Kickstarter Project for NR-based Accountability Software

edited December 1969 in Development
Hey guys,

I've used pretty much every accountability software on the market (X3Watch, Covenant Eyes, Safe Eyes, and Saavi Accountability, to name a few), and Net Responsibility is by far the most complete and accurate software out there. I'd really like to see other guys using this software, but it's not very intuitive or easy to set up, and doesn't really work well on Macs at all (as far as I know).

I'd like to start a Kickstarter for this software, and use the money to hire a developer (or two?) to work on this on a more dedicated basis, as well as build a more intuitive website, with versions of this software available for the latest versions of MAC OS X, Linus, and Windows.

I'd also like to find a way to make the reporting more intuitive and easier to read.

Given the massive problem this is for many, I feel that there would be a huge amount of support, and I'd really like to use Net Responsibility as the foundation for this solution.

I'm not looking to make any money off of this, just to supply a quality product that's intuitive to install, not easy to circumvent, doesn't make it impossible to use the computer, and has a website that's clear and easy to understand. If there were any charges at all, it would just be to sustain overhead and support for the resulting software.

Unfortunately, I dont have any C++ (beyond a class in a college, that is) experience myself, but I'd really like to see this software become available to everyone.

So all of this leads me to three questions:

1) How would you guys feel about us using the NR source as a starting place for this project?
2) How much do you think it would cost to pay a C++ developer full time to do this?
3) Would any of you guys be interested in participating in development (for pay, so you would be able to spare the time) if the project got funded?

Regards,
John

Comments

  • I know we've talked before about accepting donations directly on our site for NR. We just haven't gotten around to doing it, though I've heard from several people that would be very interested in donating. I know most of our users really appreciate this software, we could probably get a good number of people to donate something.

    Developers are expensive, figure a good developer costs roughly $60 to $80 US dollars per hour.

    Why not use the money to fuel development on NR, instead of forking it and creating a new project (which is how I understand your post). Keep in mind NR's license is the GPL, so it is illegal to take the source and use it in a closed-source project or for anyone else to take it and make any money off of it. Forking it into another open source project just seems like kind of a waste of development time.

    If we were getting donations, I think we would be more encouraged to do more regular development work on it. Perhaps a kickstarter would be good for that, but just accepting paypal donations or something might suffice as well.

    Robert, Micah, Dustin, what do you guys think?
  • Hi John!

    > I've used pretty much every accountability software on the market (X3Watch, Covenant
    > Eyes, Safe Eyes, and Saavi Accountability, to name a few), and Net Responsibility is by
    > far the most complete and accurate software out there.

    Wow, that is such a compliment, thanks!

    This is a really interesting subject. Until now we haven't accepted donations due to a couple of reasons. These are my personal reflections, but I think the other guys would agree to most of them :)

    1. The main motivation shouldn't be to earn money. I'm not even sure I would be able to do a better job if I got payed (since time is my biggest hindrance).
    2. It would be hard to determine who of the developers that should get the money, and who would be hacking for free. The worst case imaginable would be rivalry between developers.
    3. We haven't really taken the time to investigate the options _how_ to accept the money.

    I must agree it is a tempting thought to hire someone to do the job. As Corey (Erreth) pointed out, it's pretty expensive, and I'm not the right person to estimate how many hours it would take, how much donations we would be able to raise etc.

    Since forking and closing the source would be illegal, two options remain. Either hire someone to fork the code and release an alternative open source project. The better alternative would be to hire someone to get involved in the project and work on a couple specific tasks, commit the changes to our code, and then we have a better software. As I read your post, the second alternative is what you propose, right?

    If we decide to do something like this, I think we should have some very specific goals, like making NR cross-platform. I think Kickstarter would be a good platform to collect money for such a task. Especially since it's possible to set different goals depending on the amount of donations collected. That way we could say like "If we collect X$ we'll be able to implement true cross-platform support. For Y$ we'll also take a really good look at the website to make it more polished, and for another Z$ we would be able to accomplish this and that..."

    To start such a funding, we would really need to calculate on hours and costs, and I'm not sure I could do it. On the other hand I would really welcome such an effort if it's properly done. I'd be more than willing to join the discussion.

    For what it's worth, the next release will include some serious efforts on filtering and reports. That means the filtering will be more accurate, and the reports easier to understand. I would like to have all kind of feedback on how the reports could be designed to be as intuitive as possible. I started a new thread for feedback on the reports [here](http://forum.netresponsibility.com/index.php?topic=128).

    We're also working on redesigning the whole website, which will make it more intuitive, and opinions are welcome here as well.

    John, I'd really like you to [subscribe to the mailing list](https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/responsibility-devel) and share some more of your thoughts. Even though (or just because) you're not into C++, you can contribute with some very valuable insights on how we could improve the software.

    Thanks for showing interest!
    Robert
  • Thanks for the quick responses guys!

