“Producing Open Source Software” by Karl Fogel – Chapter 2

As I told you before, I am reading this book by Karl Fogel and here I will comment the second chapter, “Getting started”.

This chapter gives the essential clues to successfully distribute an open source project: how to attract users and developers. If you cannot read the whole book, this chapter will give enough ideas to start your project in an efficient way.

First recommended step is to look around, analyse other similar projects and evaluate if it is better to join them instead of starting from scratch. Where to search? Fogel suggests Freshmeat, SourceForge, and the Directory of free software at the FSF. (I would add Google Code and GitHub due to the amount of projects that host).

Second section gives advice about how to prepare your project ready for public use and involvement. This requires emphasis in writing good documentation (both user documentation and developer documentation) and define the project’s image (name, mission, website, screenshots, feature list…). It is important to clearly state that the project is under a free software license (and which one), the development status, link to download and how to contribute or get involved.

In order to attract developers you shouldn’t just link to the source code, but provide a contributions-friendly environment including control version systems, bugtracking, mailing lists and developer guidelines (not only the technical ones, also about community governance).

My comments

I liked very much how this chapter summarizes the most important things to take into account to set up a free software project. As the author says “you can use it as a checklist”. Each section links to the chapter where that particular aspect is in-depth covered.

Other thing that I liked is that Fogel explains the differences between the closed development and distribution model and the open model, stressing the change of mentality needed to understand the benefits of spending resources and efforts in preparing the code, the development environment, documentation and guidelines to be ready for public contributions.

About larjona

My name is Laura Arjona Reina, I am a libre software user and fan of the free culture. If you want to contact me you can write an email to larjona [at] larjona [dot] net I am @larjona at identi.ca in the Pump.io social network. --- Me llamo Laura Arjona Reina, soy usuaria de software libre y fan de la cultura libre. Si quieres contactar conmigo puedes escribir a larjona [en] larjona [punto] net Soy @larjona en el servidor identi.ca, de la red social Pump.io.
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