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#1 NicolasMoes  Icon User is offline

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Software project: Open Source development or closed team ?

Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:36 AM

Hello everybody, hope everything's fine for you today !
Quick introduction: I am Nicolas, 19, freshman and I know very little about Computer Science. Keyboard, screen, software and hardware are terms that I can explain but that's pretty much all about my knowledge in this domain :sweatdrop: . However, I am studying economics and know quite a bit about psychology and other Social Sciences. I know that learning is beneficial for people in many ways. This basic assumption leads me to imagine a relatively achievable project for improving education. That's it for the intro.

This project requires developing a software. My lack of credentials in software development combined to the peculiarity of the idea and the copyright laws have made me believe that commercial/traditional software developer companies would not bother discuss the idea with me, and even less develop it. "Socially-sensitive" software developer companies or associations seem not be willing to collaborate neither (or have problem with answering emails :mellow: ). This made me think to Open Source communities but there again problems exist :
-the final phases of the project require services that cannot be Open and Free like the software, requiring either creation of a privately-held company or some commercial partnership with existing companies. Basically, the software would be developed with Open source technics, but published and managed commercially. I believe this mix promises to be an unsolvable mess of legal and licensing problems if one is to hope that the project does not end up as a failure as exceptional as its potential.
-as the only/lonely champion of this idea and as I do not have enough background knowledge in Computer Science, I have little if any ability/authority to (kick)start a project on such Open projects hosters as SourceForge and others. I am learning as fast as I can in the domain, but it will take years before I learn enough to offer a viable embryo of project to the Open Source that will make them join in the project.

So finally, I have thought about a good old method: gather a team of skilled developers to discuss and work on the project on a voluntary but involved basis (the team being closed to outside's input). I know the boundary between the 2 methods of development is ambiguous but I hope you see the difference from a developer's point of view. At some point or for some parts an Open Source project holder might be necessary, and the fact that there is already a team behind the project can help involve other people. This method seems the best in my opinion, but then again team members have to be found.

For the record, I won't be of any help (in the software development part at least). Considering that, I do not intend to make profit from the project (this is a personal choice).

It would be reasonably stupid to ask "Sooo, who's in ? :D " right now. No, as the title of this topic implies, I would like to have advices about how I should manage that project.
More clearly : do you think I should:
1) scout forums to gather team members ?
2) start an open source project describing my idea on SourceForge and alike ?
3) keep dropping the idea on various websites, forums, companies, ... and hoping that some will have abilities and willingness to develop, improve, transform it and bring this to reality ? (and therefore renouncing to any right on the idea, which I am ready to do even though I'd rather participate in some way)

If you think (1), do you have any advice for me such as where should I post my idea in this forum and what other forums/communities do you advise me to contact and join ?
If you think (2), do you have any advice for me such as which Open Source project hosters I should join ?
If you think (3), what forums, communities, companies would be most receptive to my idea according to you ?

I think that's pretty much it so far. I am looking forward to have your opinions ! :bigsmile:

Have a good day !


Nicolas

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Replies To: Software project: Open Source development or closed team ?

#2 Skydiver  Icon User is offline

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Re: Software project: Open Source development or closed team ?

Posted 12 February 2013 - 06:35 AM

Let me see if I understand what you are trying to do...

You have zero code, but have a product idea. You want the general public to volunteer their time and effort to create the major components of your product idea in an open source manner, and then at some point you will take the components, add some secret sauce components that is closed source, and then market the product, ostensibly with no profit going to you, but perhaps to those working on the secret sauce components.

To me it smacks of a pharmaceutical firm crowd sourcing the equivalent of protein folding for chemical reactions in the search for the cure for cancer. Then when a formula that works is found, investing it's own money to get the drug approved by government agencies and selling the drug for profit.
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#3 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Software project: Open Source development or closed team ?

Posted 12 February 2013 - 07:54 AM

Quote

If you think (1), do you have any advice for me such as where should I post my idea in this forum

In 'post a job'.
---
A few thoughts in this overly thought-wrought plate of spaghetti-os.