    My original vision for this was to have a self-sustaining project that offered a free product while offering a (paid or donation supported?) service to continue actively developing and improving the software, as well as working out the issues that go along with cross-platform support.

    Again, I'm not trying to make money, just trying to set up a free, accessible, self-supporting, and ubiquitous alternative to accountability software like Covenant Ryes and Safe Eyes, which charge a lot of money for a service that is fairly inferior and quite buggy.

    Something like a not-for-profit situation? Is that even viable?

    I'd love to see that form around the Net Responsibility project. My goal is to ensure that the software development can keep up with the different changes to OSs, and maybe even offer mobile support/installers.

    Compiling the source from scratch in OS X just isn't a very accessible option for most people. :/

    I really don't want to create a rivalry, or have money be a motivation. I see it rather as freeing someone up from the burden of developing something for free while still having bills to pay. I'm a web developer, so I know how it can get in regards to free/pro bono projects.

    That being said, if you'd like help with the code behind the redesign, I can probably carve out some time. I work mostly with WordPress, PHP, MySQL, CSS, and a little jQuery, so if ya'll want some help with any of that feel free to drop me a line.

    In regards to the Kickstarter, in order to more forward I'll need specific goals (like cross-platform support, binaries/installers, etc.) and an estimate of how much time this would take. Is this something you guys would be interested in working out?

    I should probably have some kind of reward levels too... I wonder how that would work...

    Thoughts?
  • Doing some research on the licensing... is it actually illegal to sell software packaged under the the GNU GPL? I'm not looking to close the source or make it proprietary, just support development, which is something the people at gnu.org encourage...

    Here's an excerpt from [gnu.org][1]:

    > "Since free software is not a matter of price, a low price doesn't
    > make the software free, or even closer to free. So if you are
    > redistributing copies of free software, you might as well charge a
    > substantial fee and make some money. Redistributing free software is a
    > good and legitimate activity; if you do it, you might as well make a
    > profit from it.
    >
    > Free software is a community project, and everyone who depends on it
    > ought to look for ways to contribute to building the community. For a
    > distributor, the way to do this is to give a part of the profit to
    > free software development projects or to the Free Software Foundation.
    > This way you can advance the world of free software.
    >
    > Distributing free software is an opportunity to raise funds for
    > development. Don't waste it!"

    I'm hoping to get this rolling pretty soon guys, what do you think of all this?


    [1]: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html
  • John, I'm glad to seen you're keen about getting this rolling, it inspires me :)

    Before addressing the money part, I'm not sure why you'd want to create a separate project. The most common reason to do so would be disagreements on development. And if the source will be kept open, we'll simply pull the changes made there and implement on NR too, giving the users the same software for free, kind of. I'd strongly recommend cooperation with the NR dev team and implementing the improvements right into the code, giving us all a better product and giving the users less confusion.

    An alternative approach would be something similar to x3watch, having "NR free" and "NR pro". That way we'd be able to give the basic features for free and supported version for a fee. However I'm not convinced this will be a good thing. It reminds me too much of the Windows days with shareware and trial periods... (Man I'm glad to be a Linux user :)

    **But, the idea itself is good**, and if we'd start accepting money it should definitely be optional in terms of donations. That's my stance. For that purpose I think Kickstarter would be a nice platform, except it forces us to promise we will reach some very specific goals for a certain amount of money, and that enforces us to have some pretty accurate calculations on hours and developer payment.

    In that sense PayPal donations would be easier to handle. On the other hand it may not motivate the users as much to donate into an abstract "black hole".

    Regarding the goals you're suggesting, porting the software to Mac OSX shouldn't be too hard. It's mostly a matter of creating a package for installation, and bug test it.

    Porting to Windows would include a bit more work, but definitely possible. Support for cell phones is a completely different story. That would mean rewriting the code from scratch in another language, with many restrictions, especially if we're talking about iPhones.

    But couldn't you contact some developer you think might be suitable for the project? Explain what we're trying to accomplish here, and we'd be willing to talk about details and tech side of things. I think he'd be the best person to decide the price tag.

    How about that?
  • Robert,

    I don't have a burning desire to create any sort of separate project. :) I just want to see a sustainable solution with an infrastructure that can support and address user concerns and make NR as accessible and usable as possible, while keeping up with the problems presented by different operating systems.

    It seems to me that the Kickstarter would be a really effective way to get people behind the project and drive cross-platform compatibility. My only concern is that the current development team wouldn't have time to get the stuff done, thus my thought of hiring an independent developer to achieve these goals (although I'm not sure I really made that clear).

    I actually really don't like the X3Watch free/pro versions, because the free version has become little more than a crippled take on the pro software. I want to see a full and entirely effective solution available for free, with no strings attached. I don't want to see anyone stumbling into sin just because they couldn't afford the cost of software.

    I think PayPal donations/subscriptions would be a really good idea. Maybe something to supplement the Kickstarter and provide further freedom for ongoing support from the existing NR team?

