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Getting an Independent Project Started?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the inspiration-vs-perspiration dept.

Software 229

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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229 comments

Hire a programmer. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998339)

That's the easiest way.

Re:Hire a programmer. (2, Insightful)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998915)

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 he intends to make money at some point.
- If he doesn't really expect this to make money he doesn't need a programmer - he needs a marketing guru that can get a programmer excited about the idea. He also needs to understand that a programmer working for free does whatever the fuck he wants to do. So the OP can forget about 'designing' shit.
- Assuming his stuff needs an internet connection, there are other costs. How's going to pay for the server(s), bandwidth, etc? The free programmer that is already working for free?

Honesty, what the OP needs is not a programmer, is Santa's email address.

PS. While we are at it, here's a damn good open source project that needs a decent marketing guy [sourceforge.net].

Re:Hire a programmer. (5, Insightful)

insanechemist (323218) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999059)

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...? (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998341)

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

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998761)

Imagine Natalie Portman getting slapped in the face by an Apaches trouser-Python while chained to Rails with GNU toolchains.

Re:Next steps...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998857)

I don't have to imagine it. I already programmed the software for it.

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

clearcache (103054) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Next steps...? (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999131)

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.

Re:Next steps...? (1)

clearcache (103054) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999261)

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 and many other questions need to be answered before investing much coding time on the project.

If the poster gets through that legwork and still feel like it's a good idea, I'd recommend attending some user group meetings in your community, developing relationships with folks who might be more technical. Find someone who's trustworthy whose interests parallel your own. Work with that person on a business plan & marketing ideas - they may be able to provide better insight into technical start up costs - and if it is still compelling once it is down on paper, it's a no-brainer to start coding.

If you get that far, I'd worry less about the competition rolling once you've gone public - there's no way around that ... if it's a good idea, you'll get competition. At that point, I'd stay focused, follow my plan and run with it. And, once you've had some success, keep an eye on the rear-view-mirror.

Ideas are cheap (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998379)

Why are so many people using my name to post here ?

Re:Ideas are cheap (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998469)

Let me rephrase without the BS: he's not smart enough to do it.

Re:Ideas are cheap (1, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998509)

I returned, and saw under the sun, that
the race is not to the swift, nor
the battle to the strong, neither yet
bread to the wise, nor yet
riches to men of understanding, nor yet
favour to men of skill;
but time and chance happeneth to them all.
http://biblebrowser.com/ecclesiastes/9-11.htm [biblebrowser.com]

Re:Ideas are cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999345)

So the Bible says that training and education are useless. Awesome.

Re:Ideas are cheap (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998755)

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 (4, Interesting)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998839)

[...] 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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999251)

Google Code is slightly better in my experience. Sourceforge used to be good but recently they have loaded their users up with buggy svn repos and extremely ugly web designs

Re:Ideas are cheap (3, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998833)

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:Ideas are cheap (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999349)

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. I would add to that prolificness as being a key trait.

Re:Ideas are cheap (1)

Dlugar (124619) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999273)

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 yourself. If this is a "learning" project, then you're going to come up with a crappy implementation.

I'd recommend hiring a developer to write it for you. How you go about doing this is based on how you can best find interested developers--rent-a-coder may be your best shot, or sites like Slashdot, or friends you know in the software industry. If you can find someone who's interested in the project, and likes open source, then you can probably get them to do it relatively cheaply if you make the results OSS.

That's really going to be your best bet. You may feel your idea isn't worth it when you discover the cost of development, but that's life--not all ideas are worth spending the time and money required into writing software around them.

First... (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998349)

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

Re:First... (2, Interesting)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998431)

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.

Re:First... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999015)

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

That was awful.

Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

There.

