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Getting an Independent Project Started? 229

Posted by Soulskill
from the inspiration-vs-perspiration dept.
nightgeometry writes "Just as everyone has a book in them, as the saying goes, maybe everyone has a software project in them. I have an idea for a project; it is something I would want, but googling doesn't find me anything similar. My programming skills are not amazing, to say the least, but I can design and QA. I'd happily learn to code, but lets face it — getting to a good standard would take me years, by which time I would be bored of the project. So, my question is: in this situation, should I set up a project on SourceForge and hope to attract some developers there? (And if so, how do I attract developers?) Should I try a rent-a-coder type of site and outsource the work, or perhaps attempt to approach developers personally and share the idea, or something else entirely? I think the project could be worth something, but I'd certainly open source the idea if it got me the app I want. Then again, I am happy to invest some cash in the idea, and thus cover said outsource costs — it isn't a huge project that I am considering, and I really think a competent developer could probably get the thing done in a week or less (I'm not in cloud cuckoo land here; I've worked in the software industry for over ten years, and I'm confident that it's a fairly simple idea). To me, the question is interesting in two ways. Once I have a specific idea, what are next steps? Then, in general, what do people do at this stage (and this isn't specifically a software question; it would apply just as well if I thought I had a good design for a new engine or a new type of beer)?"
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Getting an Independent Project Started?

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  • FP (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:18AM (#24998329)
    Use Functional Programming!
  • That's the easiest way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ccguy (1116865) *
      And then what? Your post is one of the many that suggest that he's going to need to pay a programmer. Ideas are cheap, but it takes skills, bla bla...

      Well, this is slashdot, many of us are involved in open source projects as a hobby and/or professional applications to earn a living. I'm sure some are even really good programmers.

      Yet how many of our incredible projects or ideas are succesful, even once they are functional?

      I think this guy needs a lot more than a programmer:

      - A good business plan, if
    • by insanechemist (323218) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @12:00PM (#24999059) Homepage

      So Ideas are like ***holes. Which means I have a lot of useless ***holes. I've set up a lot of sites that I thought were "great ideas". Set it up and they will come! Here's the development cycle so you can try it too:

      1) Light bulb happens.
      2) Register domain name.
      3) Brush up on MySQL/PHP again - pay particular attention to new functions needed but never used.
      3a) Drag out old projects with useful bits of reusable classes/functions.
      4) Spend a few weeks hacking around.
      5) Rewrite early sections of code that look bad after learning some new functions/technique.
      6) Upload the site to the "production server".
      6a) Make sure things are search engine friendly!
      7) Buy some adwords.
      8) Profit!

      This model works great up till 7). Costs about $0.25-1.00 per clickthrough so budget accordingly. Used to be $0.25 bought you the fist page of search results - no longer the case.

      I abandoned that model for another one:

      1) Use my and/or family/friends education + experience to develop an idea to address "mundane" needs.

      Boring needs are needs everyone has. i.e. the potential pool of customers is much much larger for mundane ideas than an idea that is an "agent of change" or "cutting edge" or "disruptive". Not saying you can't address mundane needs with disruptive tech - its just that the need had to have a broad potential customer base.

      2) Find someone to help me.

      This is where you get stuck - and the topic of the OP. Frankly I don't want an "outsider" working on the idea since once its done whats to keep you contractor from selling the idea/software himself? NDA/Non-compete agreements are useless - are you really going to invest your startup funds in suing a contractor? In many states they are unenforceable anyway.

      I had one proposal to develop a basic piece of HR software using a family members 30 years experience in HR. Posted a note on craigslist (I know not the best place) to see who might respond. I actually got a response from a really experienced IT professional and he and I were quite excited about the potential collaboration. We started to sketch out some code and immediately ran into a few road-bumps, mainly time-related issues. Anyway - the lesson is that as some posters have stated - execution is the problem - and generally the downfall of many small businesses. Ideas and talk are easy - finding an energetic partner that can coordinate his/her time and energy with yours is much harder. I don't have an answer really, but wanted to relate my experience. If I come up with a good way to solve this problem I'll repost it. . .

  • Next steps...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:19AM (#24998341) Homepage

    Tell people the idea. Starting here, today...

    • Re:Next steps...? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:57AM (#24998609)

      Tell people the idea. Starting here, today...

      And then they'll tell you why it is stupid and will never, ever work in a million years*.

      *unless of course you use one or more of the following: Linux, GPLv2, GPLv3, GNU toolchain, FOSS, C, C++, D++, assembly language, Forth, APL, Modula-2, FORTRAN, Prolog, Python, Ruby, Ruby-on-Rails, Apache, a Beowulf Cluster, emacs, vi, Natalie Portman, hot grits, Underpants Gnomes.

    • Re:Next steps...? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by clearcache (103054) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:34AM (#24998865)

      Well, I think you may want to be a little more guarded in your approach. If it is a really good idea and you tell a forum filled w/capable programmers, there is some risk that someone will take the ball and run with it, excluding you from the benefits.

