It’s Not What You Say, it’s What You Do

We all know (or are about to find out) that the world of Open Source Software isn’t the same world as proprietary developers live in. OSS coders may or may not be paid to develop the projects they work on, regardless, it’s all about your contributions, how good you are and how well you’re perceived in the OSS community.

One’s reputation in the community is a valuable item. When everything you code or produce is freely available for the world to see and especially your peers to review and (ahem, constructively) criticize, the stakes are pretty high.

Automating the Process

An engine (not just) for the management of your reputation as a developer is Ohloh.net. As a collector and processor of what’s being written, committed and credit being given for in the Open Source develoopment world, what they do is catalogue code, do statistics on and report on the individual contributors to Open Source Projects. This is a fascinating use of technology to attempt to give credit where credit is due for Open Source coding.

The process can be summed up in these steps:

  1. Project leader/administrator sets up project to be tracked by Ohloh
  2. Individual contributor submits code to the public code repository
  3. Ohloh connects regularly to the public repository and downloads the updated code
  4. Ohloh analyzes the code changes, authorship, languages and licensing
  5. Ohloh posts updated report data on their site
  6. You query the Ohloh reports to see relevant reports about individuals, projects etc.

Decisions Require Data, So Get Some

Are you responsible for developers?  Want to have your people contribute to the community, but also you want to know how that time is being spent?  You can easily track who’s writing how much and contributing to what projects, as long as the project has given access to their code repository.  Ohloh makes it easy to track and report on things like:

  • Project Name and Description
  • Licensing Details, including compatibility with other licenses
  • Tags to help searching
  • User Reviews and Ratings
  • Related projects and other software used by project users
  • Calculated project cost in hours of development, configurable
  • Activity map for contributor locations

For example, when I looked at the various media projects, such as VLC, Mplayer and Audacious, I was able to get all the salient facts about them on their individual pages, but even more interesting was the ability to compare the projects, showing the relative number of lines of code in each project, the number of commits ongoing and the total number of contributors.

Think about it, if you’re just getting started in the world of OSS development, and you want a smaller or nearly abandoned project to cut your teeth on, you should be able to find something quickly, as well as do some research to see who the really prolific developers are, so maybe you can hire someone, or contract with someone for similar work.

Spread the Word

The next time someone asks you if a project is an abandoned strip-mall or a thriving metropolis, don’t just tell them what you think, lead them over to a browser and show them exactly what’s going on, they’ll be amazed at the wealth of information Ohloh collects and processes, in a very pleasing visual manner, if I do say so. Ohloh is only truly useful if everyone enables tracking, so if you’re a contributor or lead for any OSS projects, consider the benefits of participating in Ohloh’s process.

Enjoy,

RossB

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