New Civilization News: Help Wanted    
 Help Wanted17 comments
picture 21 Jul 2004 @ 06:45, by Flemming Funch

So, over the years I've written all these software modules for an assortment of online purposes. Like:
  • Weblogs
  • Bulletin Boards
  • Chat Rooms
  • Calendars
  • File Sharing
  • Membership Sites
  • Online Directories
  • Work Groups
  • Personal Information Management
  • Shopping Carts
  • Online Website Generation
  • Forms and Database Generation
  • Mailing List Management
  • DNS Administration
  • Server Monitoring
  • Content Management
  • News Feed Aggregation
  • Image Manipulation
  • ... and Wikis
And probably some I'm forgetting right now. All of it is in use in one place or another. And some of it isn't half bad. For that matter, some of it was a bit ahead of its time. And the users of some of these things seem exeedingly happy with what they do.

But there's a considerable problem with spreading oneself that thin as a programmer. Most succesful programmers will do one or two great things, or they'll have a team to work with.

Anyway, since I don't really, the result is that all of my modules are somewhat unfinished. Or, rather, they work well in the particular setting they were made for. As long as I manage the server, and fix things that go wrong, and tweak them for new purposes. But it doesn't mean they're easy to export.

I've been paid well for making some of these things, and some of them I made because I needed them myself, or to make nice places to hang out online. But generally I've never figured out how to make the jump to making a business out of any of them. And neither have I made the jump to package them as open source packages that people can just take and use, and others can contribute to.

And, well, Internet time moves quickly. So, while I can still enjoy that my weblog program does some things better than any other weblog program I've tried, other pieces are at the risk of slipping into obscurity, by being somewhat outdated and mediocre in how they look and what they can do. And across the board I've missed a lot of opportunities for doing something with these things at a higher level.

I can't count the number of times I've shown a selection of these programs to some business-wise person, who's told me that I could take any one of these and turn it into a thriving business. Usually accompanied by stories of people who've made it big with some fairly mediocre piece of software or other product, that they just managed to position well, and work hard on it, until it became a viable enterprise.

But which one should I pick? I'd be leaning towards most all of them. That is, a membership site where the users can easily set up an assortment of different resources, by picking from a menu and doing a bit of configuation. OK, so you want a website, and it should have a weblog and newsfeeds and a shopping cart and an event calendar, and you want an intranet for your employees with spaces for different teams and wikis, etc. Shouldn't be any great reason you shouldn't be able to have that up and running in a day or so, without needing to download any software or having to know any HTML.

I call that OrgSpace. That's a registered trademark. There's a corporation ready in England with that name. I've talked a good deal with Julie about launching something of that nature, starting back when we had a company in L.A. called Synchronicity. I've discussed pieces of it to great length with quite a few people.

But it doesn't work if I'm the sole programmer. And I'm sofar not as much of an entrepreneur as I'd like to be. So, it is stranding a bit both on the level of finishing the software, and on the level of doing the normal stuff one does to start and run and grow a business.

It could take all sorts of formats and directions. Like, a particular software piece might be a separate product in itself. Doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. It depends on what other people are inspired to be part of.

But I need programmers to collaborate with. We're talking about PHP. People who aren't as inclined to start from scratch as I am, but who'd feel inspired to do great things with pieces that already are 70% there, and to work as part of a team. This is in no way beginner's stuff, so some hardcore coding ability is needed.

A graphical design and layout person would be very helpful too. Most of my sites look like they were made in 1995, mostly because they actually were.

Some business help would be a good thing. I'm not ignorant of the basics, so it is maybe more a matter of coaching. Well, of course if one of you just wanted to finance the whole thing, that would certainly make everything easier.

But, barring that, we're talking about people who're interested in freely collaborating for the purpose of future business, or for making useful open source software, and useful online services. Or in making online communities and networks that work better. Whatever inspires you, and whatever format that is structured in. I can easily think of a variety of avenues for business or rewarding non-profit activities. I just need to get beyond wearing the programmer hat all the time. And I'm not going to give away just all the secrets here.

