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How To Spread Word About My FOSS Project? 244

Posted by timothy
from the luck-plays-a-role dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm in a bit of a bind with an open source web software project of mine. It's a very small project that I've been developing for over three years. By now it's got a promising feature set, but very few users and virtually no community around it. The problem is that people I have asked to try it refuse to do so because it doesn't have a thriving community. It's an infinite loop: without users, we won't have a community, and without a community, users aren't coming. So, Slashdot, my question is: how can I build a community and help get the word out about a project led by 2 people and with only 5-6 regulars on our forum and IRC?"
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How To Spread Word About My FOSS Project?

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  • Talk to your users (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:41PM (#30926448) Homepage

    1. Developers are king. If you could attract one more developer, your project would stand a much higher chance of success.

    2. Just because you open-sourced your project doesn't mean it's useful to anyone. No matter how much we geeks don't like marketing [fairsoftware.net], you have to think hard about your users: where are they, what do they care about and what do they really need?

    It's normal for all new projects to languish for a while. If you think twitter was an instant success, remember that it had 2 years of null traffic before taking off. Go out and ask users what they want. Think. Then implement. Your #1 potential mistake today: feature creep. Don't think that if only you added this one more feature, the crowds would come. If anything, try to simplify things :-) and start communicating (posting on slashdot is not ideal, you should post wherever your users are, not talk to developers).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      In the same post you say devs are king, and attracting them is key, then go on to say that posting on /. is a bad idea. Contradicting yourself much?
      • by Razalhague (1497249) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:23PM (#30927178) Homepage
        If you look carefully, you might notice that the project is neither named nor linked. It's kind of hard to attract devs that way.
        • by B'Trey (111263) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:00PM (#30927596)

          It's also kind of hard to answer the question asked without knowing much about the software involved. We know it's a web project of some kind, but that doesn't do much to narrow things down. If it's a web application framework like Rails then promoting it would be a very different task than if it's a blog publishing application like Wordpress. Hopefully, it's not an exact duplicate of some other common open source project, of course. If, however, it does perform the same function as another well known program, particularly a closed source one, you might want to start by listing it on AlternativeTo. [alternativeto.net]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bakes (87194)

          If you look carefully, you might notice that the project is neither named nor linked.

          That might be to avoid the hordes of slashdorks who cry 'Slashvertisement' at the slightest hint of anything that might resemble marketing/promotion. I think the submitter did the right thing in NOT naming/linking his product, to keep the discussion on the appropriate track instead of being diverted by opinions of how good/bad his program is.

          • Indeed. Another issue is what putting a link on /. will do to the server hosting the info and files... There are still a lot of places with bandwidth quotas for small sites. I would be setting up on SourceForge and then put the url in everything I can. Personally I don't mind beta testing some items, if it's something I have an interest in.
      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:45PM (#30927430)

        You didn't do well in reading comprehension in school, I'm guessing.

        The poster asked about attracting users. MOST of the GP's post was regarding attracting users. Slashdot really doesn't make a very good advertising vehicle for attracting new users, it's a one-shot deal and that's pretty much it. Plus, most Slashdot folks are going to do exactly as he described - they'll say "hey that looks neet, but I don't want to mess with it if it doesn't have a good community", and with only one shot to make an impression you are likely to get pitifully few new users. Getting involved in a general OSS user's forum is a much better idea, as you can build a presence and start attracting users in spite of a lack of community.

        For the exact same reasons, Slashdot is probably mediocre at best for attracting developers. However, getting involved in a good sized OSS developer's forum would be a great place to both advertise to try to attract new developers and to get more advice about getting your project out in the open.

        • I don't agree. If I thought it was an app that was useful to ME, regardless of whether others were flocking around it, then I would be interested.

          On the other hand, if it's just yet another "social" app, I would probably reject it anyway, regardless of how many were involved with it. As far as I am concerned, the market for "social" apps is saturated, unless somebody comes up with a real, brand-new idea for them. And I don't see that as being likely.
        • by adamkennedy (121032) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:37PM (#30928500) Homepage

          Last time my project [strawberryperl.com] got mentioned on Slashdot, I saw around 50,000 additional downloads for that release.

          So even if it's one-shot, that one-shot can still be big.

          • by wvmarle (1070040)

            I wonder how many extra downloads you get from your comment now, and am actually more curious on how this 50,000 number relates to your normal downloads. I just had a look at your web site and I can imagine that there are many slashdotters interested in it.

            Unfortunately TFS doesn't even mention what the project is about. Which makes advice only very general, of the usefulness of your typical management/marketing self-improvement book.

