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Essential to the health of an open-source project is that the project have sufficient momentum to be able to evolve and respond to new challenges. Nothing is static in the software world, and each major component requires maintenance and new enhancements continually. One of the big selling points of this model is that it cuts down on the amount of development any single party must do, so for that theory to become fact, you need other active developers.

In the process of determining demand for your project, you probably ran into a set of other companies and individuals with enough interest here to form a core set of developers. Once you've decided on a strategy, shop it to this core set even more heavily; perhaps start a simple discussion mailing list for this purpose, with nothing set in stone. Chances are this group will have some significant ideas for how to make this a successful project, and list their own set of resources they could apply to make it happen.

For the simplest of projects, a commitment from this group that they'll give your product a try and if they're happy stay on the development mailing list is probably enough. However, for something more significant, you should try and size up just how big the total resource base is.

Here is what I would consider a minimum resource set for a project of moderate complexity, say a project to build a common shopping cart plug-in for a web server, or a new type of network daemon implementing a simple protocol. In the process I'll describe the various roles needed and the types of skills necessary to fill them.

So here we have five roles representing almost three full-time people. In reality, some of these roles get handled by groups of people sharing responsibility, and some projects can survive with the average core participant spending less than 5 hrs/week after the first set of release humps are passed. But for the early days of the project it is essential that developers have the time and focus they would if the project were a regular development effort at the company.

These five roles also do not cover any resources that could be put towards new development; this is purely maintenance. In the end, if you can not find enough resources from peers and partners to cover these bases and enough extra developers to do some basic new development (until new recruits are attracted), you may want to reconsider open-sourcing your project.

next up previous contents
Next: What License to Use? Up: Open Source as a Previous: Donate, or Go It

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Last updated: 1999-08-06