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Transferring the Leadership of Open Source Projects? 128

Posted by Cliff
from the finding-the-code-a-new-home dept.
Frabcus asks: "I founded an Open Source project TortoiseCVS, a Windows Explorer shell extension for using CVS, but now I'm looking to hand on project management to someone else. When I started out, I had an itch to scratch. We started using CVS at work and I didn't like the interface for WinCVS, so I made a better one. Now it's a year and a half later and TortoiseCVS does everything that I want it to, so I'd like to move on to other things and let someone else take it on. There have been over 20,000 downloads, so I have quite a large user base, but not many people are active in supplying patches. Do you guys have experience of handing on an Open Source project? How did you find someone who has similar goals that will fit in with the existing code?" The thing to do is to start asking around in development circles. The best starting place, of course, is among the existing user-base. For those of you who have transferred Open Source projects, how did you go about finding your successor?

Another well timed submission on this same subject, mrgrumpy follows up with this query: "Quite some time ago (around 1997-1998) I built a Java based adventure game called World. Developed with Java1.1 (and at the time it was fairly leading edge, it now looks a bit tired), you run around, collect treasure and kill things. As with all my great projects (hey, I won a Sparc5 for this), I had always intended to finish it, but never did. Now I want to give it away to a good home where developers will continue to work on the code and bring my ideas to completion.

Every now and then I sit down and have a look at the code but I don't really have the energy left to complete it (most of my energy was soaked up with my Masters degree). Other projects have taken over now, and I'm planning to go overseas for 12-18 months, so I know I won't get back to it for a very, very long time in any serious way.

I am happy to give the code away if a team of developers want to continue developing it. I can act as a grandfather figure to the project to give guidance and wisdom, and to clarify what my vision was, and what the code does. I'd prefer it to be GPL'd or a similar license that won't shut the code up.

There was another project similar to this one called White Orb, which seems to have gone the way of the dodo, a shame because it had a lot of potential, so I don't want to release this one and have it gather dust. I could set the project up somewhere like SourceForge, but as I said I'd rather just hand it all over to someone else and just look after it.

If you're interested, you could email me, or just leave a comment below. I want to pick either a team, or an individual who I can be confident in that they'll get the project up and running."

So here are two projects looking for good homes. What's the best way of giving up control of an Open Source project (with the potential of varying degrees of continued project development by the original maintainer) in the hopes of it continuing on in good health?

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Transferring the Leadership of Open Source Projects?

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  • rule number one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sam@caveman.org (13833) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:35PM (#2596304) Homepage
    in general, if you leave the project, it will die. this is sad but true: unless there is someone other than you who has a substantial personal investment in the project in terms of blood, sweat, and tears, the project will fade away fairly quickly once people realise there is no committed leadership.

    -sam
    • Re:rule number one (Score:3, Insightful)

      by puma_duh (317981)
      I disagree. The foundation of open-source projects is the team-work... that's what make a lot of them better than they closed-source counterparts. Most likely a lot of people helped him to get where he is. Finding a suitable sucessor among those who helped is just a matter of time and patience. And even without a centralized leadership the project may still grown, and the program can be improved.
      • Re:rule number one (Score:5, Insightful)

        by babbage (61057) <cdevers@NOSpaM.cis.usouthal.edu> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:55PM (#2596832) Homepage Journal
        I disagree. The ugly truth about open source is that, in spite of the grassroots image, every significant project has been primarily driven in a top down way. Think about the irony there. When you think closed source, you think Windows, Oracle, Photoshop, etc., all of which have big corporate names behind them, and thus their unseen legions of developers -- Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe. When you think open source you think Linux, Perl, Emacs, and most of them have the names of individuals associated with them -- Torvalds, Wall, Stallman.

        This first guy said outright that a lot of people have downloaded his application but few have submitted patches back to it. That flatly contradicts your suggestion. And as for the second guy, he doesn't sound so different -- he still seems to want to run things, he just wants a break from the tedium of actually writing the code. Boo frickin hoo to him, I say -- if this Java game is his baby he shouldn't expect someone else to care about it as much as he did. It's much easier for me to sympathize with the CVS guy -- he's done what he set out to do, now he's willing to let others go where they will with it. If the project is to continue, this is what will have to happen: some other lead developer (or group of developers) will have to see something in the project that they want fleshed out, so it can become *their* itch to scratch, not someone elses. People don't tend to scratch other peoples' software itch unless they're being paid to do it, which brings us back towards the proprietary model.

        What you say sounds nice in theory and adheres nicely to the party line, but the sad fact is that the mechanics of things don't let them work out that way. Only the biggest projects have anything looking like a team effort -- Perl6 comes to mind -- and even then they're being lead by a core group of people, so it isn't really an exception to the rule.