      However, you do need to start talking about it with a few people that you trust. Pick some geeks, but also some non-geeks (provided your idea has a non-technical target user base). These conversations will help you flesh out more of the details - both technical and non-technical - that are important before a single line of code is written.

      • How would you stop your idea being stolen as soon as it was published though? If a good developer would take a week it would only take a week for your competitor to come on the market.

        Unless you get a software patent of course. In fact searching through patent databases might be a better way of finding out whether anybody has has this idea before.

        • Well, a little research into the competition is certainly part of the "non-technical" legwork that I'd do up front. Not only is it going to tell you if someone else came up with the idea first, but it would also give you great insight into potential pricing.

          For example, let's say you make widget B to do 80% of what widget A does, with 20% newfangled features that people may or may not need. If widget A costs $10, but it costs you $12 to make widget B, you're gonna have a tough time on the market. These

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          He said "set up a project on SourceForge" so I assume he's talking about an open source project.

          In that case, who cares?

        • Re:Next steps...? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Restil (31903) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @02:45PM (#25000491) Homepage

          I don't know that the poster actually cares if he owns the idea or not. He simply stated that he wants to be able to use the program he's envisioning. If it's an open source product or even a closed source product that he has to purchase, that's ok. Making money from the project didn't seem to be the high priority here. His issue is that he doesn't currently have the skill to create it himself and feels there is probably a faster way to complete the project rather than spending the time to learn how to program first. He's even willing to pay for the development, but wants to know how to do so in the most efficient manner.

          Personally, if it's something useful that others would find useful, he should probably just post the idea. It could very well be that a similar project already exists, or someone out there is working on something similar and just hasn't had the motivation to complete it yet. Even if someone runs with the idea, writes the program and sells a million copies, he can still buy one of them and he'll be happy.

          -Restil

          • You hit the nail on the head. Thank you. Posting the idea here would help this time, but what about next time? Someone else has an idea, finds this thread, and just gets to read an argument about somebody else's crappy idea.

            If I had mod-points (and could mod for an article i submitted - no idea if you can), I'd mod you up.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by AttillaTheNun (618721)
            Ok, the OP told me what he wants. Here it is...

            He wants the old facebook back. The new one is a disaster.

  • Ideas are cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:21AM (#24998347)

    The problem is that ideas are cheap; it's high-quality implementation that's difficult to achieve. That means that starting a SourceForge idea will never work if all you have is the idea. All the competent programmers who may even like your idea are already working on something else.

    If you think this can be implemented by a wizard in under a week, it shouldn't take you more than a few months if you start learning now. Why not take this as an opportunity to expand your skill set. You may indeed get bored with the idea during the implementation, but the ability to force yourself to push through those times is another important thing to learn.

    • Re:Ideas are cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:46AM (#24998515)

      On the Kvr Audio/DSP forum they have the following sticky:
      http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=194452

      It says basically, that A. Programmers want to scratch their own itches, if you want them to scratch yours, you need to pay them.

      B. Non-programmers have no idea how hard or big a certain project would be, because even experienced programmers rarely fully do.

      and C. If you want to get attention you have to tell people what the idea is, because keeping it secrete (so no one steals it, ostensibly) only suggests that you are vain and have unrealistic expectations.

    • Re:Ideas are cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ThePhilips (752041) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:19AM (#24998755) Homepage Journal

      I have to second the comment.

      I have on my back-up drive about 30 half-dead projects I did for different purposes. Few of them are usable. Many of them were merely proof-of-concept stuff. Probably none of them has any new ideas.

      I'd say, Web search engines now are the most impeding factor for programmer's ego: whatever brilliant idea one could possibly come up, some research shows that it is not new. Or it was tried before and failed. Or you have already in Debian repo a ready tool to do the work.

      I do not know how to attract people to projects. All I can say (from my personal experience) it is pointless to try to attract people actively (but I say that in real life too - and I'm still single).

      Best one can do is to keep working on idea (regardless of what Google says). If you really persistent, if you somehow publish the record that you are doing it - Google would do the rest for you. Point is that other programmers might stick with some active project simply out of curiosity. And after some time, if project still interests them, they might also contribute. That's how many projects have started. The most important bit here: somebody has to be ready to be a center of project and also has to work actively on the project. Others have to have something to tag along with.

      P.S. Another parallel from real life. It is often said that (as opposed to women) there is no friendship among men. They just happen to look and go in the same direction. Or to the programming: if you keep developing idea in direction others can follow you, other would follow you - accidentally.

      • Re:Ideas are cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ThePhilips (752041) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:30AM (#24998839) Homepage Journal

        [...] if you somehow publish the record that you are doing it - Google would do the rest for you.

        Forgot to mention a not really fitting example of how Web search is effective.

        Some time ago I was literally driven nuts by one new feature of VIM. I spent some time digging and after many attempts found a solution: how to disable the feature.

