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Community Involvement for an Open Source Project? 148

Posted by Cliff
from the getting-them-interested-and-keepin'-'em-that-way dept.
pfleming asks: "Several months ago I began a maintenance fork of some niche software. Essentially, these are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. The original developer moved on to an incompatible version to what I was using. Upgrading for me and many other users was not the easiest option. Luckily the software is GPL'd and so continued work on the fork is not a big deal. I have set up a site, made it available for download, announced the availability of the fork on Freshmeat and the forums for the original software. Now I have a few people subscribed to the project on Freshmeat, and a few on a mailman list set up for the project. This project has been listed on the GNU Website and other mirror sites but doesn't get much discussion on the mailman list and nothing from the Freshmeat subscribers. There is usually an increase in interest (indicated by a short term increase in site hits) when new releases are announced but this fades back to regular traffic of ~40 visits per day as measured by webalizer after a short period of time. Is this an anomaly? Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?"

"More questions for you to chew on:

  • Is there more interest in a new project vs. one that is more or less mature?
  • Is the project too narrow to attract an audience?
  • Could the underlying business (real estate) just be too saturated with web sites?
Just what are the secrets to a successful (measured by lots of contributors, etc) project...or am I just not defining success correctly?

What other thoughts does Slashdot have on this subject?"
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Community Involvement for an Open Source Project?

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  • My 2 cents (Score:5, Informative)

    by JohnGrahamCumming (684871) * <slashdot@NosPAm.jgc.org> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:31PM (#6629314) Homepage Journal
    There is usually an increase in interest (indicated by a short term increase in site hits) when new releases are announced but this fades back to regular traffic of ~40 visits per day as measured by webalizer after a short period of time. Is this an anomaly?

    This seems pretty normal. Any time you make an announcement on your project (including releases) you are going to drive traffic to its web site (that's why corporations pump out press releases). The fact that it dies down afterwards is totally normal, you'd expect people to come, see what's going on, download the stuff and leave.

    Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?

    Probably not. This might be an indication that the software is wonderful, but it's more likely an indication that the user base is small. As the user base increases they are going to find all sorts of weird problems (especially with different machine/OS configurations) which will get reported as bugs.

    Is there more interest in a new project vs. one that is more or less mature?

    I don't think new vs. old is as important as good vs. bad. If your project is useful and well executed then you'll get hits. Just compare Mozilla with any of the thousands of "new" projects listed on SourceForge.

    Is the project too narrow to attract an audience?

    I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.

    Could the underlying business (real estate) just be too saturated with web sites?

    That's possible in any business, if your project had some uniqueness then the saturation will not be important. Getting the message out about your feature set will.

    Just what are the secrets to a successful (measured by lots of contributors, etc) project...or am I just not defining success correctly?

    I don't think number of contributors is the most important measure. How about number of people actually using the software? In POPFile there's a feature where it can report back (opt in) that it's being used, this gives me an idea of how many downloads converted into users. Another measure of success would be mentions of your project in the press.

    John.

    • Re:My 2 cents (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MisterFancypants (615129) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:40PM (#6629366)
      I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.


      Yeah but how many Real Estate agents read Freshmeat? Even if the Read Estate industry is massive (and it is), this guys market is much smaller unless he gets the word out to the general public, which involves spending lots of money on advertising... Which is, of course, silly to do for a free project.

      • Re:My 2 cents (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JohnGrahamCumming (684871) * <slashdot@NosPAm.jgc.org> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:46PM (#6629401) Homepage Journal
        Even if the Read Estate industry is massive (and it is), this guys market is much smaller unless he gets the word out to the general public, which involves spending lots of money on advertising...


        Word of mouth is far more powerful than advertising. What the guy needs to do is get a few RE offices up and running with the software and get those RE agents to talk to others about it. In addition there are specialist RE web sites where RE agents could discuss the project and hence get more coverage of his project.


        John.

        • by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:08PM (#6629520) Homepage Journal
          What the guy needs to do is get a few RE offices up and running with the software and get those RE agents to talk to others about it. In addition there are specialist RE web sites where RE agents could discuss the project and hence get more coverage of his project

          Yes, but the important part here is that by helping other people impliment this you *will* discover quirks/bugs/out-of-spec behavior in your project. The quality will improve greatly and you will soon have another, better release ;-) Then when the next people try it they will have an easier time :-)
      • Re:My 2 cents (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @09:14PM (#6630545) Homepage
        spending lots of money on advertising... Which is, of course, silly to do for a free project

        Yep, I'm learning this. But not for the reasons you think. Try advertising a free project using Google's adwords. They'll kill the ad, asking you to substantiate the claim that the software is free. However, they don't actually give you any method to substantiate the claim -- they only give you the option to change the ad! I tried replying via email (never read/responded to) and even adding text to my Web site to note that the project was under a BSD license. No response, no way to undo their block.

