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A significant factor to the success or failure of any software development effort is the quality of tools your team uses. While in the not-so-distant past many of the tools required were proprietary software packages, now open source projects dominate the landscape. Today I would like to discuss five projects that can significantly increase your team’s effectiveness. As is the case with many open source endeavors, each of these projects were inspired by other open source projects - either to make a good thing better, or fix what someone thought were irreconcilable issues with then-existing software.

I would consider myself a card-carrying member of the “social media generation.” I have seen the world of social networking evolve from AOL profiles and chat rooms to the present day where sites like Facebook and Myspace are the most visited destinations on the Internet. I have seen the birth of the blogosphere and its subsequent child, micro-blogging (most commonly known as Twitter). I have created and abandoned more profiles than I care to mention...

When I was a kid, growing up in Germany "Scotland Yard" ( was one of the most popular games around - a bunch of detectives out and about in London trying to capture the elusive Mister X.  The instructions never stated who Mister X was or  what he had done - all that was known was that he needed to be captured before "time runs out."

Trying to create a web site without first identifying who the site is for, and why you’re building it reminds me of that scenario. Without having a clear understanding around the basic questions of “who, what and why,” it is hard to gauge whether you are on the right path and whether any decisions you are making along the way bring you closer to the your goals.