I’ve been using open-source software since the late-nineties – I can still remember the intrigued excitement I felt when my friend Seth first told me about a free system called “Linux”, and showed me the LRP box humming along in his attic. In April, nearly two college degrees, countless thousands of lines of code, and over a decade later, I felt that same excitement when I decided to launch my own open-source project. “Deacon” (short for Droid+Beacon) was on its way to becoming a library for Android developers who wished to add push-notification capability to their Android applications. The Deacon library would avoid requiring the use of any third-party server for push delivery, affording complete autonomy for app developers – and embodying the spirit of freedom and choice that the Android platform represents.
In my years as a member of the free software community, I’ve seen plenty of projects come and go, and even witnessed the rise and fall of an empire or two (yes, Gentoo was my daily-driver for a while). But I never really considered just what the creation of a community around a piece of software would entail. As I tend to do, I oversimplified the concept – just “hang out your shingle” (virtually, of course) and the magic of the Internet will unleash a throng of developers and users at your doorstep. Teamwork would flourish, bright people would contribute inspired code, and all would be right with the world.
In the first week of the Deacon Project’s existence, I pulled some late nights and scraped together everything that – in my experience – I felt an open-source project ought to have. I started with a WordPress-powered web site (deaconproject.org), a hosted repository and project wiki on GitHub, and a mailing list. The blog’s first post painted a picture of the project’s inception, and offered a simple vision for how the Deacon push library would take shape. Within hours, I had my first contributor – my good friend and fellow grad-student, Spencer. A few days later, I received an out-of-the-blue email with another offer to contribute – this time, from Toronto-area software engineer, Android-enthusiast and entrepreneur Faisal Abid. The library began to take shape, with plenty of commits and frequent new blog entries.
It’s been four months since I founded and announced the Deacon project, and the team and I have learned a few lessons about open source projects along the way. The project is admittedly still a fledgling, but if you’re interested in hearing a few impressions from our work so far, feel free to hit the jump…