandler supposed to do anyway? (you can see them both in the list archive for this month). Both of these threads have a lot of good conversation about what Chandler can do and why it’s different than other tools, but they center around a common theme that it’s hard to explain Chandler to people.
I was thinking about that this morning when John Gruber’s blog called my attention to this post from Aristotle Pagaltzis where he postulates this hypothesis:
The more easily you can talk about a user interface, the more easily you can understand how to manipulate it.
It strikes me that maybe that’s the problem with Chandler.
I hope they figure their way forward, because there are an array of very talented people working at OSAF, and I think there is a need for a good open source product that re-thinks the personal management of tasks and information in new and creative ways. The folks at OSAF have done a lot of really good thinking on that topic – just watch Scoble’s interview with Mimi and Katie and you’ll be convinced of that.