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How to create a Free Project

Tuesday 26 July 2005 by Vicente J. Ruiz Jurado

This text shows some recommendations about how to create a free project [1]

Summary of how to develop Free Projects

It should be taken into account that perhaps on creating a free project in an area where this is not common (for example fields of work different to free software), this task may not be trivial owing -for instance- to its legal implications.

With this type of texts, our intention is to avoid people working on the Internet with closed models, as is common practise, that is to say, publishing only with copyright, without sharing their achievements with the rest of the world, with tools that are not free (lists of yahoo, etc.), with secret and private format of files (such as those of Micro$oft), without permitting collaborations, etc.

These are just some suggestions; you are free to use them or use work methods you find more convenient. If your project or initiative already exists, choose the points you think are applicable:

  1. Think of a problem you want to solve, or an initiative you want to start. If it is based on a personal necessity, you will be more motivated to find a solution.
  2. Search for similar projects, especially if they are free projects. You may decide to actively collaborate in a project which already exists or at least benefit from the work already carried out. Make sure you are taking on something you can finish.
  3. If you have decided to start a new free project, choose a free license. For this, think of the freedom you would like to give to the immaterial work you are generating. In Creative Commons [2], there is a simple interface where you can apply to your free copy work the liberties you consider important: 1) credit (or not) the original author, 2) allow (or not) commercial use to third parties of the work and 3) permit (or not) modifications to the original work. We think some licenses are specially adequate for practical free projects because they are copyleft and, because of this, we recommend them. (Note: You can also choose several licenses if you have different contents or even for the same content. In the latter case, the final user of the contents would choose the license he or she prefers).
  4. Choose a name for your free project. If this is a long name, you can choose an acronym. It should be a representative name with nothing similar in your area of work.
  5. Choose a website to host your free project. We recommend (, and for free software and you have computer knowledge, you can also establish your own infrastructure.
  6. Use all the Internet tools possible to divulge your work and enable collaboration with others: webs, mailing lists, documentation, wikis, instant messaging, and other collaborative tools. The sites mentioned above will provide you with these tools as long as the contents of your project are free [1].
  7. Use tools, and the information generated by these, based on free software, which has standard formats and not private and closed ones; these prevent your project from being accessible to all. For the same reason do not use secret file formats, such as Micro$oft, nor private communication tools, such as Micro$oft Messenger). Free software will provide you with free alternatives, such as and, accessible to all.
  8. Share your knowledge. Publish all your immaterial work under the tools and licenses you have previously chosen.
  9. Make your license visible by annexing it adequately to your work (see the bottom of this document for an example). Creative Commons explains in detail how to do this, depending on the contents: images, audio, electronic or paper documents, etc [2].
  10. Divulge your project.
  11. Look for collaborators and people with similar interests and problems to you, and try to work with them. Make it clear (for example on a web page) how people can collaborate or join the initiative (perhaps by just subscribing to a mailing list). You will probably find them, and many heads together are better than one.
  12. Treat the people who approach your project as possible collaborators; listen carefully to their opinion and observe their reaction and interaction with the project.
  13. If you think it is in your interest, do not limit yourself to your local area. Collaborators or people interested in your free project may come forward from any point of the Internet.
  14. Try to be multilingual, unless your project is of very local interest. If your free project interests other communities, someone may offer to translate your publications.
  15. Choose your collaborators and their contributions in agreement with the objectives of your free project.
  16. Lead your free project along with the collaborators you decide to work with.
  17. Define objectives, tasks, and how to assign these (assignment and self-assignment), fixing time limits as far as possible. Make these public, thus allowing people to get involved, if it is their desire. It is important to distribute work adequately to prevent this from being duplicated.
  18. Organise your work according to your possibilities. Allow everybody to do what they want when they want, without pressure. Collaborations are voluntary and as such should be respected. "You can take a horse to the waterside, but you cannot make it drink".
  19. Learn how to delegate: you must trust your collaborators will carry out their work with the same, or more, ability and wisdom as yourself. Being able to delegate implies your collaborators using their intelligence and capacities with liberty.
  20. Make the work of your collaborators visible, feed their ego. For example, create a web page or a credit document where their work appears (as long as they agree).
  21. If someone criticises some work done, or proposes improvements that are not very clear, invite this person to collaborate and make concrete improvements. Comments of the kind: "such a thing could be done" or "I would do it this way" can be answered with "Ok, go ahead". The result can later be evaluated. This constitutes a collaboration after all.
  22. If someone does not agree with the objective you have set for the free project, this person can always carry on a new free project from where you left off (the license allows this), with his or her own criteria.
  23. As far as possible, use public forums (mailing lists, web forums, etc.). When they are indexed by search engines such as, your knowledge and experience is shared with other people.
  24. You may need funding for your project. For this, you can request donations, carry out work made to measure related to your free project, carry out paid advisory work, publish and sell your work on paper (these are only some examples). This way, you are demonstrating your experience on the matter and this can be remunerated. But you should always allow people without economical resources to have access to your work and knowledge (eg by Internet or copying your printed work). Culture and knowledge should be shared by all, independent of their condition, and the licenses chosen should not prevent this.
  25. Keep your work visible in the future so it can be resumed or consulted at another time; this is also guaranteed by the websites mentioned above.
  26. If your interest in the free project diminishes, look for someone to substitute you appropriately.
  27. Keep learning regarding this Philosophy of Free Knowledge and Commons. There are many texts, organisations and initiatives in this movement: [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [6], [8].


Leonardo F. Bauchwitz - Matechito, for his correct comments.

Francisco Gimeno (KikoV), Lorenzo Hernández Garcia-Hierro and Roberto Santos for his comments and support.

David Arroyo Menéndez, for their comments and improvements.

Christine Lewis Carroll for the English translation of this document.

This document is inspired by the Free Software Movement started by Richard M. Stallman, and by the instructive essays of Eric S. Raymond.

Many thanks to all.

Some comments received


This is the version 0.3 of this document (July 2005) with minor changes from the version 0.1 of May-August 2004.

(PNG) (GIF) Copyleft 2004: Vicente J. Ruiz Jurado. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA

(PNG) (GIF) Copyleft 2004-2005: Christine Lewis Carroll. The translation to English is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA

By the same authors


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