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Community Involvement for an Open Source Project?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the getting-them-interested-and-keepin'-'em-that-way dept.

Programming 148

pfleming asks: "Several months ago I began a maintenance fork of some niche software. Essentially, these are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. The original developer moved on to an incompatible version to what I was using. Upgrading for me and many other users was not the easiest option. Luckily the software is GPL'd and so continued work on the fork is not a big deal. I have set up a site, made it available for download, announced the availability of the fork on Freshmeat and the forums for the original software. Now I have a few people subscribed to the project on Freshmeat, and a few on a mailman list set up for the project. This project has been listed on the GNU Website and other mirror sites but doesn't get much discussion on the mailman list and nothing from the Freshmeat subscribers. There is usually an increase in interest (indicated by a short term increase in site hits) when new releases are announced but this fades back to regular traffic of ~40 visits per day as measured by webalizer after a short period of time. Is this an anomaly? Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?"

"More questions for you to chew on:

  • Is there more interest in a new project vs. one that is more or less mature?
  • Is the project too narrow to attract an audience?
  • Could the underlying business (real estate) just be too saturated with web sites?
Just what are the secrets to a successful (measured by lots of contributors, etc) project...or am I just not defining success correctly?

What other thoughts does Slashdot have on this subject?"

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DON'T DO IT (-1, Troll)

zoobaby (583075) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629313)

SCO Will sue you.

My 2 cents (5, Informative)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629314)

There is usually an increase in interest (indicated by a short term increase in site hits) when new releases are announced but this fades back to regular traffic of ~40 visits per day as measured by webalizer after a short period of time. Is this an anomaly?

This seems pretty normal. Any time you make an announcement on your project (including releases) you are going to drive traffic to its web site (that's why corporations pump out press releases). The fact that it dies down afterwards is totally normal, you'd expect people to come, see what's going on, download the stuff and leave.

Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?

Probably not. This might be an indication that the software is wonderful, but it's more likely an indication that the user base is small. As the user base increases they are going to find all sorts of weird problems (especially with different machine/OS configurations) which will get reported as bugs.

Is there more interest in a new project vs. one that is more or less mature?

I don't think new vs. old is as important as good vs. bad. If your project is useful and well executed then you'll get hits. Just compare Mozilla with any of the thousands of "new" projects listed on SourceForge.

Is the project too narrow to attract an audience?

I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.

Could the underlying business (real estate) just be too saturated with web sites?

That's possible in any business, if your project had some uniqueness then the saturation will not be important. Getting the message out about your feature set will.

Just what are the secrets to a successful (measured by lots of contributors, etc) project...or am I just not defining success correctly?

I don't think number of contributors is the most important measure. How about number of people actually using the software? In POPFile there's a feature where it can report back (opt in) that it's being used, this gives me an idea of how many downloads converted into users. Another measure of success would be mentions of your project in the press.


Re:My 2 cents (3, Interesting)

MisterFancypants (615129) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629366)

I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.

Yeah but how many Real Estate agents read Freshmeat? Even if the Read Estate industry is massive (and it is), this guys market is much smaller unless he gets the word out to the general public, which involves spending lots of money on advertising... Which is, of course, silly to do for a free project.

Re:My 2 cents (5, Insightful)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629401)

Even if the Read Estate industry is massive (and it is), this guys market is much smaller unless he gets the word out to the general public, which involves spending lots of money on advertising...

Word of mouth is far more powerful than advertising. What the guy needs to do is get a few RE offices up and running with the software and get those RE agents to talk to others about it. In addition there are specialist RE web sites where RE agents could discuss the project and hence get more coverage of his project.


Even more important (3, Funny)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629520)

What the guy needs to do is get a few RE offices up and running with the software and get those RE agents to talk to others about it. In addition there are specialist RE web sites where RE agents could discuss the project and hence get more coverage of his project

Yes, but the important part here is that by helping other people impliment this you *will* discover quirks/bugs/out-of-spec behavior in your project. The quality will improve greatly and you will soon have another, better release ;-) Then when the next people try it they will have an easier time :-)

Re:My 2 cents (3, Interesting)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630545)

spending lots of money on advertising... Which is, of course, silly to do for a free project

Yep, I'm learning this. But not for the reasons you think. Try advertising a free project using Google's adwords. They'll kill the ad, asking you to substantiate the claim that the software is free. However, they don't actually give you any method to substantiate the claim -- they only give you the option to change the ad! I tried replying via email (never read/responded to) and even adding text to my Web site to note that the project was under a BSD license. No response, no way to undo their block.

Hmm. Now that I'm ranting about it, I think I'll change the ad text from "free" to "open source" and see if they block that. Fewer people will understand it, but a gimped ad is better than none, I guess.

Re:My 2 cents (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629610)

Is the project too narrow to attract an audience?

I doubt that. Real Estate is a massive business world wide.
That's probably true, but I think we need to look at this question from a different perspective.

I wouldn't doubt that real estate is a big business. In fact, I know it is, I know quite a number of real estate agents to confirm this fact. However, not many software developers are going to be all that concerned about real estate and so therefore, software like this won't scratch an itch for them. The only ones that will be are the ones that work in IT departments for real estate companies. Real estate people generally don't know much about software, much less open source software, except for the software that everyone else uses in the office (Word, email stuff, etc.), and some other software to get their properties listed, and perhaps some others specific to their industry. Generally, software developers have a lot more knowledge about what type of software is available to the field they work on, and the only software developers whose itch will be scratched by the submitter's software are the ones who work in the industry, and I would bet that there aren't very many of them.

Re:My 2 cents (1)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629616)

Just what are the secrets to a successful (measured by lots of contributors, etc) project...or am I just not defining success correctly?

The definition of success varies from project to project in open source. Many would say that you're successful, you took an open source project and extended it to your needs, that is one of the fundamentals of open source.

Not all open souce projects are going to be as wide spread as Linux or Apache, but is wide spread adoption really what you're looking for? It's great that you were able to extend this program, and its even better that there are other people using it, even though your following may be very small.

In the name of Open Source, I think you've succeeded.

Re:My 2 cents (1) (528791) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629644)

The other thing that's important to note is that you are doing a fork. That means not only are you going for a small market but your going for a market that doesn't want an up to date version.

When I look for some software I try to find the original branch and only if it doesn't do what I want look at the forks.

Wiki's are a good example. The first major on is usemod (there were some before this but they aren't around anymore) there are lots of other ones (Python, ASP, PHP, Zope and even more Perl ones) There were lots of minor forks to usermod but I decided to used usermod as I knew it would be supported.

Cvsweb is another example. It started off being done by someone who then had a fork that was better maintained than his. After a while he moved on to something else and the other guys became the main branch later on he stopped working on it and now freebsd has the main branch.

So your problem is that if I was looking for "What ever your program does" and I found it and the original program I'd use the other one unless I couldn't. That's means you won't get the newest version people which are generally the people who help out.

GNAA sucks ass! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629315)

Down with all you niggers!

FRIST PIST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629316)

for six haxalot%^%&("

Surprising (5, Insightful)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629321)

Essentially, these are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. [...] ~40 visits per day as measured by webalizer after a short period of time. Is this an anomaly?

No. Because they are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. Calculate number of real estate offices in the US. Substract those that have a meaningful IT infrastructure beyond a few PCs to type and print contracts. Then substract those that use custom software. Then substract those that don't use an Office/VBA solution, or simply a Microsoft platform (and from my experience those are the majority). Then substract those that have actual in-house developers. Finally, substract those that use PHP and MySQL, specifically. Then add the number of people who create and sell software solutions for real estate offices based on PHP/MySQL. There you go, about 40 people.

If you are Apache, Perl, Python, GAIM, etc, etc. then yes, it's an anomaly. What you're seeing is about right, considering it's a pretty narrow niche. People won't get excited about something just because it's listed on FreshMeat and is GPLE'd. There are one-liner bash scripts there with wider audience than your code.

But I don't see what you're worried about - that's how it works. The fact that its released will eventually help someone out. Just don't expect Yahoo-sized traffic.

Re:Surprising (1)

saberworks (267163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629338)

On top of that, your core audience is people who have old versions of the original project and aren't willing to upgrade to the new "official" version.