My own problem is that I'm a perfectionist, so I'm not the right person to do everything myself. It doesn't mean I'm necessarily hard to work with, but it means that I'm usually not sufficiently happy with what I do to get it out the door. You know there's the wise rule of 80/20 that says that you go for making 80% of what needs doing, and you get it out the door. And in the next iteration you do 80% of what is left. The hard lesson for a perfectionist to learn is that other people than yourself usually are quite happy with the 80% solution, as long as you actually put it into their hands.

A few little anecdotes:

I gave my shopping cart code to somebody once, when I considered it just half-way done, even though it basically worked. Somebody who was a much more novice programmer than myself. He worked hard for a month and set up a flashy online shopping mall site, where quickly hundreds of customers had paid for having their own online stores.

I wasn't very satisfied with my online website design tool, even though it actually did much more than anything else available at the time. Unbeknownst to me at first, a big Beverly Hills newspaper used the beta test demo version to put their whole paper online every week, with all previous issues archived. I would have said it was impossible, as it wasn't really a content management system suited for that purpose, but they found ways of working it so that it did what they needed, and were quite happy with it.

I made this opt-in mailing list management system. It handled mailing lists with several million subscribers and daily mailings. One of the companies using it wanted a faster mailing engine. I knew very well what to do, but I needed a C programmer to do a fairly minor piece for me, but instead I insisted on trying to do it myself, and procrastinated it. So instead they spent 1/2 million dollars or so on somebody else's system, which was inferior on various other counts, but it mailed really quickly, and it was supported around the clock by a team of people, where I was just myself.

You catch the drift, I'm sure.

So, if you're the right kind of person, and any of this is of the slightest interest, let me know.

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21 Jul 2004 @ 12:18 by celestial : MING
I just put in a call to someone who could be your most able bodied assistant;
I'm waiting on his return call.
I know his mother (I was married to her for five years) SO HE BETTER WATCH OUT !!!!!


21 Jul 2004 @ 12:26 by celestial : MING
I just called his mother (we're still very good friendes) and he will be coming
by her house in about one and one half hours.
I'll tell him how to contact you by phone (message) & email.

P.S. He is unemployed recently.  

21 Jul 2004 @ 12:55 by Chris Hagglund @ : Work with you
Hi Flemming -- I'd be interested in helping when I have time. I dont have a lot of time lately but I may have more in the future. Just the other day I'd thought about how it would be interesting to work with you on a software project in some capacity. And here you go writing about such things :)  

21 Jul 2004 @ 13:08 by vaxen : Yeah...
sounds scrumptious, even though you ripped me for the 'Synchronicity' label, ;) heh heh heh...Also you may consider bob's crew over at shellcity [link] . Run a blurb. As I'm still finishing up my tour in Iraq I am only visiting there once in a great while but there are some really cool people there, not newbees at all in a PHP sense and I think, if you could get down and just 'be' people, that you may find some 'kinship' there...just a thought. I'll keep my eyes ears and zombies out for further word of your projects blooming...sounds great.  

21 Jul 2004 @ 14:28 by swanny : Well...
I can do a bit of HTML but I all self taught
I have a fair eye though and am somewhat
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Own a mac and pc although I prefer the mac...
anyway email if interested.....
I find you quite a "balanced" sort.....
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21 Jul 2004 @ 16:49 by ed @ : Comments
I'm pretty much in the same world. Yes, a zillion applications. HOWEVER there is no way you can compete with an osCommerce. 100's of programmers, amazing code, 1000's of man hours. All php, all open source.
Mailing List manager? MoJo is amazing.
BB System? Scores out there, major developers, dozens of programmers submitting features daily.
HOWEVER, I ended up writing my own blogger software. The one package that I could not find to all i wanted to. Just my 2 cents! Good luck. -ed  

21 Jul 2004 @ 17:33 by ming : Competing
Yes, it would be difficult to compete directly with some of those things in terms of features. Well, osCommerce in particular. E-commerce systems have a lot of required pieces to them. A weblog is a lot easier, as even the major players don't do terribly much. But the world isn't necessarily looking for THE one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, and some of them are too complex or too simple for some uses. Some of the forum systems that have hundreds of contributors get so complex that it isn't necessarily what is best for every project.