To start an OS project you need to be a programmer (2, Insightful)

X10 (186866) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998351)

I think you'll have a hard time starting an open source project if you're not a programmer. As far as I know, most os projects get started by someone who provides the first code and a working alpha system, then if all goes well other people join. Or not. Also, the project needs a person who's willing to put in almost all of their time in order to keep it going.
You'll have to find a programmer who is as thrilled about your project as you are :-)

Re:To start an OS project you need to be a program (1)

mikewas (119762) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998585)

Yes, I've found that it's always easier to get somebody to tell you what you did wrong. You'll get more interest if you can get something working out there, even if it's a just a shell to demo the interface. Responses can sometimes be painful, but some of the interest will be constructive.

Re:To start an OS project you need to be a program (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998939)

so, as a non-programmer he'll just have to show something better communicated than most projects. Show a good plan, mock-up, descriptoon etc and you'll get people who'll want to make it real.

Its like business, most projects are started by "businessmen" who usually have few skills other than planning and organising.

If you need a QA specialist (1)

abirdman (557790) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998357)

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! :)

Re:If you need a QA specialist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998883)

I know a great coder who could help you. He used to work with me. Mail him at krishn_dev at yahoo dot com

Just start it (4, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998383)

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 :)

Re:Just start it (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998625)

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?

Try to find 1 person interested enough to help (1)

pcraven (191172) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998391)

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. Creating your own project can be well work the effort!

Beware of Freelancing... and why the secrets? (1)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998397)

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 post, and post a range with that price on the upper end. Generally, these "bidding" sites reward straight forwardness.
3. Try to find open source developers first.

Also, why didn't you post your idea? If people know about the idea, they might just get excited and like it. Then they might offer to help. Then you might just have an open source project on your hands.

Re:Beware of Freelancing... and why the secrets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999393)

As a software engineer, the chances of me getting excited about an idea alone are virtually nil. The idea is 0.01% of the work. The rest is composed of realizing that idea through the actual implementation thereof -- in terms of design, architecture, and code.

Now excuse me while I go write yet another blog roll tumble log social network user generated voting content site. YABRTLSNUG. Or if that's too hard to pronounce, "horse shit"

Emulate Linus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998399)

Programmers won't flock to your project if you make them do the initial work. You have to put up something that is at least semi-useful; something they can play with. After all, why would they contribute to your project when they could just start their own.

You don't have to be able to program in C. There are other languages that are a lot easier to learn and program things that do something useful. A good example is Moodle, a course management program written in PHP. The people who care the most about Moodle are teachers, not programmers. Using PHP means that teachers can contribute code.

Still born projects are ten a penny (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998401)

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 â" getting to a good standard would take me years, by which time I would be bored of the project.

1. What level of "design" are you talking about if you can't program, and thus can't do any technical level of designing?

2. All projects like this turn into long term entities if they're half-popular, unless they do a small task well, and stick to doing that small task.

3. Learn to program.

I've seen loads of projects built around an idea start, get some posts and ideas, and then die because the person with the idea simply hasn't got the ability to drive the project on (and other people simply don't care). The best way to get a project going is to program the initial implementation, even if it is basic and proof-of-concept. Then people get the motivation to add on their own bits and bobs.

Re:Still born projects are ten a penny (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998573)

He said his skills aren't amazing, not that he can't code. Likely he knows that some technologies are available and in common use, but just doesn't know how to implement them. Also, there are a bunch of people out there (me included, for that matter) who are much better at design than implementation. That's why the construction industry has architects and construction workers.

I agree with your second point, though.

Just implement it (1)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998415)

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.

Re:Just implement it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998639)

Maybe he'd rather use Perl you insensitive clod.

Never start an empty project (5, Insightful)

shreddertomas (1323967) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998421)

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 (4, Insightful)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998427)

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.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

Zashi (992673) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998491)

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 level stuff to make anything since standard libraries are provided for common tasks like a tile system and a sprite system. The lead dev is also working on an openGL port.

Cool stuff, and yet (due somewhat to a lack of organized documentation, and inattention on my part) it's largely unheard of and unused.

If you're curious, http://gojo.sf.net./ [gojo.sf.net]

Developers (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998443)

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.