            However such a one-shot, 50,000 downloads shot, could be the break such

    • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:01PM (#30927600)
      spot on. no one wants to commit to using software that will disappear if you get hit by a bus.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If it's open source, it doesn't matter if the developer gets hit by a bus.

        That's one of the open source selling points.

      • Or ... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:15PM (#30928794)

        Or imprisoned for murdering your wife.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lazy Jones (8403)

        no one wants to commit to using software that will disappear if you get hit by a bus.

        We *are* talking about FOSS here, right? You can always fix it yourself if you depend on it. Besides, most FOSS projects "disappear" in the sense you probably mean because the maintainer(s) lose(s) interest. I seriously doubt that developers getting hit by busses is a serious problem for FOSS users.

    • by YGingras (605709)
      Go and meet people, give a talk at a local user group. At Montréal-Python [montrealpython.org], we love when people present their personal projects. These are usually very interesting presentations because you know the code very well and you can answer deep technical questions.
    • 1. Developers are king. If you could attract one more developer, your project would stand a much higher chance of success.

      I would say "Documenters are king".

      Why does no one want to use F/OSS software without a thriving community? There are worries about getting new features. There are worries about compatibility, both forwards and backwards. But the major issue is getting support for whatever issue you need. A thriving community means someone else spent 17 hours figuring out your specific problem. Good

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:03PM (#30929100)

      The fact the product is Open Source or free will not get any thing out...

      Lets figure out some things...
      The 5C's
      Customer or for your case you end users what is you app targeted for Corporate users or end users.
      Company or your OSS group that has developed the software what are your values why do you want the product to grow what makes your group better then most
      Context what itch are you trying to scratch. Does it solve a problem
      Collaborators who do you need to work with to make your program run. Is it linux only or does it work on windows... Do you need 3rd party tools to run it. Do you have any people who are willing to push your product.
      Competitors Sure you may have some cool new features but are they better then what the other Open Source tools have... Are there closed source application that do the same thing you do. If so how do you defend against any advantages.

      Next is the STP
      Segmentation What is the product the best fit for.
      Targeting Really push to the people the product is the best fit for. If they prefer a closed source solution or a big name you will be wasting your time. However there are other people who want you app in the open source form.
      Positioning make sure you make your product to really show off what it needs to do for your targeted group of people

      The 4P
      Product what is your product what does it do
      Price Sure it is open source and it is free are you going to offer consulting or support services if so how much are you going to charge.
      Place What will be your range you want the product to first go out
      Promotions Well if you are going to do consulting for your product you might as well add some Linux support too.

      These is Marketing 101 in a nutshell.
      Basic marketing isn't trying to trick people into getting your product but finding where people would like your product.

      Sure your product may not have a big following that is ok there are a lot of small software companies to make software to a lot of big players. I myself when I worked as a consultant myself made software for many large companies that was custom for them even if there was Open Source alternatives I created code and documentation for them so the code is theirs and with No strings attached.

      For Open Source tools the trick is to make sure that you are willing to back it up and if fail it is possible for others to pick it up.

      Open Source Projects do die sometimes so do closed source product. However there are people making closed source products and selling them. The fact that it is open source and has a small comunity isn't an excuse. You just need to market the product

  • It's simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:41PM (#30926452) Journal

    Ignoring asking about it on the Ask Slashdot section (which you intelligently avoided);

    Get friendlier with the people that are interested in the project. Not just answering their questions, but actually become a friend with them. Then ask them to do the same to other people. And get friendlier with many of them. It works in real life circles and it works in computer circles - some people are just going to lose interest no matter what you do, so you're better of getting to know as many people as you know (as you're better of getting to know as many girls as possible)

    Spreading word about FOSS project is actually no different than what it is in the real world. Charisma, getting people to work with you and having a reason to do so. We would all like everything to be just on mere technical terms, but it really isn't so. Learning to interact with people the best way goes a long way - in business world, in FOSS world, with girls.

    • Re:It's simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SQLGuru (980662) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:54PM (#30926726) Journal

      And some product, no matter how great they are at what they do will never appeal to a large crowd because of the focus. For instance, anyone maintaining a FOSS project targetting left-handed fim-bozzles will only ever appeal to people interested in left-handed fim-bozzles not matter how good of a product your FOSS iLHFB app is. Making friends will help it grow, but making friends with left-handed fim-bozzle enthusiasts will help your project grow even more.

