July 18, 2012, 7:05 PM — Ever since analysts and industry observers started using Ohloh.net data to perform deep-dive studies on various aspects of the free and open source software community, people have been wanting to get their hands on Ohloh's data.
Today they get their wish.
Black Duck Software, which owns and operates the directory site of FLOSS projects and participants, announced at OSCON today the immediate release of all of the Ohloh.net data under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
That data, which includes all of the metadata about every project and developer that Ohloh.net has gathered from forges and code repositories around the world, is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone interested in finding the out what's going on in the FLOSS community.
It's not that Ohloh.net or its parent Black Duck was hoarding all of this data to itself. Analysts, journalists, and students were regularly able to request results of queries they came up with--they just had to have the Ohloh staff run them. That did add more time to the process, sometimes a lot. For example, I still have an outstanding request for data I submitted to Ohloh in May. Now it looks like I can try to run the analysis myself.
(But I'm not bitter or anything.)
And then there were the allegations that somehow the data Ohloh.net gathered was untrustworthy because no one knew how or what was being gathered. That was a point of contention that the Free Software Foundation particularly loves to toss out whenever someone would do a study on the use of permissive (BSD) licenses versus restrictive (GPL) licenses and find that GPL use is in apparent decline.
With all of the metadata freely available to all those who want to use it for non-commercial use, that pretty much negates this particular argument. Perhaps the FSF would care to dive into the Ohloh.net data and discover trends on its own.
The openness is a two-way street, said Dave Gruber, Director of Developer Marketing. "If something is shown in the data that doesn't smell right to observers, they can have it corrected."
Gruber sees this trove of data as giving the community exactly what it needs: real objective data that projects can use to find other resources and people to build and attract community. Coincidentally, Gruber attended a talk led by consultant David Eaves this morning at OSCON, where Eaves called for more open data to help communities in just that manner.
"It was all I could do not to leap out of my chair and shout that we were doing just that this morning," Gruber told me.
Ohloh.net's openness extends beyond the data: they also announced today that they are also releasing their Ohloh Code search engine, currently in public beta form. The search engine enables users to scan for the code they need across millions of lines of open source code. Which adds up to even more information at the open source community's disposal.
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