One of the great things about Open Source software development is, well, it’s open-ness. Sort through your list of Open Source packages that you are running in your organization. You can go in and look at the source code for each one of them, right? But what’s behind that source code? Or Who?
I recently found a very interesting open source directory called Ohloh. Ohloh (oh, what a name!) takes a very interesting ‘bot’ approach to open source. They employ a legion of software bots to crawl through the major open source repositories and collect information about open source projects that you may never have known.
For example, did you know that the Firefox project has over 3 million lines of code? More importantly, how fast has the code base been growing? (or is it shrinking?). All you have to do is check out Firefox’s Code Statistics on Ohloh. You can see a breakdown of how many files within the Firefox code base are licensed under which licensing scheme. A trended history of code lines. And a breakdown of what percentage of Firefox is written in what programming language. When deciding on an which smaller scale open source projects to use, you can use this information to make a better decision. Do you have programmers with experience in the languages used within a project?
You can also look at an open source project’s list of contributors and how long they have been with the project as well as how often they submit code. The system even gives a heuristic on each contributors experiences level with various languages based on how many submissions have been found in each language and over a given period. There is even a social network aspect to the site where programmers can rate their peers (which needs to be taken in context of any social network site…). About the only thing that is missing is the one click ability to see if there are other projects that a contributor is also involved with (you can do this by doing a search for a contributor on the main page of the site, but this is so obvious I’m surprised the site’s developers didn’t include that on each developer’s project page).
Of course, what would a website with social features be if you couldn’t have an account and provide your own feedback on projects. Ohloh has that, as well as the ability for members to define the stack of open source software that they use. Which gives viewers the ability to see how many people are using a projects.
Ohloh provides a new twist on evaluating opens source software projects. However, there were a number of projects that I use which were not on the site, some of those missing projects surprised me as Ohloh has been around since 2004. Guess no one is perfect…