Re:Surprising (4, Insightful)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629344)

No offense intended to the author, but quite frankly, I'm shocked something like this would get 40 hits a day. I mean, this is pretty much the definition of "obscure program".

Re:Surprising (4, Informative)

BrynM (217883) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629484)

40 hits a day adds up after a while. Lots of people will wait for a bit more content in the forums/message boards before they try a new project. These are folks that want to be sure that the project doesn't die in 6 months or are looking for documentation. Unless the project is truly groundbreaking, 40 hits a day is respectable if they are 40 downloads of the project. A years worth of 40 hit days is 14,600 hits.

If you'd like to generate more of a user base here are a few ideas to try:

Cross post it to popular freeware sites and real estate sites. Remember that most freeware sites would rather have a link to the file than the actual file, so you don't need to worry about obsolete versions floating around out there.

You can also submit it to be reviewed somewhere (which can be a risk of it's own). When it gets reviewed, submit an announcement of the review to various real estate and PHP/MySQL news sites.

Write a HowTo for your project or find a user to write one and post it to the appropriate HowTo sites.

Post news on your site on a regular basis, like at least once a week. If you have to, set a schedule for news posts and post anything to keep with your schedule - even if it's just a "Nothing new, but updates to come - Here's what I'm working on" post. Sometimes a user will suggest something in response to a "Status" news item that will help you as you are developing. Be sure to publicly thank contributing users like that. It's an incentive for other users to speak openly and conrtibute ideas, if anything.

Whatever you do, don't be afraid to play the PR game. It may sound odd, but keeping the users engaged/entertained can go a long way.

Re:Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630429)

Not really.
I mean, I run a REALLY obscure open source GPL'ed project ( Cyberbrau [] )... Homebrewed beer recipe management system... and I get much more than 40 hits per day.

I think word of mouth reaches your intended audience more more effectivly than freshmeat and the like.

Re:Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630495)

Not really. Homebrewing and Open Source are both largely hobbies, so there's more incentive for people to seek out your software. Also, I'd guess the intersection between homebrewers and techies is pretty large.

Neither is true for real estate.

Re:Surprising (4, Interesting)

W. Justice Black (11445) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629566)

No. Because they are PHP/MySQL scripts for real estate offices. Calculate number of real estate offices in the US. Substract those that have a meaningful IT infrastructure beyond a few PCs to type and print contracts.

No kidding. The fact is that big shops will write their own (or implement a large CRM, or...), while the small shops will follow the path of least resistance (like not doing computer-based anything, or keeping it to a minimum). Your best bet would be to set up an ASP (Application Service Provider) to host their data so they can get at it over the web, or set up appliance machines to do this task (or both).

This is one case where GPLed software has little value by itself (because there's few people to implement it in its target market), but you could add lots of value by implementing it (and make money in the process).

Re:Surprising (3, Insightful)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630028)

Have you ever been in your average Realestate office? Forget not having an IT department they generaly have one or two Computer Pro's that still think AOL is the next best thing to sliced bread but have figured out how to play sneaker net and attach things to email along with a reboot here and there. Often the recptionist is dual duty with helping with the computers and filing the weekly advertisements. This is not exactly a high tech business. MPLS listings are considered high tech and having a shared printer is cutting edge. BTW this is from persoanl expeieince with the Ravis (a moderatly large realestate company) and a lot of locals.

Re:Surprising (1)

killthiskid (197397) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629788)

Then substract those that don't use an Office/VBA solution, or simply a Microsoft platform (and from my experience those are the majority).

This makes me wonder, kinda in an OT way... how many open source project are there that are based on VBA / Office / VB / other MS technologies? Granted, it would take money to buy the base (office or such software), but then a person could use the solution for free.

My two questions:

  • Is anyone making a GPL solution based on MS software?
  • Is this allowed (i.e., a clause in the EULA)?

Please, someone, anyone, respond with any experience you have.

Re:Surprising (1)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630183)

I write a lot of free software that runs with Office, Visual Basic and Visual C++ (and lately .NET). Not complete applications - that's what I do for a living after all - but libraries, controls, generic system services and things like that.

"Free" may be "not really free" in the eye of the beholder (although most of it is released under a license which is considered GPL-compatible) since it runs on "closed platforms" and "closed technologies", but that's usually not a problem with the more normal Windows crowd.

And yes, the license allows you to do anything, including forking, selling, etc. It only provides copyright protection and name recognition. There is no EULA or anything like that.

My code is used by programmers at US and state government agencies, Fortune 100 (and lower) companies, commercial off the shelf software houses and shareware and freeware authors all over the world. At least that I know of - occasionally I get an email asking me to clarify the license or just thanking me for releasing it, so I kinda know some of the places its used.

Re:Surprising (1)

killthiskid (197397) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630977)

Interesting, thanks for responding. Do you have some links to some of your projects?

Re:Surprising (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630532)

how many open source project are there that are based on VBA / Office / VB / other MS technologies?

You gotta be kidding me!?

I mean check out the DotNet workspaces over at gotdotnet. Do a search on for Win32 apps. It's all over the place.

This is one of the larger problems with those who advocate Linux... they just don't know any better.

Re:Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6631309)

It's subtract, not substract.

Good post otherwise.

Pardon me for playing the grammar nazi.

If you wanted traffic (5, Funny)

SHEENmaster (581283) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629325)

you should've linked directly to your project from the slashdot post. (We all know that slashdot is really just a front for the real estate mafia.)

Re:If you wanted traffic (1)

pfleming (683342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629354)

That might not be meaningful traffic. 1000 downloads don't mean anything if it's into /dev/null, which is why it's posted to freshmeat when I release.

Re:If you wanted traffic (2, Funny)

mrseigen (518390) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629557)

Nice post you have here. Would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

Re:If you wanted traffic (1)

G27 Radio (78394) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630755)

I would be interested in checking out this software since we have a couple clients that are real estate offices. I imagine the submitter will read these comments (Why else Ask Slashdot?) -- Anyway, please post a link so we can have a look at it.


Re:If you wanted traffic (3, Informative)

pfleming (683342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6631452) []
Which of course will get modded as redundant.. ;)

look at samba-tng versus samba (5, Interesting)

netmask (8001) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629349)

Samba-tng forked off of samba quite a while ago. The user base using tng is still very small. There is a flurry of people checking it out each time a new release comes out (Which lately has been due to security problems in both code bases).

The user lists are fairly slow, and there are a few developers on the dev lists. The development is still highly active, but the purpose of TNG isn't as important to most people as the functionality and features of Samba it self. The people who need to the changes made in TNG, will go to TNG. However, the vast majority of people don't need anything beyond what the base Samba 2.x or 3.x code has.

Then again.. I would also say, most people haven't checked out the rad features included in rpcclient with tng.. which makes pen testing windows extremely easy.. Oh wait, so does dcom. :)

Be thankful (2, Funny)

flicken (182650) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629351)

Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?

Yes, you should be. And, you should be thankful that SCO hasn't gotten a hold of your code yet...

Insta' +87 Funny!!! (1, Insightful)

switcha (551514) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629433)

LOL, you should think of the children and if they beowulf clustered these then SCO would suck! You're new here, aren't you Captain Obvious... (ad nauseum)

Can I just ask, pretty please, to not have to wade through 46 SCO jokes everytime anything has to do with code?

Interesting idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629352)

Blacks committed 51.5% of all homicides between 1976-2000. Whites (which also includes all Hispanics!!!) were responsible for only 46.4 % of all homicides for the same period. Remember, blacks are only 12% of the population, whites almost 70%! And a direct quote from the FBI/DOJ: "Blacks were over 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide in 2000"

A black male at birth today has a 28.5% chance of going to prison in it's life time. The chance for Hispanic males is almost half at 16% and white males, only 4.4%.

(Do Hispanics really have it THAT much better than blacks as far as poverty, drug use, gang violence, drop-out rate, single parent families, etc that they are only half as likely to end up in prison? Or is there just something seriously wrong with blacks?)