The commando gnomes... (4, Insightful)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998445)

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!

-

Re:The commando gnomes... (4, Insightful)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998557)

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'll help (1)

Zashi (992673) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998451)

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 more so when there's a chance for pay (even if the pay is slim).

Sounds like you want just general ideas and information about projects in general, but you've got me curious, and I'd like to know more.

Re:I'll help (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998497)

Confucius say, "Never hire coder sight-unseen who will work on project sight-unseen."

Re:I'll help (1)

Zashi (992673) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998739)

Sounds like good advice. However, I did say I wanted to know more and if it's interesting I'd help.

A good idea is the first step (1)

Supercooldude (1018122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998465)

I have the opposite problem. I want to create an app and market it in order to earn some extra cash, but I can't think of what to design that hasn't already been done a thousand times. I am confident in my coding skills and know that I could overcome almost any technical challenge, but I just don't have any ideas.

Re:A good idea is the first step (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998637)

Match made in heaven?

Re:A good idea is the first step (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998719)

There are a ton on Sourceforge...

Have you been approached?? (5, Insightful)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998481)

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.

Re:Have you been approached?? (4, Insightful)

WillRobinson (159226) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998633)

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:Have you been approached?? (2, Insightful)

the_womble (580291) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998757)

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.

No offense but sick of hearing this (5, Insightful)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998647)

Funnily enough, here's the current /. QOTD:

Talk is cheap because supply always exceeds demand.

I've got an economics exam shortly too. I'm the coincidence king. I'm awesome.

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (1)

S-100 (1295224) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998717)

And the more we reduce the barriers to entry, the greater proportion of "junk" software is produced.

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999057)

which is why this guy is doing the right thing (hopefully)

ie, I'll code his app up for him, as long as he .. plans, describes, organises, documents, tests, QAs, packages, advertises, and generally does all the 'extra' stuff that I don't really want to do. I'm a programmer, I have to do all that stuff at work, I want to code for fun after hours.

I reckon that's a good split of effort, and if he's prepared to do all the additional stuff, then it will actually get done, unlike a lot of projects that have good code but a scrap of a website with some out-of-date documentation.

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (1)

Supercooldude (1018122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998777)

If everyone thought like you we'd still be swinging from trees flinging our crap at each other.

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (3, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998975)

He's right though. Ideas are cheap. Anyone can have them and so everybody does. I'm sure quite a few monkey-men 40,000 years ago thought "hey why don't we stop flinging crap at each other in trees and walk upright on the ground?" but then went back to crap-flinging because going down amongst the non-tree-climbing predators was too scary.

I think this misconception that ideas are inherently valuable comes from the high school system. In school all children do more or less the same amount of work - the amount needed to pass. Obviously that's a broad generalisation, there is some scope to differentiate yourself by amount of work. But generally nobody will respect you for it, except maybe your parents. Your peers certainly won't. And there certainly isn't as much scope for differentiation as there is in real life.

The result of this is that children learn to differentiate themselves by what they do rather than how much they do. Producing a piece of art or an essay which has a novel take on the assignment, or an elegant solution to a maths problem - this is valued and will win the pupil high praise. Producing something merely twice as long as somebody elses submission, even if the quality is not compromised and thus value is doubled, typically won't.

The life lesson taken away is clear - novel ideas are valuable and should be appreciated. They should win praise and, as people mature financially, be rewarded with money.

But this is the inverse of reality, in which the thing people are ultimately judged by is the work they produce, and often the major differentiator is the amount of effort involved. If I'd written a 2 page essay describing a revolutionary platform game in which the player bends time [braid-game.com] I'd indeed win some praise for this, but it probably wouldn't get me anywhere. But if I actually built said game and turned it from abstract idea into concrete product, now that's the stuff reputations (and hopefully bank balances) are made of.