        • It depends on the size and the competency of the people using the product. Sure there is always a core dev team or a single person in charge but that does not negate anything. How many people knew about the CVS project? I didn't that's for sure. Maybe if more people were using it and it was valuable enough to at least one of them then somebody would have stepped up. Maybe winCVS is better for people or maybe it's good enough either way it's easier to switch then to maintain something you have no love of.
        • This first guy said outright that a lot of people have downloaded his application but few have submitted patches back to it.

          Actually my own experience (from several open source projects) is that you cannot expect more than about one bug report per thousand downloads, and much less useful patches. Which implies that only the top twenty (well, maybe the top fifty) out of the many thousand projects listed on freshmeat get enough patches/bug reports/overall attention to make the developement really an open community effort. All the other projects rely almost entirely on one person to push along, find bugs, think about useful features, and get the project going. And they quietly die if that one person abandons them.

        • The ugly truth about open source is that, in spite of the grassroots image, every significant project has been primarily driven in a top down way.

          It seems reasonable that the people who had the original idea, or who do the most work, or who have the most knowledge about some project should have the most influence on its development.

          I would rather work on a project with recognized, effective leadership than one dominated by covert egalitarianism freaks. But let me qualify that.

          Egalitarianism isn't necessarily bad. If it comes about as a result of a small number of people of similar levels of relevant expertise coming together and working on a common project, then it's probably a good thing.

          "Leadership" isn't necessarily good. When it is assigned as a result of weird corporate politics having no relation to the quality of the actual work being done, and when we submit to it out of economic necessity, rather than a desire to be part of some cool, interesting, maybe even popular technical project, then it's probably bad.

          One of the great virtues of Open Source is that it helps develop leadership -- the kind of leadership that can inspire, coordinate, teach by example and teach by word without using economic or physical threats. An even greater virtue, in fact, the beautiful thing about Free Software, etc., is that it allows people to become members of groups that are compatible with their general preferences, cultural habits, and so on.

      • Re:rule number one (Score:3, Informative)

        by Amokscience (86909)
        First read some of this:

        http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue4_10/bezro uk ov/
        Second, as an open source author myself of a program that has received about as many downloads as the first questioner, I know my project would probably die if I left. It's a good project and I provide lots and lots of documentation and it's useful (in business) to thousands of people. Still, if I don't do work no one else does.

        Not that there hasn't been a lot of interest but people usually lose interst or make it do what they want and after a couple patches go about their business. I don't have any serious complaints about it but it can be somewhat frustrating seeing all new faces all the time.

        The only projects that will survive the project leader's departure are those with strong core groups or a strong hierarchy of leaders and co-leaders.
        I consider my project fairly successful and it's the work of basically just me. No team. That's just one counter-example but there are countless others like it in the open source community. Maybe if my project was sexier I would have more developers, who knows.

        Luckily for me and my users I still have enough fire and drive (for now) to 'finish' my project.
        My advice to people wanting to step down (with no clear successor) would be to put out feelers, grab about 3 people, give them full access, and wish for magic to happen.
    • The exception to this is phpMyAdmin [sf.net]

      Good software (usually open source) usually won't die if the founder forgets about it. The fact is that most software can be replaced with something else (however difficult that may be) if development stops.
    • Re:rule number one (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ab315 (443209)
      These days the "first wave" of maintainers are leaving their projects and I am seeing a lot of good packages being driven into the ground by the inexperienced and overenthusiastic people who take over. The first rule of software development is "if it ain't broke don't fix it" but when a new maintainer take over the first thing they want to do is rewrite everything.

      The catch twenty-two of project maintenance is that anybody who has the experience knows how much effort it requires and will be reluctant to volunteer, so the people who will actually step forward are those who are too inexperienced to know better.

    • Re:rule number one (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anthony Boyd (242971)
      if you leave the project, it will die

      Not in my experience. Perhaps your generalization holds up for others, though. But for me, the only way to keep my projects going is to walk away from them immediately. I am not a big developer. But for example, I wrote a few Applescripts for Outlook Express on the Macintosh. Including a well-loved script that restored password-protection to the app. I always released this code into the wild with text that stated the code was not only free, but that it had scratched my itch and others were invited to take over. All my Applescripts & Perl programs have since been completely taken over by others.

      Perhaps in order to have a successful passing-of-the-baton, you need to disclaim ownership and encourage others to do as they wish. I see this as a flaw of mrgrumpy's approach to passing on his Java game, World. He wants to be the "grandfather" figure giving guidance and vision. He wants it to be GPL'd or similar. He wants to be sure the project won't gather dust. He needs too many assurances, and developers have a fear of commitment. When I use/patch code, I play with it out of curiosity and interest. So by encouraging freedom -- even freedom to fork code into new directions that I never intended -- my code always finds a new home or two.

