The New Chapter For Open Web


TL;DR Join us if you want to make apps. Our General Meeting is on Monday, RSVP here.

We started Open Web in early 2014 with a goal to provide students the opportunity to collaborate, learn, practice web development together, and to give back to the community and local non-profits. Our plan was to accept students with no experience, and teach them how to make websites by organizing educational workshops and by pairing students with local nonprofits who needed a website, so students could immediately get practical experience. That sounds like an amazing plan, right? Students get practical experience right from the beginning, nonprofits get websites for free; nothing could be better.

One of our teams discusses layout for the website

At the beginning everything was great — we attracted a lot of students and found nonprofits to work with us. We formed 4 teams of students, each having about 10 members, and started working on websites. At the same time we organized workshops where students could learn all the necessary skills (we organized more than 20 workshops in 2014). But as we worked, we encountered a few major problems with our system:

  1. Undedicated members. In every team we noticed the same pattern: 2–4 students were doing almost all the work, while the rest did nothing. Some people would come to our meetings once in a month, wouldn’t pay attention, wouldn’t be willing to actually do the work. We just wasted a lot of time trying to teach them, time which would be better spent on helping people who were willing to put in work.
  2. Experienced people are not interested in joining. I can totally understand them. What would they get if they joined Open Web? Nothing. We worked on very simple websites and had a lot of inexperienced members. As a result, they would neither work on interesting projects, nor would they make any new connections.
  3. People are not excited to work for nonprofits. It was a challenge to keep people motivated to work for a nonprofit. Most of them would rather work on their own projects.
  4. Quality of website produced was low. We thought that we would be able to teach students how to make high quality websites. But the main problem turned out to be teaching design — it takes a long time and a lot of practice for someone to become good at design. As a result, the quality of websites we made was low. Most of the nonprofits we worked with were happy with it, but we understood that these websites were not good enough.
  5. Project teams were too big. 10 people is a lot. The ideal team should have 3–4 members. I would argue that a team with 4 students would accomplish much more than a team of 10. Why? Because when the team is big, a lot of time is wasted trying to keep everybody on the same page, assign tasks, schedule meetings, etc. As a result, you have no time to do the real work.

What did we have at the end? Out of 5 clients we worked with, we released 2 websites, with one more about to be published soon. We are not satisfied with a 60% completion rate, so it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate our action plan.

Almost 50 students attended our “Intro to HTML and CSS” workshop

Open Web 2.0

This year we decided to address all the problems mentioned above and do something totally different. And we’re really excited to tell you more about it!

Open Web now is an app incubator (if it makes sense). We’re now a closed organization where students in small teams work on their own app ideas. This means a few things:

  1. We’re not working with nonprofits anymore. We’ll work on our own app ideas (both web and mobile).
  2. In order to become a member of Open Web, you’ll need to go through our application process. For now, we are requiring people to have some experience when they join (unless you’re ready to work super hard and learn as you go).
  3. We’ll continue holding workshops and other events open to the whole BU community. Additionally, next semester we plan to make an intensive program to train inexperienced students in app development (after completion, they’ll be able to join Open Web).

Ok, so what exactly do you do when you join Open Web? At the beginning of each semester, some of our members pitch ideas for the apps they want to build. After that, we choose the best of them, split into small teams and work on bringing these ideas to life by the end of the semester. For example, this semester we’re working on 2 iOS apps, 1 web app, and 1 game.

Who should join us?

We’re looking for people who want to build apps: either you have your own app idea, or just want to join one of our teams. We’re looking for both developers and designers. However, we’re not looking for people who have their brilliant idea for the next Facebook and want somebody else to build it for them.

Why would you want to join Open Web?

The biggest thing you’ll get from Open Web is community. You’ll be working with a group of people you can learn from. You’ll make new connections, or maybe even find a cofounder for your next startup! We’re trying to bring the most talented students on campus together to collaborate and create some amazing projects. Additionally, we’re in talks with some companies to get free perks for Open Web members.

Application

We don’t have a certain number of people we plan to admit. If you think that you’re a good fit for the team, we’ll take you; if not, then sorry. This means that we might accept 20 people, or might accept none. We don’t have a goal of getting a huge number of people to join Open Web. In fact, we want to grow slowly, which will allow us to focus on the quality of the apps we produce.

That’s about it! That’s what we’re going to do this year. If you’re interested in learning more about Open Web, make sure to like our Facebook page. We also have a mailing list that you can join here. And if you have any questions, message us on Facebook or send us an email — buopenweb at gmail.com!

We’ll have a general meeting next Monday, where we’ll tell you more about Open Web and how you can join. We also plan to open applications after the general meeting!

RSVP at our Facebook event!

Thanks for making it this far. We look forward to meeting you at our general meeting!

— Open Web Team