        Hmm. Now that I'm ranting about it, I think I'll change the ad text from "free" to "open source" and see if they block that. Fewer people will understand it, but a gimped ad is better than none, I guess.

    • Is the project too narrow to attract an audience?

      I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.

      That's probably true, but I think we need to look at this question from a different perspective.

      I wouldn't doubt that real estate is a big business. In fact, I know it is, I know quite a number of real estate agents to confirm this fact. However, not many software developers are going to be all that concerned about real estate and so therefore, software like this won't scratch an itch for them.

    • Just what are the secrets to a successful (measured by lots of contributors, etc) project...or am I just not defining success correctly?

      The definition of success varies from project to project in open source. Many would say that you're successful, you took an open source project and extended it to your needs, that is one of the fundamentals of open source.

      Not all open souce projects are going to be as wide spread as Linux or Apache, but is wide spread adoption really what you're looking for? It's g
    • The other thing that's important to note is that you are doing a fork. That means not only are you going for a small market but your going for a market that doesn't want an up to date version.

      When I look for some software I try to find the original branch and only if it doesn't do what I want look at the forks.

      Wiki's are a good example. The first major on is usemod (there were some before this but they aren't around anymore) there are lots of other ones (Python, ASP, PHP, Zope and even more Perl ones) The
    • I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.

      Really? [yardi.com]

      -- Jack

    • My two pennies (Score:3, Informative)

      by Taco Cowboy (5327)


      As one who have fostered more than 150 open-source projects on Freshmeat - no I ain't the author for all of them, just find 'em and then list 'em on Freshmeat in the hope that the worldwide open-source community will somehow be enriched by the wider selection, I can tell you that unless your project is really, _really_ address a large segment of the public at large, the "flow" of enquirers will slow to a trickle - sometimes, even to 1 or 2 per day.

      One thing that I've found, on my experience on fostering
  • Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:33PM (#6629321) Homepage
    Essentially, these are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. [...] ~40 visits per day as measured by webalizer after a short period of time. Is this an anomaly?

    No. Because they are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. Calculate number of real estate offices in the US. Substract those that have a meaningful IT infrastructure beyond a few PCs to type and print contracts. Then substract those that use custom software. Then substract those that don't use an Office/VBA solution, or simply a Microsoft platform (and from my experience those are the majority). Then substract those that have actual in-house developers. Finally, substract those that use PHP and MySQL, specifically. Then add the number of people who create and sell software solutions for real estate offices based on PHP/MySQL. There you go, about 40 people.

    If you are Apache, Perl, Python, GAIM, etc, etc. then yes, it's an anomaly. What you're seeing is about right, considering it's a pretty narrow niche. People won't get excited about something just because it's listed on FreshMeat and is GPLE'd. There are one-liner bash scripts there with wider audience than your code.

    But I don't see what you're worried about - that's how it works. The fact that its released will eventually help someone out. Just don't expect Yahoo-sized traffic.

    • On top of that, your core audience is people who have old versions of the original project and aren't willing to upgrade to the new "official" version.
    • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:37PM (#6629344)
      No offense intended to the author, but quite frankly, I'm shocked something like this would get 40 hits a day. I mean, this is pretty much the definition of "obscure program".
      • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Informative)

        by BrynM (217883) * on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:02PM (#6629484) Homepage Journal
        40 hits a day adds up after a while. Lots of people will wait for a bit more content in the forums/message boards before they try a new project. These are folks that want to be sure that the project doesn't die in 6 months or are looking for documentation. Unless the project is truly groundbreaking, 40 hits a day is respectable if they are 40 downloads of the project. A years worth of 40 hit days is 14,600 hits.

        If you'd like to generate more of a user base here are a few ideas to try:

        Cross post it to popular freeware sites and real estate sites. Remember that most freeware sites would rather have a link to the file than the actual file, so you don't need to worry about obsolete versions floating around out there.

        You can also submit it to be reviewed somewhere (which can be a risk of it's own). When it gets reviewed, submit an announcement of the review to various real estate and PHP/MySQL news sites.

        Write a HowTo for your project or find a user to write one and post it to the appropriate HowTo sites.

        Post news on your site on a regular basis, like at least once a week. If you have to, set a schedule for news posts and post anything to keep with your schedule - even if it's just a "Nothing new, but updates to come - Here's what I'm working on" post. Sometimes a user will suggest something in response to a "Status" news item that will help you as you are developing. Be sure to publicly thank contributing users like that. It's an incentive for other users to speak openly and conrtibute ideas, if anything.