        So I have published on my blog (that was three years ago) a half-inflammatory post about where the hell modern text editors are headed to with the solution to my problem. Google did the rest: now the post has about 30 comments, most of which are "Thanks for info" ones. And I did precisely nothing to promote that I have found a solution to that particular problem.

        So somehow publishing your idea with implementation sketch - even on blog - is a good start.

        SF.net is also good place and I used it successfully several times. It works really well for making releases. With source code hosting I had some problems. Posting news there (or more to the point: finding something posted on SF.net) is not simple, so I would advise to use some simple blog for your pet project. (Or probably by now SF.net has some service similar to blogs.)

    • Re:Ideas are cheap (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lysergic.acid (845423) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:29AM (#24998833) Homepage

      i disagree. i think there are a lot more competent programmers out there than there are visionary individuals. programming is a technical skill, but with most non-menial trades, it takes more than just technical prowess to succeed. you also need to be inspired or possess a little more creativity than the next guy.

      look at it this way; there are tons of great artists out there who can draw or paint photorealistic scenes without any effort. however, most of these people will still be limited to lackluster careers selling personal portraits at the mall, teaching figure-drawing/painting/etc. to high school students, or perhaps make a decent living selling those kitsch paintings you see decorating the walls of fast-food restaurants, but doomed to live in relatively obscurity, nonetheless.

      conversely, many of the most well-known artists in history, like Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Picasso, etc. did not demonstrate particularly exceptional technical skill in the conventional sense. but their artistic talent and creativity are still undeniable.

      someone who uses the computer a lot may not know how to code in C or Assembly, but that doesn't preclude them from having good ideas for new applications. the implementation may have to be done by someone else, but it's a lot easier to find someone who can write code than it is to find someone with a truly brilliant idea.

      someone trained in programming is a lot more likely to be able to realize their ideas because they have the tools & skill set to put their ideas into practice. but there are probably tons of great ideas for applications that are thought up by non-programmers which simply go to waste because they don't know how to implement the concept.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by johnny0099 (1068928)
        Uh...you couldn't be more wrong about Picasso. It is scary how technically gifted he was. You've been brainwashed by his pop images. Which might have been his ultimate goal.
        • i have yet to see any Picasso sketches that demonstrate technical skill beyond what an ordinary individual can draw simply by doodling in the margins of their class notes.

          i'm not saying he's not a talented artist or that he doesn't deserve his fame, but he doesn't possess the technical mastery of realist or impressionist painters such as van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, etc.

      • by kestasjk (933987)

        i disagree. i think there are a lot more competent programmers out there than there are visionary individuals.

        Obviously we're getting into a debate about what "visionary" is. The GP was probably just saying "there are more ideas than people to implement them", which is very true.

        I have first hand experience with an FOSS project of my own which gets absurd numbers of feature requests and absurdly ambitious ideas.

      • i disagree. i think there are a lot more competent programmers out there than there are visionary individuals. programming is a technical skill, but with most non-menial trades, it takes more than just technical prowess to succeed. you also need to be inspired or possess a little more creativity than the next guy.

        Yes absolutely, and this is where the true genius lies. But it's skill in implementation, not skill in coming up with the original idea. The ones who succeed are the ones who can apply that visionary skill to every step of the design and implementation. These are people to whom you can give even a stupid idea and they'll turn it into something of significant value.

        The gods of open source software development are people who had an idea that they thought was good (whether or not it actually was is somewhat

    • by Dlugar (124619)

      The problem is that ideas are cheap; it's high-quality implementation that's difficult to achieve. That means that starting a SourceForge idea will never work if all you have is the idea. All the competent programmers who may even like your idea are already working on something else.

      If you think this can be implemented by a wizard in under a week, it shouldn't take you more than a few months if you start learning now.

      The first part is true, but I don't agree that you should start learning how to do it yours

      • If you don't know a better way to do something when you have finished it that proves is that you have stopped learning.

        In rare trivial cases that might mean you have learned all there is to learn. If that happens more then once you should seek out more challenging work.

        I say that with 20 years+ as a professional programmer and engineer (with a couple of genuine engineering degrees).

        Everybody who slings code worth anything once started a project they were in no way equipped to complete. If nothing els

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dlugar (124619)

          If you don't know a better way to do something when you have finished it that proves is that you have stopped learning. ... Everybody who slings code worth anything once started a project they were in no way equipped to complete.

          I completely agree with this--but the OP's goal wasn't to become someone who could code. If it was, then I'd echo the suggestion to try it himself. But his goal is to get a working piece of software--and the best way (IMO) for him to do that is to hire someone to write it for him.

          If

  • 1. Get people interested in your ideas.
    2. Get them to subscribe to your newsletter.
    3. ???
    4. Profit!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      1. Get people interested in your ideas.
      2. Get them to subscribe to your newsletter.
      3. ???
      4. Profit!

      I will respond to your meme with another meme:

      I am interested in your ideas, where can I sign up for your newsletter.

