How do you know if you can take your open-source project to the next level?

October 13th, 2012

693 days ago (wow), just shy of two years, I typed git push upstream master into Git Bash and pushed out the first public code of Nancy. Since then, and thanks to the fantastic response that we given by the .NET community, it’s been what I’ve spent the majority of my personal coding time on.
The last 6 months or so I’ve given more and more thought on how I could take Nancy to the next step. I mean I just turned 32 years old and perhaps I could spent my time on something more productive, like a service or application that had a price tag assigned to it?

Though Nancy is my passion. I truly believe there is enough room in the .NET market for ASP.NET alternatives, but could I make a living out of it? People seem to enjoy working with it, so why not? To some people that would be enough to quit their job and set off to work full-time in their project. That’s not me though. I’ve always been a bit cautious to life-changing decisions and even more so since I got married and had kids.

My main worry is that there is actually no real way to know if Nancy’s reach the critical mass that would be required to sustain a living of it. The obvious business possibilities would be to offer training, consultant services, try and get some speaks accepted at conferences and perhaps offer some sort of support.

Nik and Anthony, of Glimpse-fame, recently struck, what has to be seen as, the open-source jackpot when they were hired by Red Gate to work fulltime on Glimpse and the community it has built up. I’ve known Nik and Anthony for a while now and they’re awesome and it was a well deserved opportunity. Glimpse has helped out a lot of people and organizations and having a strong company, like Red Gate, supporting them is definitely going to make sure it helps even more.

But something like that is the hole-in-one of open-source, every golfer wants to make one, a lot claim they have, and very few have actually made it.

That said I know there are a lot of people out there that’s, successfully, transitioned their project from an evening-activity into a successful business. Maybe you’re one of them? Maybe you’re one of the people that also wonder how you can move forward? Would be awesome to hear from all of you what you think can be done.

The logical thing would be to ease into it. Sense the local market and see if there is someone in need of the services. But how would you reach out to them? Maybe I should kickstart it ;)

Blogging about this is probably the same thing as writing a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the people that read my blog are probably also people that in one way or another is (or have been) using Nancy on a fairly regular basis.

And yeah, pretty sure I’m having a bit of the open-source blues. The two year mark of an open-source project is the midlife crisis of open-source!

  • http://twitter.com/doobiaus Craig Deubler

    Nancy user guilty as charged :$

    I would love to see Nancy thrive as a mainstream platform. I guess you’d need a Halo app, like Rails had basecamp to build awareness.

    • http://twitter.com/TheCodeJunkie TheCodeJunkie

      I agree that we do need a couple more sample applications. We’ve been hoping the community would chip in a bit here. So far we’ve had DinnerParty being contributed (a Nancy / RavenDB port of NerdDinner) but there are definitely more scenarios (like data access) that could do with some demos

  • abstractspoon

    My only feedback is to take care when considering transforming a thing of love into a thing of work. My personal experience with ToDoList is to keep my work and play very much separated. Other than that I wish you all the best whatever you decide.

  • Rob Grainger

    “were hired by Red Gate to work fulltime on Glimpse”

    Is that the same Red Gate who attracted the ire of the .NET community by taking on Reflector, promising to keep it free, and then U-turning and charging for future versions?

    I wouldn’t trust them not to decide that future Glimpse versions may take a similar route. I’d consider that a warning for any Open Source projects that attract backing – be very careful that the project doesn’t turn into something other than originally intended.

  • http://twitter.com/solutions4tech Jeff Spiller

    Try the training and/or consulting part time and see if you gain any traction. Then you can decide if you need to quit your day job.

  • Anonymous Coward

    I think there’s an easy answer to this: when you can make a living off your open source app while still keeping it open source (for example from training/consulting, dev work on top of your product etc.), you can afford it, and doing it will benefit your brainchild.

    • http://twitter.com/TheCodeJunkie TheCodeJunkie

      The problem is just that.. how do I know if there is enough to stand on? I already have a stable 9-5 job and squeezing anything in on the side, especially during business hours, is impossible. Chicken or the Egg :)

  • Jon

    @google-b68e5fc0164a58bdf9f203a9bd74d248:disqus

    I believe it was on the last Hansel Minutes podcast where they talked how the Glimpse creators will retain copyrights to the code so Red Gate can’t do what they did before.

    • http://twitter.com/TheCodeJunkie TheCodeJunkie

      Correct

  • Tim Bourguignon

    I Must second Craig Deubler ‘s comment on that. The number 1 question asked during the few Nancy hands-on presentations I did was “where is it used?”.

    • http://twitter.com/TheCodeJunkie TheCodeJunkie

      Tim & Craig. It’s quite hard for us to know where it is used because most people don’t contact us to let us know where it’s used. We’ve been told about Nancy being used as service end-points for mobile applications, a self hosted Nancy application is acting as a kiosk-app at a museum, it’s being used at a large insurance agency and so on.. but it’s impossible to us to know unless being told.

      I’m not quite sure why people are so interested in where it’s being used opposed to how it performs under load etc.

      • http://twitter.com/BeterSys Rob Lansu

        Because people are too lazy to study themselves if a product does what they need. If somebody else uses it the other one will have thought it over, and I just have to follow.
        That’s why it can be hard for new (and better) products: nobody uses it because nobody uses it!

  • Joey

    Write a book on Nancy.

    • http://twitter.com/TheCodeJunkie TheCodeJunkie

      Would love to. It all comes down to time constraints though. Publishers won’t pick up books unless there appears to be a market, so the only way would be to use something like leanpub.com