        Whatever you do, don't be afraid to play the PR game. It may sound odd, but keeping the users engaged/entertained can go a long way.

    • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

      by W. Justice Black (11445) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:18PM (#6629566) Homepage

      No. Because they are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. Calculate number of real estate offices in the US. Substract those that have a meaningful IT infrastructure beyond a few PCs to type and print contracts.

      No kidding. The fact is that big shops will write their own (or implement a large CRM, or...), while the small shops will follow the path of least resistance (like not doing computer-based anything, or keeping it to a minimum). Your best bet would be to set up an ASP (Application Service Provider) to host their data so they can get at it over the web, or set up appliance machines to do this task (or both).

      This is one case where GPLed software has little value by itself (because there's few people to implement it in its target market), but you could add lots of value by implementing it (and make money in the process).

      • Re:Surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

        by silas_moeckel (234313) <silas AT dsminc-corp DOT com> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @08:08PM (#6630028) Homepage
        Have you ever been in your average Realestate office? Forget not having an IT department they generaly have one or two Computer Pro's that still think AOL is the next best thing to sliced bread but have figured out how to play sneaker net and attach things to email along with a reboot here and there. Often the recptionist is dual duty with helping with the computers and filing the weekly advertisements. This is not exactly a high tech business. MPLS listings are considered high tech and having a shared printer is cutting edge. BTW this is from persoanl expeieince with the Ravis (a moderatly large realestate company) and a lot of locals.
      • Good packaging so that non-technical users can install the PHP/MySQL would no doubt help market penetration.

        You could list known hosting services that offer support and could probably get them to kick back a few dollars to your project each time somebody opens an account to use your software with. I've had several hosts make such a deal with me. Many of them would also be willing to post links back to your site which again would drive more eyes to you.

        The key to vertical software like this is to fit the n
    • Then substract those that don't use an Office/VBA solution, or simply a Microsoft platform (and from my experience those are the majority).

      This makes me wonder, kinda in an OT way... how many open source project are there that are based on VBA / Office / VB / other MS technologies? Granted, it would take money to buy the base (office or such software), but then a person could use the solution for free.

      My two questions:

      • Is anyone making a GPL solution based on MS software?
      • Is this allowed (i.e., a clau
      • I write a lot of free software that runs with Office, Visual Basic and Visual C++ (and lately .NET). Not complete applications - that's what I do for a living after all - but libraries, controls, generic system services and things like that.

        "Free" may be "not really free" in the eye of the beholder (although most of it is released under a license which is considered GPL-compatible) since it runs on "closed platforms" and "closed technologies", but that's usually not a problem with the more normal Windows

      • how many open source project are there that are based on VBA / Office / VB / other MS technologies?

        You gotta be kidding me!?

        I mean check out the DotNet workspaces over at gotdotnet. Do a search on sourceforge.net for Win32 apps. It's all over the place.

        This is one of the larger problems with those who advocate Linux... they just don't know any better.
    • Well put. My Dad's a realtor, and I've met a lot of his realtor friends. You're right, the vast majority of realtors have minimal use for IT. Especially the smaller guys - they make do with an email address and a sometimes a token "buisness card" website. That, plus access to the local realtors database is all they really need with the Net. The bigger guys will do more, but in absolute numbers, there aren't really that many.
  • by SHEENmaster (581283) <travis@@@utk...edu> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:33PM (#6629325) Homepage Journal
    you should've linked directly to your project from the slashdot post. (We all know that slashdot is really just a front for the real estate mafia.)
    • That might not be meaningful traffic. 1000 downloads don't mean anything if it's into /dev/null, which is why it's posted to freshmeat when I release.
    • Nice post you have here. Would be a shame if something were to happen to it.
    • I would be interested in checking out this software since we have a couple clients that are real estate offices. I imagine the submitter will read these comments (Why else Ask Slashdot?) -- Anyway, please post a link so we can have a look at it.

      Thanks
      • www.rwcinc.net/freerealty [rwcinc.net]
        Which of course will get modded as redundant.. ;)
        • I think your site could really use an FAQ... I had trouble figuring out what it was all about, and I am hopefully more computer savvy than the average real estate agent.
          • Could you be more specific? Which parts did you have trouble with? Which page did you start on?

            Thanks
            • by sbszine (633428) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @03:08AM (#6632721) Homepage Journal
              I'll give you the Jakob Nielsen-approved end user stream of conciousness surf through your site...

              I started on www.rwcinc.net/freerealty, which I at first thought was a news page but later figured out was a sort of changelog / download page. I had a look around for install instructions thinking I might do a test install, but couldn't find any on the page.