    • I agree, but disagree at the same time. Somebody needs to be interested in the project, for it to live on. But if the project turns out to be useful, they will make their own patches... and before you know it, someone's decided to merge the patches together -- and hey presto, they're the "new maintainer". viz. Apache.

      Anyway, regarding the initial Q. My suggestion is this: ask around in the user community, and see if anyone's interested in taking over as a maintainer. If not, forget about it -- just leave it to gather dust. Put up a web page with the current sources, details, etc. and a note indicating that you no longer have time to maintain it, and let it be.

      If it's useful to other people, and it works, and some tweak needs to be made, somebody will make it. They may also wind becoming de-facto maintainer of the software (I know about this -- it happened to me ;)

      If the new maintainer happens to irritate its users, the source is still out there, and if it has a decent free license, they can pick their own new maintainer and fork it. Maybe at some point down the line they'll merge back in (egcs/gcc), maybe not (NCSA httpd/apache) -- it doesn't matter as long as the code is good.

      All of this is well and good -- it's the open source project lifecycle! Don't worry about it! If your project is useful, it will be used!

      I know what I'm talking about here, because I found a big, unmaintained project that 'scratched an itch' a time ago; I found the existing third-party patches out there, integrated them all, made it portable to new OSes, and released a new version. Hey presto, I was the new (de-facto) maintainer. It worked great. That's open source for ya.

      Also, babbage said: This first guy said outright that a lot of people have downloaded his application but few have submitted patches back to it.

      Depends on the project. Sysadmin/developer users generally submit patches, end-users don't. Also, if there's an active developer community, there's less incentive to 'scratch your own itch' when you can just throw in a suggestion and get it scratched for free ;)

      This is another key point -- while you're still actively developing it, and appearing to "own" it, it will not pick up a new maintainer. You need to give people a need for a maintainer, before one will appear!

  • GAIM (Score:5, Informative)

    by akiaki007 (148804) <aa316@EULERnyu.edu minus math_god> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:38PM (#2596321)
    That was a success in ownership hand down. Perhaps you should ask them how they did it.
    • Re:GAIM (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bjb (3050) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @02:31PM (#2597051) Homepage Journal
      I think it has more to do with the fact that GAIM is a project that people really want. Not to say that people don't want the CVS interface, but with the popularity of instant messaging these days, a good AIM-like client for multiple platforms has a definate market.


      Sure, there's other IM clients and protocols out there, but AOL's IM is certainly the king (from what I see). From past experience with some of these open source clients (read: haven't touched 'em in several months), I found that GAIM was probably several (if not more) steps ahead of the competition.


      I think in the end it really comes down to how much of a demand among "geeks" the program has. With the CVS extension mentioned, it certainly is a good tool to have, but it is a Windows product; GAIM is more Linux/UNIX which tends to draw a larger geek crowd. If you were to compare Windows to UNIX users, you would find considerably more people with serious programming skill on the UNIX side. These are the people who would pick up and develop these projects.

    • Hi. I guess I should answer, seeng as how, as the AC said, I'm doing 99% of the work. Sigh, and I had moderator points and was looking to use them, too.

      Gaim has actually transferred hands two or three times (depending on whether you count me as the current maintainer; I don't). Mark started it, Jim took over it, then Rob. Now I'm doing the majority of the code; though Rob's still the maintainer, handles releases, documentation, and the website (along with Chris), and writes a significant amount of code. I just write code (and an occasional rant).

      I can't say how Mark or Jim or Rob got involved with Gaim; I wasn't there for it and don't know the whole stories. The reason I got involved with Gaim was because it sucked. The GNOME panel applet version didn't even compile; the first patch I put in to Gaim was to get it to at least compile. I'm currently in the process of getting the rest of it to do what I want it to do.

      Right now there are three or four people who Rob and I would be quite comfortable giving the code to if we wanted to quit. I don't think it's ever really been an issue; there will always be someone there making it better.

      I think, possibly unfortunately depending on perspective, that bjb is right: Windows for some reason doesn't attract people who are willing and able to write open source code. Whatever the reason, it ends up that Windows projects are hard to pass on. But it's not solely limited to Windows open source projects. Any project where people aren't submitting patches is hard to pass on.

      What I would do, if I didn't know who to pass the code on to, is to announce my retirement, and start keeping a public list of feature requests made by you and other users (SourceForge is great for this, hint hint, plug plug). Someone may eventually put in patches, and you can pass the project off to them. If no one does, you still can write code for it when you have time and interest. Of course, if you can't come up with any feature requests, and neither can anyone else, does it really need to continue to be worked on, other than bug fixes?