Quote

Basically, the software would be developed with Open source technics, but published and managed commercially. I believe this mix promises to be an unsolvable mess of legal and licensing problems if one is to hope that the project does not end up as a failure as exceptional as its potential.

I am confused - is this your ultimate prediction, some how a benefit, or what? Typically an "unsolvable mess of legal and licensing" does not bode well.

Quote

So finally, I have thought about a good old method: gather a team of skilled developers to discuss and work on the project on a voluntary but involved basis (the team being closed to outside's input).

Yes, I always enjoy backing my projects with highly skill, but unpaid, folk.

Quote

For the record, I won't be of any help (in the software development part at least).

There's one awkward conversation out of the way.

Quote

More clearly : do you think I should:
1) scout forums to gather team members ?

I don't see how you will get members if you are not looking around.

I mentioned the 'post a job' - post it there.

Quote

2) start an open source project describing my idea on SourceForge and alike ?

I would imagine you would need this, but, you know, after you get people, a design doc, specs, etc.

As for which one - when you get there let the team decide.

Quote

3) keep dropping the idea on various websites, forums, companies, ... and hoping that some will have abilities and willingness to develop, improve, transform it and bring this to reality ? (and therefore renouncing to any right on the idea, which I am ready to do even though I'd rather participate in some way)

The "is the spaghetti done" test is... one way.. of doing it. Throw it at the wall and see what sticks. Personally I become very annoyed with people who have these alleged grandiose ideas, won't tell you about them, won't fund them, and want you to pot commit a whole mess of time for some idea *I* need to re-engineer because the 'idea guy' is clueless. I am certain you can see how that grinds a few gears.

Now on to a few extraneous questions:

Quote

My lack of credentials in software development combined to the peculiarity of the idea and the copyright laws have made me believe that commercial/traditional software developer companies would not bother discuss the idea with me, and even less develop it

Ah, what? Did you say this violates someone's copyrights? *sigh*


Quote

This basic assumption leads me to imagine a relatively achievable project for improving education.
...
-the final phases of the project require services that cannot be Open and Free like the software, requiring either creation of a privately-held company or some commercial partnership with existing companies.
...
(and therefore renouncing to any right on the idea, which I am ready to do even though I'd rather participate in some way)

I am also confused on this pseudo altruistic talk and then you are extremely closed off on specifics. So which one is it?
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#4 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Software project: Open Source development or closed team ?

Posted 12 February 2013 - 08:18 AM

There's nothing wrong with the idea of developing an open source project and making money providing services based on it: that's the basic model of open source as an enterprise. However, if you want to get people involved in an open-source project, you have to give them something to care about. Generally, it seems like open-source projects start with code: you have an problem, you start to solve it, and you get other people using your solution. As they use it, they start to improve it, and then it gets momentum.
Surprisingly enough, simply saying "Hey, guys, let's you and him go make me this thing I want" doesn't often seem to work.

The hardest thing to get your head around here is going to be this: ideas are free, and they're pretty worthless in themselves. Any idea you have, good bad or indifferent, has already been had a dozen times this morning. You get exactly nothing for having an idea, except an impetus to start working on something, whether that's by your own efforts or by buying the efforts of others. Until you do one of those things, you've got nothing.

So if you want something like this to happen as you describe, you'll need to know enough about programming to create the base and to work with contributors: nobody wants a pointy-headed boss when they're working for free. You don't need to be able to write every last piece of it, but you need to know enough that you can understand all of the moving parts. Without this, you won't be in a position to take the guiding role you seem to want to take.
This will take a while, but it's the only way I can see this working the way you want it to. Open-source is a technocracy: the best code generally wins. If you want to be a part of this development, you'll have to be an active contributor. Otherwise, at best you're a spectator - and if you don't understand the code, you're in the cheap seats.
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#5 NicolasMoes  Icon User is offline

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Re: Software project: Open Source development or closed team ?