Blacks commit 48.1% of all violent crimes Blacks commit 25% of violent crimes against children although blacks are 12% of the population Whites commit 48.0% of violent crimes (30% taking out the Hispanics lumped in) in spite of being almost 70% of the total population Blacks commit 53% of all violent crimes against adult victims

9% of all blacks are under correctional supervision (in 1997, up from 7.6% in 1990) 2% of all whites are under correctional supervision Blacks make up 47% of all yearly admissions to Federal and State prisons

Blacks commit 27% of all murders of people over 65 Blacks commit 32% of all non-lethal violence against people over 65

21% of blacks in prison possessed a gun during their offense vs. 14% of whites

7% of all black children, 1 in 14 have at least one parent in jail/prison .08% of all white children, 1 in 120 have at least one parent in jail/prison

Blacks commit 44% of all rapes, despite being only 12% of the population

Blacks are responsible for 40.8% of all domestic violence cases

Blacks commit over 30% of all workplace violence. Considering their unemployment rate this is even more astonishing.

Black illegitimacy The illegitimacy rate for blacks is 70%, and over 80% in many inner city neighborhoods

Re:Interesting idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629395)

Your post has an obvious error. You should refer to them as niggers instead of as blacks. Please fix this.

Project web site (5, Informative)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629360)

It seems likely that the project is Free Realty [] .


Re:Project web site (5, Informative)

ph00dz (175440) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629413)

Perhaps... I think it was my project OpenRealty [] that got forked. (Not that I mind... working full time, I didn't have any time to support it -- one of the reasons it was GPL.)

For whatever it's worth, we're unifying as many of the branches as we can right now at [] . See my announcment on my site [] ...

Re:Project web site (2)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629432)

Hey, moderator... how exactly is it _redundant_ if the original story does not include the damn project name??? Hello???


Re:Project web site (3, Funny)

tarquin_fim_bim (649994) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629445)

If so, I recon the "... so easy even a real estate agent can use it.." might offend the intended audience a tad. Just a guess.

Offtopic: Reckon (0, Offtopic)

Osty (16825) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629464)

I recon

I assume you meant that you reckon [] , or think or assume, that it might offend, and not that you reconnoitered [] , or made a preliminary inspection or scouted, that it would offend ("recon" being an accepted shortened form of "reconnoiter" in the verb sense you used, or "reconnaissance" in the noun form which you didn't).

Re:Slashdot Spelling Nazi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629528)

Your dullness oozes from every inflection.

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (1)

SubjunctiveSam (669606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629749)

While grammatically correct, even down to proper period placement outside parenthesis, your sentence was painfully awkward. I would give a very poor grade to an entire paper written in similar style.

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629794)

your sentence was painfully awkward

Of course it was painfully awkward. You can't fit "reconnoitered" into that sentence without it being painfully awkward, because it just doesn't fit. That was the point. See how awkward the sentence is when I replace the incorrect word with the meaning of that word?

If, on the other hand, you meant my overusage of commas, you'd be correct. It's a fault of mine (along with extraneous parenthetical quotes) that I'm constantly fighting against.

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (1)

SubjunctiveSam (669606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630289)

No, my objection was not to the word "reconnoitered." My objection is indeed, to the structure. A diagram of that sentence would be an ugly mess.

I would either break the sentence into two, or restructure it with semicolons in a way that would make it easier for the reader to follow. I don't think the human mind likes to deal with sentences like yours, ones that almost contain comma-offset parenthetical statements within other comma-offset parenthetical statements.

A good way to split the sentence would have been to make the text in parentheses a sentence of it's own. Oddly enough, I think doing so makes it sound a tad more rude somehow. But, seeing as how you were being very pedantic and annoying already, this probably isn't of import.

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630385)

Oddly enough, I think doing so makes it sound a tad more rude somehow. But, seeing as how you were being very pedantic and annoying already, this probably isn't of import.

But I strive to be pedantic and annoying in an agreeable manner! And I agree, my sentence structure was crap.

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (1)

SubjunctiveSam (669606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630433)

So do I. Check out this thread. []

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630123)

Correct about the style, but you missed the comma after offend, this should be a semi-colon, as it links independent clauses as indicated by the use of the word and.

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630325)

Should semi-colon be hyphenated?

Re:Offtopic: Reckon (1)

SubjunctiveSam (669606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630381)

I always learned that if a conjunction is used to link independent clauses, the proper mark is the comma.

Of course I agree that the sentence would be better without the "or" and with a semicolon instead.

Link to the mentioned project (2, Informative)

nacturation (646836) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629369)

For those interested, here's the link to the Free Realty [] project.

Hmm (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629383)

It would seem that noone gives a shit about your handful of SQL scripts.

This is why IT work is being farmed offshore. Asshats like you think that you have true skills.


You forked. (1, Interesting)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629390)

The majority of user base propably upgraded to the incompatible version. People simply may not need your fork, but it's always a good thing to have for those who need it (40 people is quite a lot IMHO for a real estate open source software :))

Whats more pathetic? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629412)

Someone who boasts about being an HTML programmer?

Someone who boasts about being a SQL programmer?

Sex with a mare?

Re:Whats more pathetic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630203)

Sex with a mare is great! And even SQL programmer can do it! More, even a HTML "programmer" can do it!

Not surprising at all (4, Informative)

Tim (686) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629418)

I help develop and maintain a project [] for computational structural biology, and our project stats look pretty similar to yours. We release, see an interest spike, then it dies down.

Factor in that you're in a very niche market -- real estate offices who have the need for a dedicated software package, who know enough about computers to use Linux/PHP/Apache, and who don't have in-house developers. Then, consider that you're not actually maintaining the original project, but a project that branched from the original so that users won't have to upgrade. It doesn't leave many interested users.

This is part of the justification behind "release early, release often" -- the more you release, the more hits you generate, and the more likely you are to find interested users. All the same, don't expect to get the hits of the next big RPG platform or internet chat application. The users just aren't there.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629424)

This is version 0.65 of a troll HOWTO. As a draft, comments and criticism are always welcome, if not appreciated :) By version 0.7, sections on karma whoring, and conning the Slashdot users in to clicking your links, also a list of common ./ Troll examples. If you would like to work on the ./ Troll HOWTO, please by all means modify it as you see if, please post the new version of your howto as Unofficial until I can come and pick it and merge the the two together. Make sure to make your version a minor release, as I will be in charge of posting all new major releases, once we are off the ground.

Section 1 - Trolling techniques

There are techniques used by successful trolls to elicit the maximum amount of responses from unthinking /.ers. This section is dedicated to explaining how to use these in the course of your trolls. Remember though, a great troll can break any or all of these and still be successful..

* Timing

Because you're posting as an AC, your troll will generally be ignored in favor of posters using their accounts, and so getting in early is essential. A good guideline is to get into the first 20 posts, so that people reading the article will see the troll before it is swamped out. One way of increasing the speed with which you get your troll into play is to prepare them beforehand, and then quickly customize them for the current article. This is easier than it sounds since /. typically repeats stories with small variations and runs lots of similar stories.

Note that this is why Jon Katz stories are pretty worthless as trolling material - by the time you've found the article and prepared a troll there's already 50+ posts on it, most of them flaming Jon Katz anyway :)

* Exposure

Once you've got your troll in, you need people to actually read it. You also want replies - /.ers are more likely to read your troll if it starts a large thread. You also want to remember that some people have set their comment thresholds to values higher than 0 - to get the attention of these you either want to get your post moderated up (see Style, below) or get a reply which gets moderated up to 4 or 5, in which case your troll becomes visible to all.

* Accounts

An alternative to the time-honored tradition of AC trolling is that of creating a troll account. This gives you the advantage of posting at 1 rather than 0, and slashbots are more likely to take you seriously, especially if you at least sound reasonable. If you do this, try to avoid posting stuff where it is obvious you're a troll under the account - post it anonymously instead - some slightly more canny readers actually check your user info before they reply. Not many though :)

The ultimate goal of the troll account is to secure the +1 bonus, which is currently received once you hit 26 points of Karma. To get there, employ the techniques of karma whoring that we see every day on /. and watch the karma roll in. And of course once you get the +1 bonus, the world is your oyster in terms of /. Posts made at a default of 2 hit even those people with the threshold of 2, are more likely to get moderated up even further if they are at all coherent, and people tend to lose their critical thinking abilities in the face of the +1 bonus. Milk it for all it's worth.

* Layout

To get people reading it a troll needs to be easily readable. Make sure you break it down into easily digestible paragraphs, use HTML tags where appropriate (but always make sure you close them properly) and use whitespace appropriately.

