Assembly Made: What is it?
A month or so ago I found out about a cool new platform called Assembly Made. The idea is pretty simple and works like this: Someone has an idea for a business and they post it to Assembly Made. The idea gains traction and popularity by people discussing the business plan, market, potential, customers, etc. Then, if there's enough interest, the community starts to develop it. Almost anyone can contribute. Apps need all sorts of skills to be built: copyrighting, photography, design, code, ops, etc. A core team is established to provide direction and create tasks for the project. Each task is valued a certain amount of "coins" and when someone completes the task, they are awarded the coins. The amount of coins you have for a project determine your equity stake in the business and also determine your share in the profit sharing system. Assembly keeps 5% of the equity and the project owner is reserved 5% of the equity. The rest is earned by the contributors.
This is really an interesting idea and I can't wait to see how it will play out as new products are built and launched. No one knows how successful (or not) this concept of crowd sourcing the development of software will be. As with any business, especially a startup, many of these businesses could fail and never get a single customer. So is it worth your time? I think so and here's why.
Working with great people
There are some great people working on Assembly products. If you've never worked on a team or just want to get some experience with the experienced, then this is an easy way to to do it.
Whenever you work with other people, especially with others as good or better than your own skill level, then you're learning shoots through the roof. I always learn so much working others.
It's easy to get started
It's really easy to get started. The Assembly staff is always around to answer questions, hop on chat, screenshare, pair, help you get setup etc. They also do a good job of breaking down tasks so they're small enough that anyone can get started. Example: anyone can edit copy, right? And once you get started, the next tasks are much easier.
Working with actual projects
As a consultant, most of my experience is with building products for clients. I love open source and think it's very important to contribute and give back, but it's never been easy for me and probably others too. Lots of open source projects are tools, libraries, gems, engines, etc that are a lot more complicated than 90% of a typical rails app. So I found working with a actual product (which, in my observation, is what the majority of Assembly projects are) more up my alley.
Work at your own pace / commitment level
Because the tasks are broken down in to small stories, it's really easy to work a little or a lot. Some weeks I have more time than others and can spend a whole day working on Assembly. Other weeks I only have a few hours and some weeks, I have no time at all. When you decide to work on a task, there's a button that click "work on this task" that reserves it so others know you're working on it. Only reserve a task when you're ready to work on it and can get it done in a reasonable time, because there could be others that are able and willing to get it done too.
Boost your portfolio
If you're a creative, your portfolio is crucial in helping you win projects, clients, or jobs. Adding projects you've worked on from Assembly will likely bring the status and allure of your portfolio up. Clients will be impressed with the work that you and you team have produced and may be more willing to hire you for your next big project. All projects are open sourced, so it's easy to share your contributions.
Connections / Networking
Already mentioned is working with others to improve your skills, but working with others will also lead to new relationships, friendships, connections and networking opportunities. If you're a developer, a designer may notice your work and want to work with you on their next project. An entrepreneur may notice your feedback on discussions and want to hire you for their next project. A core team member may recommend you for a job within their company. Assembly is a great place to meet and work with other creatives like you.
In addition to all of the "side" benefits, I do like the core product. There's a simple profit sharing plan, contributions are automatically calculated when commits are merged in, and it's a nice way to invest in startups and take ownership of a business. Hopefully, the real reason you decide to work on a project is because you believe in the product and feel it will be profitable while solving a problem. However, these other benefits are totally valuable in their own right.
A few weeks ago I joined a friend from Atlanta, Patrick Van Stee (who works for Assembly) and we drove to Greenville, SC to join up with Matthew Smith to work on one of the Assembly projects called Helpful (now you know where the photo above came from :-) Besides being a fun "work" trip, it was a great opportunity to work with Patrick (who is a talented developer) and Matthew (a well known and talented designer). Had it not been for Assembly, I probably would have never gotten the chance.
Go checkout Assembly and find something to work on!