The DOD's SourceForge: Soon To Be One Of Many - InformationWeek

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2/6/2009
08:59 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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The DOD's SourceForge: Soon To Be One Of Many

After the news broke about the DOD setting up its own open-source forge site, Forge.mil, I grabbed some time with Sourceforge.net's own Ross Turk to get his feelings about the whole thing. He was, in a word, elated, and he thinks it's a strong sign of how forges, plural, are a natural for open source's future. "It's a vindication of the way forges work," was how he put it.

After the news broke about the DOD setting up its own open-source forge site, Forge.mil, I grabbed some time with Sourceforge.net's own Ross Turk to get his feelings about the whole thing. He was, in a word, elated, and he thinks it's a strong sign of how forges, plural, are a natural for open source's future. "It's a vindication of the way forges work," was how he put it.

It's not as if this is the first non-SourceForge open software repository to go online, but it's certainly one of the most visible (to say noting of politically significant). He also made it clear that he's more than willing to share war stories (pun not intended) about how forges are run, for the benefit of all the folks over there.

Ross's title is "Community Manager", but that can be a bit misleading. Most of the community organization in question is a matter of providing the right tools for the crowd that comes to SourceForge. That implied, to me, that the Forge.mil folks would need a different toolset -- something borne out by the fact that you can't get in without smart-card authorization, for starters.

All of this gave me an excuse to ask Ross a question that's been eating at me for some time now: Given that we're seeing more and more application-, language- and venue-specific forges out there, could there come a time when SourceForge itself is little more than a meta-directory to other people's forges? The short answer was yes, with the first tentative hints of that sort of thing already being planned in SourceForge right now (e.g., the connections to Freshmeat).

Back at the Red Hat Summit last year, I asked the same question of the folks who ran SugarCRM's own forge, and got a roughly similar answer: the trend is toward forges and software exchanges that serve increasingly vertical segments of the programmer and user market. The one-size-fits-all SourceForge model isn't doomed by any stretch, though -- it's just got some long-overdue company.

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