* Size

Generally a troll shouldn't be too short, otherwise it'll get lost in the crowd. A workable minimum is a couple of medium paragraphs. Conversely, it shouldn't be too long, or no-one will bother to read it. Keep it to a happy medium.

* Spelling

Whilst spelling is important if you want the troll to be taken seriously, key spelling mistakes can draw out the spelling zealots, especially if you mis-spell the name of a venerated /. hero, like Linus Torveldes or Richard Strawlman (thanks dmg). Related to this is the use of the wrong word, explaining an acronym as being something it isn't or making a word into an acronym even when it isn't.

* Subject

The subject line needs to draw attention to your post without making it obvious that it is a troll. A simple statement of the main point of your argument can work here.

* Style

Once you realize that most moderators don't bother to read past the first paragraph or two, you can use this fact to craft trolls that can be moderated up as Insightful (note that I mean this in the /. sense rather than the real-world sense). Start off fairly reasonable, making statements that are /. friendly and not being too controversial. As the troll goes on, make it more and more controversial, building it up for the coup de grace in the final paragraph.

* Linking

As we all know, a post with links is considered informative by the /. crowd. Moderators love it, and they rarely check the links, so be sure to include as many as possible. And make them wrong - a link to the Perl website should instead point to the Python website instead, and vice versa. The other alternative to incorrect links is useful links to places like and i.e. places /.ers could never have found on their own :)

* Feeding

The ideal troll requires no feeding - it runs on its own, generating flamewars between clueless /.ers for your amusement. But often a troll requires some help and so you should consider feeding it. Feeding is best reserved for people making either completely clueless responses, people making responses with holes in, or those wonderful people who write a 2000-word point-by-point rebuttal of your troll.

* Know your audience

Always keep in mind the kind of things advocated on /. so that you can play on and against them. This is why anti-Linux, creationist, gun-loving, pro-corporation trolls work well - the vast majority of /.ers hold the opposite viewpoints. And if a few people agree with you, so much the better - it merely validates your viewpoint in the eyes of readers.

* Arrogance

Be arrogant. You, as a troll, know that you're right. No other explanation could exist. The more wrong the fact, the more assertively you should state it. Make it clear that you are better than everyone else - you know the truth and they are just too stupid to realize it. Use plenty of sarcasm, and use quotes to show it to people too dumb to realize.

* Offensiveness

Being offensive in your initial troll can be counter-productive - it causes moderators to mark you down as flamebait in general. But if you're feeding, then you can get away with calling /.ers all kinds of things. Make broad generalizations about /. readers - call them long-haired Linux zealots, socialist open-source bigots or whatever. Stereotyping is encouraged - people always want to think that they're an individual, and will point this out to you given half a chance.

* Indifference

Great for articles with a political or social bent, this kind of troll expresses complete indifference to the topic at hand, wondering who on Earth cares about it. An alternative method is to say that the topic only concerns a certain group of people - criminals, idiots, hackers (always use this instead of crackers) or whatever group you want to offend.

* Sympathy

Appear to take the same stance as the people you're trying to troll - claim you're as much a fan of Linux as the next man, but... This way you can make all kinds of claims in the sure knowledge that you actually know what you're talking about. A great phrase to use here is In my experience. Remember to act like all the things you're pointing out are unfortunate but true.

* The common touch

Always accuse /.ers of being elitist. This is an easy thing to do seeing as a lot of them are. Claim that is their grandmother couldn't use it, then they are just into it to feel better than Joe Sixpack rather than doing it for the average user. This is always great for working into anti-Linux trolls - attack command-line tools and poorly designed desktops.

* The 31337 touch

The opposite of the above. Claim that technology or whatever is only for the elite of society and that any attempt to open it up for everyone is wrong, an attack on intellectualism and possibly even dangerous. If people were meant to understand these things then they would, and it's their fault if they're too stupid to learn.

* Contradiction

Never be afraid to contradict yourself, even in the space of a single sentence. The phrases I am a top programmer who codes in VB or I am a supporter of open source who uses NT at work and 95 at home will be sure to get a response from some weenie smugly pointing out the contradiction. Confuse the issue more by engaging in contradiction when you are feeding - this will confuse /.ers who will then make even more stupid replies, leaving them even more wide open for response.


If you're feeling brave, give the reader clues that this is an obvious troll. The classic example here is dmg's stock phrase I am often accused of trolling (whatever that is), but also feel free to use phrases like I have not read the article, and I don't know much about XYZ but I feel I must comment. If anyone responds to a troll with these kinds of clues in it, feel free to bask in the glow of knee-jerk /. responses.

* Denial

If you're unlucky someone will accuse you of being a troll (surely not!) and try and ruin it for you. If you don't want it all to end there, then be sure to counter it by accusing them of being small-minded and petty, saying that it's easier for them to say it's a troll than to accept that people have different opinions. Be sure to say this in the subject line, especially if their subject was the infamous YHBT. YHL. HAND.

* Claiming credit

Given that /. has its community of regular trolls (hi guys!), it's only polite to publish your troll on one of the so-called hidden forums for all to see and admire. This way, you get to bask in the praise of other trolls, they get to contribute to your's if they want to, and you get an easy way to find the troll later on when you want to check on its progress :)

As for when to post it, that's a matter of opinion really. You can either post it straight away or leave it will after people start biting. Remember that the troll forum is also frequented by non-trolls, and sometimes you may get a self-declared troll-buster try and expose you. But remember, /.ers always post before thinking, and often it doesn't matter at all.

There is no real current forum at the moment thanks to various spammers hitting the sids, but try trolltalk, the original troll sid started by 80md and osm way back in the day. Generally all postings are done there as an AC, with your name at the end of the post. Include a link to the troll somewhere in the text, which ideally will be directly to the post and its replies - click on the #XX link in the thread to get there.

* Ending the troll

Sometimes you just get bored with a troll, or people start posting genuinely thoughtful stuff in reply (it does happen). When this happens it might be time to own up to the troll with a helpful YHBT. YHL. HAND. post. Sometimes people will carry on a discussion of the issue, and if you're really lucky (and it was a great troll) they will completely fail to believe you and carry on arguing. If that happens, pat yourself on the back for writing a great troll :)

* The cheap $3 crack

Finally, when all else fails and your troll gets moderated down to (-1, Troll) within ten seconds of you posting it, the only honorable thing to do is to accuse the moderators of smoking the cheap $3 crack (again) and give up :(

Section 2 - Types of troll

1. The Maniac

Probably the most popular kind of troll, the Maniac holds an opinion on something, and won't budge from that opinion no matter what evidence to the contrary is presented. If challenged, the Maniac will simply get more and more agitated and abusive, deriding his opponents as idiots, wrong-thinking, dangerous and subversive. Generally the Maniac takes a position that opposes the prevalent /. beliefs, but a similar effect can be achieved by taking a typical /. viewpoint and pushing it to ridiculous extremes.

Maniacs can be crafted for practically every article /. posts, although some are more obvious targets than others. Civil liberty articles, especially on things like censorship, DMCA, UCITA that really get /.ers riled up, are usually extremely fruitful grounds for a well-crafted maniac. The other obvious type of article is anything which could possibly involve religion, especially evolution :)

Here are some fruitful avenues to explore:

* The Right-Wing Maniac

Always popular, the right-wing maniac (RWM) is a God-fearing, gun-toting, flag-waving American, and proud of it. They don't care about the rest of the world, unless it's to prove that America is better than everything else, and they cannot stand liberal whining over civil rights. They hate the moral decay of America and want it to revert into a nation of heterosexual, Christian whites like it was meant to be. Woe betide anyone that dares to suggest otherwise.

* Religion

There are two ways to approach this kind of maniac. The harder to pull off is the militant atheist, but this is quite common amongst /. posters and you would have to be very offensive to get this to work. Of course with religion trolls, the argument can go on for ever once it's started... The more common approach is the Christian fundamentalist. They are ignorant, intolerant and bigoted in the extreme. For them the Bible is the inerrant word of God revealed to man - it contains no flaws and no contradictions. Thus they are strict Creationists - mentions of evolution or cosmology will set them off on vitriolic rants. Flaming denunciations of anyone daring to contradict the Word of God are the way to go, and any kind of proof can always be ignored by appealing to secular humanist brainwashing. And let's not forget, the USA is the greatest nation on Earth because it has the righteous power of Jesus Christ behind it.

