Gina Trapani on 'Crowdsourcing a better Gmail'

Gina Trapani is well known for her work as the Editor of Lifehacker US – I met her when I became the Editor of the Australian version, Lifehacker AU.

Lifehacker publishes tech tips, tricks and hacks – and is known for favouring FOSS apps over paid ones. It also features apps written by the Lifehacker team itself. Probably the best known of these apps is Better Gmail – a Firefox extension rooted in the Greasemonkey code base, which aggregates a number of Gmail-related user scripts into a single interface.

Gina recently gave a talk at the Web Directions North conference in Canada in which she told the very cool story of how Better Gmail came into being. She called it “Crowdsourcing a better Gmail“. In Gina’s words: “Suddenly I found myself leading a distributed software project that involved dozens of developers without even intending to! ”

She’s kindly made the transcript of her talk available through Lifehacker, and I highly recommend you read it for an insight into how an idea to use Greasemonkey to create a Firefox extension turned into a “crowdsourced” open source development project which involved liaising with developers across the world – including Google itself. The app ended up translated into over 20 different languages, thanks to the efforts of FOSS volunteers worldwide. Incidentally, the talk also makes the point that APIs are so important – kudos to Google for releasing a GMail API suitable for use with Greasemonkey to encourage open source development with its product.

Congratulations to Gina, and thank you for sharing this very interesting insight into open source community development and community management!

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