It finally happened. You developed a killer app. You spent months agonizing over every decision in getting the application to market and you’ve worked incredibly hard to create a cutting-edge technological marvel which blows away everything else on the web. You focused on all the right metrics, the user experience is beautiful and the community is thriving. (Yep, it’s open source). You feel on top of the world, and it’s exciting.
Don’t get left behind
Before you know it, in a blink of an eye, the year(s) flew by and now you’re standing looking back over a long history of product releases. You’ve pushed new versions and sure you’ve updated things along the way. Your community has seen better days but it’s still strong and still somewhat active. This is the day you failed to plan for. The day which sneaks up on you and you never saw it coming. Sure, you had lulls and there were times when activity slowed down in the project. Every project has those moments right? You told yourself it was just a fleeting rare occurrence and nothing more serious. Now you sit looking around at the dust and rubble left behind and wonder what the future holds. How could you have prevented this outcome? Here are 4 quick ways to ensure your open source project stays relevant and you don’t get left behind.
1. Be Aware
The first step to ensuring you don’t get left behind when it comes to your project in the world of technology involves staying aware of what’s happening around you. Don’t be so caught up in your own world and your own drama that you fail to see the bigger picture. Keep track of current trends, what others are doing and how they are changing the technology scene where you work. Subscribe to your main competitors’ newsletters or mailing lists. Watch what improvements and modifications they are making. Be aware of your surroundings. This is the first tip of good survival tactics for your open source project.
2. Be Accessible
Accessibility is always a hot topic and an important one. The concept of accessibility typically takes two main paths when discussed in relation to an open source project. First, you should want to make sure your product is accessible and available for everyone to use. This is almost a given these days and most open source projects spend significant time ensuring they are accessible for all.
The second path that accessibility takes is the openness and accessibility of the project to new volunteers. How easy is it for someone to contribute and be a part? Does your project do more than just “say” they encourage new volunteers? How is this demonstrated? What is the on-boarding process for a new volunteer and how easy is it for them to not only be involved but see something accomplished? You must be accessible (and prove it) in order to stay relevant and survive.
3. Be Active
The idea of staying active is deceptively simple. Here’s why being active is so difficult. Active is different from busy. Busy is the false pretense of doing something to look as though you are active. Busy is a creative way to waste time. If that’s the case, how do you determine the difference between busy and active? You can quickly tell by the results. Do you have results to show for your time? If you can point to improvements and updates and ways in which your open source project has grown as a result then you have been active in the right sense of the word.
Active involves the idea of being aware as well since they are very closely tied together. If you are aware of something but do nothing about it then the awareness provides no benefit. Once you are aware of something and you make the conscious effort to do something about it. To be active with what you know then both the step of being aware and the step of being active work together for the benefit of your project.
4. Be Accepting
This fourth and final (for this article) step in your survival tactics involve the idea of being accepting. Accepting is an interesting word. It sounds passive and yet here it’s used in a very aggressive sense. You could think of this acceptance as an active desire to change where needed. Change is tricky. I’ve spoken about it before on several occasions. Some individuals are very risk averse and avoid change simply out of fear of the unknown. Survival requires the acceptance of change and the ability to deal with changes.
Accepting also can be considered accepting of other individuals within your open source project. Having a culture which accepts differences of opinions and ideas and deals effectively with differences when they occur is quite important to an open source communities chances for survival. As your open source community grows it will need to be capable of growing and accepting others. The ideas, the code, the questions, and the fears of others must be faced as an opportunity to grow and (when necessary) change.
You Can Survive
These are four survival tactics which you can and should employ in your open source project to ensure you don’t get left in the dust. There are other tactics as well but master these four and you’ll be well on your way to staying relevant, vibrant, and growing within the ever-changing landscape of today’s world.