* Ideology

Pick a philosophy, any philosophy. This troll is a troll with a cause - they have found some kind of ideological truth, and are out to expose every other philosophy as a sham. Whether it be libertarianism, objectiveness, communism or capitalism, this troll will point out the obvious flaws in any other philosophies, whilst spouting dogma about their own. And the best thing is - you don't even need to know that much about what you're spouting - making doctrinaire mistakes will get both sides of the argument flaming you, adding to the fun.

* Software

This is an old favorite and crops up in many forms, covering the gamut from OS maniacs (Linux zealots, MS-apologists or embittered BSD fanatics), language maniacs (Pascal vs. C, C vs. C++, C++ vs. Java, Perl vs. Python, VB vs. everything), application maniacs(GIMP vs. Photoshop, Netscape vs. IE, vi vs. emacs) and also includes people who complain about how technology should only be for the 31337 hackers.

* Guns

Americans love their guns, and will always fight passionately for their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to bear arms and shoot people. Even the slightest hint of criticism of this will bring down the wrath of a thousand and one enraged gun-owners on you, so it's always a great point to work into a troll :)

2. The Expert

The Expert is someone who is savvy in their particular field, and is perfectly willing to give their opinion on any topic even vaguely related to their field. The Expert is most likely to be from a field which /.ers as a rule despise - the classic example is dumb marketing guy, but try consultants, lawyers, politicians, lobbyists, executives, journalists (just think Jon Katz). With this kind of troll sweeping statements with little content are the norm, along wire dire portents of future catastrophe and dark hints of insider knowledge.

Some possible angles to exploit:
* Industry knowledge

The expert knows the computing industry from the inside - as a long-term pro, they can dispense knowledge knowing that they can speak for the industry. Their smug self-satisfaction is bound to annoy, as is any suggestion that things aren't the way that /.ers would like it - saying Linux requires the rock-solid guarantee of a trusted company like Microsoft or Apache cannot be trusted for mission-critical enterprise platforms is guaranteed to get you denials explaining exactly why you're wrong, in excruciating detail.

* Helpful hints

With their tech-savvy (or law-savvy or whatever) experience, the expert is obviously the best person to point out what's wrong with things or to give out useful factual information. In fact this probably works best with lawyer trolls - for all that /.ers protest IANAL, they certainly seem to think they could be, and any mistakes you make will send them rushing to prove themselves by correcting you.

3. Offtopic Trolls

Not really a troll in the strict Jargon File sense of the word, but they certainly should be included here :) This category includes parodies, offtopic weirdness any all kinds of amusing stuff. Not really my area of expertise, this stuff is mainly done by gnarphlager and opensourceman. Thanks to gnarphlager for this section.

Offtopic trolls, like any other, come in almost as many colours as an iMac, but generally not as cute. But then again, a good offtopic troll can affect more people than a repulsive little gumdrop on your desk, because you need to have someone SEE your desk before they can react. Simple? Moreso than even my overblown prose could indicate. Some basic examples:

* The serial troll

Write a story. Keep expanding it. It doesn't matter what article you post it under, so long as it's high up. If you want people to recognize you, pick a couple themes or symbols, and carry them on throughout the story. Other alternatives include back linking or including the entire story, but adding more each time. Be funny if you want. Or if you don't feel like being funny, just be really weird. Someone will react.

* The random troll

This has nothing to do with anything. Be it a stream of consciousness rant, or a description of the corner of your desk. Another favorite is a monologue, read as if spoken from any one given entity to another. The more outlandish, the better (a pair of socks talking to a mousepad, for example). If you really wanted to be artsy, work in an actual metaphor or legitimate meaning behind it, but it's not necessary.

* The vaguely related troll

Start out with a comment about the article. Have a definite opinion of it. Then, after a little while, disintegrate into randomness. All roads eventually can eventually lead to cheese (yum), Natalie Portman, cannibalism, toasters, squirrels, futons, you name it. All it takes is a little bit of creativity. Oh, and feel free to use other trolls' motifs. Open source and all that ;-)

General tips:
* If it's funny for a fleeting moment, then it's worth posting.
* Puns. Puns are only less vile than mimes, but it's hard to mime on /. So feel free/obligated to litter your offtopic and random bits with puns. Hurt the bastards. And if they're sick enough to laugh at them, then they'll eventually end up here ;-)
* Obscure cultural references and in jokes are always good. SOMEONE will get them eventually.
* Several drafts of a serial or random post are common, but true elegance is being able to come up with something on the spot that still makes the top 40 posts (on a post-heavy article)

Section 3 - Useful trolling links

The following links contain background information useful for trolls needing quick quotes and expert opinions to include.

1. General purpose links

* [] - How to deal with USENET trolls - learn your enemy :)
* [] - A List Of Fallacious Arguments - Learn them and use them liberally
* [] - USENET troll HOWTO
* [] -
* [] - Fielding's DangerFinder - A guide to what and where's dangerous

2. Religious links

* [] - God Hates America
* [] - The Creed of Christian Reconstruction
* [] - How to cast out your demons and do spiritual warfare
* ngs.htm [] - Things Creationists hate
* [] - Institute for Creation Research
* [] - Operation Clambake - The fight against Scientology on the net
* [] - Citizens for the Ten Commandments
* [] - The difference between Catholics and Christians
* [] - Bible quotes by category

3. Political/economy links

* [] - The Ayn Rand Institute
* [] - Libertarian site
* [] - Right-wing stuff
* [] - Excellent site for all kinds of right-wingery
* [] - Web economy bullshit generator

4. Crackpot science links

* [] - The Earth Is Not Moving
* [] - The Journal of Irreproducible Results

Section 4 - Troll Examples to Get You Started

First post
Every time a new story is posted on Slashdot, comments may be posted discussing it. Because of this, there is often competition between Slashdot posters to post the first comment on a story. Some first posters try to make a short insightful comment to avoid being moderated down. The more immature first posts often consist of a subject saying first post! or FP and have no body, and sometimes people deliberately post first post messages a ridiculously long time after the original story has been submitted (Example [] ) as a parody of the first post. There are many other variants of the first post. Example 1 [] , Example 2 []

Natalie Portman, naked and petrified with hot grits
Natalie Portman is a popular target for the affections of many Slashdot trolls. When referring to her, they frequently profess their love for a statue of the petrified actress, preferably covered in hot grits. Naked and Petrified is now such an infamous troll that it virtually epitomizes Slashdot trolling, and is often referred to and parodied in Slashdot comments. Other incarnations of the troll suggest that Natalie Portman pours hot grits into their underwear. Example [] (lengthy)

Comment explaining the origin of N&P []

*BSD is dying
Quite frequently (especially for BSD-related Slashdot stories) a comment will be posted detailing the manner in which BSD operating systems are dying. These comments are generally all identical, following to the letter the form of this comment [] . Parodies of this troll have also been posted, such as this comment [] stating that Slashdot is dying.

Beowulf clusters
When a story mentioning a new gadget is posted on Slashdot, it will invariably be proposed that the power of a Beowulf cluster of the new gadgets would be incredible. Such comments are generally prefaced with Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these things! This type of troll actually began as a parody of sincere posts frequently made in stories about new computers back when the concept of Beowulf clusters first entered the technological mainstream. Example 1 [] , Example 2 []

Stephen King is dead
This needs little explanation. This troll merely posts a comment stating that the author has just heard on the radio that Stephen King has been found dead in his Maine home. A good example of this can be found here [] .

Business plans
This troll is based upon a fictitious business plan concocted on the animated television show South Park, in which a community of underground gnomes have a three step business plan, consisting of:

1. Steal underpants
2. ???
3. Profit!

where none of the gnomes actually knows what the second step is, and all of them assume that someone else within the organization does.

For Slashdot stories where an individual or organization is alleged to have performed some controversial action, an anonymous wag will invariably post a false business plan based on this template, with the controversial action as the first step. Example []

Penis bird
These troll comments consist of a nonsensical or provocative subject line and a body consisting of a crude ASCII representation of a bird perched on a penis by its claws.

Penis bird ASCII art and a picture of a parrot perched on an erect penis are hosted at and can be found here [] .