  • I would volunteer for the beer project you mentioned. I would like to develop some m4d5kiLlz in that particular field. Oh, and good luck with the software thing too! :)
  • Just start it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:26AM (#24998383) Homepage Journal

    People do not instantly jump onboard a project without seeing some benefit themselves.
    If you cannot code, discuss it with some of your coder friends, write a blog about it, ask slashdot (you could have told us what it was about).

    GET PEOPLE INTERESTED.

    I also have lots of ideas and have spent the last 6 months picking up my c skills and learning about Linux. I did not sit down waiting for someone else to write the code, I got off my ass and learnt how to do it.

    Its been a hard slog and often I've wondered whether its worth it, but lots of nice things are starting to become possible with my code.

    If you do not put in the hard work you cannot expect others to.
    Additionally, if you think you will get bored of a project partway through then is it really such a good idea?

    Think about most of the successful products over the years:
    they exist for a long time and I would hope the original visionary was still there to guide the process for a long time :)

    • That is step 2. Step one is to work out who would be interested. Who would benefit from your project being successful? Of these people, who has the resources / ability to make it successful?
  • Before going through the effort of developing your own project, I'd recommend finding a partner.

    If you can't manage to find 1 other person out there in the world that will be interested in your project, it might say one of the following two things:

    * It wasn't worth doing
    * You don't have the skills to market your project so it will be popular.

    If you need to perfect what the project is, or learn how to 'sell' it, better to learn that now rather than after you go through the development effort.

    Good luck. Creat

  • Some freelancing is good. Some is terrible. Some things to watch out for:
    1. People who don't speak your language well. Don't ask if you can understand them now, ask yourself if they will be able to understand a request to change a detail or glitch that you need to go in depth to explain. Also, make sure you can use the code they make. No joke, I've seen code comments in languages I couldn't begin to identify. Not helpful.
    2. Over-pricing and under-pricing. Deicde what you're going to pay before you
  • You don't have to react stellar quality standards immediately. Just have something that works and see whether it flies or not.

    Hack some version in few days using Python, and perhaps use the situation to learn/polish your python skills at the same time.

  • by shreddertomas (1323967) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:31AM (#24998421) Homepage

    As a project founder of a successful project on SourceForge (EJBCA [ejbca.org]), I can at least give this advice - do NOT start an empty project and hope to attract any developer. No-one will be interested in an empty project.

    First of it's a slim chance anyone will find your project amongst the thousands of other project, your project will be bottom rated since nothing is released.

    Second, as a developer, even if I agree completely with your ideas I might just start my own project, since you have nothing to build on.

    There are thousands of projects started as "good ideas" that never released anything. The right way to start a new project on SourceForge is to make code first, and then register the project and make the initial release right away.

  • Unfortunately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WPIDalamar (122110) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:32AM (#24998427) Homepage

    I have relatives / friends / acquaintances come to me several times a year with "the next great idea in software" and "all they need is someone to build it."

    It's
      a) Rarely a brand new idea.
      b) Never fully thought out
      c) Never has a business plan behind it
      d) Not really funded.
      e) not something I'm interested in.

    Software is really hard to get right. Writing code is only a small part of it. If you partner up with a great coder, the project is probably still a failure.

    • by Zashi (992673)

      yeah... sounds like a project I lead (not in coding though) that's still sitting around and not really being used 'cept by the original coder. Like tcl with the tile extension or PyGame, Gojo is a 2d game graphics engine. It uses Lua for coding the games. Gojo itself is written in C using SDL and other cross platform libraries. We know it compiles on x86, ppc, arm (linux, windows, os X) it's fast and powerful you get access to low-level graphics stuff but don't necessarily have to mess around with the low l

    • Preach it, brother!

      I can't tell you how many times I have people approach me wanting to build "The Next Big Thing."

      In the end, it's always "like Facebook, but for Manicurists" or "it's like IMDB for musicians" or "it's Craigslist with built-in Twitter!"

      Naturally, they never want to pay anything upfront. It's always an incredibly generous offer of a percentage of the profits down the road (and almost always around 10% because, of course, "the idea is the hard part"). And do they have a promotion plan? Any wa

  • I think your best bet for finding programming talent would be to talk to people you know. If you've been in the software industry for 10 years, you must know at least one guy who likes to work on stuff in his spare time. If the idea is cool enough, some people can be persuaded with as little as a case of good beer.

    I would be very surprised if you setup an empty project on SF and it actually attracted some talen to you.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:35AM (#24998445) Homepage

    How to not get a project started:
    (1) Get on the front page of Slashot in front of tens of thousands of programmers
    (2) Not say what the project is
    (3) ???
    (4) No profit!

    -

    • by qw0ntum (831414) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:52AM (#24998557) Journal
      How to not get your story accepted on Slashdot:
      (1) Write about the project you want to get started, how you need programmers, and include your contact information.
      (2) Get perceived as having a story without broad applicability and/or pandering for help.
      (3) Have your story rejected.
      (4) No profit or help, same as yesterday.
  • I like the idea of getting the basic project rolling via a get-a-coder style site and then setup a sourceforge site with the code, ramble up some interest (perhaps via /.?) and get other devs involved.