      • Re:It's simple (Score:4, Insightful)

        by humphrm (18130) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:29PM (#30927268) Homepage

        Very good point. And I would add one additional suggestion: go to open source conventions. I'm not going to name any, dare I get labeled a shill, but it's been my experience at open source cons that people with very narrow scope tend to run into other people with very narrow scope at these events. If possible, get on the con's speaker list, and talk about your product. People who aren't interested will skip the talk, but then you'll end up with a room where all the attendees *are* interested in your product. Great networking potential!

        Of course, that's just one way to go about it, there are many other valid suggestions here that you should do as well, not just one.

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:30PM (#30927280)

      Last time I got "friendlier" with one of my users I got into a law suit.

    • Absolutely agreed. If you want to promote it, you have to go find people you think MIGHT (not may, not are...) be interested and promote it to them.

      I would add something else I noted just from the original post. You submitted anonymously, and didn't mention the name of your project, much less link to it's *Forge page. Very honorable in that you don't appear to be self-promoting. The reality, however, is that shameless self-promotion is both necessary and useful. Just the project name and a link would

  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:41PM (#30926482) Homepage Journal

    If there were any info. on what the project is and where to check it out. (I realize a lot of people would have made snarky comments if that info had been included too. A regular catch 22 -- but this is a great opportunity and you should post a description and link to the project in this thread.)

    Without any specifics I would think most answers are going to be just as generic. Post about it in different message boards, post about it at aggregator type sites (reddit, digg) - use twitter, facebook or whatever else might help people find out about it.

    Who are the intended users? Where would those people be that you might show up and promote your project? Are their user groups that might be a good place to frequent?

    Would a publication/site that deals with FOSS or whatever problem your project solves be interested in doing a write-up? Will they accept one from someone on the project or one of the users?

    If it runs on Linux is it available through the package management systems of the major distros?

    • PSST! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:01PM (#30927608) Homepage

      Hey you! Open source developer! This is your chance! Post the name of your project and pretend you posted the original question!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It is so small and unused I thought I would be ridiculous... But here come the link: http://kernel.org/
        L.T.

      • by Zarel (900479)

        I am not the one who asked the original question, but I note that the Warzone 2100 Project [wz2100.net], a free and open-source real-time strategy game written mostly in C, always welcomes new developers (and players!)

        In particular, we'd like a new Windows developer - we currently have exactly zero. :(

  • And, oh, send notes to bloggers and twitters, too. But hey, if you get Slashdotted, you're in a good zone!
    • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:46PM (#30926560)
      I'd agree, except it might help to a) not post Anonymously b) include a link to the project in the posting c) say what it does and why it would be good for us. If you do none of the above, then the reason why your project is unheard of becomes obvious.
      • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:55PM (#30926740)

        Agreed. Even if 99/100 people say "this project is useless", "you suck as a coder", or they just flagrantly troll you, if you inform even one person who says to themselves "I sure wish someone had an open sourced lolcats generator" that you, in fact, have a feature rich and maturing open sourced lolcats generator, you are still increasing your community by a significant percentage.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by QRDeNameland (873957)

          "I sure wish someone had an open sourced lolcats generator"

          cat cat | sed 's/Meow/I can haz cheezburger?/g'

        • by godrik (1287354)

          99/100 people say "this project is useless", "you suck as a coder", and they just flagrantly troll you

          ftfy

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by DrEasy (559739)

          I'm not joking when I say: I love the idea of a lolcats generator! I'm gonna give this some more thought...

  • Easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:43PM (#30926510)

    1) Post a message to slashdot
    2) ????
    3) Profit

  • by hhappy (28340) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:44PM (#30926540)

    some of us might be interested in it. You've just missed your best PR opportunity yet!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Galestar (1473827)
      Some of us might be interested, other might consider it shameless self promotion. If slashdot was doing front page adverts for every tiny FOSS project, we'd never hear any real news.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some of us might be interested, other might consider it shameless self promotion. If slashdot was doing front page adverts for every tiny FOSS project, we'd never hear any real news.

        So, kind'a like now? :)

    • by natehoy (1608657) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:56PM (#30926774) Journal

      I disagree. I think he's doing it perfectly.

      He's asked a generic question, without shilling in the article section. That means it's less likely he's just out spamming, because he hasn't identified who he is or what the project is. So he's largely avoided the shitstorm of angry slashdotters accusing him of spamming.

      But in doing so, he's piqued the curiosity of a few of us, and we've ASKED him to post details of his project now. If he does so, that means he's actually spent a few minutes here reading the responses. This marks him as someone who at least isn't doing a drive-by spamming.