  • by nll8802 (536577) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:38PM (#2596323) Homepage
    I usually ask the most active bug reporters and patchers... One of them is usually quite willing to take over the project. I think if you didn't go to them first they would be a little upset since they feel they have already made quite a bit of contributions to the project.
  • use.perl.org [perl.org] (running SlashCode) has a similar topic for CPAN modules up for adoption.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:38PM (#2596328)
    A home for abandoned & elderly Open Source projects. Preferably one where they can be kept subdued so that they won't hurt themselves.

    "Yes TECO, you don't like EMACS. You know whats happens when you talk about EMACS though don't you? Here, Jerry Springer is on the telly. Thats it, you just sit there..."
  • by Eugene O'Neil (140081) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:39PM (#2596332)

    You say that the application is sufficient for your own needs. Isn't that enough? Rest on your laurels, and be satisfied with the project as it is. Don't go looking for someone to take it over, if someone is truly suited for the task, they will come looking for you.

    Unlimited growth is the creed of the cancer cell.
    • Definitely. What I would do is announce on all your development/announcement mailing lists that you are ending your reign as maintainer and happy to hand over the project to someone else. Also put a blurb about this on your project website right on the front page. Make sure all source code is available--toss in a README file with all your final thoughts and things you were thinking of doing and whatever else. Make sure you copyright all the code and place it under whatever license is important to you. This involves adding license text to the top of every file in the project as well as adding a LICENSE file with the download.

      Then just move on with your life. If someone finds your project and has an itch they need to scratch, they'll contact you about taking over or whatever.

      That's what happened with Lyntin--Lyn stopped development and a year later I discovered the project and we chatted and I took over and moved it to sourceforge and so on so forth.

      On the flip side, you can always take a super passive role on your project. If it does everything you want it to do, then it's "done" and you can just hang out and deal with patches if people send them in.
    • Straight from 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar': 13. ``Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.''
  • hard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoopidguy (530032) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:39PM (#2596335)
    There is really no way of insuring that all of your own goals will be met. A new project leader means that they will put their ideas over yours, in 6 months you can take a look at the program and it will a total change from what you had/intended. But as the story suggests, send an email to the project's list and also post it on the page. Then just make sure the person you are handing it over to knows their stuff. If at all possible give it to someone who has been working on the project.
  • by sharkticon (312992) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:41PM (#2596350)

    Take a long look through the projects on SourceForge. Notice anything? That's right, most of them haven't been updated in well over a year, and most of them are being run by one person on their own.

    Although open source projects hold great potential for cooperative development, it seems that in the real world there are few bazaars and plenty of lonely coders working on their own projects. Some of these are lucky enough to generate interest, but most don't. Then again, most aren't particularly novel anyway.

    The truth is that there are a million projects out there, some of which are more far more [sourceforge.net] worthy [sourceforge.net] and interesting than the things suggested here. And if people are looking for something to contribute to, then they're going to go for these high-profile projects rather than someone's home-grown application.

    So I guess you'll be lucky to find anyone to take these over (well apart from posting it on /. perhaps). Open source is great, but it only works for projects interesting enough to generate "many eyes" rather than someone's personal hobby code.

    • Open source is great, but it only works for projects interesting enough to generate "many eyes" rather than someone's personal hobby code.

      Building on another post [slashdot.org] I made last week, I would rewrite your sentence as follows: "Open source is great, but it only works for projects interesting enough to generate interested contributors rather than someone's personal hobby code." Getting interested contributors doesn't require many eyes looking at the project, although it helps. It only really requires "luring" or "wooing" a couple like-minded people. Unfortunately, people tend to consolidate efforts and work on projects with the most critical mass. So a lone geek reinventing the wheel shouldn't be surprised to find that others want to put their efforts to the wheel that's already turning.

    • by ebyrob (165903) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @05:13PM (#2597957) Homepage

      Um... I'm trying to figure out just what you're saying...

      Here we've got a CVS client for windows integrated with the windows explorer that somebody created because they thought WinCvs "wasn't good enough". Now, I don't know about you, but that sounds darned useful to me since I use CVS every day at work and get sick of using both explorer and WinCvs to do everything. Perhaps you know of some better projects which make this thing redundant? I sure don't.

      Next, you seem to be implying that there are particular "more worthy" projects people should be working on. You supply a link to freenet and to mind.sourceforge.net whatever that is. Two pie in the sky projects that already have more developers then they'd ever warrant and likely will never amount to a hill of beans.

      If you think Open Source is "public service" then you have fun with your "worthy" projects. Me, I'll be spending my time working on the tools that make my life easier. (and yes Margaret that includes whole operating systems for my extended family to use that I can actually get to work for them) Why will I give these tools away? So the next guy can work on something *more* useful, and maybe, just maybe, make my life easier in return.

      hacker ethic n.

