Why an Open Source Forge Matters

A few months ago, I became “Director of Engineering” for SourceForge.net. It’s a big job that includes being “Product Owner” for the two development teams, managing support, and helping everybody do what we can to improve the site. We have over a decade of accumulated features, many of which are out of date, and little used. We have lots of technical debt. We have younger competitors with a lot of online buzz.

I’ve had random people come up to talk to me at conferences to ask what I’m doing at SourceForge. The basic message is always some version of this SourceForge has lost its way over the past few years.

And to some extent I believe that message but I believe those days of wandering in the wilderness are over. We’ve got new management that is very committed to growing open source, and revitalizing the sourceforge.net brand. And we’ve got world class development and community teams who keep impressing me with new things every day.

But that’s not why I’m here. Let me be clear, I believe SourceForge.net matters, and I believe what we are doing here is important, otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the last 2+ years of my life trying to make it better.

SourceForge is home to hundreds of thousands of open source projects, millions of registered users, and hundreds of new projects every week. A decade ago SourceForge.net was an important innovation in the community, and was a part of a movement that changed the IT world.

Sourceforge helped to bring open source to every datacenter, helped to fuel a communication and productivity revolution, and helped to fuel the Open Source revolution that changed everything from the way we keep in touch with relatives to the way we run our governments.

I think we can do it again in this decade. Which is why I took this job.

But more than that, I think we have a responsibility to the Open Source community to try.

You have entrusted us with your project data, and given us the responsibility of getting your project to millions of users all around the world. I think we owe it to you to do the best we can to provide you with the best possible tools to accomplish your individual missions.

And just as importantly I think the open source community deserves an open source forge.

We should not be stuck with proprietary platforms to collaborate around the development of our open source projects. We should have the opportunity to scratch our own itches, to review the code for security issues, and ultimately to take our destiny into our own hands.

So, I helped to build Allura, a new self hosted version of the SourceForge development tools, that we could give back to the community.

Our goal was not just to be open in name and licence only, but to create a flexible, pluggable platform that would be flexible enough to handle the needs of many different kinds of projects. A platform which could be easily be expanded by the community via the development of simple plugins.

And ultimately to provide the community with a fully open platform for the development of individual projects as well as larger communities. We created Allura with the belief that it is important to support small projects and large products all while to focusing on communities and conversations, not just code repositories.

We released it as an open source platform at PyCon 2011, and while it’s still a young project, we are very committed to growing it into the open collaboration platform that the open source community deserves, and that we need to continue to drive the open source revolution though this next decade. We’re seeing adoption of the Allura platform by companies, government organizations, and I’m very excited about what the next year is going to bring.

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2 comments
james
james

Director of Engineering  is a cool job

james
james

A few months ago, I became “Director of Engineering” for SourceForge.net