Posted 13 February 2013 - 05:19 AM

Thank you all for opinions. I honestly didn't mean to be disrespectful or to sound like the boss telling the others to slave-work for him, but seeing some of your reactions it does sound like this to you. I develop the idea itself concretely at the end of this post.

View PostSkydiver, on 12 February 2013 - 06:35 AM, said:

..., and then at some point you will take the components, add some secret sauce components that is closed source, and then market the product, ostensibly with no profit going to you, but perhaps to those working on the secret sauce components.



No, I have no secret sauce component, but yes, as you said no intention to get profit from the idea, and indeed at one point there will be a need to have a real organization (be it a company or a non-profit association) that would have to provide the services and facilities necessary. This organization should be the team itself I believe.
I think my being ready to invest a few hours looking for a team to develop a project does not mean in any way I become the project manager forever. It sounds like this now because I am the only one involved in the "project" so far. As soon as some people more knowledgeable about software development join in, I have no reason to keep championing the idea like because I have no utility and no ability for the project besides gathering a team. After a team is formed (if it ever happens), of course I would be interested in knowing how it goes, but the real team-members would definitely take ownership of the project and if they don't want me to know, then they don't tell me.


View Postmodi123_1, on 12 February 2013 - 07:54 AM, said:

I am confused - is this your ultimate prediction, some how a benefit, or what? Typically an "unsolvable mess of legal and licensing" does not bode well.



"Unsolvable mess .." is indeed something that could happen if this project is realized completely Open source. That is one of the point that makes me wonder whether it's better for such a project to be realized in open source or in closed team. Even though my message has triggered (constructive !) reactions unrelated to my question, in the post I was writing what I think could be a problem with the all Open source method. But as I understand now thanks to one of the replies, closed team & open source are much more similar than what I thought. So that's why my brief listing of disadvantages for each method does not make much sense to anybody.

View Postmodi123_1, on 12 February 2013 - 07:54 AM, said:

Yes, I always enjoy backing my projects with highly skill, but unpaid, folk.


I meant skilled by opposition to my lack of skill. And, yes, indeed the first part of this project is voluntarily. And as I explained above, this project is not mine as soon as it gets serious.


View Postmodi123_1, on 12 February 2013 - 07:54 AM, said:

I mentioned the 'post a job' - post it there.
...
I would imagine you would need this, but, you know, after you get people, a design doc, specs, etc.

As for which one - when you get there let the team decide.


Thank you for this input

View Postmodi123_1, on 12 February 2013 - 07:54 AM, said:

The "is the spaghetti done" test is... one way.. of doing it. Throw it at the wall and see what sticks. Personally I become very annoyed with people who have these alleged grandiose ideas, won't tell you about them, won't fund them, and want you to pot commit a whole mess of time for some idea *I* need to re-engineer because the 'idea guy' is clueless. I am certain you can see how that grinds a few gears.

Now on to a few extraneous questions:
...
Ah, what? Did you say this violates someone's copyrights? *sigh*

...
I am also confused on this pseudo altruistic talk and then you are extremely
closed off on specifics. So which one is it?


It's exactly to avoid to piss people off that I wrote this first message asking how I should go with this idea rather than "who's in ?". I didn't want you to have a bad time while replying to this message, but it seems my ignorance did make you have a bad time. Sorry about that.
As for copyrights : I explained this idea to small software studio having already developed RPG, specifying that I am not in the project or have any ownership and they told me they can't take somebody else's idea for copyrights reasons. Did they mean that the idea has already been developed or that they are "afraid" of me suing them later, I don't know.

As for whether it is a plan for me to make profit or an altruistic talk, the fact that I am closed-off on specifics is not really relevant to evaluate that since this message was not a message to explain the idea but well one to have your opinion on how to go about the idea. The "commercial" part of it is necessary because it requires physical facilities and permanent services that cannot be easily furnished by volunteers. I explain the idea below, like that you'll have (even too much) specifics I believe.


