Code 52 - a new coding project every week

Some words about gathering ideas

Summary (TL;DR): We'd like to improve the process for gathering ideas. If you have any input on the below situation, drop us a line in the JabbR room or email us.

As the three of us have been discussing the next Code52 project to undertake, we've been discussing how we can solicit awesome ideas for projects. While the UserVoice site has served us well initially, the ideas we are currently seeing fall into three different buckets:

  • Great idea, but constrained - an idea which is constrained by access to some resource, e.g. hardware, operating system.
  • A replacement for X - an idea to replace an existing tool (FOSS or otherwise), for whatever reason
  • Needs more work - an idea which we've tried to reach out to the author to clarify

How do we address these issues?

The first one, while seeming impossible, can actually be resolved if we have people on board who have access to the necessary hardware. This could be as simple as having a project schedule and allowing contributors to indicate their availability (and interest) in specific projects. There are other workarounds possible, but these require more logistical effort which we don't have the time to organise currently.

The "replacement for X" ideas are an interesting topic (the underlying discussion for why it is that way is a discussion for another day). There was a fantastic quote from Dmitry Baranovsky last week at a user group: (may be paraphrasing) "the good thing about reinventing the wheel is that sometimes you actually get a circle". This reflects my philosophy on building "replacement" tools. Yes, you can do it. But are you actually looking to create a better tool? When one suggests a "replacement for X" idea, the suggestion should include how the idea is different to what we have currently.

The last group is perhaps a side-effect of our organisational efforts. We've been swamped this week since Code52 picked up a lot of interest in the interwebs, and while there's been some great discussion in the JabbR chatroom (just don't mention autocrlf there :) ), we haven't had the bandwidth we'd hoped to clarify ideas in depth.

So what is a good idea anyway?

After discussing this over the weekend, we've come up with a few questions that future idea submissions should keep in mind:

Can it be done in a week by a handful of developers?

We're not after the idea that you will make millions from, or an idea that will let you quit your job and become famous on YCombinator. We're after ideas that's been sitting on the backburner that you don't have the time for at the moment, or that you want/need help to implement. Let us have a shot at it for you, or join us and lead a team through developing it for you as an OSS project.

We want to deliver something of value each week, and large projects are not feasible currently. But if there's something specific within your idea we could implement as a project, tell us!

Note: We are exploring how larger projects could fit within this concept, and breaking a big project down into a series of smaller projects may be the best way to achieve this.

Why would you like to see this idea implemented?

I said recently on Twitter that the most rewarding OSS projects are driven from a selfish need. Even something as simple as "I wish Product XYZ did {list of things}" can help start the discussion.

Often we (the organisers) will do a simple Google search for existing products to compare and contrast with a suggested idea. If we cannot differentiate between an existing product and your idea, the idea is likely to have limited success. We will update the idea with our feedback and leave an opportunity to follow up - but the more information you can provide us with, the better armed we are to define the brief associated with a project.

How can I help out?

Not everyone is a developer. But everyone can help out to ensure a project succeeds. Great software has many inputs which aren't code - documentation, design, user experience, co-ordination, etc. - and many hands make light work.

What cool features can you suggest?

This may be the toughest question to answer. If you can provide us with more details around what you imagine the software doing, that:

  • gives the organisers more context to organise the project brief
  • gives everyone an opportunity to refine the idea further
  • gets people interested in executing the idea

And the next idea?

It actually ties into this discussion. We've mentioned it in the chatroom over the weekend to gauge interest, but will officially announce it later tonight (AEDST).

We'd love to hear feedback on this - we're doing this to involve the community, and we can only guess the right approach if we don't hear your views on this.

-- Code52 team

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