Overview of Open Source Software development
SourceForge.net provides hosting for thousands of Open Source Software projects. While Open Source Software is free to download and use, we encourage you to interact with the projects whose software you employ and contribute back to the Open Source Software community.
Our site users
There are two types of SourceForge.net users: consumers and developers. Most people come to SourceForge.net to find and download free software. All of the software available for download at SourceForge.net was created by developers who are members of the various projects.
This document will, in turn, address both constituencies.
You may have already found a project on SourceForge.net via an outside link. If not, you can use our tools to find a project that interests you.
Once you find a project, visit its Download Files page. This page is accessible via the Downloads drop-down menu, or via the big green Download button on the project's Summary page (which is the main page that you get to when searching).
The SourceForge.net download system automatically chooses a mirror that is near to you. It may choose a different mirror every time in order to balance the downloading over all our available servers.
There are many levels at which you can chip in to help an Open Source project. Non-programmers and programmers alike are encouraged to chip in to improve the software shared among the Open Source community.
Ways in which you can contribute:
- Report bugs
- Create documentation
- Join a project
- Submit patch files
- Revive an abandoned project
- Create a new project
Talk with the project
Because the projects' software and websites are hosted on SourceForge, there's sometimes confusion regarding whom to contact when a problem is encountered.
Contact the project when you experience a problem that is project-specific, such as:
- The project has no files to download.
- There is a problem with the contents of the file that has downloaded correctly (check that the file size matches the size listed on the file-list page and try the download again if the download did not finish).
- You don't know what to do with the file after you download it.
- The project's website is not functioning.
Contact with the project for support will generally be via a web based ticketing system or by email. Projects hosted on SourceForge.net are not going to have a phone number to call, in general.
Contact SourceForge.net's Support for problems that the project can't take care of, such as:
- When the downloading system appears to be broken.
- When a particular mirror is not working right.
- When a file is missing on some of the mirrors that should be present.
- When you don't know how to use the download pages.
While it might seem like an odd place to start, experience indicates that by thinking about and applying effort to the software being developed being easily down-loadable, pays off in the end. Particularly in the early stages of a development effort, making sure that folks can easily compile the source without a number of odd requirements, will greatly enhance adoption.
Selecting a license
SourceForge.net prefers open source licenses that are OSI compliant as per the OSD. All OSI compliant licenses are available for selection in the project registration process. What is chosen at this phase will dictate the future of the developed software may be used. Choose with care and with the advice of a lawyer if that makes sense.
Support your software
Users will be installing the software developed in a project. A project team will benefit greatly by offering some form of support for the software. Be sure to make clear to users in a readme file or by other means how they will be able to contact the project to get the support they need. Projects that are particularly successful in this area offer a support link or tab on their project web page so that when users go there, they know what to do.
Be sure to set up a method by which users of your software can request an enhancement and track that request. As well, be sure to adopt those enhancements that will allow for broader adoption of your software. Users often have an idea that is perhaps not fully baked. However, between their idea and the team, often can come fine changes that will make the software better and easier to use.
Forking and project takeovers
In the life of many OSS projects, it happens that on occasion a developer or group of developers will decide they want to take the effort a different direction. When this happens, generally a new project is started from the code-base of the existing project. As a developer or perhaps as the person who conceived the project in the first place, this can be a challenge. In general, OSS licenses allow for this, so be aware of the dynamics on your team to keep things together if possible.
As well, on occasion, a project will lose focus from the core members or the assigned project administrators. In such a case one or more members of the team may seek to take over the project, usually to continue the work and enhance the effort. On occasion a project will be sought for takeover because the UNIX / Public name of the project is desired for a wholly unrelated effort.
The assigned project administrators have full control over the release of a project for take over.
Joining a project
If in your travels on the site you find a project that captures your interest and you feel you have a contribution to make, contact the project team and find out what they need. If you are not a coder, you may find that you can contribute by testing, documentation, or even project management. Make contact with the team and see what they need. Teams will often post help wanted openings in the people section of the site.
PLEASE NOTE: As of 2009-01-28, the SourceForge.net team is completing the last draft site docs. This is one of those. Please excuse any incomplete content; we'll have this finished out soon.