All this is kinda off topic though, as the OP didn't imply he (she?) was trying to make money off being an ideas guy. He even said open sourcing it was an option. But I too have been approached with "great ideas" before .... I tell you what I want, you make it actually happen, and we'll split the proceeds. These people are asking to have their idea "stolen" and then feel stiffed when somebody else goes onto become big on the backs of their idea. I've never actually done that but it seems some of the problems surrounding Facebook boil down to this.

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998863)

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 (so long as you don't have loads of passwords stored there). It would make it so much easier to check email whilst you were staying with family who think an unsecured copy of XP is "good enough".

Or why can't we have some sort of news source linking system which can automatically pull stories which were posted after the one you are looking at and place links to them so that you get a better idea of the time-line of progression.

I'm sure the first would be easy to implement into a mail system... the second might be easy but I have no idea how you would do that. Anyway, the point is, if we keep on having the ideas someone who can implement them might do and everyone benefits. If nothing else it might provide prior art to stop some corporate hacks from patenting is

Re:No offense but sick of hearing this (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999065)

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 fine; even if someone did steal your password they could at best be an annoyance to you (so long as you don't have loads of passwords stored there). It would make it so much easier to check email whilst you were staying with family who think an unsecured copy of XP is "good enough".

This won't work because:

  • If you can read somebody elses email, you can reply to it convincingly. Remember that authentication in SMTP is very weak - if the users provider has set up SPF/DomainKeys then a fraudulently sent mail might get a phishing warning or spam filtered by the receivers software. Or it might not. But you can't rely on that. Insecured read-only access to email would still let anyone send mail that appears to come from you, but now including details of all the previous conversations you had with them. So the only thing it'd protect against is "delete".
  • Most websites assume your email account is secure and will mail password reset links to it. You only need to have read-only access to use them.
  • I guess a lot of people who use email care about replying to it - any conversation that involves humans usually requires it :) So even if you could enforce your no-reply rule, it'd dramatically cut the usefulness of the system.

There are better ways to achieve what you want (secure email checking for your parents house). For instance you could just use a mobile phone instead of a computer. Or you could take a laptop you trust. Or if you want a technological solution, you could build a solution on top of trusted computing [intel.com]. The hardware for this is only starting to ship now, so it's a long way from being in your parents place, but in theory it allows you to go from a system in an arbitrary state (rootkitted, ridden with malware etc) to running provably secure software. The technology is very complicated but it'd provide what you want, without needing to compromise on emails features or making people think they are secure when they are not.

Open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998489)

Open-source works great for this. I've started several projects like this already.

Make friends with some programmers, find some of the tools available to oss projects - like sf.net or launchpad.net, work on the design & implementation, spread the word about it, accept patches and etc.

Learn to program (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998519)

This project would be a good way to learn.

It doesn't actually take that long to learn if you understand the fundamentals (i.e. loops, conditions, arrays, and possibly classes).

Re:Learn to program (1)

really? (199452) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998619)

Yeah, half a day to understand the fundamentals. Half a lifetime to become GOOD at it. :-(

Re:Learn to program (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998947)

You don't need to become a software genius. You need to understand the subdomain of the field relevant to the project. Much less work.

This will never work (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998523)

The Democratic and Republican projects will do everything they can to keep you off the source control roles.

They will also marginalize you during any project debates by failing to include your files.

Most large projects... (4, Insightful)

thereofone (1287878) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998621)

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 something that's patentable (but I guess what isn't these days) AND are willing to spend the cash to get it patented, just post your idea out in plain view. You'll get responses and an idea of how much it will cost -- or no responses and an idea that it isn't as easy as you think.

Nobody will steal your idea and do it themselves for two reasons. First, we're all too busy with what we're already doing. And second, making money at packaged software requires marketing, a support infrastructure, and a commitment to the product. I'm not set up for that. I'm just writing code.

Once you get a finished product out of a RAC coder, its yours. You can do whatever you want with it, including posting it on SourceForge. That gets your project off the ground and now you've got a second audience that will decide if it is worthwhile.