    Okay, time for me to be shameless. If I find your project interesting, I'll lend a hand (and more than a hand if you give me a little something for my troubles). I know C, perl, tcl, bash, SQL, very well and lots of other languages not quite as well. I also have coder friends who like to do OSS stuff and even

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:42AM (#24998481) Homepage

    I've been in IT for close to twenty years. You know what I've heard a hundred times?? It's this:

    "I have this great idea. You do the work. We'll split the profits."

    Of course the don't quite say it the same way. It's usually something like, "I can't pay you right now, but the profits will be huge. When it succeeds I can give you 10%."

    This is invariably followed by something like, "Oh, it's very easy for someone like you. Maybe a week or so of work."

    So I'm a little jaded.

    Here's my suggestion. Show that you are investing your *time* and *money* (though I am being redundant since time *is* money). It should be an equal investment from the beginning. I think you're willing to do this, so attracting others should not be as difficult.

    • by WillRobinson (159226) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:01AM (#24998633) Journal

      I agree, Idea people seem to ever heard of the phrase: "10% Inspiration 90% perspiration".

      They also believe the idea phase is worth 90% and the work worth 10%.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by the_womble (580291)
        Especially when the idea is just a mock up of what it should look like.

        Especially when the mock-up convinces the CEO that the work is half done.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by molarmass192 (608071)
          Been there, apparently "prototype" means "all done and just needs to pass QA" in C-Level speak. Presenting prototypes can set some really bad expectations!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Well there will be no possibility of work without that idea phase so you can see why they think that. Maybe it should be "the idea phase is worth 90% and the implementation phase is worth another 90%."

        Seriously though, I know what you mean. I've known many guys who get stuck with the "it was my idea so I should stay in control and most of the profit should be mine" syndrome. I try to explain that ending up owning 10% of something that makes millions is a lot better than owning 90% of something that makes

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PietjeJantje (917584)
      This is of course a classic: Unfinanced entrepeneurs [povonline.com]. That said, this guy said he would invest some cash. Which makes me wonder why he just doesn't hire a guy.
      • Because I have enough experience of working with contractors, out sourced work and PHDs to know that finding someone who actually is good at what they do is quite low.

        How do i find someone good on rent a coder? I guess if i knew that I'd already be a millionaire. Oh well.
        • How do i find someone good on rent a coder?

          You don't. You make friends with some engineers, find out about their former former college roommate who is the best engineer they know and who is between jobs, and either pay him a great salary or give him 50% ownership.

          If you want great work, you need to hire someone great to do it, and people who are great aren't (generally) bidding on cheapo contract jobs.

    • by OverflowingBitBucket (464177) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @07:39PM (#25003699) Homepage Journal

      I've found this works when you're approached by an "ideas" guy. Ask:

      a. So what do you think our odds of success are?
      b. So how much do you think this idea will make?
      c. How long would I need to work on it?
      d. What cut were you offering me again?

      Calculate (a) times (b) times (d). Determine a fair amount of pay. Multiply it by eight. If they're being rude or disrespectful, double it again. This is your consulting rate. Multiply this rate by (c) to determine what it would cost to pay you to do the project at this rate.

      In the rare event that the first number is less than the second, you simply explain about your consulting rate, and explain that it simply isn't profitable for you.

      In the more common case (optimism) that the first is greater than the second, say it sounds like a great idea, but you are going to propose something that is even more profitable to them. Say you'll work on it for them at your consulting rate. Explain that based on their figures, factoring in the odds, they'll make even more money if they do it this way. All they need to do is track down the seed funds to pay for your time. Show them the figures to show how it would be more profitable to them.

      If they say they don't have the money, mention the potential profits again. Ask why they aren't keen to do the legwork to find the money (loans, etc) when this approach is the most profitable to them.

      If they bring up what you could potentially make if you went for the profit share, say that it's fine, but the risks and rewards belong with the person who originated the idea. If it's a success, they deserve the extra profits. You're happy to help them realise their idea, if they like, at your consulting rate.

      If they say they want to split the risks, say the exact same thing.

      Generally in the following discussion the real risks and rewards will come up, and they'll give up and leave you alone.

      If they're actually keen to go ahead and find the money (extremely rare- never happened to me), weigh up whether the deadline and project is actually realistic. Explain the risks and potential problems that may come up, and that the nature of development is such that you can't guarantee success. If they're still game, congratulations, you've landed a consulting gig at a premium rate. If not, they've left you alone.

  • by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:42AM (#24998483)
    I have so many non-programmer friends that have goofy ideas for projects that they run by me on a weekly basis, so let me save you some trouble. Nobody is interested in your "unique" spin on:

    1. A dating site
    2. A social networking site
    3. A clone of Digg
    4. A recipe tracker
    5. Or anything else

    If only an idea was all it took. Instead, we have to suffer through contributions of time, money, determination and skill.
    • by joe 155 (937621)
      but sometimes people who aren't programmers have good ideas which ought to be implemented but which don't occur to people working in the industry.