      Either very good and sophisticated marketing, or an honest question from a manager of a small project. I can't decide which. But either way, it works, and I'm curious about the project.

      • by gknoy (899301)

        I agree. I'm curious as to what it was, but appreciated that he took the time NOT to shill for it. The comments above about building social circles of shared interest, and of trying to cater to what users need (rather than adding features in hopes that they might attract users). Both were great and generic advice.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        (I'm the anon who submitted the question)

        You're correct. I avoided revealing my identity here because my goal is to learn, not to spam Slashdot.

        I'm sorry to those whose curiosity is ebbing. I'm dying to post a link to the project, but am afraid it would be in bad taste, and I doubt our VPS could handle the traffic.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by dandaman32 (1056054)

          Shit. My sense of vocabulary is fail. Must be this ice cream. I meant "effervescing."

          >_<

          • My sense of vocabulary is fail. Must be this ice cream.

            I can honestly say that, before today, it never occurred to me to try to correlate those two events. Bravo!

          • by tool462 (677306)

            And now your anonymity is fail. Might as well post the project info and go for broke :)

            • by Random Destruction (866027) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:09PM (#30928306)
              By googling his name, the project appears to be. Enano CMS [sourceforge.net]
              • by rincebrain (776480) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:55PM (#30928638) Homepage

                I'm genuinely curious how you produced an AC's name.

                • by dandaman32 (1056054) <danNO@SPAMenanocms.org> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:04PM (#30928704)

                  I was betting on my ability to remember to hit "post anonymously" every time I commented on this thread.
                  Note to self: in the future, hit "log out." x_x

                  • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                    by kainewynd2 (821530)

                    I for one am glad you screwed up and didn't log out...

                    Seriously... I spent two days last month looking for a wiki with a usable WYSIWYG editor that didn't require stupid hacks...

                    Lo and behold, here it is... this is slick. Just installed it in MAMP and I'll be checking this out a little more in-depth tomorrow. Failing major security holes or browser incompatibilities, I may start using Enano [enanocms.org] relatively soon.

                    And no, I'm not affiliated in any way... just really impressed at first glance.

              • Ah-HAH! YACMS! (Score:5, Insightful)

                by gdek (202709) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @01:22AM (#30929882)

                *Now* we know why no one's using your open source project -- because it's Yet Another CMS!

                If you're trying to drive a new project in a space that already has a clear incumbent, you're in for a tough climb.

                If you're trying to drive a new project in a space that already has several clear incumbents, you're in for a *really* tough climb.

                If you're trying to drive a new project in a space that already has several clear incumbents and hundreds of failures, you're in for... ...well, you see where I'm going here.

                I'm sure your CMS is different. It's sensitive and nurturing and really cares about me in a way that those other CMSes don't, and would never throw me out of the car for getting drunk at Andy's party that night. I get it. But when you're competing against the Star Quarterback of CMS projects, you *must* define what is unique about your project, and you must *market* that uniqueness. And you'd better be right, too -- because otherwise, you can forget about getting a date to the CMS prom.

            • Carefully calculated, my bet is on.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        He's doing it perfectly if he wants to continue in obscurity.

        I'm not in marketing, but even I have learned in my career that the overused adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is almost always true.

        To be topical, look at the Apple announcement today. The product they announced was basically a larger version of something they have been selling for 3 years, and yet through absurd "shilling" they have already managed to convince a large segment of the population it's a heretofore unknown tablet creat

  • freshmeat (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrflash818 (226638) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @06:54PM (#30926724) Homepage Journal

    Try posting to freshmeat?

    http://freshmeat.net/about [freshmeat.net]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ohloh is another good place to have your project linked. Shows the development activity, which counts to some people when choosing between multiple projects in the same niche.

  • Just time... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZDRuX (1010435) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:04PM (#30926908)
    Like some have already said, time is your only enemy. Websites that need numbers to thrive take time. It is like a snow-ball effect, at first you'll have only 4-5 people (probably your friends), but that friend will tell the next person, and you'll be up to 10 users, and so on and so forth. Eventually it'll grow on its own without any need for intervention from your side.

    My bittorrent tracker took probably 6 months before it started taking off thanks to word of mouth. Now maxed out at 8,000 users and that's only because of server limitations. Perseverence and waiting is your only choice at this point.

    And remember, your only chance of making it ahead of others is offering something that nobody does, so ask yourself what *new* are you bringing to the playing field? If the answer is "not much" then I'm afraid you'll have a tough time.