In these posts, trolls usually begin their comments with the subject IN SOVIET RUSSIA... (all capitals) and typically proceed to reverse the order of words in that story's headline, usually changing the verb slightly to maintain subject/verb agreement and changing the object of the sentence to the second-person YOU!. So, [subject][verb][object] usually becomes IN SOVIET RUSSIA... [object][verb] YOU! Example 1 [] Example 2 []

The phrase In Soviet Russia... is a signature of the jokes of Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff.

Reigniting flamewars
Popular on software and development articles, this troll tries to explain why a particular operating system, programming language or other concept is inferior to others, in a way intended to annoy. This type of troll will either make an outlandish and obvious claim or subtly use a valid criticism of something in an aggravating fashion.

For example:

* The K in KDE stands for Krap.
* Why would I want a desktop with a smelly foot on it?
* Linux has immensely poor SMP support.
* My BSD machines have much better uptimes and stability than my Linux machines.
* Object-oriented programming is difficult to use and doesn't increase productivity.
* Open source software has poorer levels of QA than proprietary solutions.
* Python scales up for large projects better than Perl.

This type of post is usually moderated down as flamebait, but sometimes causes a flamewar to begin amongst those who reply and the troll gets his 'bite'.

Movie spoilers
This is generally a significantly subtler trolls than most. The spoiler type of troll is usually, for the most part, a genuinely insightful comment split into several paragraphs, with the middle or penultimate paragraph containing a movie spoiler in the middle of a sentence. Example [] (contains what appears to be a spoiler for The Matrix Reloaded, but is actually not)

Homosexuality is one of the most versatile and so common trolling devices utilized. In its simplest form it may be used on its own in the form of a homophobic insult or as a feature of a pornographic troll featuring common Slashdot topics and celebrities.

This can be done manually or via an automated script; multiple copies of the same message are posted many times over with slight variations in order to avoid being filtered. Scripted crapflooding attacks can be very effective: a troll known as Sexual Asspussy has created a Perl script to crapflood Slash sites [] and utilized it with some success in stories such as this [] .

Troll organizations
Periodically, individual trolls will come together and form organized groups. They will usually post common variations of popular Slashdot trolls with their organization's name attached in some way. While somewhat uncommon, these organizations can become quite famous among Slashdot regulars; the most prominent of these being the Cabal of Logged in Trolls or 'CLIT' and 'Trollkore'. The various groups often fight it out in a battle of slander and competition to achieve first posts. In summer of 2003 the most frequently mentioned troll organization was the Gay Niggers Association of America. It boasted its own logo and IRC channel, and encouraged people to join by first watching a Danish low-budget movie Gayniggers from Outer Space or to register their support by upwardly moderating GNAA comments.

Article text trolls
Sometimes considered an effective sanitization of those who post comments consisting of a linked article's text for positive moderation, these trolls consist of the linked article's text with a phrase or paragraph covertly inserted or modified to form a subversive or offensive message not present in the original article. These can be in the form of film or book spoilers, amongst other things. Example []

Combinations of trolling techniques
Various aspects of the above techniques may be combined: []

Changelog -

0.65 - Added Examples Section

0.61 - Cleaned Howto

0.6 - Debut on /.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630162)

As the troll goes on, make it more and more controversial, building it up for the coup de grace in the final paragraph.

That's WRONG! Most people skip to the end and read a few last lines if they give up reading the whole article. Make the end look just closing your starting point in some witty manner, and put whatever you want to troll about in the middle of rather long and boring paragraph describing in-depth details of what you write about, best located somewhere 75% the text length. (like getting moderated up for a post where special certificates are issued to people who finish course in Zebra, and the long, described in details process of gaining the certificate involves going to Africa and having sex with a real zebra).

Make broad generalizations about /. readers - call them long-haired Linux zealots, socialist open-source bigots or whatever

If someone posts something that may be dangerous to the health of your troll, i.e. points out some very deep inconsistency, claim thye are members of GNAA :)

wondering who on Earth cares about it.
No matter how valid or invalid, gets -1 offtopic ALWAYS.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630243)

With their tech-savvy (or law-savvy or whatever) experience, the expert is obviously the best person to point out what's wrong with things or to give out useful factual information.

The best troll is not the one which leaves people pissed off after what they read, so they find out it's a troll. The best one is if it leaves people with their harddrives trashed after they followed your advice! If you have really deep insight in the problem and know of a killer-bug which looks innocent in what you describe, lure people into trying that ("removes some unnecessary overhead", "kills some stupid garbage collector that is a legacy from times when it was needed yet and unless you use (some very useless X) you don't need it and your performance will skyrocket.")

If someone answers to your troll "I followed your advice, you bastard...", call yourself a master troll :)

WHAT ABOUT THE MARES?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630756)

Hey, I protest! You didn't mention the mares!

Did you check archives before asking? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629425)

Gee, let's see... this question has been 'ask slashdot'ed only what, 200 times? Search the archives. That's what they're there for.

Ask Slashdot (abridged version) (2, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629449)

I wrote some SQL scripts and noone has clicked my pay pal link. What am I doing wrong?

morons suggest universal involvement in.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629452)

rescue of the planet/population.

time to wake up again J. pay attention. that's affordable.

the daze of the murderous thieving hostage ransom georgewellian fuddite execrable are #ed.

consult with/trust in yOUR creator. vote with yOUR wallet. that's the spirit.

good job so far. there's much more to be done.

all the senseless greed/fear based baby murdering is killing us.

Promotion (5, Informative)

kimbly (26131) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629455)

You have to let people know the project exists. Simply listing it on freshmeat won't get you much, as I know (I've listed a couple [] of projects [] there). My site gets practically zero traffic from those listings.

There are a couple things I've found that help. First, find a discussion group focused on a subject relevant to your project, and mention it occasionally when it becomes relevant to the discussion -- this gets you kickstarted, but it's not a long-term solution. Second, you might start some kind of blog [] on the site, so that people have a reason to follow your progress. Rant about the state of the real estate market or something. This is the long-term solution.

I've done both of these things, and eventually they get you a lot more traffic than freshmeat ever will. The more traffic you get, the more likely that someone will link to your site, which will raise your google ranking, which increases the amount of traffic you get, which starts the whole feedback loop all over again. You just need to focus on making sure that your visitors have a reason to link you once they're there.

Re:Promotion (2, Interesting)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629538)

Also, never underestimate the power of a slashdot sig ;)

Seriously, sigs for /. and other sites, emails, etc. If you need something specific, ask for help on Sourceforge, etc.

Re:Promotion (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629576)

more traffic you get, the more likely that someone will link to your site, which will raise your google ranking, which increases the amount of traffic you get

Actually you got that bacward with Freshmeat and googlewashing.

Here's the recipe to get your project on top of google : Say your project is about linking the Foo network with the Bar device :

- Choose an explicit name for your project that is already used by some obscure group that you can find on google. Imagine there's an association called FOOBIP (FOOtless Bloggers on the Internet in Poland) that has its page listed in the 20th page in google. Chose that name for your project, that's the key to googlewashing.

- Make a homepage for your project that refers extensively to Foo and Bar, but casually, in the main body. I find googlewashing doesn't work as well if you're heavy on the meta tags. Actually, no meta tags works best in my experience.

- Now you have your shitty page that hosts your project with its borrowed obscure name, link it to Google and wait 2 or 3 days. Eventually, you should find your page on google somewhere at the end, but not necessarily.

- Then, make a Freshmeat entry and release as much as you can so it goes to the FM frontpage (I think the limit is once every 3 days), for like 3 weeks.

After 3 weeks, I guarantee you that your FOOBIP project will be at or near the top of Google when you look for Foo and Bar, and the (Polish handicapped association will be googlewashed to oblivion in the process unfortunately). What happens is, during the period your release like crazy, all the FM tickers in all the little webpages around the net will start linking to your FM project page, and google will see a sudden increase of interest from an existing listed keyword (I think, I'm not sure) and will bubble your page to the top.

I've found out that method after many trials and errors. It works for me. I'm not sure why, but it works.

Re:Promotion (3, Interesting)

kimbly (26131) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629596)

Apparently slashdot posts work pretty well too. 40 visits in 30 minutes, and still counting...

The other canned meat. (1, Offtopic)

ArCaNe50 (587961) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629479)

You can just spam it maybe you will get 6000 ideas for a product that does actually works. Or a new hate club whatever comes first. ;-)

Instant webtraffic.... (0, Redundant)

greymond (539980) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629496)

well i'm sure you'll have more hits than you ever imagined now.... Go slashdotting affect (or is it effect?)