      For example, why don't we have a root/user distinction on email? you could set it up so the user account could read the mail but not reply or delete it and the root account had full "regular" control - then if you wanted to view mail using an unsecured computer that would be fine; even if someone did steal your password they could at best be an annoyance to you
      • I admire your gusto - nobody should take away from this thread "ideas are worthless". Keep em coming. Unfortunately I will now tell you why your idea won't work. If you were a practising programmer, you would know this stuff already.

        For example, why don't we have a root/user distinction on email? you could set it up so the user account could read the mail but not reply or delete it and the root account had full "regular" control - then if you wanted to view mail using an unsecured computer that would be fin

  • by thereofone (1287878) <thereofone@@@gmail...com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:52AM (#24998571)

    ...start off with creator pouring himself into the work. Alienate your friends, put another 40 hours a week into it, etc.

    It sounds like you have a good idea, but it doesn't seem as though you have the necessary level of obsession to pull it off.

  • rentacoder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've been in the software development business for 25 years and I'm one of those Rentacoder contractors (top 200). I use the site to make initial contacts -- kinda 'get to know you' projects. If I get along with the buyer, then we move the relationship outside of RAC.

    I'll tell you this from my experience... I don't deal with people who hide their idea behind NDAs. I don't have the time to spend teasing the idea out of you before I can evaluate it and calculate an expected effort/cost. Unless you have someth

  • Most of the posts here are great, and cover the subject well. I tried to start an OSS project many years ago without being a capable coder. I had some initial interest, but it flagged almost immediately. What I didn't understand is that no one else was as interested in the project as I was, and that such a project couldn't be managed in the same way that a project at work was managed. People don't want to work all day for pay, then experience the same thing for free.

    If your idea can get implemented at a

  • By being totally silent on your actual idea, you passed up a good opportunity to get people on board right here from Slashdot. Why the secretiveness, if a Sourceforge project was one of your options?
  • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:15AM (#24998735)

    code and the process of coding. OK, code is like air, you got nothing without it, obviously. And bad code is certainly a minus for a project, but less of a minus than no code at all...

    What I mean is if you go to SourceForge and poke around you'll find that there are a really large number of nascent projects that are basically no more than a name, a description of an idea, and nothing else. Rare is the instance where such a project attracts any attention. People are usually looking for solutions, not so much ideas. If I need something those empty projects really don't offer me anything. There is precious little motive for OSS developers to 'join' such a project, they can simply set up their own project, one that DOES have whatever code they came up with, and at least that project will offer some sort of technical starting point.

    You'll also find that the process of implementation itself often serves to help focus and refine a raw idea. Even more valuable in that regard is the input of other people who are actually working on the implementation and the idea with you.

    Projects succeed or fail for a wide variety of reasons, most of which, especially at the beginning, are not really technical in nature. Just as in the commercial world. For every Linux Kernel, or Apache, or whatever there are or were probably a 100 people who set out to build a POSIX compliant OS kernel or a high performance web server. Again the same sort of examples can be drawn from the commercial software world. Success comes from timeliness, luck, savvy promotion, political/managerial skill, determination, quality, technical excellence, and probably many other factors.

    To focus more on the question at hand, I would say that producing a mediocre initial implementation of an idea yourself is not necessarily a bad idea. If, as you say, it is not really a highly difficult idea to implement then chances are you CAN produce something yourself. Maybe it isn't great code, and maybe your prototype won't much resemble the eventual mature project down the road, but it will provide some kind of starting point. Something people can look at and play with and improve on, and something they can use to get a handle on the concept and understand what it is you ultimately want to do.

    I don't know what your idea is, and I don't know how fully formed it is. Thus I can't really say whether or not it would make sense to pay someone to work on it. Very few software projects are successful when the customer has less than a precise idea of what they want code to do. If you can articulate the goals of the project, what the code needs to do, and some vision of what it should look like from the perspective of various stakeholders (users/admins/developers/business/etc) then it might be worth paying someone to do it. But if you go that route really make sure you go through the process of articulating all these things, write them down, try to discuss them with others who might be interested.

    If you can't articulate things at that level, then chances are anyone you hire to work on the thing will at best end up spending a lot of extra effort, time, and money, and chances are slim that the results will be satisfactory.

    The other issue with say using a 'rent-a-coder' is that you really have little idea of the sort of quality of person you will get. They may well not be any more skilled at coding than you are yourself. Maybe worse. Sure, you can check their past work history and talk to them and maybe look at samples of their work, but if it were simple to pick out the good developers from that crowd then everyone would have crackerjack dev teams. Also I think you'll find the really good people you CAN find that way are either booked solid, or they quickly end up permanently attached to some team someplace and what is left in rent-a-coder land are the ones that aren't so great. Plus a lot of those type guys ARE good in the sense that they are quite skilled at quickly knocking off bits of code that do some little task, but they mostly aren't good

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:16AM (#24998737)

    1. Sell the idea to a big corporation like Microsoft.
    2. Have disgruntled Linux users see said idea in implementation without a free alternative.
    3. Your problem will solve itself.