    And like others said, you failed to list your website, which was a big mistake - don't worry about looking like you're trying to use ./ as a way to promote, it's obvious you are - so USE IT!
  • Heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:12PM (#30927032) Homepage Journal
    I like how when there is a slashvertisement, everyone bitches.
    This guy sidesteps, and everyone is complaining because there isn't a slashvertisement. Oh the irony.
    • ... when there is a slashvertisement, everyone bitches.
      This guy sidesteps, and everyone is complaining ...

      Also: There are people bitching about it being a slashvertisement ANYHOW. B-b

    • It's a slashdot conspiracy! It's like there's two teams, an offensive team and a defensive team, and whenever one of them stays quiet, the other one takes over.
      • by tomhudson (43916)

        It's a slashdot conspiracy! It's like there's two teams, an offensive team and a defensive team, and whenever one of them stays quiet, the other one takes over.

        ... like Google and Microsoft?

        a conspiracy between those two is a scary thought ...

    • People here hate marketing but there is a reason why companies like MS and Apple spend so much on it, it works even if people complain about it. The end result is now no one knows what this company is, but if they mentioned the company people would have complained, but maybe a couple people would have found something they wanted.

  • Why would anybody want your project?

    Without knowing what your project is, it's hard to say, but in the Open Source world there are probably hundreds of competitors. Make sure you stand out amongst the others in a positive way and make sure people can read about it on your project's website.

  • by AlXtreme (223728) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:20PM (#30927148) Homepage Journal

    By now it's got a promising feature set, but very few users and virtually no community around it. The problem is that people I have asked to try it refuse to do so because it doesn't have a thriving community.

    Your project will have to stand on its own merits then and you will have to be focal about what those merits are. Hold talks at conferences, mention it to your friends, keep an updated blog, use FLOSS-distribution sites like freshmeat. If people are interested you will hear from them.

    If that doesn't help and you are sure your project is worthwhile you should investigate in your competition, take a good unbiased look. If there are a couple of large projects with large communities that accomplish something similar make sure you differentiate yourself from them. What makes your project unique and better than the rest? Perhaps those projects have something your project doesn't. A large community may be a plus but it isn't the only reason why users pick a certain project.

    If you can't make your project grow, relax and don't force the issue. If your project is truly worthwhile people will find it and the ones using your project will spread the word. If it doesn't gain popularity you can at least enjoy working on it and take pride in what you accomplish: the FLOSS community isn't a popularity-contest and there is no free car waiting for the one project that trumps the rest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:34PM (#30927330)
    1. Introduction

      As everyone knows, Open Source software is the wave of the future. With the market share of GNU/Linux and *BSD increasing every day, interest in Open Source Software is at an all time high.

      Developing software within the Open Source model benefits everyone. People can take your code, improve it and then release it back to the community. This cycle continues and leads to the creation of far more stable software than the 'Closed Source' shops can ever hope to create.

      So you're itching to create that Doom 3 killer but don't know where to start? Read on!

    2. First Steps

      The most important thing that any Open Source project needs is a Sourceforge page. There are tens of thousands of successful Open Source projects on Sourceforge.Net; the support you receive here will be invaluable.

      OK, so you've registered your Sourceforge.Net project and set the status to '0: Pre-Thinking About It', what's next?

    3. Don't Waste Time!

      Now you need to set up your SourceForge.net homepage. Keep it plain and simple - don't use too many HTML tags, just knock something up in VI. Website editors like Expression Web and DreamWeaver just create bloated eye-candy - you need to get your message to the masses!

    4. Ask For Help

      Since you probably can't program at all you'll need to try and find some people who think they can. If your project is a game you'll probably need an artist too. Ask for help on your new Sourceforge pages. Here is an example to get you started:

      "Hi there! Welcom to my SorceForge page! I am planing to create a Fisrt Person Shooter game for Linux that is going to kick Doom 3's ass! I have loads of awesome ideas, like giant robotic spiders! I need some help thouh as I cant program or draw. If you can program or draw the tekstures please get in touch! K thx bye!"

      Thousands of talented programmers and artists hang out at Sourceforge.net ready to devote their time to projects so you should get a team together in no time!

    5. The A-Team

      So now you have your team together you are ready to change your projects status to '1: Pre-Bickering'. You will need to discuss your ideas with your team mates and see what value they can add to the project. You could use an Instant Messaging program like MSN for this, but since you run Linux you'll have to stick to e-mail.

      Don't forget that YOU are in charge! If your team doesn't like the idea of giant robotic spiders just delete them from the project and move on. Someone else can fill their place and this is the beauty of Open Source development. The code might end up a bit messy and the graphics inconsistant - but it's still 'Free as in Speech'!

