Starting an Open Source project
Source code is out there (available to the public)
Source code can be used under "permissive" license:
Use as you will: "Open Source". Open Source Initiative, BSD or MIT licenses
Must make changes available: "Free Software". Free Software Foundation, GPL
Source code can be extended and republished
http://opensource.org has licenses and licensing information
Open to developer contributions
Choosing a project
Interest: Will you still care about this in 7 weeks?
Scope: Can you do it in 6 weeks?
Incremental: Can you do something cool in 2 weeks?
Uniqueness: What's the relation to existing stuff?
Multiple-Use: Can you use this project for more than this class?
Modular: Is it all "of a piece" with strong coherence and weak coupling?
Some classic project domains
Something you want to have: Often related to work or business. Make sure it is in-scope
Something you've always wanted to build. If you have a project passion, this is a good class for it
Something overlapping another class. Fine with me, but please clear it with the other instructor as well
A game. This makes a really good project
A webapp. But for what? Webapps are a great project for this course. Understand that you will be evaluated on the code, not on assets or data. Probably use a framework
A mobile app. This is hard. I wouldn't suggest it unless you have a ton of time and coding skill and/or have already worked in the mobile space. You should have access to the hardware you're targeting — the simulator is usually not good enough to get work done
A library. Some of the best projects are this. A good library with a solid API is worth every bit as much as an app
A module for an existing Open Source project. This has to be something new, and coherent. But if some project has a need for a modular piece, this can be a great way to contribute
A hardware/software project. These are great fun. But do not attempt without some existing clue about this stuff: it's really hard to get started with otherwise
Some classic project red flags
If any of these apply, you should think carefully
Project seems potentially very large. I am much happier with a small project that is finished and clean than with a half-finished garbage dump of code
Project is far outside your area of expertise. If you are hoping to use your project to learn a new programming language or something, think very carefully: we only have about six weeks for the project, and so the difficulty is quite high
Project is something super-generic. To be honest, I've grown quite allergic to things like "shopping list" or "exercise recorder"; they are all too often extensively plagiarized. I'm sure this doesn't apply to you, but please pick something you're passionate about
Project has legal or ethical concerns. Just don't. Marijuana-related stuff is expressly forbidden at PSU. Medical stuff is pretty much out of bounds. I'd prefer not hacker tools (but talk to me)
Project is incoherent. The project must be a sensible, modular piece of work. Just "doing stuff" is not an open source project
Starting your open source project
Find a group of 2-3 people with a common interest. Figure out what to do
Working alone is OK but less fun and misses out on some of the experience
Groups of more than 3 please consult with me so that we can figure out what makes sense
Work out what technologies are going to be used. What programming language? What resources are needed?
Pick a good project name. It should be something that can be used as an identifier for the repository, or whatever. Here's some good links about project naming:
That first link has a bunch of other great advice as well
Be Warned: I won't take a project name like "Course Project" or with "CS 461" or the like in it. Name your project something meaningful for the long haul
Make a public Git repository for your project. Do this before you have anything meaningful to put in it. I strongly prefer Gitlab or Github for this class, but you may use something else if you really must.
Once you have a repo, commit everything you do and push it upstream right away. You cannot start too early
LICENSEfile to your project first thing. Make it clear what you are doing and under what license you are making it available
Make a project roadmap and add it to the README. Say what you expect to do this quarter and when you expect it to be done. Then include post-class plans for the project.
Your roadmap should include some kind of "demo" or "prototype" version of your project to be done by week 3 of the course. This needs to be enough to show the viability of the project
Your roadmap should include some kind of "minimum viable product" (MVP) version of your project to be done by week 6 of the course. This doesn't have to have all the features, but should be enough that you could turn it in if needed. If you can't do this, rethink the project
Start to commit code, docs, etc to the project