This way or that (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998627)

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 basic level and then grow, I say pay someone to do the basic implementation and then, as someone above suggested, do a quick release. If it's something that you want to do, but it'll basically get written once and not grow much, keep the source to yourself and market it, maybe as share ware. You may find that, once someone gets the initial code written, you can maintain it yourself.

Do a screen mockup (1)

Big Arnie (1061484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998631)

Do a screen mockup, using whatever tools you know. Show that around to whomever you know and respect, and see if it passes the giggles test.

... seriously though ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998635)

maybe I can help you. i code for love and/or money. drop me a line. jay@flyingspark.eu

Missed opportunity (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998649)

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?

Re:Missed opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998827)

You got the slashdot submission process backwards. He didn't win a spot on the front page, then get to decide what to write. It's likely that Ask Slashdot questions are accepted/rejected based on their generality and lack of self-promotion.

Have any friends? (1)

ManikSurtani (764890) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998703)

I'd approach friends or acquaintances in your personal network who have the relevant skills if you are less than certain about the idea and need a technical look-through. It may cost you - either cash or ownership - but there are benefits to getting an expert involved. Otherwise, if you are dead certain on the idea and have the cash to spare, go the rent-a-coder route. Cheap and you retain control/ownership of the idea.

I think people overestimate the importance of... (3, Insightful)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 because they have good engineering skills, they are good because they work fast and have a knack for whipping up something quickly that meets a very narrow set of requirements. The results are often pretty much 'throw away' type code, it does its job OK, but is basically unmaintainable and rarely designed at all, let alone designed to 'grow'.

Finally it strikes me that if an idea is good, and you have cash sufficient to fund an initial implementation, then why not build an open source BUSINESS around it? I have no issue with people who are interested in contributing money to OSS in general but for the commitment to be sustainable over any period of time it should really have a business model behind it of some sort. Considering how that might work might also provide some greater insight into the idea itself and how it should be implemented. It might also provide the basis for attracting more resources to the project when that time comes, if it does. And heck at the very worst it might get you a tax break ;)

How to Really Get it Done (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

ghimo (1)

ghimo (1363673) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998765)

I would go for it. Never give up on your dreams. There are always people out there willing to listen and to help. Anyone that tells you to stop thinking and trying is a fool.

Here is my contribution (2, Interesting)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Do not worry about attracting additional workforce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998823)

Ideas are worth nothing. If you have cash, hire programmers. If you don't, I'd recommend you proceed with next phase of the project. You need to show real progress and commitment.

Three pilars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998867)

For a project to succeed, you will need:
.) Someone that finance it.
.) Someone that will sell it.
.) Someone that will build it.

If you are thinking in just one or two of these items is just like trying to build a table with two legs.

Oh, my, here we go again.... (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998873)

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 workable, talk to a competent business lawyer and a genuine programmer you trust enough to discuss your idea with, and see if it is really worth anything. Then watch a few episodes of 'the Dragon's Den' to learn how not to do a business plan.

Good question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998891)

Great question. Starting a project is hard. Keep talking to people, try to decide on a programming language and see if there are tools you can buy to get a simple implementation without much programming perhaps?

Unless of course its an interface (or something more low-level), where you may need to know C or a language that's a bit tougher to just pick up a "dummies book" for...

Good luck. I'm interested in hearing the idea...

-Tres

try cambrian house (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998909)

Try http://www.cambrianhouse.com/ it's a crowdsourcing site, sharing ideas and skills. Maybe it will work for you. they didn't like my idea of a quelength website to publicly monitor queues at various places I go like passport offices.

As a non-programmer myself: Learn Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24998941)

When I was an teenager, I learned Basic, but never got further than that in terms of programming. In my current job, a colleague was making all these neat Python script for data crunching (the stuff I would do with formulas in Excel). I decided to give it a try and learn it myself (which took about two days). This was one of the best things that happenend to me that year: I can now make neat little and larger programs that typically take me less than a day, including a simple but effective GUI. So if you want to built a hacked version and get the project started: learn Python in a weekend and make a proto in a few days yourself.