              Looking for an overview I next clicked on 'upcoming features', but found it to be a bit developer specific. (As in I would grok it if I were familiar with the source but couldn't infer much about the software as a casual visitor, except that it uses images and a db).

              After that I tried 'about this server' (thinking perhaps that the software was somehow server related, or that it needed to run on top of a specific server setup). For about half a second I thought I was looking at the system requirements for the software, then I realised it was a actually a blurb about the machine serving the website.

              Next I tried 'demo site', thinking I could perhaps find a demo version of the software alongside install instructions. I stared at the page blankly for a bit then finally figured out that the software was some type of content management thingy for real estate listings.

              Suggestions:
              • Add an FAQ ('what is FR', 'who is FR aimed at', 'what's the difference between FR and OpenRealty', 'how do I get the latest version', 'how do I install', 'what are system requirements' etc)
              • Change the wording 'demo site' to something like 'view a sample site powered by FreeRealty'
              • Maybe have a plain English analogue of 'upcoming features' ('in 2.9 you [the end user] will be able to do x, y, and z')
              I feel like the archetypal clueless user after all that. It's nice to see someone caring about the usability of their site, though, so it's work the loss of geek points.
  • by netmask (8001) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:37PM (#6629349)

    Samba-tng forked off of samba quite a while ago. The user base using tng is still very small. There is a flurry of people checking it out each time a new release comes out (Which lately has been due to security problems in both code bases).

    The user lists are fairly slow, and there are a few developers on the dev lists. The development is still highly active, but the purpose of TNG isn't as important to most people as the functionality and features of Samba it self. The people who need to the changes made in TNG, will go to TNG. However, the vast majority of people don't need anything beyond what the base Samba 2.x or 3.x code has.

    Then again.. I would also say, most people haven't checked out the rad features included in rpcclient with tng.. which makes pen testing windows extremely easy.. Oh wait, so does dcom. :)
  • Be thankful (Score:2, Funny)

    by flicken (182650)
    Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?

    Yes, you should be. And, you should be thankful that SCO hasn't gotten a hold of your code yet...

    • by switcha (551514)
      LOL, you should think of the children and if they beowulf clustered these then SCO would suck! You're new here, aren't you Captain Obvious... (ad nauseum)

      Can I just ask, pretty please, to not have to wade through 46 SCO jokes everytime anything has to do with code?

  • Project web site (Score:5, Informative)

    by JohnGrahamCumming (684871) * <slashdot@NosPAm.jgc.org> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:40PM (#6629360) Homepage Journal
    It seems likely that the project is Free Realty [freshmeat.net].

    John.
    • Re:Project web site (Score:5, Informative)

      by ph00dz (175440) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:48PM (#6629413) Homepage

      Perhaps... I think it was my project OpenRealty [jonroig.com] that got forked. (Not that I mind... working full time, I didn't have any time to support it -- one of the reasons it was GPL.)

      For whatever it's worth, we're unifying as many of the branches as we can right now at www.open-realty.org [open-realty.org]. See my announcment on my site [jonroig.com]...

    • Hey, moderator... how exactly is it _redundant_ if the original story does not include the damn project name??? Hello???

      John.
    • If so, I recon the "... so easy even a real estate agent can use it.." might offend the intended audience a tad. Just a guess.
  • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation @ g m ail.com> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:41PM (#6629369) Journal
    For those interested, here's the link to the Free Realty [rwcinc.net] project.
  • You forked. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by imbaczek (690596)
    The majority of user base propably upgraded to the incompatible version. People simply may not need your fork, but it's always a good thing to have for those who need it (40 people is quite a lot IMHO for a real estate open source software :))
  • by Tim (686) <timr@alumni.wash ... u ['ngt' in gap]> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:49PM (#6629418) Homepage
    I help develop and maintain a project [sf.net] for computational structural biology, and our project stats look pretty similar to yours. We release, see an interest spike, then it dies down.

    Factor in that you're in a very niche market -- real estate offices who have the need for a dedicated software package, who know enough about computers to use Linux/PHP/Apache, and who don't have in-house developers. Then, consider that you're not actually maintaining the original project, but a project that branched from the original so that users won't have to upgrade. It doesn't leave many interested users.

    This is part of the justification behind "release early, release often" -- the more you release, the more hits you generate, and the more likely you are to find interested users. All the same, don't expect to get the hits of the next big RPG platform or internet chat application. The users just aren't there.
    • by MikeFM (12491)
      Seeing those hits is somewhat addicting. Between the various programs I've released I see quite a few total hits (though many individual programs are pretty low) and always get a thrill when I see people actually using my programs. I do really like user feedback especially but that is somewhat rare.

