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I've got a great idea for an open source project. What should I do before starting, to make sure that I'm not duplicating anyone's efforts?

Of course I've googled, but which keywords to use isn't obvious. Is there a site to discuss such ideas?

To address a common answer: My goal is not to be the author of a successful project. It is to make sure that this product exists, and can be improved. (There's already a similar commercial venture, which is of low quality and not being developed.) Thus, it won't help me to have the only project that can be found in this niche. If there's a start out there, I'd like to find it and help.

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This somehow depends on your target audience -- like you probably there are a ton of sites to host codes. I immediately have to think of github, bitbucket, sourceforge, google code, and freshmeat. But this is highly localized in time. – Benjamin Bannier Oct 19 '12 at 12:30
There's no reasonable way to browse through all of their projects, though. I think the solution involves people. – Andreas Oct 19 '12 at 12:36
(1) One obvious Google search is "name-of-commercial-product" + "open source". And other variations. (2) Search Wikipedia for the commercial product - that may lead you to category pages, see also links, etc which give open source alternatives. (3) Does the commercial product have any forums? Post anonymously on the forums asking for open source alternatives. – MarkJ Oct 19 '12 at 13:28
StackExchange has a proposal for Software Recommendations. You can also try this place as well. – slybloty Oct 19 '12 at 14:41

Of course I've googled, but which keywords to use isn't obvious. Is there a site to discuss such ideas?

If it not easily find-able it may as well not exist, so you aren't duplicating efforts.

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Put yourself in the shoes of the person that's going to come looking for your product. What problem have they just hit? What are they going to search for?

If you can't figure that out, it doesn't matter if you're the only product in the marketplace, you're going to have a terrible time getting people to use it.

If you can figure it out, it doesn't matter if there are 20 identical products, if they can't be found and yours can.

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First off it is often good to have more than one project in a certain space. I am glad that there is more than one open source database for instance. If you plan on implementing it in a specific language try that language's favorite source code hang outs, Perl's CPAN, Python's Pypi, Haskell's Cabal, Ruby's gems, etc...

Give it a try, if it is a duplicate of someone else's work you get the question how is this different than project X. That way you can outsource the search to the community.

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I'd rather get an answer before pouring days of work into it, though :) (so that I could pour days of work into the existing project instead) – Andreas Oct 19 '12 at 12:41
Spending days on your project is far preferable to spending days looking to see if it already exists. Other than that it was also meant be a bit of a joke. – stonemetal Oct 19 '12 at 12:50
I agree with stonemetal. Multiple products can be a good thing. Otherwise we would only have 1 car to buy. 1 type of clothing. 1 chair to sit in. – mike30 Oct 19 '12 at 13:51
As long as that one chair was an Aeron, I'd be okay with that – Michael Brown Oct 19 '12 at 16:31

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