BTW The way I learned was just with a hello world, reading a file, writing to a file, doing some filtering on the read file, crawling a dir, adding a two button GUI, etc.

My take (1)

Whitemice (139408) | more than 5 years ago | (#24998983)

> I have an idea for a project; it is something I would want, but googling
> doesn't find me anything similar.

Really??? This seems ridiculously unlikely.

> 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 â" getting to a good
> standard would take me years, by which time I would be bored of the project.

If the project is an interest/amusement then don't even bother to start it. Successful projects are driven by *need* and a real-world problem (unless someone somewhere is funding it).

> 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?)

It is very unlikely that will happen. You are a tiny shrub in a vast forest. What about your project is likely to attract any lumberjacks?

> 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?

There is no harm in trying approach developers, but I suspect you'll find many are already over committed.

> 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 â" 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)

I think your cuckoo. There is a software problem a developer could solve in a week that isn't already solved? The IT industry is well past the stage of low-hanging fruit.

> 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)?"

Different type of products are not comparable. IT does not have the same fundamentals as the brewing industry.

And again, successful software projects [I believe] do not grow out of interesting ideas they grow out of solutions to [potentially interesting] real problems.

A couple of things to consider (1)

Anonymous Crobar (1143477) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999001)

I have worked on a couple successful OSS projects; never led one but I learned a few things about their management.

First, there is always a "lead from the front" mentality which is to say that the project leaders are often responsible for a bulk of the code. They are the ultimate arbiter of contributions, design considerations, architecture, etc. In fact, this is one of the things that makes OSS successful - a dearth of PHB shot-callers (not that I am implying that you are necessarily one, but if, as you said, you weren't programming during those ten years in the software industry....)

If you are serious about setting up this project, take a month and really learn your language as well as the design considerations necessary to deploy the project. Talk to one of your programmers about your idea. If you are serious about open sourcing it, post the ACTUAL idea in the Ask Slashdot question. You'll get a half-dozen "Did you try (insert half-finished project here)?" posts or someone will say "Yeah, I do that all the time. I just use Excel." Or if it is a really good idea, someone will start a project, write all the code FOR you and let you (and us) use it for free without all the hassle of mailing lists, bug-tracking, etc. :)

Good luck!

~Sean

All I need is a programmer... (5, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999011)

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.

If you can't write software, can you design it? (1)

flaptrap (1038180) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999013)

Non-programmer-types often think that software design can just be dreamed up from airy nothing, but it is as much a discipline as coding. Find experts familiar with designing and developing software - there are many steps in as many methodologies - and hand over the ball and let someone else run with it. Acquire the business expertise to complement the technical experts or decide you can keep up with the technical wizards.

Don't start hacking right away (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999079)

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 simply not possible. If this is the case, ditch the idea. If you are able to get them interested, you can move to the topic of actually getting a few people to look at this closely and/or make a prototype. If your friends don't have the time, they probably will know a few others who might be interested.

A lot of ideas jumped straight to implementation-phase during the dot-com age, with the results we all know. A lot of dead/defunct sf.net projects exist. Ideas are cheap, good ideas are scarce.

This is a long question (1)

TakeyMcTaker (963277) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999103)

I've never done this before on Slashdot, but this time I feel the need to break this question down into much smaller pieces.

"maybe everyone has a software project in them"

But not everyone grasps the logic required to convert an idea to machine executable software. Sometimes they are actually thinking of a business process that only humans can execute, and even then the process is not necessarily cost effective.

"googling doesn't find me anything similar"

Are you entirely sure you're searching the right terms? Unfortunately, jargon varies widely, from whatever language you may describe as human.