And what most of these guys aren't doing is make it all fit together. How does the wiki cooperate with the forum? Do you need a lot of custom programming to fit the pieces together that weren't otherwise meant to go together?

Of course, if somebody has solved a complex problem really well, and it is really easy to use the result, say, like MySQL, there's little point in try to duplicate it. Much more productive to stand on the shoulders of giants. But a lot of what's out there in terms of the types of software I mention isn't particularly good building blocks.

It is a real dilemma, however. Why work long nights on developing something that other teams of smart people probably are doing much better? Instead of just downloading their work. Well, basically because what they're doing might not be exactly what you're looking for. If it actually is close enough, you might be best off working on tweaking and expanding what they did. But maybe you do indeed have something that covers a need or a niche that wasn't covered, or a different philosophy on how it should be done, and it will be worth the trouble.

Acting quick is of the essence, though. If it takes too long, somebody will come along and do a better job before you're done. Which is a great thing in many ways, but maybe you should then have gone skiing, instead of wasting your time.  

22 Jul 2004 @ 07:06 by Jeff Schuler @ : open-sourcing
You don't seem against open-sourcing... why not do so and run the project on SourceForge, [link] ?
SourceForge will connect you to developers who are capable and motivated...
If you want to make a business out of it, you can still sell the package, or some sort of subscription service.  

22 Jul 2004 @ 08:46 by ming : Open Source
I'm quite open to open sourcing all of it. And people will often say, oh, just put it up, and see what happens. But so far it seems to be a considerable extra effort to open it up in any meaningful way. There needs to be some infrastructure around it. The software needs to be sufficiently isolated so it might work on its own. One needs to keep track of versions, etc. OK, it doesn't really have to work perfectly, I'm well aware of that. But there has to be a meaningful structure around it, which has to work, even if the actual software doesn't. Maybe SourceForge handles a lot of this for me. I haven't looked closely enough. My current plan is to pick one of two modules and make them available, and use that as an exercise in doing it right, and seeing how it works.  

22 Jul 2004 @ 14:28 by Quirkeboy @ : Not sure what this will lead to..
Well.. I've enjoyed your website and would love to find a way to contribute or get involved.. I work as a graphic designer for a newspaper.. (so I mostly have experience in print media not web.. )

My poormans website:

and some of my more fantasy oriented stuff:

Not sure how you could use me.. but Im open to anything.
PS: Let me know what you think of my work!!

25 Jul 2004 @ 11:26 by James @ : What does the future hold....?
First, I would ask this question, given as much research into general world, business and social/technological trends, and predict where it is most likely we (humanity) will be (at least economically speaking) in about 10 years from now.

Given that vision, the 'module(s)' or tools/software that gets your most attention and effort, is in alignment with that vision of where people/business will be in 10 years, hence what gets released/worked on now will in a sense create that vision as much as become incresingly attractive and viable as time goes by.

Flemming, I believe you're on the right track with CHALICE, or something like it, and with the right tweaking (mainly in your head about 'being entrepreneurial') you'll see that you have already an ideal platform with the NCN community/database to launch yourself, and the rest of us, into that vision.  

25 Jul 2004 @ 18:14 by ming : Future backtracking
That's a good suggestion. Go forward and see where we'll be, or where we'd like to be, and go back and see what tools best can support that.

You're right, new kinds of economic ways of interacting might be key. Ways of knowing who to trust, who does good stuff, and what is worth paying attention to. There will be so much greater amounts of information, and the majority of it might be fake if we don't watch out, so it becomes critical to be able to recognize and communicate value.  

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