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How to promote open-source projects?

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Mid Level SWE at Taro Communitya month ago

I've recently been getting more into open-source to contribute back to the community and to just make cool stuff.

But I'm interested in various ways of how to market these projects without coming off as "shilling".

I would presume there's less of a likelihood for this to happen due to the free & open framing as opposed to a for profit venture(?)

The meta seems to have a huge focus on becoming an "influencer" with creating short form viral content as a springboard to long form for then that to be your marketing funnel for any type of CTA.

But are there any other tried and tested ways that don't involve so much of this strat?

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Discussion

(3 comments)
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a month ago

    It's interesting to look at case studies of other prominent people in open source. One that comes to mind immediately is the person behind a large Ruby open-source project, Sidekiq. Here's the podcast interview with the founder, Mike Perham: this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us.

    Mike had a large following even before he started Sidekiq, since he had been blogging and generally involved in the Ruby community for years. So when he finally came up with the idea of his own project, a job queuing system, people were eager to try it.

    This is the most common playbook (and it's easy to replicate):

    1. Provide value for months or years and build trust.
    2. While you do this, develop your skills and understand the problems of the community.
    3. When you do launch your open source project, people will take the time to check it out since they trust you.

    You can call this being an "influencer", but this methodology has existed for before the advent of short-form video, or even before video on the internet. It's fundamentally about being a respected part of a community.

    If you want to short-circuit the years it takes to do the above algorithm, you need to be solving a real problem and talking about how your project solves exactly that problem. If you don't start with the problem, you'll come across as shilling, and the chances of getting adoption are much lower.

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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a month ago

    Another case study is DAGWorks, another YC/StartX company, which has a decent following in their open-source repo: https://github.com/dagworks-inc/hamilton

    They got started by externalizing something that was already widely used at their previous company StitchFix. The founder is approachable if you mention Taro: https://www.linkedin.com/in/skrawczyk/

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    I'm assuming this is referring to build your own open-source repo. Even though it's not what one would consider a traditional software "product", a lot of the same rules apply:

    1. Solve for a real problem and do user research if possible
    2. Work hard to delight your initial adopters so they generate word-of-mouth, which is the most sustainable form of growth (i.e. other people do the shilling for you!)
    3. Make your repo clean and polished (especially the README), so it has a higher chance of being blessed by the GitHub algorithm as they're moving towards a recommended feed homepage like most big content websites are doing nowadays

    It's more or less the exact same philosophies I follow for my side projects, and it clearly works. I have published ~30 Android apps for fun and gotten 4 million+ users across them with an overwhelming proportion of 5 star reviews. I didn't spend a cent on advertising and never really "shilled" for them. You can follow the advice here: [Taro Top 10] Building Impressive Side Projects

    If you're contributing to an existing repo with a bajillion GitHub stars, you don't really need to shill it as it has high traffic anyways. And if you do shill it across platforms like LinkedIn, it will be easy as it's a big repo lots of people already love.