"but I can design and QA"

QA ability is always debatable, but design is something you can prove. So PROVE it. That's what flowcharts, mock-ups, psuedo-code, UML, and visual prototyping are for. Even something as dumb as PowerPoint/Impress can be used to fake a UI design. Static web sites can be made to prototype UI for a more complex web application. If you can't do some combination of those in your design, in a way that programmers will understand, you don't really know that it will work as software.

"I'd happily learn to code"

Again, prove it. CODE IT. If it doesn't work out, ask for help AFTER you try, not before.

"getting to a good standard would take me years"

It takes longer than a lifetime in some cases. I know professional programmers (making "the big bucks") that haven't yet achieved "a good standard." If it compiles, runs, and meets internal business requirements, there's such a thing as good enough.

"by which time I would be bored of the project"

Really?? Then maybe this idea isn't so great after all. If this is true, why would it be worth your money to hire a coder, or fool volunteers into getting bored for you?

"I set up a project on SourceForge"

NO!!! Do NOT further pollute SourceForge with a project you're not willing to see through to the logical end, on your own. Search for projects that haven't been updated for a year or longer. There's already far too many. Get to functional (it doesn't have to be great, just functional) first. Then it might be worth sharing.

"Should I try a rent-a-coder type of site and outsource the work"

Is it worth the money to you? Then yes, pay other people for it. Just make sure they give you all the licensing rights, which may cost you more in the end. Otherwise, you'll end up with a lot of nice code that you don't really own, even though you "paid" for it. People tend to forget that paying for programming labor and paying for copyright are two different things.

"I think the project could be worth something"

Yes it could be, if you're willing to implement it until it is functional. Otherwise, it's worthless, to you and everyone else.

"cover said outsource costs"

If you're not willing to cover these costs on your own, and assume all the risk, I doubt it's worthwhile.

"I've worked in the software industry for over ten years, and I'm confident that it's a fairly simple idea"

My luddite cousin has too. I still help him find the ON button. Working near software development is not proof of knowing anything about it.

"what are next steps?"

You said you can design, so Design. That should always be the first step, even if you can code well. You have to know the target before you can reach it, by any means. Get as far as you can with design alone, and the next specification steps should fall naturally from there.

Sounds boring, but why not do it yourself.. (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999155)

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 will certainly be able to design/develop it better & faster then you, but they'll also be able to estimate it better than you, and maybe see all sorts of complexities and pitfalls that you don't have the skill to see.

3) If it really is a weeks work for someone experienced, and if you are at least knowlegable enough to make that call, then it shouldn't take you more than a couple of months to do it. If the idea is that great, then why not put together an initial version yourself, and if it's actually useful THEN others may be willing to jump in and clean up the code and extend/polish it.

The Next Step Depends on You (1)

anomalous cohort (704239) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999253)

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 you are willing to market it.

A non-trivial project could also stand to have analysts, designers, a usability engineer, an information architect, a software architect, subject matter experts, a product manager, a project manager. Also, a copy writer wouldn't hurt. An online application should also have community managers. Depending on the size of the effort, these roles may be filled by different people or by fewer people wearing different hats as they perform these different functions. How many of these hats are you willing to wear?

I have grown tired working for the man and have just recently started my own software development house. We are looking to partner with visionaries and startup entrepreneurs to bring the next generation of great applications to the web. If you really feel like you've got something important and are willing to put in some sweat in order to bring your baby to life, then contact me and let's discuss this further.

You need to drive this bus for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999305)

I should think this would be a good learning opportunity for you. I agree with many of the previous posters that until people/other developers see something tangible that they can play with, you will need to drive this bus. If it's truly a worthwhile idea, then your enthusiasm should persist for the months it will take you to get up to speed.

Refine what you are looking for (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#24999363)

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 a week's worth of coding...well, sourceforge will have one probably inside of a month of your release.

move to india (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24999395)

if it is a good idea that is worth something then get a loan and rent a place near an Indian CS university for a few months to get the work done. *however* you still need to know what ur doing even if your paying others to do the grunt work. Do as much QA as you can.

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