    6. Getting Down To It

      Now that you've found a team of right thinking people you're ready to start development. Be prepared for some delays though. Programming is a craft and can take years to learn. Your programmer may be a bit rusty but will probably be writing "hello world" programs after school in no time.

      Closed Source games like Doom 3 use the graphics card to do all the hard stuff anyhow, so your programmer will just have to get the NVidia 'API' and it will be plain sailing! Giant robot spiders, here we come!

    7. The Outcome

      So it's been a few years, you still have no files released or in CVS. Your programmer can't get enough time on the PC because his mother won't let him use it after 8pm. Your artist has run off with a Thai She-Male. Your project is still at '1: Pre-Bickering'...

      Congratulations! You now have a successful Open Source project on Sourceforge.net! Pat yourself on the back, think up another idea and do it all again! See how simple it is?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by keeboo (724305)
      The MSN part is troll-ish, some parts are oversimplistic and troll-ish aswell but...

      While I'm a supporter of FOSS software, things like that do happen. There's a great deal of truth in that text.
      Ironically, it also applies to proprietary software. The difference? We never hear about that.
  • by takowl (905807) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:36PM (#30927338)

    I've been involved with a project which fitted this description almost perfectly: FOSS webapp which was dependent on a community it never really had. I almost thought the question could be about it, until I visited its page to find that it's being closed down. It may sound obvious, but I think what really did for that project was that it didn't do anything people could already do. Specifically, a large part of its functionality was replicating things that Facebook did, and maybe 99% of its target users were on Facebook. Without a compelling reason to use it, it never really took off, and the developers weren't enthused enough to create the grand new features that had been planned.

    Getting critical mass in the first place is hard. I wonder if there's any stories out there about how Facebook/Myspace/Twitter first got started. As others have said, you'll need to sell it to your friends first, then work at keeping them happy until they're happy to recommend it to their friends. Perhaps focus at first on the non-social aspects of the site, that don't depend on community, then be ready to shift to a more social model once you've got a couple of dozen users. An empty forum is just depressing, but some old-fashioned content is useful even for the very first visitor.

    Oh, and since everyone's busy berating you for not giving the name: well done on not Slashvertising! Although I admit I'm also curious about it.

    • by pz (113803)

      Getting critical mass in the first place is hard. I wonder if there's any stories out there about how Facebook/Myspace/Twitter first got started.

      My brother (who lurks here with a two-digit Slashdot ID) started a commercial social networking web site that is a direct, albeit smaller, competitor to those three. I was part of the closed beta testing team who were invited to join in from friends and family of the original crew. It took a very, very long time before there were more than just a handful of people on the site, and most of them joined as a result of direct, repeated, personal solicitation by my brother and his team. They worked pretty ha

    • That's what we learned when we asked a similar question [dynamicalsoftware.com] with another FOSS project called KATO [sourceforge.net]. Those who responded said that they couldn't figure out [linkedin.com] what KATO could do [joelonsoftware.com] for them. You need to be very specific and concrete. Say it in five words or less and surface it very prominently.
  • You have to ask yourself honestly what you want to gain from starting a large community around a FOSS project. Even very small communities take a huge amount of time and effort to hold together, and it really is a lot of work. Rarely do people simply tell you what a great piece of work you've done; much more likely they will be finding fault and questioning your design decisions. If you are ready for that and genuinely see it as a way to build a better product, then great, go for it. But if your real (possi
  • Are you sure a "promising feature set" translates to "solves a problem people actually have"? Or is your software a solution in search of a problem?

    I would think that if you have a compelling solution to a real problem, you would be able to attract some new users and grow that community. If somebody else is already solving your problem successfully, think long and hard about whether or not your approach is different enough to warrant a new solution; if it is different enough, make your case to that softw

  • My suggestions. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tei (520358) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:51PM (#30927496) Journal

    Have good documentations, screenshots, maybe a video. A good website (cms + nice theme, maybe).
    Then, wen you do big releases, poke the bloggers or news posters about it. People like to read news.
    You can even poke the news-guys if you have something interesting, fun, amazing, to show.

    And wen you give articles to news-guys, make these article very good. avoid spell errors, use your better english, etc.. your text must be perfect. This really help these people, and your opportunities, everyone.

    • by fishexe (168879)

      avoid spell errors, use your better english, etc.. your text must be perfect. This really help these people, and your opportunities, everyone.

      Good advice.

