At CityCircles, we’ve been fortunate to work with a local developer who is passionate about our project’s goal of developing hyper-local communication tools for mass audiences. Our first implementation of that is a platform for light rail passengers in Phoenix, Arizona.

That said, one person can’t carry the entire load, especially as the project inevitably evolves from its humble beginnings and wire frames.

One solution that’s worth considering is sinking some funds into a test suite — a closed environment where other developers who share a vision for the project can develop new features with the approval of the “master” developer. This is the approach we recently took with CityCircles.

Test Suite

In March, we contracted with a local development shop called Integrum Technologies to build a test suite. The project is connected to our code base and includes simulated tasks that other developers can build toward and “test.” If these features pass muster in the test suite, then we can push those changes to our code base permanently. If they do not, then the developer can tweak them until they do without ruining the live site.

The test suite took almost three weeks to build and cost us roughly $9,500. (That may seem pricey to some, but good Ruby on Rails developers are not cheap. In our case, Integrum specializes in test suites.) However, for startups, this is a very helpful option for reaching goals of new features and functions on a budget. Open-source software developers that are looking for a “portfolio” piece and are attracted to the project’s mission can participate at a fraction of the cost to the project. In return, they receive publicity and, in some cases, a promise of future paid work. The idea is that everyone wins.

Once your test suite is completed, start poking around your local area for developer meetups. Go online and subscribe to developer forums and Google groups. In our case, the project is built in Ruby on Rails. I have joined the Rails community’s leading Google Group with the intent of marketing this test suite to developers.

I’ve also been invited to attend Integrum’s weekly “hacknight” meetup in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb. Tomorrow night, I’ll be there to spread the gospel of the project and hope that our handy test suite attracts the right crew.

Use these test suites to your advantage, as simulators like them can also help create an organic “buzz” around the project as well. Include the developers’ names on the open-source software license, too. That will also help.

But be mindful of the pitfalls. Just as there are several developers that may want to participate, they may not have the chops to complete the work in a timely or accurate manner. It helps to have a strong master developer to sign off on their work.