    In regards to mobiles, it seems that with the growing prevalence of mobiles devices being used to access the internet, a mobile solution is sort of a must-have. Maybe that could be an objective for a future Kickstarter?

    I'll shop around for some C++ developers, and see if I can get some estimates from them without paying too much. :) Thanks for getting back to me!

    John
  • I'm definitely a fan of cross-platform desktop software. But mobile is a whole different issue.

    Robert is right, we would have to completely rewrite NR in Objective-C and then in Java for it to work in both iOS and Android. But even if we did that, it would be super crippled and just would not be a good product. The reason accountability software sucks on mobile is because the vendors (google and apple, especially apple) really hobble what apps can do on their platforms. For instance, Apple severely sandboxes what apps can do on their OS. That's why if you install covenant eyes or x3watch on your iphone, you have to disable safari and use their own browser for it to log anything. Apps can't monitor web requests in Safari. So not only would we have to completely rewrite NR, we would also have to write our own browser to use. Android is somewhat similar. Not quite as hobbled, but still pretty bad. The best software I've found on android is called Ever Accountable, but even then they only allow you to use like two browsers and chrome isn't supported because google doesn't open up chrome to developers.

    I think mobile support is just far too difficult right now to be any good. I think we shouldn't worry about mobile until we can find some way of doing it well. With the restrictions vendors place on mobile OSes, we couldn't hope to do a very good job.

    I'm all for cross-platform support on the desktop though, I think that would be an awesome goal. I know tons of guys who are sick of CE or X3watch and would like NR, but they use windows or osx. We could expand our userbase hugely if we went cross-platform.
  • Cool. Mobile shall be a back-burner issue then. Maybe something for the distant future.

    I'll find some C++ developers to give me an estimate. Are there any other minimum skills they should have (I'm basically just casting about for someone on CL and job boards)?
  • Hey all,

    Here's my Craigslist Ad: http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cpg/3788163754.html

    Anything I should change/include in it?
  • Great input guys ^^ I agree there's a huge lack of good accountability software on cellphones, but let's focus on making a good one for desktops first.

    Let me add some more information to the ad, to clarify what the job would include. Feel free to rephrase the information anyway you want :)

    > (I'd link the words "accountability software" to
    > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accountability_software)
    >
    > Net Responsibility is built upon the [POCO C++
    > libraries](http://www.pocoproject.org), with a cross-platform approach
    > in mind, but is currently mainly bug tested and used in Linux
    > environments.
    >
    > Any contributions will be adopted into the original project and
    > released under the GNU GPL license.
    >
    > The development process will be done in conjunction with the current
    > developers, particularly when it comes to decision making and
    > explanation of the code/project.
    >
    > For more information, please visit http://www.netresponsibility.com
    > where you'll find the forum, mailing list, documentation, issue
    > tracker etc.
    >
    > Further questions about the task may be asked on the devel mailing list.

    Otherwise it's looking good, I'll follow the replies with excitement!
  • Added a bit about making sure the developer doing the work gets paid, and integrated these changes.

    Thanks guys!
  • Hey guys,

    I've received seven or eight responses thus far, some of them promising, some of them less promising.

    No estimate yet, it seems people are reluctant to spend the time on something that's not a sure thing (which is understandable, but unfortunate).

    Would you like me to share the responses with you all in some way?
  • Exciting :) Please share the responses. You can email them to me and I'll forward to the other guys. My email is robertrosman [at] gmx [dot] com.
  • John,

    Have you heard anything more from the developers? Also, a bit off-topic, but have you managed to install NR yourself on Mac?

    Robert
  • Nothing yet guys. I need to repost the ad, and expand my search to more than just the Porland CL. Unfortunately I just got a rush job at work, and don't have time at the moment to pursue this. I'll go further when this job is done (hopefully by June 4th).

    I have indeed installed NR on my MAC, but I can't get the launch script to auto launch on startup, and it's pretty hard to remember to manually start it every time I shut down or reboot. :/
  • I see, we'll hope for better luck next time then.

    Alright, I have no experience of Macs but if you'll manage to set it up correctly, we'd love to hear how! You might also want to consider creating a package/installer for Mac yourself, with the guidance from the dev team, if the Kickstarter project "fails".
  • I've installed v3.0 on my Mac, but haven't had much luck with 3.0.3. There are complications with the deprecated utmp API. :/
  • I think that creating a package/installer for myself would be a really good idea. It would also be something I could share with other guys.

    Do you guys have time to walk me through the process? Or at least give me some pointers?
  • Oh I see, we really need to solve the utmp issue first. I'll take a closer look at that. What is your output on this command:

    last reboot

    Glad you're interested in creating a package as well! It's important to get NR compile as expected first, so packaging is secondary. If you want to read ahead though, please take a look at [this document](http://netresponsibility.com/documentation.php?id=5006-CreatingPackages).

    Last but not the least, it would be helpful if you subscribed to the [mailing list](https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/responsibility-devel), since development is better discussed over there.
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