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Ohloh's Open Source Goods

There are tens of thousands of open source projects in the wild, but how do you determine what's good and what's not? Simply looking at the popularity of a project on SourceForge.net is enough for some, but with the increased diversity of open source code repositories, that's not going to cut it for the rest.

Ohloh, a resource for open source intelligence on thousands of open source projects, has up-to-date information on open source projects and the people who develop them, Scott Collison, CEO of Ohloh, told internetnews.com.

Ohloh collects software metrics from a variety of sources, including the project's source code and the software development infrastructure used by the project's development team. The site provides information about lines of code, licensing and languages in a project, as well as stack information about open source projects people use and in which combinations.

The Ohloh site also estimates what it would cost to develop a project.

For example, for Mozilla Firefox, Ohloh has calculated that there are 364,376 lines of code. According to Ohloh, that would take 95 "person years" of effort to complete. At an average salary of $55,000 per year per developer that translates into a project cost for Firefox of nearly $5.3 million.

Ohloh also rates open source projects. "We offer a project summary that will warn you if a project is an outlier," Collison explained. "So for example, if we don't see any development activity for six months, we give you a warning.

"Ohloh lets you know whether a project is average, below average or above average."

A common refrain among open source detractors is that most of the open source projects on the SourceForge open source repository are abandoned efforts. Ohloh gets around that issue but not by relying on SourceForge for its popularity index.

"Their activity rating is based on how people are interacting with the project just through the lens of Sourceforge," Collison said. "We need something consistent across all forges."

To that end, Ohloh spiders the Web, extracting information from CVS, SVN, GIT and other source-control repositories, and then it normalizes that information for use by Ohloh. The Ohloh popularity index is then based on that wider information base.

Though Ohloh is all about providing information on open source code, Ohloh is not an open source effort yet. Collison said the Ohloh code is an internal effort but it does intend to open source its data-collection tools.

"Right now we're heads down on making this stuff and we need to be thoughtful about cleaning up the code and having good documentation for when we release it," Collison said.

Beyond the Ohloh Web site, Collison is expanding the reach of his firm's data through industry partnerships. Ohloh recently inked a non-revenue deal with development collaboration vendor Collabnet to include Ohloh data as a dashboard widget. Collison explained that the Collabnet deal helps him to grow the business even though it's not a revenue component.

That's not to say that Ohloh doesn't have a revenue model. Ohloh sells additional detailed data to paying enterprises so they can perform queries against the data.

"People can use the data to figure out which open source projects they should bet on and what's the best one to use," Collison said.