      1. The belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good, and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing open-source code and facilitating access to information and to computing resources wherever possible. (taken from the Jargon File [tuxedo.org])

  • by tony_gardner (533494) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:43PM (#2596355) Homepage
    One has a finished, working code that needs patching, the other looks to me like someone who wants others to do his homework.

    At that I've got an open source project I'd like finished:

    A 3D first person RPG with overhead views that has MMP, LAN, and single player potential. Easy to mod, fantastic graphics and addictive gameplay.

    work done:
    downloaded gcc

    anyone interested?
  • not necessarily (Score:3, Insightful)

    by indecision (21439) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:45PM (#2596364)
    If the current release has useful features and is relatively stable, then there's no reason for users to stop using it, especially so in the open source case since if they have problems they may well be able to fix the issues themselves. This is true of a few things I use myself.

    What might well "die" is the evolution of the product; a user patching their own code is not likely to go through the effort of propogating their patch, when there's no active maintainer who they can simply email. The project may well end up not evolving further because of this, but hey if the program is mature, that isnt too much of a loss.

    And then eventually someone might come along with an idea that uses the "stale" project as a seed for something greater, and start evolving it again.

    • I agree, it's the evolution that dies not the use. I regularly make use of other people's half-finished software projects, most of which will never be completed, and this hasn't made them any less valuable to me.

      The problem I encounter is that none of these projects has been GPL'ed, and half of them haven't had their source code released. For those for which I have source code, in most instances I have sent the authors patches; but few of the patches have ever been released back into the public code stream. Since the projects are not GPL'ed (or equivalent), I am not able to fork the project and carry it forward into its second life.

      My plea to the authors of both the projects is for them to open source them, publish the source code, and announce to their users that they will no longer be maintaining the projects. As long as the projects are free to be carried forward by another maintainer, at their leisure, then someone will eventually pick it up.

  • You could post to ask slashdot and you might find someone to take over your project...oh wait...
  • Obviously, the URL for World, the Java Game, is this [cyber4.org], and not the one submitted.
  • When the leader of fink resigned, it was devastating; he started it, ntured it and it really was his baby. The rest of us got together via email and worked out new leadership. In short, announce your intention to move on and see who steps forward.
  • by dominion (3153) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:53PM (#2596416) Homepage
    Since you started the project because you had an itch to scratch, then your best bet is to just announce that you are no longer maintaining the codebase, and that if anybody starts updating it, and needs to contact you, that they should.

    Wait for somebody else to have an itch to scratch. The idea that you need to "appoint" a new leader is contrary to the non-heirarchical nature of open-source.

    Michael Chisari
    dominion@tao.ca
  • by ScroP (536977)
    Maybe you can find a project that you could merge your changes back into. If you started by finding a way to improve WinCVS, maybe you can merge those changes into thier source tree. Perhaps it could be a view option, like detailed list or small icon list type view in windows explorer. People could pick classic WinCVS or your style WinCVS views. How much work this would be depends though, on how different the two are. I don't know much about either project, but you get the idea of what I'm trying to say here as an alternative to finding a new owner. I think other projects must have done this before, but I don't remember which - wasn't it two of the newer .net implementations that did this? portable .net and some other one?
  • Welcome to The Island of the Misfit toys.
  • by linuxrunner (225041) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:04PM (#2596467) Homepage
    I am reading this, because I am in the same boat and have some projects I would like to see continued, just that I no loger have the desire.

    Most of the posts say, just let the community judge it.
    Well that's fine if you have a large site that's really popular. But what if you don't?
    Sure my site gets good traffic, but nothing fantastic.... I do not advertise, or offer anything substantial other than code.
    My purpose is to code, not to get traffic....

    So what's my alternative.... Be another freshmeat or sourceforge project that doesn't get traffic too? I mean go and see for yourself how many defunct projects there are..... and the list! Oh my god the list.... So many to go through, so many with no source code at all!

    The solution:

    Traffic
    And lots of it. These two projects will now probably get a home thanks to Slashdot.
    My Proposal:
    Maybe Slashdot can add a new feature.... Projects in need of a home, and can showcase a new project every day or week.

    • hmm..i would suggest just dumping it on sourceforge with an entry in the LSM and freshmeat. eventually someone will come along, send you an email and fork or pick up your project. i know ive done it once before...i found a dead project (not updated for 3 years) on the LSM, picked it up and integrated it into one of my projects i was using and cleaned and modernised it. then released a new version of it and im actively maintaining it since its integrated into one of my projects. as long as its GPL someone will find bits of it useful and pick it up. it may take a long time but if the code is in decent condition someone will put the effort required and use it. just make sure you have a relatively easy build process (even if you have no makefile a script helps) and write clean blocks of code (you dont need to doument -- you *do* need to have sane functions with meaningful names on the variables).
    • Maybe Slashdot can add a new feature.... Projects in need of a home, and can showcase a new project every day or week.

