Can lightning strike twice?

4 12 2006

About 10 years ago, I started writing an application that would have a profound impact on my life. Keystone started out a simple problem tracker, grew into a mature product that was getting 3000+ downloads everytime I did an update (about once every 3 months), and was ultimately sold to a DotCom that basically killed it in its tracks. That sale let me have a few toys and was a high point of the dotcom bubble for me.
3 years ago I re-aquired the rights to the application from the failed dotcom, and set about upgrading the vastly outdated software. My user base had for the most part wandered away to other applications, but there was still interest and heck, it was my application, I wanted to do things with it.
But other projects were taking precedence, and Keystone languished.
On a recent trip down to DC, I had the opportunity to spend 7 uninterrupted hours on the train, each direction, with nothing but a laptop and a music library to keep me company. After trying to get my current projects working, I settled back into “well, maybe I’ll work on Keystone some more.”
In those 2 train rides, I did more upgrading, tinkering, and fixing in Keystone than I’ve done in the last 3 years. I revived the contact manager and fixed all the dependency problems. I continued the changes needed to bring a PHP application, written in 1995, up to 2006 standards. Keystone is over 12,000 lines of code – not a trivial application, but not so huge that it is an unassailable target.
The question is – why do this? Sure, part of it is ‘this is my baby, I want to see it succeed’, but in the back of my head, the question burbles… “Can lightning strike twice?” – can I make this a successful opensource application again?
I’m certainly not deluding myself into thinking “THIS WILL BE THE NEXT KILLER APP!” – that’s a foolish and unrealistic mindset. But can I bring it back to where people are using it, they like it, they contribute suggestions and fixes, and the application continues to grow?
I’d like to think I can. But the code still needs a lot of work, and there are some design decisions that will most likely require huge chunks of code being ripped out at the roots (database connection methodology has advanced SIGNIFICANTLY since 1995).
It’s a nice dream, I sort of miss my users. Maybe they’ll come back.

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