Re:Instant webtraffic.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629639)

The slashdot effect affects many sites!

Re:Instant webtraffic.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629673)

Effect. Effect is a noun while affect is a verb.

It's like an engine (5, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629497)

I too maintain niche projects, some bigger than others, some more popular than others. Here's how I understand the dynamics of a community around a projects. You have 3 cases :

1) your project is too specialized, you have a smallish community of people who use it, few bug reports now and then, and you end up doing all the work on your project.

2) your project is interesting enough that the community around it grows to a point where most of the improvements come from patches, bug reports ... i.e. bits of work done not by you, but you still end up integrating the changes and act as the only maintainer of the project.

3) your project is very interesting and the community around it grows exponentially. The improvements / bug reports flood you and, essentially, your own bandwidth is not enough to maintain the project. You have to delegate and trust other people, in which case A) you're a shitty project manager and someone else who has that talent eventually makes a code fork and takes it over, or B) you become a successful OSS project maintainer, the extreme case of which, for example, is Linus.

The added fun is that, if you code well while you start the project, it can go from a shitty thing to something of interest, just because the look-n-feel that detracted people from trying it before now attracts more people. That's where all the interest is, see how you can "prime the pump" and build a community around your ideas by doing the initial work, then watch the improvements come already made.

I personally choose to create/maintain projects that I reckon will fall in or near category 2), because I don't want to maintain big projects anymore, with the flood of patches, suggestions and hate mail that comes with it, but I don't want to end up having my name associated with a shitty tarball that nobody cares about either.

The Tipping Point (2, Insightful)

Sean80 (567340) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629510)

There's that book out there called 'The Tipping Point' which might be of some interest to you. Never read it myself, but from what I've heard about it, it tries to explain why some things go on to be phenomenonally successful (like Levis jeans) while other things fade into obscurity.

As for being thankful about not having bugs and feature requests, well I suppose it depends on your outlook. I can imagine you're the only person who can answer it you. Coding for your own sake? Then it's probably good, you can set your own direction without any monkeys on your back. If you're coding for the glory, well, perhaps a broader choice of topic might help. ;)

Re:The Tipping Point (0)

Shriek (261178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629744)

Is the book about cow tipping?

Simple. (1, Troll)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629518)

It's simple. People are poor. They are working to feed their families now. Nobody is interested in coding for free. Mod me down, but it's the fucking truth. The only people writing code for free these days are insanely wealthy introverts (few and far between) and the few college kids that are still supported by mommy and daddy, who also have the attention span of a gnat.

Re:Simple. (4, Insightful)

cranos (592602) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629595)

Well, that was a blindingly generalised statement wasn't it.

I am neither hugely wealthy, nor am I some bored college student. I am work five days a week and have a wife and kids and yet I am developing my own project under the GPL.

The reasons people write Open Source software vary greatly from having an itch to scratch to altruism to sticking it to the man.

Re:Simple. (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629622)

Well, that was a blindingly generalised statement wasn't it.

Yes it was. It was an answer to a blindingly generalised question. And I appreciate you saying, "I don't fall into that category", but that wasn't my point. My point wasn't that EVERYBODY who writes OSS these days is well off or a college kid, just that MOST people are because MOST people are poorer now (especially IT people) than they have been in recent history. Everybody I know is working as hard as they can just to pay their bills. Nobody has time or money to work for free. But then again, I don't know *everybody*.

Re:Simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629733)

Nah, as long as there are nerds in this world who actually think that coding is fun, and will code regardless of anything else (it's for fun!), work will continue.

Hell, there's nerds in this world that think reading articles about OSes and kernels and compilers is fun ...

Re:Simple. (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629752)

That's not necessarily true. Well.. okay, most of the time! LOL

Alot of the people who do coding code it because they want that feature. They submit a patch and that's that.

My experience with real estate software. (4, Insightful)

SubjunctiveSam (669606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629527)

A month ago I did a whole bunch of work for a real estate agent in his home office, making hardware and software upgrades, etc. I have seen the multi-listing and real-estate specific database software that they are using, and while based on some ancient code, it was very powerful, very polished and good, and from what I gather, the software from this company is quite entrenched in the real estate business.

I installed and setup systems using Agent Office/Online Agent and for the Lightning 2000 mls service, which essentially seems to be a very fancy terminal emulator. screenshots here [] They have been buying software from this company for FOURTEEN YEARS. You're competing against some big guns I think. The best thing you've got going for you is that these softwares are quite expensive, due to the fact that they are niche softwares, and that there is a lot of money in real estate. If you can offer a better real-estate -specific database at a lower price, maybe you can compete, but it had better convert and import the database they already have.

Re:My experience with real estate software. (1)

rowanxmas (569908) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630227)

Better yet, get a real estate for software deal going.

Escape from the Prison Planet (-1, Offtopic)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629547)

Red rover, red rover, Bob Lazar's comin' over.

The Gwydion Dylan experience (3, Interesting)

oodl (398345) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629577)

The Gwydion Dylan [] project (and Dylan language as a whole) has always had trouble gaining a significant user base. Gwydion Dylan is an open-source optimizing compiler for the Dylan programming language. It was originally developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, but is now maintained (and extended) by a small group of volunteers.

Dylan is a wonderful, elegant, extensible language that really puts Java to shame. Usually when there's a programming language article on slashdot, people end up describing their dream language... and it usually what they describe matches Dylan quite well. But still it's very hard to attract new programmers to the language.

It's a great compiler, and a team using it earned second place in the 2001 ICFP Programming Contest. The compiler is still being improved, but in all honestly, there's just a few dedicated volunteers working on it.

I don't know how to explain it's lack of "success", except to note that few geeks are really geeky enough to stray away from the mainstream languages.

Re:The Gwydion Dylan experience (3, Informative)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629796)

It's probably the name, honestly.

Do you wanna know the first thing I thought of when I read the name?
Bob Dylan.
I then thought "old" almost instinctually.
I'm not putting it down, I'm just saying what I thought, and being honest.

Re:The Gwydion Dylan experience (1)

daves (23318) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630946)

Do you wanna know the first thing I thought of when I read the name? Bob Dylan. I then thought "old" almost instinctually.

My Dad thought it meant Dylan Thomas.

Whoever he is.

Do you want buzz, or are you seeking hype? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629594)

Buzz is when other people say good things about you. Hype is when you try to inflate activity by going about it yourself.

I prefer buzz. My own software projects are posted on my web servers and have plenty to offer to those who find them. Someone eventually wanders by, sees it, likes it, then mentions it to someone else. Many of these mentions happen on Usenet or mailing lists that get archived. Now people searching for certain terms will find those posts that link to me.

Eventually, people who run directories like dmoz will get a hold of it and index it somewhere. This will get even more people coming by. Over time, you'll build a base of users who have it installed and stop by once in awhile to see what's new. Having a moderated mailing list that does nothing but announce new releases helps a lot.

This is not an exaggeration. I have a project that's gone from rather small to pleasantly healthy in the space of about 5 years. To give you some idea of how long ago it was, I posted my one and only direct reference to it here on Slashdot before you had to log in. Back in those days you could just put in a name, u@h, and URL, and it would be attached to your post.

You also have to realize that some projects are not going to have a very large audience. Unless you happen to address the needs of many, don't expect a whole lot of activity. Those who find it will appreciate it, but the rest simply have no use for it. That's life.

By the way, you can probably get by without appearing on Freshmeat constantly. My own projects have only had a couple of announcements on there, all due to someone else. None of those people really stayed with it, so the last version is stuck at something from a year ago. I don't operate on the basis of updating other web sites, so it's not going to be maintained by me, either.

~googolplex (2, Funny)

riordan (645374) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629631)

Well undoubtedly his hits are about to increase a tad bit...

Sounds like maintenance mode. (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629634)

The original developer moved on to an incompatible version to what I was using. Upgrading for me and many other users was not the easiest option. (...) Should I be thankful that there aren't tons of bug reports and feature requests?"

Is it possible that the majority of your user base aren't really that interested in new features, but basicly want to keep the (well-working) system they have, just as you did? On the same note, isn't it also likely that those that are happy with the old product are also mostly the same that haven't been bitten by any major bugs?

