Release project as open source 'half done'


In the words of Scott Burnham, in 14 ways to get hacked, rule number 7. 'Release your work half done', I have a project that requires the 'iron to be struck whilst its hot' so to speak, but I don't have the time or resources to focus on such a speculative project. What are your thoughts on this? Of course if the project was taken forward I would still like to be involved even if only on a conceptual / strategic level.

Open Source

asked Jan 26 '13 at 23:03
Andrew Welch
167 points

2 Answers


When you say half done, I assume you mean not functional as opposed to functional but with bugs.

Assuming half done means non functional the biggest problem with open sources is finding anyone who will care to pick it up.

As a massive open source advocate I not only regularly open source my own work and that of my company but we also contribute to several open source projects. We see this not only as something as developers that appeals to us but as good business sense, it allows us to reduce overall development time at no loss of features for a client. In exchange for this we also contribute the work done back into the project.

As you can see an immediate problem occurs if everyone works this way, for us to start contributing we first have to be using it and building on it. If the project is not functional then we won't have a foundation and will move on or build and release our own project for what ever problem we were trying to solve.

Thankfully that's not the only type of person involved in Open Source but it does represent a fair amount, big projects have lots of traction not because they are big projects but that they solve a basic problem by default and work on top is contributed back to solve additional issues.

Therefore if you are releasing code for a chance for it to reach a state with a large contributor set you need it to at some basic level be functional. The alternative is to look and find a curator or perhaps a group who is willing to get it to this state. The problem is finding such a group may prove time consuming and ultimately fruitless.

I'm not suggesting you shouldn't open source it, in fact I encourage you to, just be aware that this might not push the project forward at any speed or at all also once "out there" you will have to take your hands of the tiller and be willing to see your work morph into something your might not have expected.

answered Jan 26 '13 at 23:23
Tim Nash
1,107 points
  • great answer. thanks – Andrew Welch 8 years ago
  • My project is functional. It is a project built in Drupal for a particular use case. – Andrew Welch 8 years ago
  • I've started and run open source projects before. If *you* - as the creator - don't have the time, passion, and effort for it, it's unlikely anyone else will either. – Casey Software 8 years ago


In general - agree with everything Tim Nash said.

One particular point on this though:

Of course if the project was taken forward I would still like to be
involved even if only on a conceptual / strategic level.

Even if you overcome the problems Tim talked about - you cannot force this to happen. Part of being open source means, at one level, you lose control. You give others the rights to tweak and redistribute the source.

If people don't like the direction you're going in then they can just fork the project and forge their own path. If you want to be able to enforce control top-down then open source probably isn't for you. Leading an OSS project involves ensuring that you act in such a way that people want to follow you.

answered Jan 27 '13 at 18:44
Adrian Howard
2,357 points

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