      Projects with broader appeal do get more hits and more feedback although I find that projects that are written well (few bugs or missing features) get very little feedback also. People just don't seem to write j
  • I wrote some SQL scripts and noone has clicked my pay pal link. What am I doing wrong?
  • Promotion (Score:5, Informative)

    by kimbly (26131) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:56PM (#6629455) Homepage
    You have to let people know the project exists. Simply listing it on freshmeat won't get you much, as I know (I've listed a couple [kimbly.com] of projects [kimbly.com] there). My site gets practically zero traffic from those listings.

    There are a couple things I've found that help. First, find a discussion group focused on a subject relevant to your project, and mention it occasionally when it becomes relevant to the discussion -- this gets you kickstarted, but it's not a long-term solution. Second, you might start some kind of blog [kimbly.com] on the site, so that people have a reason to follow your progress. Rant about the state of the real estate market or something. This is the long-term solution.

    I've done both of these things, and eventually they get you a lot more traffic than freshmeat ever will. The more traffic you get, the more likely that someone will link to your site, which will raise your google ranking, which increases the amount of traffic you get, which starts the whole feedback loop all over again. You just need to focus on making sure that your visitors have a reason to link you once they're there.
    • Re:Promotion (Score:3, Interesting)

      by einhverfr (238914)
      Also, never underestimate the power of a slashdot sig ;)

      Seriously, sigs for /. and other sites, emails, etc. If you need something specific, ask for help on Sourceforge, etc.
      • If I had a mod point to give, I would have given it to this post. Why? Because his post made sense, and his sig (which is what his post was about) related to something that I have been sorta looking into for work.

        First thing I did? Open Link in New Tab

        It proves the point of his post.

        Nice Circle of Life action going on there.
    • more traffic you get, the more likely that someone will link to your site, which will raise your google ranking, which increases the amount of traffic you get

      Actually you got that bacward with Freshmeat and googlewashing.

      Here's the recipe to get your project on top of google : Say your project is about linking the Foo network with the Bar device :

      - Choose an explicit name for your project that is already used by some obscure group that you can find on google. Imagine there's an association called FOOBIP
    • Re:Promotion (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kimbly (26131)
      Apparently slashdot posts work pretty well too. 40 visits in 30 minutes, and still counting...
    • I found the freshmeat project record for Jatha, and it appears that you haven't made a single front page announcement. No offense, but it's sort of unreasonable to expect people to discover your project if it doesn't hit the front page, unless it's so great that people find the project record via other means.

      Every time a new release comes out, you can [should] use the "add release" link to submit a front page announcement. This also updates the version number, and gives you a chance to update the URLs.
  • You can just spam it maybe you will get 6000 ideas for a product that does actually works. Or a new hate club whatever comes first. ;-)
  • well i'm sure you'll have more hits than you ever imagined now.... Go slashdotting affect (or is it effect?)
  • It's like an engine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:05PM (#6629497)
    I too maintain niche projects, some bigger than others, some more popular than others. Here's how I understand the dynamics of a community around a projects. You have 3 cases :

    1) your project is too specialized, you have a smallish community of people who use it, few bug reports now and then, and you end up doing all the work on your project.

    2) your project is interesting enough that the community around it grows to a point where most of the improvements come from patches, bug reports ... i.e. bits of work done not by you, but you still end up integrating the changes and act as the only maintainer of the project.

    3) your project is very interesting and the community around it grows exponentially. The improvements / bug reports flood you and, essentially, your own bandwidth is not enough to maintain the project. You have to delegate and trust other people, in which case A) you're a shitty project manager and someone else who has that talent eventually makes a code fork and takes it over, or B) you become a successful OSS project maintainer, the extreme case of which, for example, is Linus.

    The added fun is that, if you code well while you start the project, it can go from a shitty thing to something of interest, just because the look-n-feel that detracted people from trying it before now attracts more people. That's where all the interest is, see how you can "prime the pump" and build a community around your ideas by doing the initial work, then watch the improvements come already made.

    I personally choose to create/maintain projects that I reckon will fall in or near category 2), because I don't want to maintain big projects anymore, with the flood of patches, suggestions and hate mail that comes with it, but I don't want to end up having my name associated with a shitty tarball that nobody cares about either.
  • The Tipping Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sean80 (567340) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:07PM (#6629510)
    There's that book out there called 'The Tipping Point' which might be of some interest to you. Never read it myself, but from what I've heard about it, it tries to explain why some things go on to be phenomenonally successful (like Levis jeans) while other things fade into obscurity.