  • by Ekuryua (940558) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:54PM (#30927536) Homepage
    Am I the only to think that if a project doesn't get a grip at all it's MAYBE because it is not that useful to people? In my experience, projects do benefit from a community boost, but 90% of the work is still having a useful application that people desire.
  • The sad fact is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by simaul (594771) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @07:58PM (#30927580)

    For every successful FOSS project there are
    hundreds of wannabes. Most are ignored, and
    rightfully so. Yours might be different... you
    do have more than just yourself involved.

    But so often one hears the whine, "won't someone
    please join my little project" and there's just
    nothing there worth looking at. Could this be you?

  • If it's good, but needs a push, why not submit it for the Good Code Grant [codeoffsets.com]?

    From the FAQ:

    The Alliance for Code Excellence wants to help in its own small way. The $500 Good Code Grant could provide the one small spark that might ignite some bright idea gnawing at some developer somewhere. That idea, once enabled, could shine the light of code excellence around the worldwide code base.

    Tell us about your current free and open source project or your idea for a new free and open source project. Be sure to desc

  • I wanted to look at your project...
    - no link in the post
    - no link on your blog
    - no link on your /. journal

    so, step 1 would be to let people know what you're working on.

  • Reduce the barriers (Score:3, Informative)

    by plcurechax (247883) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:26PM (#30927858) Homepage

    Make it as easy as possible for users to try your software.

    Take the time to create and maintain packaging for major Linux and BSD distributions. Or at least make it as easy as possible for someone to maintain a distribution package of the current stable version.

    Make it easy to migrate to, and if possible, back out of again, from the popular alternative(s). Such as Import / Export functionality from popular commercial software (if there is any). In other words, as easy as possible for people to try your software.

    Improve documentation. Write basic tutorials for with specific instructions for more distributions. Ensure you have a good wiki / FAQ / knowledgebase dealing with installation and usage issues that have been already reported, and keep it up to date with new issues that arise in newer releases. I hate seeing a FAQ for project X that hasn't been updated since the original 0.9 release 3 years ago.

    Of course it has to be useful. Preferably better than the other free (either gratis or open-source / libre) alternatives.

    Does the usefulness of the web software itself increase with an increased userbase? Look at marketing that deals with the network effect [wikipedia.org]. In general, look at IT marketing, consider what would work with your target userbase, and try to go with that. How much do you know about your userbase? Market research is vital, even on FLOSS projects.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by keeboo (724305)

      Make it as easy as possible for users to try your software.

      Agreed, and here are some tips:
      - Provide a decent and updated documentation.
      - Provide sensible defaults and (if that applies) pre-configured and commented configuration files.

      Take the time to create and maintain packaging for major Linux and BSD distributions. Or at least make it as easy as possible for someone to maintain a distribution package of the current stable version.

      Hmm... It depends.
      Is your software for non-technical end-users? Then it may be a good idea to provide packages for the most popular OSes.
      Is your software for server-like purposes and for a technical audience? If you provide pre-compiled packages, you may end with lots with non-technical people bothering you in your personal e-mail

  • Make sure you've covered all the conventional bases, keep them up to date while swapping in and our aspects of your presentation and presence watching to see if something shows some pop. If you're not big on or strong in variations on themes and like to stick with "just the facts, mam" then fine but keep the facts current and accessible. You've already started on the second tier which is to ask for help from people and forums generally, the more especially where people might be sympathetic and may even part
  • Not useful (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:32PM (#30927928) Homepage

    Your software is likely not terribly useful, difficult to set up, and/or not as useful as something which is easier to set up. It might also be ugly compared to the competition.

    You might also have an unreasonable requirement; eg. Postgresql (not MySQL, etc.) for a backend database on, say, a note/reminder application. That's a bit of a headache to setup. Poor documentation? There ya go - most people aren't intimately familiar w/ every piece of software out there and wouldn't be able to follow the sparse breadcrumbs of documentation. (Just guessing here, I don't know your project.)

    Let me take gxemul [sourceforge.net], an architecture emulator (ARM, MIPS, Motorola 88K, PowerPC, and SuperH). It's got very limited utility - IE, mainly for nostalgic users, hobbyists, or possibly as a way to make cross-compilation easier (by doing it 'native'). I've used it for the latter two purposes, and it does a good enough job that I got what I needed to get done (mostly).

    As far as I know, it's got a single active developer. The IRC channel has under a dozen users, with maybe 2-3 active at a time max (last I checked). Yet, as a project, it seems to do pretty well.