  • by Bragador (1036480) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:27AM (#24998817)

    I'm not sure you'll read this but I hope so.

    I'm about to start to learn how to program on my own, just for fun. For me it's to become better at certain computer challenges and to see if I'd like it enough to change career and start a B.Sc in computer science next year. That being said...

    I read a lot on the subject and there are languages that are powerful and yet easy enough to learn. I'm especially thinking about Python since this is the language I decided to pick up.

    In order to decide if this language is for you, read the foreword and the preface of "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist, 2nd edition". This open source textbook can be found here: http://openbookproject.net//thinkCSpy/ [openbookproject.net]

    I also found a lot of info on the Python wiki: http://wiki.python.org/moin/BeginnersGuide [python.org]

    I hope this helps you decide.

    Here is the quote from "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist, 2nd edition" that explains why to pick up Python.

    How and why I came to use Python

    In 1999, the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science exam was given in C++ for the first time. As in many high schools throughout the country, the decision to change languages had a direct impact on the computer science curriculum at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia, where I teach. Up to this point, Pascal was the language of instruction in both our first-year and AP courses. In keeping with past practice of giving students two years of exposure to the same language, we made the decision to switch to C++ in the first-year course for the 1997-98 school year so that we would be in step with the College Board's change for the AP course the following year.

    Two years later, I was convinced that C++ was a poor choice to use for introducing students to computer science. While it is certainly a very powerful programming language, it is also an extremely difficult language to learn and teach. I found myself constantly fighting with C++'s difficult syntax and multiple ways of doing things, and I was losing many students unnecessarily as a result. Convinced there had to be a better language choice for our first-year class, I went looking for an alternative to C++.

    I needed a language that would run on the machines in our GNU/Linux lab as well as on the Windows and Macintosh platforms most students have at home. I wanted it to be free software, so that students could use it at home regardless of their income. I wanted a language that was used by professional programmers, and one that had an active developer community around it. It had to support both procedural and object-oriented programming. And most importantly, it had to be easy to learn and teach. When I investigated the choices with these goals in mind, Python stood out as the best candidate for the job.

    I asked one of Yorktown's talented students, Matt Ahrens, to give Python a try. In two months he not only learned the language but wrote an application called pyTicket that enabled our staff to report technology problems via the Web. I knew that Matt could not have finished an application of that scale in so short a time in C++, and this accomplishment, combined with Matt's positive assessment of Python, suggested that Python was the solution I was looking for.

    • I did read it, and thank you. My hesitation at picking up more in depth coding skills is more related to the fact that I work a fifty hour week for a large bank. The last thing I want to do when I get home is... well, anything really. I want to spend my weekend eating, drinking, painting taking photo's and spending time with family and friends.

      The other parts of a project (project management, massaging ego's, getting things tested and documented), I am happy to do, as they come very easily to me, they ar
  • The dot-bomb is calling. You're infringing on the intellectual property of all those web company business plans, and they want to make sure you don't go any further and buy any Aeron chairs before you've written a line of code.

    It's not you personally: but since you apparently don't consider your idea sophisticated or protectable in court enough to be able to admit what it is, you apparently have no way to protect it and have Microsoft or any of the patent trolls steal your work. If you have a genuine workab

    • I wouldn't much mind if someone stole this idea - there is an app I want, I am willing to hire a coder, fuck it, I'd be happy to pay for the app. I am interested in how to get something like this off the ground. But thanks for playing.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:53AM (#24999011) Homepage

    Ideas are cheap, and frankly if Google finds *nothing* there are two possibilities:

    1. you are a genius
    -or-
    2. your idea stinks, makes no sense, is infeasible, or there is a better solution that solves the problem in a more efficient way.

    As a programmer, I get extremely cynical whenever someone says "I have an idea, and all I need is a programmer". They almost always follow it up with "it'll only take a week to build".

    The best thing to do at this point is to flesh out the idea:

    1. what does it do (in 3 sentences or less)
    2. who will use it
    3. how will it make money (or not)
    4. flowchart its high-level functions
    5. sketch out a rough interface if possible

    Once you have all of that, you can show it to a competent programmer, and they should be able to tell you almost instantly if your idea holds water, as well as highlight any weaknesses or failure points. If you do a good enough job of writing your plan, the programmer(s) will be much more interested in joining the project. More importantly, having a plan will make it 10 times more likely the project will come to fruition.

    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@b ... h u d s o n .com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @01:03PM (#24999539) Journal

      Ideas are cheap, and frankly if Google finds *nothing* there are two possibilities: 1. you are a genius
      -or-
      2. your idea stinks, makes no sense, is infeasible, or there is a better solution that solves the problem in a more efficient way

      ... or 3. their "mAd g00g7Ing 5k177z" also suck.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      As a programmer, I get extremely cynical whenever someone says "I have an idea, and all I need is a programmer". They almost always follow it up with "it'll only take a week to build".