    As for being thankful about not having bugs and feature requests, well I suppose it depends on your outlook. I can imagine you're the only person who can answer it you. Coding for your own sake? Then it's probably good, you can set your own direction without any monkeys on your back. If you're coding for the glory, well, perhaps a broader choice of topic might help. ;)

  • Simple. (Score:2, Troll)

    by NineNine (235196)
    It's simple. People are poor. They are working to feed their families now. Nobody is interested in coding for free. Mod me down, but it's the fucking truth. The only people writing code for free these days are insanely wealthy introverts (few and far between) and the few college kids that are still supported by mommy and daddy, who also have the attention span of a gnat.
    • Re:Simple. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cranos (592602) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:27PM (#6629595) Homepage Journal
      Well, that was a blindingly generalised statement wasn't it.

      I am neither hugely wealthy, nor am I some bored college student. I am work five days a week and have a wife and kids and yet I am developing my own project under the GPL.

      The reasons people write Open Source software vary greatly from having an itch to scratch to altruism to sticking it to the man.

      • Well, that was a blindingly generalised statement wasn't it.

        Yes it was. It was an answer to a blindingly generalised question. And I appreciate you saying, "I don't fall into that category", but that wasn't my point. My point wasn't that EVERYBODY who writes OSS these days is well off or a college kid, just that MOST people are because MOST people are poorer now (especially IT people) than they have been in recent history. Everybody I know is working as hard as they can just to pay their bills. Nobod
    • That's not necessarily true. Well.. okay, most of the time! LOL

      Alot of the people who do coding code it because they want that feature. They submit a patch and that's that.
    • Not true. I know a lot of people (myself included) that have done more opensource programming because of the poor job market. Being laid off or underemployed leaves more time and mental energy to spend on such projects and such projects can be an a good way to keep your skills sharp and boost your resume. When your life sucks you want to spend more time on hobbies that distract you.. such as coding.

      As always though the two top motivations are that geeks like to code and that geeks like to show off what the
    • The only people writing code for free these days are insanely wealthy introverts (few and far between) and the few college kids that are still supported by mommy and daddy, who also have the attention span of a gnat.

      Just to throw a spanner in your appaulingly overrated statement... I'm a student who gets no money from his parents, so earns his rent, food, going out money, and who codes and writes in his free time because he enjoys it, because it's interesting, because people like his software [sf.net], and because
    • I love it -- I think -- when I get replies like this in my Metamoderation [slashdot.org] bucket. On one hand, it's +1, Insightful... on the other, it's -1, Troll. Makes me wish for a "+/- 1, Insightful Troll" moderation.

      So I'm faced with this question:

      Original Discussion: Community Involvement for an Open Source Project?
      Rating: Troll.
      This rating is Unfair ( ) (o) ( ) Fair

      I don't believe in wimping out and selecting the middle choice, so I picked Fair. It's a troll. It just happens to be an Interesting and/or Insi
  • by SubjunctiveSam (669606) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:10PM (#6629527) Journal
    A month ago I did a whole bunch of work for a real estate agent in his home office, making hardware and software upgrades, etc. I have seen the multi-listing and real-estate specific database software that they are using, and while based on some ancient code, it was very powerful, very polished and good, and from what I gather, the software from this company is quite entrenched in the real estate business.

    I installed and setup systems using Agent Office/Online Agent and for the Lightning 2000 mls service, which essentially seems to be a very fancy terminal emulator. screenshots here [homeseekerssoftware.com] They have been buying software from this company for FOURTEEN YEARS. You're competing against some big guns I think. The best thing you've got going for you is that these softwares are quite expensive, due to the fact that they are niche softwares, and that there is a lot of money in real estate. If you can offer a better real-estate -specific database at a lower price, maybe you can compete, but it had better convert and import the database they already have.
  • by oodl (398345) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:21PM (#6629577)
    The Gwydion Dylan [gwydiondylan.org] project (and Dylan language as a whole) has always had trouble gaining a significant user base. Gwydion Dylan is an open-source optimizing compiler for the Dylan programming language. It was originally developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, but is now maintained (and extended) by a small group of volunteers.

    Dylan is a wonderful, elegant, extensible language that really puts Java to shame. Usually when there's a programming language article on slashdot, people end up describing their dream language... and it usually what they describe matches Dylan quite well. But still it's very hard to attract new programmers to the language.

    It's a great compiler, and a team using it earned second place in the 2001 ICFP Programming Contest. The compiler is still being improved, but in all honestly, there's just a few dedicated volunteers working on it.

    I don't know how to explain it's lack of "success", except to note that few geeks are really geeky enough to stray away from the mainstream languages.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Buzz is when other people say good things about you. Hype is when you try to inflate activity by going about it yourself.