      Like unmaintained-free-software.org [unmaintain...ftware.org]?

    • Good thoughts but...

      If you don't consider your projects worthwhile enough to take the time to list them on sourceforge and freshmeat (freshmeat in particular IMHO) then how can you expect anyone else to care that much about them? This TortoiseCVS thing sounds like a great idea, and probably would have been picked up if it was on freshmeat. Maybe you just need a big shove in the listing direction...

      So here's your invition: List those puppies on freshmeat! Do it today!

      Don't just expect Slashdot to do your legwork for ya...
  • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:07PM (#2596486)
    While I think that you might be disappointed that not many folks are actually supplying patches there are two reasons for this.

    1) It is really good and does not need much in terms of patches. I use it all the time and I love it.

    2) Debugging a Windows Shell Extension is a royal pain in the ass. I actually tried to debug Tortoise because I wanted to change a few things. But I gave up when debugging became difficult.

    As a result it says one thing. You did a great job....
    • Hear hear!

      I use TortiseCVS, and it's wonderful. I'd even be willing to donate a small amount of money to help support the maintainer if that's necessary to attract one, but knowing the general practice on that grounds I do NOT recommend that you try to collect donations and pay someone... true volunteers are your only hope. With something of the quality of TortiseCVS, there's got to be SOMEBODY out there who wants the fame...
  • walk away (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Score Whore (32328)
    I realize that you have a personal investment of time, effort, etc. I know you'd love to make sure your "child" is in good hands. But the appropriate thing is to just drop it and walk away. If there is interest in continued development someone will take up the task.
  • I just finished reading the Cathedral and the Bazaar [tuxedo.org]. It talks about Popclient becoming Fetchmail. The way this happened was ESR sent patches to the author and found out that the project was almost dead. This led to the original author handing over the reins to ESR.
  • easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chundra (189402) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:08PM (#2596494)
    Write a little message on your website saying something like:

    "I have given up working on this software. You are free to use it as usual. It works fine, and I can't think of anything else I want to do with it. If you'd like to take over the project and add new and exciting features, please contact me at [insert email here]. Cheers."

    What's the problem?
  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:14PM (#2596522)
    If there aren't people interested, your best bet is to try to come up with a way to generate interest. Setup a set of web pages describing it, and submit it to the search engines. Place the code under the GPL or BSDL, and hope that people take an interest. Ask them to e-mail you, as you are looking for a maintainer.

    However, as the code is Free, anyone can take it and use it. It appears that you are looking for free labor to do your bidding. Sorry, the world doesn't work that way. You can close up your code and it dies, or you can put it out there and hope that someone will do something with it.

    With the BSD license, someone may take your code and use it, even if in a non-free capacity. With the GPL, they may use it but only in a free capacity.

    You aren't interested, so move on. If you want others to benefit from your work, make it easy to find (properly built web pages to search engines can find it) and place it out for the world.

    Maybe someone will use it, maybe not. Maybe they'll e-mail you questions, maybe not.

    If you're done however, accept it and move on.

    If there was a large team of coders working on the project, than this question makes sense. If you were providing genuine leadership, it makes sense to find a replacement.

    However, they appear to be software projects that you are done with. Put the code up there. People can use it, or not. People should download it, decide where to go, and setup a fork. If you are lucky, 2-3 projects will form using your code. If not, none will.

    Regardless, there is no maintainer/leadership issue, as these are solo projects.

    Best of luck,
    Alex
  • by uh1763 (138735) <uwe@hermann-uwe.de> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:32PM (#2596670) Homepage
    Hi all.

    OK, shameless plug, but anyways, this is IMHO exactly what these people are looking for...


    Unmaintained Free Software [unmaintain...ftware.org] is a site which keeps track of unmaintained (or orphaned) Free Software related projects.

    It's a central place for people who want to

    • find out whether a project is unmaintained or not
    • find a project they can work on
    • announce that their own project is not maintained anymore and that they search a new maintainer for it
    • gather some statistical data about why Free Software related projects become unmaintained, how long it takes to find a new maintainer (if at all), etc...


    The ultimate goal of the site is to help find a new maintainer for software which is currently unmaintained.

    Any comments, questions or other feedback (patches anyone?) is highly welcome...

    Uwe.
    • Actually, I've wanted to thank you guys for doing what you do, although not necessarily for just the finding maintainers part.

      Sometimes saving old code is the best way to get a new developer going, or let someone find a good way to do something without having to reinvent the wheel. The project doesn't have to be renewed - just as a knowledge base in itself it's extremely valuable.

      So anyway, thanks.
    • This is really cool. However, it seems that not all free software projects *should* be maintained. Four thousand versions of ICQ libraries do not each need homes. How do you decide what gets listed and what doesn't?
    • Uwe, this is very admirable and I hope useful.

