Open source software is a popular topic nowadays because it is believed to help improve the software by allowing for many people to look over the code while also letting people verify that the software is secure and does not violate user privacy. Of course, some things can be overlooked and missed, but at least users have the peace of mind that they can easily look over the source code themselves to see if anything fishy is going on. Unfortunately, the developers that work on open source projects usually do not gain any profits. Also, the idea of open source remains largely prevalent only in the computer science field with no easy to use platform for other work areas.
Fortunately, there is now a solution that solves both problems with Assembly, a startup based in San Francisco. Assembly is a web-based platform that allows companies to post their projects and tasks that need to be completed for any Assembly user to see. These tasks can range from designing a logo to developing a marketing campaign. The people who complete these tasks can earn rewards in the form of App Coins once their work is approved by the project’s team. This currency is not just cash value; it represents a sort of share in the company which gains you monthly earnings depending on the success of the project and gives you a say when there is time for voting. In my opinion, this is a great way for new startups to form as they can easily create a project on Assembly and get help from a community of people of varied disciplines. On the contributing side, people can propose their solution for a task and potentially get it approved with a reward. With more approvals, a person can attain value for their work which can lead to job opportunities with the project teams.
Collaboration is the key to a successful project, especially when there are many people that can contribute their ideas and work. In a typical workplace environment, most projects are worked on by people that work for the company. Some companies might have a good talent pool while others may not. With Assembly, however, the project can be opened up for the world to see which can potentially bring in good talent and further the cause of open source. Since starting in 2013, Assembly has launched 5 software projects that are used by more than 4 million people. Unfortunately, only 2 of projects are profitable, but I’m sure that this will change as more people find out about Assembly.
As noted in “The Second Machine Age” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, opening up a project to the world on the Internet can bring up some great solutions that even the original project team might not have thought of. In the book, there was a mention about NASA using the service Innocentive to come up with a solution for predicting the intensity of solar particle events when they could not do it themselves (Chapter 5). A retired radio frequency engineer was able to come up with a solution that was 85 % accurate. Clearly, open sourcing tasks brings many minds to the table and can result in a much better output. It’s great to see startups like Assembly looking to utilize the power of the Internet to reinvent current project management processes for the better.