Finally, thank you jon.kiparsky for you reply, I understand better how wrong I was. For "you have to give them something to care about", I would say it is my aim. By explaining the idea as I do below, I hope that some will see a potential for social benefit to the point that some start by themselves looking to gather a team or develop the idea their way. In few years I will be able to do more I believe.

Should this be posted in jobs or it remains on-topic ? It is not really a job so far, as no concrete plan or tasks are delimited. It remains a discussion so I am not sure whether I should already go that far.

The concept itself is the following. It is an MMORPG either with a turn-based or real-time gameplay. Each player controls an avatar, personalizes it and enters a virtual fantasy, sci-fi or medieval world where he fights monsters, achieves quests, chooses jobs, trades items, joins guilds, ... and evolves to higher levels. It includes the "basics" that make a MMORPG. However, the innovative feature of this game would be the integration of a "Book of Knowledge" (BoK) for each avatar. This BoK would contain virtual manuscripts and parchments that avatars would win either after combats, after answering tests from non-player characters (NPC), or after quests. Besides being useful in the game itself (e.g. you can enter a special dungeon or win a piece of equipment or improve the skills of your avatar by answering a test), the information on these manuscripts would be also useful in real life. Indeed, the whole interest is that the "manuscripts" explain real-life scientific concepts or "real" information on various fields such as mathematics, chemistry, computer science, geography or even foreign languages and concepts of anthropology that can be transferable from our real world to the virtual world.

By now, I believe you understand a little what I mean, but I have been told there is a need for more specificity. So here is a concrete example of the process to "acquire knowledge". An avatar goes and talk to a specific NPC (labelled as "Mathematics teacher" or equivalent) who shows him a parchment explaining mathematical rules of perfect squares and gives the player a possibility to practice (with practice questions asked by NPC). After talking again to the NPC, there is the possibility to be tested about this topic of mathematics. The test would be limited in time, multiple choice questions, relatively short (maybe 5-10 questions) and can be retaken if failed. When you take the test, the whole BoK and the manuscript being tested are not accessible. There is no problem if people "printscreen" and then cheat during the test as it still contributes a bit to learning the subject. Once you have passed the test, you receive a copy of the manuscript studied in your BoK and you gain for example 5 points in the characteristic "intelligence" of your avatar or something related to maths. Moreover, we could imagine that further in the game an avatar who has a job such as engineer will be tested by another NPC a.o. about perfect squares to obtain for example a special new skill in engineering, requiring players to gather a relatively large number of parchments from different NPC, quests, ... in their BoK to have the opportunity to pass higher-level tests and win special spells and skills. Of course, if they know already in real life the subject, they don't especially need to acquire the manuscript.
Transferring Maths to the game is easy and this example might not prove my point. However, you can easily integrate many other academic fields of university and even research level the same way : Particles Physics giving new sets of spells, Political Science giving advantages in guilds and in Player vs Player combats and wars, ... . I have numerous examples of how to integrate different academics fields "smoothly" in the game, without it being considered as weird by players.

I have considered the facts that older and more educated players would have an advantage (by reselling the manuscripts they already know), which is why I think there should be rewards linked to passing tests such as an increase in a characteristic of your avatar or you must pass the test for low levels before being allowed to take the test of higher level.

From what I know in psychology, I believe this could be a good way to help educating a certain group of 10-20 years old who might not see the interest of learning at school yet. Indeed, by tiding the real rewards (i.e. knowing more) with the virtual rewards (items, evolution, special spells ...), we make the incentive to learn much stronger than with the traditional educational system, allowing players to enjoy learning even before acknowledging how useful it is in their life. Besides, as I wrote already, I think this idea can be both financially sustainable and socially beneficial, but of course some of you have divergent opinions about that and that's why I would need your input on the concept itself.


So now if you think this idea is totally ridiculous, please feel free to tease me on that, I believe everybody needs to be put back on earth from time to time, any criticism will contribute to make the project more realistic. Just keep in mind that I have no intention to commercialize it myself but that I believe that whoever realizes the project will have to do so.

Have a good day anyway :)
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