      My own brother, a mechanical engineer, pulled that on me. His need was basically an issue tracking system that was half database and half spreadsheet. They wanted the rigor of a database but also the flexibility of a spreadsheet so that anybody can add a column willy-nilly and highlight stuff with colors, bold, etc.

      There is a

  • Once I have a specific idea, what are next steps? Then, in general, what do people do at this stage (and this isn't specifically a software question; it would apply just as well if I thought I had a good design for a new engine or a new type of beer)?

    If you have an idea, ask a few friends (with software engineering experience) to join you to the local pub. Simply ask them what they think about it.

    What might happen is that they tell you it won't work, will be too costly, nobody will be interested and/or simp

  • 1) Anything that can be hacked together in a week is by definition fairly trivial/boring and not the sort of thing that a skilled programmer is likely to do for free in his spare time. OTOH if you offer someone a few hundred bucks for a weeks work (if that is really all it is), they may go for it if bored.

    2) If you can't yourself design/code it in a week then there is no guarantee that your seat-of-the-pants guess that someone else might be able to do so is even in the ballpark! An experienced developer wil

  • Are you passionate about this idea? Are you willing to commit to it? How are you willing to manifest that commitment? You say that you are unqualified to write the code but what are you willing and qualified to do?

    At a minimum, a software project needs more than just coders. It also needs evangelists. People who are passionate about the software and are willing to get the message out to the software's intended audience. You can build a better mousetrap but the world won't beat a path to your door unless

  • And then you'll know what to do next.

    From your original post, it looks like you might want to make money from it. Or not. First thing is to decide which it is.

    My advice would be to not try to make money from it. If it is as you say - "I really think a competent developer could probably get the thing done in a week or less", well as soon as you market it every competent developer will look at it, think the same thing, and write an open source one.

    If it's really as whiz-bang as you're saying and only

  • Since you have not given away any particulars of your idea, we all must reply in the abstract. The question, then, is what is your idea and how valuable is your association with it. Since it sounds like you are a developer, you likely do not know what a long and tortuous process is getting a large open source project off the ground. If it's a new idea, then the idea and the process of implementing that idea are probably not well defined.

    Getting at the definition of what you are to build is the hardest par

  • [...] it is something I would want, but googling doesn't find me anything similar. My programming skills are not amazing, to say the least, but I can design and QA.

    This is the sort of thing one encountered in dot coms: a bunch of MBAs who couldn't code had an idea and figured they just needed implementation help. This approach was and still is so wrongheaded that it's almost impossible to believe the number of investors who fell for it. Understanding what's wrong with it has been much covered elsewhere;

  • I see two main possibilities, and not too many shades between:

    (1) You want to make money off the idea, in which case you have to do what everyone else who's ever had an idea for a business has had to do: invest. Invest your time, invest your money, take the usual risks. If it's the kind of idea a competent programmer could polish off in a few months even, you're not talking about a huge investment.

    (2) If you've given up on profit, tell as many people as possible what your idea is. If it's a great idea, s

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @01:34PM (#24999789)

    1) Any software project which can be written in a week by "any competent developer" is not going to be worth anything, so you may as well spill the beans on your idea.

    2) No competent developer is going to blindly agree to a project that falls into (1) above.

    3) Any project that falls into (1) has probably already been done a billion times, so you may as well spill the beans so someone can tell you where to get the software that already implements your idea. It will save you a lot of time.

    • by Layth (1090489)

      "I am Rich" app - $5,600.
      Less than a week of work ;)

      Worth a lot more if apple didn't pull it.
      Great, original ideas can be worth money and take very little work to produce.

      It's just extremely rare.

  • There's a really good thread about this on the Microsoft XNA game developer's forum:

    http://forums.xna.com/forums/p/12407/65734.aspx [xna.com]

    Worth reading for people who think their ideas are valuable and especially those who want help implementing them but are afraid to tell anyone about them for fear they'll be stolen.

    If you want to work in a field where ideas have significant value then go into marketing or advertising, or become a short story writer.

    In the software world:

    1) Ideas have vanishingly small value. On

  • There are few good programmers out there that have no "great" ideas of their own that they're tossing around.

    If you want them to work on your ideas you're going to have to pay them.

    The ellusive qualitity programmer that can feasibly code for free probably has no car, no job, and still lives at home. The demographic that most fits is 15 year olds.

    So if you're lucky you'll find some high schooler that has nothing better to do and no reason to worry about money. And on top of that actually knows how to progr

  • Recently I just finished a personal project, a Baseball Management game called HEBL (shamless plug BTW) [herkulean.com]. I am trying to scrape together 12 people to help finish me find bugs and play the game(for free), hell where do I go? There are several thousand Rotisserie baseball sites out there, but this not Rotisserie baseball. So it can hard just finding random people to take a risk with what you are doing.

    The rules of my game are detailed, but not complicated, and I just have to get people to register and maybe

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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