    Something you might try: packaging your project for a couple distributions and trying to get it added, with yourself as the package maintainer. I know that awesome (the window manager) is packaged in most distros at a reasonably current version, despite its fast paced development (it's under 2 years old, as a project). Having those packages available has certainly helped spread its adoption.

  • Find the people who are the target for your application and sell to them. Go to whatever blogs, forums, etc they hang out on and tell them about your application and be helpful. Like this guy [youtube.com] says: become a part of the community, give a crap and build something worthwhile.

  • by vtcodger (957785) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:56PM (#30928180)

    Look, you aren't doing this for us, you're doing it for you. If you are doing a craftsmanlike job that's not a put down. Write software that pleases you. Make it available to others. If they could benefit from it and choose not to, that's not your problem.

    "But it's all right now, I've learned my lesson well
      You see, you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself"

    Ricky Nelson, Garden Party 1972

    That said, a brief statement of what the software does and a link to the project home page would not have been out of place.

  • just ask all the users you worked with during development to spread the news. What's that? You didn't actually work with your future customers while developing the software? And now you're surprised that total strangers you didn't value during development don't value your project now? Classic.

    This actually happens with shareware all the time. People code up something that scratched their itch. Build a website. Find a credit card provider. Issue a press release. And then are disappointed when there are 0 sal

  • Surprised no one mentioned this:

    Make sure your web site has a very good description of the application. If it does things similar to other apps, mention the apps, and the similarities and differences.

    Then wait. Eventually, google will index your page, and you'll start showing up in search results. Eventually your page views and user base will increase.

  • 8. Magic Steps (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    1. Put it on Sourceforge
    2. Give it a good intro description
    3. Plenty of screen-shots
    4. Good documentation
    5. Plenty of examples, both very simple and semi-fancy
    6. Make it easy to install
    7. Make sure it doesn't suck
    8. Read and respond to feedback

    • by godrik (1287354)

      7. Make sure it doesn't suck

      well, TFA did not say it. But it is a virtual hooker he is writing...

  • by mattr (78516) <mattr@NosPam.telebody.com> on Thursday January 28, 2010 @02:58AM (#30930328) Homepage Journal

    Just tell us the name already!

    Make a website that is clean and understandable.
    If the project is mature then it should be usable in the real world. Get it used.
    Make articles in newspapers. Get interview with client if they agree.
    Put client names on homepage if they agree.
    Contact blogs etc. about it and post it also on sites like freshmeat, etc.
    Respond lightning fast to queries and monitor online media.
    Write a column or blog describing what you do and new plugins etc. If it is useful people who already trust open source will try it.
    If it is too complex a system maybe that is a problem too. Simple things that are easy to understand tend to get sold quickly.
    Personally I'd be worried about trusting a system written by a tiny team with no real world clients, except as a hobby.
    Maybe you want to tell Wikipedia to update their page to include you in a category list too.
    Make sure all references link to your site. This will raise your google ranking.
    Talk to schools or potential customers and actually install and support it. This is your living right?
    Finally, tell us what the project is in the comments here. Yeesh!

  • by mrjb (547783) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @06:06AM (#30931248)
    I run a small project about the age of yours, and it has a user base of several thousand users. It started out as a Linux alternative to a piece of commercial software. I believe the following has contributed to its success:

    - I joined the existing community forums
    - Made sure the software doesn't suck. I started by giving a few distinguishing features that the commercial software simply doesn't offer (data recovery, allowing the use of low cost hardware rather than $200 commercial hardware) giving it an edge over the commercial offering. Many of the distinguishing features were features *I* needed, so others likely did too.
    - Made sure my project was cross-platform; although I started it as a Linux project, the majority of the user base are Windows and Mac users.
    - I went on to make sure my software can do *everything* that the commercial software does.
    - I did set up a website asking for feedback, feature suggestions etc. which is a great source of inspiration for new features.
    - ...and so are complaints about the commercial software.
    - To be fair, the commercial software is no longer being developed (but it's still being sold!), which means by now Windows 7 users are starting to have trouble running it. But in any case, I'm not dealing with a moving target.
    - I never worried about Google, but I did make sure to mention the link to the software on the forum if someone asked a question that the software resolved. Eventually, word of mouth got out and people outside the forum started posting the link as well.

    So basically, rather than building up a new community from scratch, I built on top of an existing one. It's terribly hard to sell a fax machine if nobody else has one; but if there is a community of fax machine users out there, maybe you can build better fax machines than the company that created the market.

    Finally, if nobody hears about your project, nobody will check it out. Why didn't you mention the name of your project or link to it?

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

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