I am a founder and only developer of an open-source software designed for a small subset of enterprises. It was originally developed for and now runs at one of businesses of the type it was designed for.

It's my biggest project and I wanted to make something even bigger of it. Creating a software developing company and selling the product is not an option to me, so I decided to make the project open-source and sell the deployment and support services to enterprises in my area.

The problem I faced is that I can't find developers to contribute to the project. Most articles and books on growing open-source community state that developer arrive from the users base, however my project's users base is small and is not related to IT. So it's really unlikely that one of my customers will happen to be an opensource enthusiast who happen to know the stack of technologies I use.

I have been thinking about it for a long time, and seems like the only way to attract someone to collaboration is to look for programmers in my area and offer them to cooperate in both development and commercialization of the project. No one else would be interested in contributing to my project.

Is that correct and no other option exists?

The generalized question is: How do opensource projects with small, non-IT users base (like enterprise software projects) find developers to collaborate?

  • A good start would be to tell others, what that project is about, the operating systems used, the programming language, where to browse thru the source code – ott-- Jan 10 '13 at 20:54
  • I don't understand who you mean by others? Target audience, peer developers? I am not asking help with project marketing, I try to understand where would developers come from to the kind of project I described. – hellodanylo Jan 11 '13 at 7:08
  • That's the problem, you're not telling what operating system, what programming language. Put the source somewhere like sourceforge, github or google and set the approriate tags. – ott-- Jan 11 '13 at 9:07
  • Why? I specifically omitted all details about what exactly my projects is, what technology I use because my question is not just specifically about my project but about a range of projects (enterprise, small users base, non-IT customers) that I described in the question. – hellodanylo Jan 11 '13 at 10:07
  • Otoh, I'd not be amused, even if it only takes one hour of my time, just to find out that the environment should be Windows and COBOL. The product is mostly irrelevant, it should be somewhat interesting tho. – ott-- Jan 11 '13 at 10:24

Milk the user-base for all it's worth. If they request features, ask them to participate in it's development. Some of them might learn the tools they need to help themselves. I'm not just making this up, I've seen it happen in the Maptool community. Encourage them to submit bug reports or feature requests if nothing else.

For enterprise software, you're going to find that you have to market the project, and ask for participation, not from the users, but from their bosses. Most office drones punch out at the end of the day and don't look back. But if the company has a need, they could ask one of their more technically inclined employees to put on a new hat. They probably won't be top notch software developers right off the bat, but they can help. Or the bosses could do something crazy and hire a programmer to work on software they need.

Alternatively, ask your friends to help. They may not bring domain knowledge, and it may not scratch their own itch, but there are altruistic coders out there and people looking for experience. And they're your friends, they should help you out as much as you help them out.

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