Once the project is presentable—not perfect, just presentable—you're ready to announce it to the world. This is actually a very simple process: go to http://freshmeat.net/, click on in the top navigation bar, and fill out a form announcing your new project. Freshmeat is the place everyone watches for new project announcements. You only have to catch a few eyes there for news of your project to spread by word of mouth.
If you know of mailing lists or newsgroups where an announcement of your project would be on-topic and of interest, then post there, but be careful to make exactly one post per forum, and to direct people to your project's own forums for follow-up discussion (by setting the Reply-to header). The posts should be short and get right to the point:
To: email@example.com Subject: [ANN] Scanley full-text indexer project Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org This is a one-time post to announce the creation of the Scanley project, an open source full-text indexer and search engine with a rich API, for use by programmers in providing search services for large collections of text files. Scanley is now running code, is under active development, and is looking for both developers and testers. Home page: http://www.scanley.org/ Features: - Searches plain text, HTML, and XML - Word or phrase searching - (planned) Fuzzy matching - (planned) Incremental updating of indexes - (planned) Indexing of remote web sites Requirements: - Python 2.2 or higher - Enough disk space to hold the indexes (approximately 2x original data size) For more information, please come to scanley.org. Thank you, -J. Random
There is an ongoing debate in the free software world about whether it is necessary to begin with running code, or whether a project can benefit from being opened even during the design/discussion stage. I used to think starting with running code was the most important factor, that it was what separated successful projects from toys, and that serious developers would only be attracted to software that did something concrete already.
This turned out not to be the case. In the Subversion project, we started with a design document, a core of interested and well-connected developers, a lot of fanfare, and no running code at all. To my complete surprise, the project acquired active participants right from the beginning, and by the time we did have something running, there were quite a few volunteer developers already deeply involved. Subversion is not the only example; the Mozilla project was also launched without running code, and is now a successful and popular web browser.
In the face of such evidence, I have to back away from the assertion that running code is absolutely necessary for launching a project. Running code is still the best foundation for success, and a good rule of thumb would be to wait until you have it before announcing your project. However, there may be circumstances where announcing earlier makes sense. I do think that at least a well-developed design document, or else some sort of code framework, is necessary—of course it may be revised based on public feedback, but there has to be something concrete, something more tangible than just good intentions, for people to sink their teeth into.
Whenever you announce, don't expect a horde of volunteers to join the project immediately afterward. Usually, the result of announcing is that you get a few casual inquiries, a few more people join your mailing lists, and aside from that, everything continues pretty much as before. But over time, you will notice a gradual increase in participation from both new code contributors and users. Announcement is merely the planting of a seed. It can take a long time for the news to spread. If the project consistently rewards those who get involved, the news will spread, though, because people want to share when they've found something good. If all goes well, the dynamics of exponential communications networks will slowly transform the project into a complex community, where you don't necessarily know everyone's name and can no longer follow every single conversation. The next chapters are about working in that environment.