      I intend on working on a 'leadership exchange' and a 'leaderdev' resource to do exactly what your page does (and is implied in this submission in general), but in a more general and collaborative way. (As a part of that, I will probably be working with you to improve both of our resources :)

      I propose my 'leaderdev' resource to connect projects with leadership and leaders with leadership resources to shepherd (and sometimes pass on) their projects.

      Please watch this space [relentless.org] for more developments--I am in the process as we speak of putting together the proposal and site/resources.

      Don't hesitate to contact me if you're interested in collaborating, even at this early stage, at my email address [mailto]. --Chris

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is probably a good start.
    or perhaps you already thought of that?

    Allan
  • Why would you need someone to maintain perfect software? Francis is a fantastic programmer, and his stuff is very useful. I'm sad to hear he's leaving TortoiseCVS, but I also think his time is wasted there (it's done). I'm looking forward to seeing what new projects he's going to work on.
  • Everybuddy/GAIM (Score:2, Interesting)

    I am now the maintainer of Everybuddy [everybuddy.com] but it was not always so.

    The previous maintainer was a man called Torrey Searle, and he was also one of the people who have helped with GAIM (our projects are very intertwined, I really should write a history some day). The way is worked for us was something like this.

    Torrey was like your selfs way too busy to keep up work on the project, I was always working away, reporting bugs and such, as I seemed like the most active devel on the project it must have seemed to him that I was the logical choice. The story goes pritty much the same with GAIM incase anyone was wondering.

    However, in your case there are no other active devels, but I am sure that this /. apperence will help with that, then you will be able to choose who will take the project in the direction you want it to go.

    Also in my case, Torrey looks in every so often and wakes me up, he has moved a lot closer to me as well (he used to be in the US, he has now moved to Europe, and I live in the UK) so we are planning to meet up some time soon, so I am sure we will have a chat about eb then.

    The last thing I would have to say is make sure you get along with this person, it would be very hard if you a few months down the line find you have given 'your baby' to someone who is nothing like you and you don't get along with.

    Take care all - Robert Lazzurs
  • by czth (454384) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:57PM (#2596846) Homepage
    I am happy to give the code away if a team of developers want to continue developing it. I can act as a grandfather figure to the project to give guidance and wisdom, and to clarify what my vision was, and what the code does. I'd prefer it to be GPL'd or a similar license that won't shut the code up.

    Your "vision"? My that sounds pompous. If someone else is willing to take over, they won't want the crutch of having to take orders from someone else; open source is about freedom. If they do take suggestions from you, be happy, but don't think you'll be able to sit there like a god and direct your minions how to code "your" project. When you hand it over, you hand it over. It's not yours any more. And depending on the quality of the code and how finished it is (I quote: "I had always intended to finish it"), perhaps nobody will want it. Think of it it as evolution in action :).

    The first case is much different; it describes a project whose author has fulfilled all his goals for it and wants to pass it on to keep it "live", as I see it. TortoiseCVS may just require the occasional fix and feature addition; it sounds like a stable program. I'll probably try it out, as I currently use WinCVS at work.

    • Yes his vision. Try reading what he said again and understanding it as well. Usually when you transfer a project to someone you tell them what you were aiming for, note his use of past tense WAS. Sounds like he wanted to be helpful while the new people took over to give them a shorter transition period in learning his stuff.
    • It was never my intention to give orders with the code. What I had meant was that I was available help those who couln't work out what I was trying to do. I haven't updated the code for quite some time, and as I said, I don't want to drive it anymore.
  • When I started out, I had an itch to scratch.

    Phew! Good thing you didn't say "I had to scratch an itch", because thats would have been silly.

  • Tortoise Rocks! (Score:5, Informative)

    by nambit (264147) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @02:24PM (#2596995)
    I found tortoise after needing something to let a designer keep his pages in the same CVS repository as my code. All i can say is that it's absolutly fantastic - the designer hasn't really got a clue about CVS, but using tortoise is so simple it hurts...

    right-click, "commit"...
    right-click, "update"...

    makes me smile whenever i see emails from the cvs server with the designer's name on them.

    to the guy who wrote it - thank you so much for making using cvs a joy under windows. what on earth do you think tortoise should be doing that it isn't now? the thing's finished as far as i can see! (and yes, that does mean it sends email ;-)
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @02:28PM (#2597028) Homepage
    There's quite a bit of open-source abandonware. That's inevitable, but in many cases, the only open-source solution to some problem has been abandoned, or nearly abandoned.

    I've been writing a graphics application which uses several open-source libraries. So far there's a cross-platform OpenGL interface, a GUI package for OpenGL, an XML input/output package, and a VRML->Web3D translator. All of them almost work. All are to some extent abandonware. I've put some work into fixing the GUI package, but don't have the time to dig into all the others.

