Another good example of how to announce a free/open source project

The Sunlight Foundation and the Media Standards Trust worked together on a project called Churnalism. It’s a web browser extension available for Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Their announcement is a good example of how to announce a project. In the 1st paragraph they’re giving credit to the teams involved in building the project and they give us a brief overview as to the purpose of the project. The 2nd paragraph tells us how to use the project with links (very important!) to the project so that you can try it out yourself. They include a video tutorial to further explain how the tool works.

Further down in the article they tell us more about how the project was developed and link to another blog post with more details:

Sunlight’s Churnalism is based on a UK site of the same name and is driven by open-source text analysis technology dubbed SuperFastMatch, both developed by the awesome Media Standards Trust. For a deeper dive into the underlying technology and process behind the project, check out this detailed post from Drew Vogel, another developer on Churnalism.

There’s also a privacy concern with the project, so they clearly state and what they’ve done to mitigate that risk:

We understand the privacy sensitivities with an extension extracting text from what you read, so we’ve designed Churnalism to be quite customizable and never retain identifiable information such as your IP address. You can easily change which sites Churnalism runs on by going into the settings for the browser extension. We’ve provided a basic whitelist of major news sites, a listing of local news affiliates and the ability to let Churnalism run on any site with news or article in url, but all these can be removed or paired down (or expanded!) to whatever sites you’re interested in.

Unlike the announcement by Airbnb for their Rendr.js library or the announcement by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid for quantitative analysis tools, the announcement for Churnalism doesn’t state why the project has been released as free/open source, and they don’t try and play up why free/open source is important to them. This shouldn’t always be done; if there’s a way to promote your organization’s brand further and to state their commitment to collaborating in a free/open source community, it should be done.

To summarize, when you announce the first public version of your project, released under a free/open source license, you should do the following things:

  • clearly state the purpose of the project, this will establish the target audience and the types of users to expect to use the project
  • describe how the target audience can use the software
  • answer these questions:
    • is there a demo?
    • can anyone download the software and run it?
    • can it be tried out on the web?
    • which platforms are supported?
  • link to other blog posts or articles or Wikipedia articles that explain how your software works behind the scenes
  • link to other blog posts that are testimonials and use cases of your software
  • promote any other free/open source projects that your organization is working on or contributing to

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