Starting Open Source Projects

Reprint from OStatic:

When many open source projects get launched, the initial developers are surprised by how little community response they are able to generate. Once there is community response, of course, it can become viral, and an underpowered piece of technology can blossom into a powerhouse. So what are the best steps to follow in launching a project? Here are five tips, including useful resources, and some advice from Linus Torvalds himself.

Seek advice first.  In some really great comments that Linus Torvalds supplied on the Input/Output blog, he said this: “The first thing is thinking that you can throw things out there and ask people to help…”That’s not how it works. You make it public, and then you assume that you’ll have to do all the work, and ask people to come up with suggestions of what you should do, not what they should do. Maybe they’ll start helping eventually, but you should start off with the assumption that you’re going to be the one maintaining it and ready to do all the work.” There it is: You can’t take the Tom Sawyer approach right out of the fence and ask everyone to whitewash your fence.

Know what open source means. The Open Source Definition is where every project leader should start when it comes to how open source projects should be distributed, and what actually qualifies as open source. It’s also good to review Open Standards requirements.

Know Thy Licenses.  For a plain language discussion of license types for open source projects, and which license will work best for your project, try FOSS License Wars. The  discussion is broken up into chapters that you can skim as you see fit, and the information is solid. It’s also an excellent idea to visit SourceForge, and review the many projects housed there, which types of licenses they have, how their communities work, and more. Should your project be housed there? Also see OStatic’s collection of resources on licenses.

Extend your development vocabulary. For extending your ability to implement ideas from others, Developer.com offers useful tutorials on topics such as Python programming, and W3Schools has excellent, free tutorials on web development topics.

Practice good community development. In this post from OStatic, you’ll find sound advice on how to get a community interested in your project. This can often require setting up mailing lists, message boards, web sites and blogs, and leveraging social media tools. In general, the more online social fire-stoking you do, the better.

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