Starting an Open Source Project Takes Planning


More than once in recent days we've seen stories about how open source works in a recession. Even governments are choosing open source in an attempt to save money. But what happens if you want to do more than use open source? What's the best way to start and maintain an open source project?


Writing for CIO.com, OpenSuSE community manager Joe Brockmeier offers several pointers on how to effectively participate in an open source community, as well as how to measure the success of the project developers. Most importantly, he says, it's not enough to "throw some code over the wall" and hope the community will spring up around it:

To succeed, you need a well-thought-out community plan that details exactly what your organization needs and wants from its community, and how it can achieve those goals.

Communities can take many forms. Some projects have big user communities that provide lots of feedback but don't contribute much code. For others, code contributions are more important. They usually opt for a small developer community that can concentrate on the code. Still others, he says, will go with a combination -- users that test and extend the code. The community surrounding SugarCRM is a good example of that mix, Brockmeier says.


Once the community is established, measuring its progress is important. If you're not reaching the goals that you set in the beginning, you need to know where to make adjustments in your approach. But measuring the number of downloads is not the best place to start, according to Brockmeier. Neither is the number of bugs reported. Not every dowload is actually installed and used, and knowing how many bugs have been found isn't nearly as useful as knowing how many of those bugs were reported by internal developers as opposed to external developers or users.


Tracking the number of installations or updates, on the other hand, provides useful information, as does tracking the number of users. Whatever your tracking system, Brockmeier says, implement it from the beginning. In his words, "retrofitting can be difficult."