    And we're going to be in real trouble when (not if, when; read their financials) VA tanks and takes SourceForge down with it.

  • by utoddl (263055) <Todd_Lewis@unc.edu> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @02:41PM (#2597112) Homepage

    If you have or know of a project that no longer has its leader(s), post it on http://www.unmaintained-free-software.org/ [unmaintain...ftware.org]. At least people will have a chance to find it. Check it out; you might be surprised what's there -- gs [unmaintain...ftware.org] f'rinstance.

  • Not gonna happen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KidSock (150684) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @02:57PM (#2597204)
    You won't find anyone. A prerequisite is that they find you. To pass the torch it will invariably be necessary that the candadate become interested in the project on their own recognisence. This is just human nature. They need to feel like they discovered it in a way thus making it important by induction. To say that you have done everything with the project and that your "done" is not going to enlightlen anyone to step up. Programmers are rather finiky about what they will put work into for free (and you can forget about good programmers). Remember when your grandmother gave you those coins and told you she though you should start collecting too? You didn't did you? Whereas if she had layed them out when you came over and didn't say anything and was kooth about it you just might have become interested in that coin collection. If she was really slick about it (and it was a good coin collection) you'd probably start asking her about her will.
  • by KurtSteinkraus (28035) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @03:16PM (#2597305)
    Any developer who joins a project in progress has to learn how the parts of the program are laid out. It seems that the learning curve could be made less steep by documenting the program well. Comments are not the only helpful documentation; there are also object models and diagrams of all sorts, detailed specifications, use cases, coding conventions, etc.

    The class I TA for at MIT is 6.170: Lab in Software Engineering [mit.edu]. We force the students to learn how to write software using these documentation tools, in part to help them come up with better designs, but in part so that they can work more effectively as a team in their final project.

    --Kurt

  • My father was a minister, and he followed an unwritten (I think) rule that said pretty much "when you leave a church, LEAVE it." Horror stories abound of retired ministers who still attended the old church they used to preach at.

    This should be no different. By all means hand the project over, but then sever all ties to the project. Accept the fact that someone else is at the helm, and they may have a different vision than you.

  • Why does an open source project need a leader? Just sit the code on a site somewhere. Sourceforge is an obvious option, but sunsite would also be an idea. If anyone wants to mess with the code it's there; if they want to seriously pick up development, they can. Look at joe, it's been at version 2.8 for as long as I care to remember.
  • You know, when I read about projects like this, I think back on the tens of thousands of shareware programs written just like this. Same economic model -- if you like it, give me a few bucks or give me a job. Nobody ever paid for shareware.

    Some blowhard with a penchant for LSD and communism just steps up into the mix and you've got yourself a philosophy!!! but in practice this is just shareware. Nothing new to see here.

    You show me apache, I show you PKZIP.
  • Two points... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by big_hairy_mama (79958)
    1) What this (CVS) guy needs is some advertising. I've looked all over the web for a replacement for WinCVS, and because I couldn't find one, my work decided to use Visual Source Safe instead. I had no idea that this increadibly cool, useful, and covers-99%-of-what-i-needed-to-do thing existed. Yes, I suppose he does have ~20,000 downloads under his belt, but given more exposure, it shouldn't be as difficult to get other developers interested.

    2) These projects are lucky, in that being posted to the front page of Slashdot is likely to give them a *lot* of exposure (countering point #1), and hopefully someone in this crowd will choose to take up the ball. Other projects doing the same thing probably won't be posted to /., so I wish them good luck. There are some excellant comments above that should help.
  • by Seor Jojoba (519752) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @06:17PM (#2598262) Homepage
    Similiar scenario--I have an old game that I am trying to breath new life [sourceforge.net] into. I think it's working. It's not a glamorous project, but I had to take down my SourceForge job posting, after getting fifteen "sign-me-up" responses in two days. Right now there are five active coders besides me working on it. So it is possible, contrary to other posts here, to drum up some interest for an outdated game. It helps a lot to show people that you are organized and committed to getting things done. If you don't have the time and energy to play this role for a little while, you are probably in a Catch-22 situation. People will be more attracted to your project, the more committed you are to it.

    I don't plan to get a new project leader any time soon, but I think I could without much trouble. The key is getting some active development going on the project, before asking someone to take it over. Consider managing the project for just one more release with a few new features, and soliciting for help. The new development activity will hopefully attract some contributors. From these, you should have one or two candidates for a new project leader.

    -Erik

  • You might want to ask somebody to co-lead it with you. "To allow for coverage while you are away". After they get up to speed, you can just fade into the background and let them take over. Or maybe you'll find that when you are sharing the load, you won't want to completely stop.

    An you are, of a course, aware that "complainer" is another word for "volunteer".

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

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