Most of what I did to promote my project was to put periodical announcements of new releases on Freshmeat. From day one, my projects were featured as the first result on Google. As a result of the Freshmeat Effect, some of them now clog the entire search.
Other things I did was contact people who were interested in the field (e.g: Freecell enthusiasts, Multi-threading and Synchronization experts, etc) or answered questions politely. I did not receive too many code contributions (or at least they were neglible in comparison to the effort I took), but I did receive useful commentary, inspiration and motivation.
Finding extra developers for a project, even if it's very innovative, is quite hard, simply because the really talented people don't have enough time on their hands. Your best policy is not to depend on getting them, and eventually hope that someone would join you. In "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", ESR gives some advice on how to attract developers, but I don't know how well it suits every project out there.
There's an essay at First Monday titled Cave or Community? An Empirical Examination of 100 Mature Open Source Projects that concludes that the actual producers of software are relatively few. However, that doesn't mean non-developers aren't useful.
My own opinion is that the act of programming is driven by emotions, and sometimes you need a reason to keep going. Everyone gets tired once in a while, but when someone who uses and likes your program writes to you, you can't help but feel motivated again. You feel reassured that you've done something right. I'm not saying one's self-confidence should be based on the opinion of others, but it's always nice to get a little (or a lot) of love. Thus, I think it's useful for people to get the word out about their project even if they receive no coding support as a result, because the power of moral support shouldn't be underestimated.
In fact, it might be nice for everyone reading this right now to think of a program that they use a lot, and send a thankful email to the author. I don't think there's a single programmer in the world who doesn't like receiving messages like this, so go on...
Make someone happy today.
Peace and Blessings
First off, I feel that project promotions are not necessarily a bad thing at all - after all, in most cases we may consider that we have done something useful for ourselves and that it may be useful to other people. All promotion is doing is letting other people know what is available thus giving them a more informed knowledge of what lies around. Even if the projects are useless to them, it is wonderful to see such a vibrant and dedicated community working largely for pleasure, and it may bring about the realisation among many people that worthy alternatives do exist to the corporate world.
As regards web promotion, I did find it useful for my work. After I managed to convince someone to host my site, I announced on Freshmeat, and they must have hit a bad news day because I got a large number of hits very quickly. I announced in other places (Vaults of Parnassus - it's a Python application, the linux.org applications section, linuxlinks, Sourceforge and so on), and the response has been terrific. The project went public in mid April of this year, and Freshmeat alone has generated either over 2000 or 1000 hits depending on whether you want to lump record hits and URL hits together or not.
This is my first project, and while it has a specialised audience, I have recieved a lot of support from people, and even the offers of contributions of help. I have had a couple of small bugfix submissions, but little else, so yes I have done most of the work myself, but it is hard to find anyone who can a) contribute worthwhile code, and b) find the time and motivation to do so like shlomif first said.
However, outside of coding contributions, praise from users has an enormous effect (as said by beppu). My software has been used all over the world and liked by many, and this alone gives me a massive spur to my motivation. Presumably because a lot of us are motivated by altruism, having the effects of our work communicated to us is probably the best reward we could get. And if nothing else, I feel my work is valued here at Advogato by my peers (even if my diary entries are a bit lame at times! ;))
Consider: I received an email off someone in the Phillipines who said that the use of the commercial alternatives to my software was difficult because of the price (never mind the technical issues of a lack of uasbility), and most people used bootlegged software which was not ideal. They are looking for an easy to use alternative, and it seems mine is a good candidate - not only may I possibly be helping people to do their work in a legal and responsible manner, but I am also promoting free/open source software. It might be a short while before my project is ready for such use, but given the progress I have made under such motivation, I am sure it won't be long before it is ready :).
Having said all this, I have done 99% of the work, and it is probably more effective in terms of getting things done, because what happens in the code is always exactly what I want, and there are no schisms either, so maybe lots of contributors is not necessarily a good thing for a small project!
Well, given that lately I've been using my advokitty diary to post updates about my project, Aurora, I would hope that no one minds. It provides an excellent medium for me to write a brief day by day changelog and status report, without flooding the mailing lists, especially when most of the project work is being done on my end, where the end result is not visible.
(archie presumably still exists but search engines and the web have long since replaced it)
"Once upon a time this internet was green and good. until the sourcetars cracked..."
I have had a few bites of interest that I can trace to advertisements / job postings. However, the only real help that I have gotten so far has been unsolicited, i.e. from people who helped because they had an itch to scratch. Until your project reaches a critical mass of interest with the open source community, you are bound to end up doing most of it yourself.
I think that project promotion on Advogato is a good thing. I do it myself, for two reasons. The first is to get attention to the project, the other as part of my "diary of a project". The latter is more about development, eg. what's going on, what has been implemented etc.
I also like to read about other development of projects. There are a lot of projects I've never seen, nor used, but it's still fun to read what the author is working on right now. Usually if there's a screenshot of some app I go and have a look at it, and have found a few nice new apps that way.
I know some people will like to earnestly beleive that Advogato is something greater than its sum.
The reality is the thing you question is what its purpose is.
So if you got rid of it advogato would cease to be what makes it unique.
In the end just KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and don't get too full of yourselves.
Maybe it would be more appropriate to have a pre-submission area that users can simply tell the authors if they think it's appropriate. The user can move it forward or not no matter what others think, but at least they would have some community input before going onto the front page.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.
If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!