    I prefer buzz. My own software projects are posted on my web servers and have plenty to offer to those who find them. Someone eventually wanders by, sees it, likes it, then mentions it to someone else. Many of these mentions happen on Usenet or mailing lists that get archived. Now people searching for certain terms will find those posts that link to me.

    Eventually, people who run di
  • ~googolplex (Score:2, Funny)

    by riordan (645374)
    Well undoubtedly his hits are about to increase a tad bit...
  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:34PM (#6629634) Homepage
    The original developer moved on to an incompatible version to what I was using. Upgrading for me and many other users was not the easiest option. (...) Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?"

    Is it possible that the majority of your user base aren't really that interested in new features, but basicly want to keep the (well-working) system they have, just as you did? On the same note, isn't it also likely that those that are happy with the old product are also mostly the same that haven't been bitten by any major bugs?

    To me, the situation seems pretty normal for a system that is in more or less "maintenance" mode. Now, the question is if that is what you want it to be, or do you want to start new development based on this platform? If it's the latter, you'd have to work rather intensely to argue for why going away from that system (to an incompatible one) was a poor decision. Many developing new features subscribe to the idea that to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs...

    Kjella
  • Marketing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by btakita (620031)

    Open Source, like anything other business, requires Marketing. You need to do market research, advertise your product, and most importantly, get customers.

    Find out how to make money from your software. If you can't, is it a worthwhile hobby?

    Finally, what is your business model? Are you going to be a consultant or sell the software or both?

    If you're going to sell the software, consider moving to a different platform, like Java or .NET. PHP scripts are a hard sell. When Zend gets their act together and.

  • Slashdot needs less shameless self promotion. Whether it be in the form of articles or shameless plugs for one's own tiny project embedded in a poster's sig, the shameless self-advertisement must stop!

    Yes. I am kidding.
  • Open Source Myth (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As people have remarked, and you yourself said, it's a niche market.

    You often see people claim a benefit for OSS that it'll be bug-free because everyone can examine the source for bugs. (An even more extreme claim is that OSS will be more secure because it's been scoured for secruity problems, implying people are proactively inspection the software even when its not barfing on them.) What that claim overlooks, however, is that very few people will actually bother to do so. They could, in theory, but the
  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:54PM (#6629896) Journal
    The most important thing is that it is useful to you.

    I recently listed a project [freshmeat.net] on freshmeat as well as posted information to usenet newsgroups where some will find it relative and interesting to the newsgroup.

    The description was edited by a freshmeat editor and could probably be written differently to attract a little more attention. But this project is not going to die, cause I won't let it... Cause it's useful to me, and that's the most important I can think of.
    • perhaps off-topic, i know, but i have to ask you 3seas.
      have you thought about applying some of the concepts in your project to AI? of course, your concepts won't drive the whole thing, but it could give reasonably sound direction to automated thinking.

      just a thought.. interesting project by the way.
      • I believe that AI is in general just a matter of automating enough to create the by-product illusion of what the public preceive as "Artificial Intelligence". And yes I do believe the project can be used in such a manner to enable automation of external parts or applications that contribute to such an illusion.

        Thanks for your interest/comment
  • Usually... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @08:00PM (#6629958) Homepage Journal
    projects smaller than "large" usually consist of one-three maintainers, some 3-4 "minor contributors" who supply hints, bug reports, small handy hacks and good ideas on irregular basis, several "fans" who look for updates, sometimes report bugs or help newcomers by answering questions, and besides that, small, regular flux of visitors who come, maybe ask a question or two, look, eventually download and go usually without ever saying thank you. I've seen that with several projects I participated in, as such "fan" or "minor contributor". From time to time some fan or minor contributor leaves, sometimes a new one finds it and stays. If the maintainer leaves the project though, it dies quite quickly, unless someone else decides to take over and continue the work. That doesn't happen often though.

    Look at this from positive side. 1) 40 visitors a day, means maybe 1-4 new sites using your software. 2) No bug reports - probably no bugs so that's very good, isn't it? :) 3) No suggestions, ideas, patches - probably the design is so good that nobody feels need for these.

    (of course it could be opposite, after first look people discard it and never think about it again, but... :)

    One of good ideas to "exist" on the market is to package your stuff for some major distributions and try to include it - even if not in core of one, then at least in official software archives. So crazy people like me, who look through all packages dselect displays get to notice it :)
  • "Good Enough" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cperciva (102828) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @08:10PM (#6630041) Homepage
    Most people don't want the best piece of software available for a problem. They want software which is good enough. Once they've found something which is good enough, they'll probably stay with it, even if better options become available.