To me, the situation seems pretty normal for a system that is in more or less "maintenance" mode. Now, the question is if that is what you want it to be, or do you want to start new development based on this platform? If it's the latter, you'd have to work rather intensely to argue for why going away from that system (to an incompatible one) was a poor decision. Many developing new features subscribe to the idea that to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs...


Marketing (2, Insightful)

btakita (620031) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629640)

Open Source, like anything other business, requires Marketing. You need to do market research, advertise your product, and most importantly, get customers.

Find out how to make money from your software. If you can't, is it a worthwhile hobby?

Finally, what is your business model? Are you going to be a consultant or sell the software or both?

If you're going to sell the software, consider moving to a different platform, like Java or .NET. PHP scripts are a hard sell. When Zend gets their act together and...

  • Developes a stable (as in not breaking previous code with almost every release) platform
  • Improves performance
  • Makes it easier to interface your script with other applications
then PHP would be a good sell.

Close To The Edge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629806)

Now that it's all over and done
Now that you find now that you're whole

Well , thank you for not listing it in the article (0, Flamebait)

Valar (167606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629829)

Slashdot needs less shameless self promotion. Whether it be in the form of articles or shameless plugs for one's own tiny project embedded in a poster's sig, the shameless self-advertisement must stop!

Yes. I am kidding.

Open Source Myth (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6629855)

As people have remarked, and you yourself said, it's a niche market.

You often see people claim a benefit for OSS that it'll be bug-free because everyone can examine the source for bugs. (An even more extreme claim is that OSS will be more secure because it's been scoured for secruity problems, implying people are proactively inspection the software even when its not barfing on them.) What that claim overlooks, however, is that very few people will actually bother to do so. They could, in theory, but they won't, any more than if the source were closed.

It's niche software with few users. But of those users, even fewer are going to care about actually looking at the code. Most users have a problem to solve, and that doesn't include debugging your code. They just want to use the software.

And all the other developers aren't going to rush over to your project and start code inspecting it for you. They've got their own projects to do. The 40,000 people writing Yet Another Text Editor / Ide aren't going to drop everything and help you out, as it's not their current interest. So it doesn't matter than 40,000 developers could inspect your software; it won't actually happen just because your source is available.

Thus, you aren't going to get hits in proportion to the number of potential developers that could see your code. You're going to get hits in proportion to the number of actual users -- and you're going to get actual support from the fraction of those users that are (a) programmers and (b) have time to spare. For niche software, that will be small.

Large, popular, trendy, and crucial projects will get a lot of attention. Other projects won't particularly benefit just from slapping an OSS label on it and creating a freshmeat homepage. There's this notion that there's a huge pool of idle programmers just waiting for something to do on OSS; the reality is that there's a huge number of OSS projects just waiting for someone to do something with them.

What's most important (2, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629896)

The most important thing is that it is useful to you.

I recently listed a project [] on freshmeat as well as posted information to usenet newsgroups where some will find it relative and interesting to the newsgroup.

The description was edited by a freshmeat editor and could probably be written differently to attract a little more attention. But this project is not going to die, cause I won't let it... Cause it's useful to me, and that's the most important I can think of.

Usually... (4, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 11 years ago | (#6629958)

projects smaller than "large" usually consist of one-three maintainers, some 3-4 "minor contributors" who supply hints, bug reports, small handy hacks and good ideas on irregular basis, several "fans" who look for updates, sometimes report bugs or help newcomers by answering questions, and besides that, small, regular flux of visitors who come, maybe ask a question or two, look, eventually download and go usually without ever saying thank you. I've seen that with several projects I participated in, as such "fan" or "minor contributor". From time to time some fan or minor contributor leaves, sometimes a new one finds it and stays. If the maintainer leaves the project though, it dies quite quickly, unless someone else decides to take over and continue the work. That doesn't happen often though.

Look at this from positive side. 1) 40 visitors a day, means maybe 1-4 new sites using your software. 2) No bug reports - probably no bugs so that's very good, isn't it? :) 3) No suggestions, ideas, patches - probably the design is so good that nobody feels need for these.

(of course it could be opposite, after first look people discard it and never think about it again, but... :)

One of good ideas to "exist" on the market is to package your stuff for some major distributions and try to include it - even if not in core of one, then at least in official software archives. So crazy people like me, who look through all packages dselect displays get to notice it :)

feature request (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630011)

I would like for your software to get me free houses and land. What is the ETA? Thanks. BTW I know millions of people will use your software after this feature is added.

"Good Enough" (2, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630041)

Most people don't want the best piece of software available for a problem. They want software which is good enough. Once they've found something which is good enough, they'll probably stay with it, even if better options become available.

To take a personal example, bsdiff [] is a tool for generating binary patches (in particular, for upgrading software). It is measurably and quantifiably better -- that is, it produces smaller patch files -- than any other software available, both free and commercial (eg, $2750/seat). Despite this, the only place where I'm aware of bsdiff being used is in another project of my own (FreeBSD Update). Most people found a tool which was "good enough" for their needs a long time ago, and aren't going to change now.

Just four steps... (0, Troll)

joshsnow (551754) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630190)

1) Knock together LAMP project and host on Freshmeat.

2) Post story on Slashdot moaning about lack of traffic to project website

3) ???

4) PROFIT!!!

Either this is a lame promo (2, Insightful)

MoThugz (560556) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630319) get more coders for this project, or it's to spur interest on LAMP projects for Real Estate.

Well anyway, if you really want to attract more attention to this project, here are some important things to consider:

Real estate people mostly don't get the free as in freedom of speech and/or free as in beer concepts.

Want to get their input? Sell the thing, it's still open source, and you're not going against the GPL and should be able to keep your pages at Freshmeat, and SF (if you do have a project site there).

Know how to pimp your project... When targeting RE agents, showcase the commercial features... When targeting coders, showcase the technical features (like plugins/modules, themes, some sort of data extraction layer, etc. etc.)

Most importantly give incentive to people who contributed code/fixes.

Maybe it's you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6630559)

Pick it up.. and stop complaining. This is an exercise for the programmer in its purest form.

Already i've had the time to read many posts relating to this lament, however the author here still hasn't updated his site that something is going down with his shiz... I've now gone to openrealty and the offshoot program and it's quite cute. Don't expect marketing to work if you have no clue of its nature...

It could also be that people are just modding open source software and billing up the yin/yang for it and making sure that their secrets are safe.

Who can tell - nothing surprises me anymore.

Market Problem (2, Informative)

bsapot (60594) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630643)

The problem is really the market and the functionality that the software provides. Yes real estate is a huge market but it is dominated by two types of brokers: 1. Small brokers with less than 5 agents. 2. large offices with hundreds or thousands of agents.

The small offices usally get free or very cheap web sites that contain listings from the MLS's (that is that database where all listings in a market are stored). These people could be a potential market for you but they are not going to contribute anything to the cause either in code or money.

The large companies have the budget to put these sites together using a staff of developers and web designers. The developers and designers that create these sites might use your code as as starting point and may or may not contribute to the project.

The other problem is the functionality of the software. It is very easy and inexpensive to create a web site that displays property listings. What people need in the real estate industry is a system that will save them time and reduce the number of times they need to enter property information in to all their systems.

These types of systems are what my company creates and we have been talking about open sourcing our apps. Feel free to checkout our site and contact me if you are interested in working together on extending your product with more functionality. []

Similar Situation (3, Informative)

jasonc95 (84261) | more than 11 years ago | (#6630750)

I've run into the same thing as you. I wrote an open source issue tracking system and didn't get a lot of feedback either. I've had about 12000 downloads over the past year but probably less than 20 real bug reports and even less feature requests. I've tried the freshmeat, sourceforge, google, and forum routes and it doesn't change much.

I'd love to find a good way to attract more user participation, mainly because I'd like to improve the product for my own use and I've found that other people tend to give me really good ideas for features, when they aren't bogged down in the actual coding like I am.

It is difficult to even get people to tell to drop by and "vote" in an online poll to tell me their environment so I know where to focus my efforts to get the most benefit to the community.

One good thing about writing my own software though is I'm much more likely to write to an author of an application I use to thank them, or drop by a forum and let them know I use it. Heck I'll even write bug reports now :)

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