As we gear up to start collaborating with open-source software projects, there are a bunch of things we have been pondering. There are a lot of compelling projects out there that we’d love to work with, but we need some criteria to choose which ones to focus on first.

So, we’ve drafted a set of questions to ask about a software project and the team that develops it. As the document notes, these questions are not a quiz to judge the worthiness of projects or the people who work on them. Many questions have no “right” answer, and are included to ultimately help us foster a diverse portfolio of projects aligned with our core goals.

The questions boil down to the following high-level issues:

  • What does the software do?
  • How is it built, and how is it licensed?
  • At whom is it targeted, and who actually uses it?

Again, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but we do have some ideas about what types of tools and teams we want to work with first. To start, we are particularly focused on tools that enable secure communication — multi-way data exchange among end users – although we’re also interested in knowing about tools that perform related functions. Furthermore, we are most interested in working with development teams that are committed to improving the user experience of their software, and to integrating good design into their ongoing development practices. Finally, as part of our ongoing commitment to publicly-auditable software, we are committed to working on open-source tools.

We expect this document of criteria to evolve and change over time, so we want to hear your feedback on it. Get in touch if you have suggestions on how to improve it!

In a future post, I will describe the models of collaboration we’re currently envisioning. In the meantime, if you are working on a secure-communications software project and you are interested in collaborating with us to evaluate and improve its user experience (or if you’re a software user and want to suggest a team for us to reach out to), please tell us about the project here. (Note: this form is hosted by Google. If you’re more comfortable communicating by email, you can also send a message to [email protected] with answers to these questions.)