    To take a personal example, bsdiff [daemonology.net] is a tool for generating binary patches (in particular, for upgrading software). It is measurably and quantifiably better -- that is, it produces smaller patch files -- than any other software available, both free and commercial (eg, $2750/seat). Despite this, the only place where I'm aware of bsdiff being used is in another project of my own (FreeBSD Update). Most people found a tool which was "good enough" for their needs a long time ago, and aren't going to change now.
    • I'm not sure how relevent that is to the post ;) but yes I think it's true in any case..

      Just look at tar cfvz ....I can never remember what the flag du jour for bzip compression is, so I just use 'z' & gzip it (like all the other lazy slackers with bad memories)! :)
  • by MoThugz (560556) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @08:45PM (#6630319) Homepage
    ...to get more coders for this project, or it's to spur interest on LAMP projects for Real Estate.

    Well anyway, if you really want to attract more attention to this project, here are some important things to consider:

    Real estate people mostly don't get the free as in freedom of speech and/or free as in beer concepts.

    Want to get their input? Sell the thing, it's still open source, and you're not going against the GPL and should be able to keep your pages at Freshmeat, GNU.org and SF (if you do have a project site there).

    Know how to pimp your project... When targeting RE agents, showcase the commercial features... When targeting coders, showcase the technical features (like plugins/modules, themes, some sort of data extraction layer, etc. etc.)

    Most importantly give incentive to people who contributed code/fixes.

  • Market Problem (Score:2, Informative)

    by bsapot (60594)
    The problem is really the market and the functionality that the software provides. Yes real estate is a huge market but it is dominated by two types of brokers: 1. Small brokers with less than 5 agents. 2. large offices with hundreds or thousands of agents.

    The small offices usally get free or very cheap web sites that contain listings from the MLS's (that is that database where all listings in a market are stored). These people could be a potential market for you but they are not going to contribute anythi
  • Similar Situation (Score:3, Informative)

    by jasonc95 (84261) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @09:44PM (#6630750) Homepage
    I've run into the same thing as you. I wrote an open source issue tracking system and didn't get a lot of feedback either. I've had about 12000 downloads over the past year but probably less than 20 real bug reports and even less feature requests. I've tried the freshmeat, sourceforge, google, and forum routes and it doesn't change much.

    I'd love to find a good way to attract more user participation, mainly because I'd like to improve the product for my own use and I've found that other people tend to give me really good ideas for features, when they aren't bogged down in the actual coding like I am.

    It is difficult to even get people to tell to drop by and "vote" in an online poll to tell me their environment so I know where to focus my efforts to get the most benefit to the community.

    One good thing about writing my own software though is I'm much more likely to write to an author of an application I use to thank them, or drop by a forum and let them know I use it. Heck I'll even write bug reports now :)

    • I have a similar, but less mature product than you. In fact I'm doing something that replicates a lot of your functionality and will ultimiately replicate most of what you do (hah ;P ).

      http://freshmeat.net/projects/tasklist/?topic_id= 1 015 [freshmeat.net]

      You project seems not only more mature than mine, but more powerful too (I had functionality like sub-tasks in the previous version, but I have chosen to re-impliment them to allow for a more flexible product in the long term, I wish to adapt the software to be used a
  • "measure of success" is just a vague way of saying "what i want out of it". so dig deep into your psyche and figure out what you want. that's it.

    for example, i am a programmer and usually what i want out of any collaborative project more than anything (more than users, more than fame, more than financial gain) is to find a fellow programmer who shares the vision of the project and has the comptetency and cycles to build upon the work. for me, the primary measure of success for a project is how well ha

  • are similar. I maintain a dictionary program for PalmOS devices (japanese/english, I think you can find it if you search - this is not about advertisments...), and it's mainly the same thing.

    When there's a new version release, and I announce it on freshmeat, the site get's many hits, and that holds up for about a week.

    I don't get much bug reports, either. By now the program is small, so there aren't many bugs to expect, but I think it depends very very much on the user base. Especially if all people are u
  • I co-wrote a paper [cam.ac.uk] which tackles exactly this question by looking at Sourceforge download and page hit statistics. We found a Pareto (aka Power Law) distribution of activity with a bottom end cut-off of around a 200-400 hits per month, and a large population of dead projects with no accesses. It seems that there is a critical mass required to sustain a project, and you have it.

    As far as "success" goes, you do need to define success before you can decide if you have it. There is no single definition. O

  • My guess is that very few programmers feel the need to write software for real estate companies. This means that the pool of "free" developers is very small.

    The normal way around this is for companies to sponsor a developer part time. That way they get what the need worked on, instead of just whatever the programmers happen to feel like. (You encountered this problem when the original developer decided to change the file formats. Well, companies do this also, but since it's GPL, you have the option of

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