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Former MS Employees Explore OSS 107

Roberto Andressi writes "A few former Microsoft employees have launched a Web site that evaluates open-source projects. The site is intended as a way for first-time OSS users to 'get their feet wet' before diving into the large community of open source projects out there. The site, Ohloh, will provide background information on a prospective project. The folks behind the site even plan to include a lexicon of terms for very new users. " From the article: "'We collect from the infrastructure the open-source community uses to develop the software,' Ohloh co-founder and CEO Scott Collison told CNET News.com. 'It also serves as an open-source directory. You can find open-source projects and compare them, and gradually find one that's right for you.' The site could appeal to developers who are frustrated by the number of open-source projects that lack clear explanations. Ohloh also seeks to help developers make a build vs. buy decision by offering code analysis, said Collison, who along with co-founder Jason Allen, previously worked at Microsoft."
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Former MS Employees Explore OSS

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  • by XenoPhage ( 242134 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:35AM (#15730571) Homepage
    Thanks slashdot.. Here I try to visit the site and see what it's all about, but it's obvious that Microsoft saw this news before me and has already squashed the site.. What a way to start a Monday...
    • Either that, or these are the former MS troops who tried running Hotmail on NT.
    • Timid about diving into the oceanic waters of open-source projects?

      A few former Microsoft employees have launched a Web site that evaluates open-source projects. The site, called Ohloh, is not a reviews site, but instead a directory of open-source software, its co-founders said.
      Advertisement

      "We collect from the infrastructure the open-source community uses to develop the software," Ohloh co-founder and CEO Scott Collison told CNET News.com. "It also serves as an open-source directory. You can find open-sour
  • by assantisz ( 881107 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:36AM (#15730574)
    This link is much faster (that is if you are in the USA, of course): Web site that evaluates open-source projects [zdnet.com].
    • Thanks for the link. The lexicon of terms will be very helpful, as true newbies can be easily overwhelmed by GNU, OSS, KDE, and the rest of the acronym storm that us geeks leave in our wake.
      • I was overwelmded by the 500 Internal Server Error
      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:07AM (#15730747)
        The big problem with a lot of OSS project sites is the lack of basic information about what the software even *IS*. A lot of open source project sites feature build information, lists of patch fixes, etc. on their main page--all without ever explaining the basic info that people (esp. non-technical people) need to know. The are so into explaining the "how" of the software that they negelect to explain the "what" and "for who."

        The lack of documentation on OSS projects is bad enough without having to spend an hour just trying to figure out what the software even DOES.

        -Eric

        • If you don't know what is it, or whom is it, it isn't for you.
        • The lack of documentation on OSS projects is bad enough without having to spend an hour just trying to figure out what the software even DOES.
          Have you ever read any of the documentation? Microsoft has always had the least documentation on any of there OS's or Programs, and the worst search engine to help you find it on on microsoft.com
          • I completely agree - I can't ever find anything on the MSDN site with their own search engine. Am I the only person who uses google to find documentation on Microsoft's site?
          • I take it you haven't tried using Mac OS X's pitiful built in help. MS's effort leave Apple's standing. And I don't like saying that one bit. Not only is the system slow, but the content is very, very thin.
            • An apple fan would tell you that you don't meed the online help. If you cannot find it in the help, it's something you don't need to know.

              (I kid, I kid)
              *eyes sawtooth that is going to be running Linux soon*
        • You're absolutely right about this. It's a pain trying to figure out which software does what. I think I read in the article that this site will include a profile of each project with a synopsis of what the software does. If so, I'll be spreading the word :)

          I still have to see it to confirm that much though.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          There's a pretty good source of popular free software application descriptions [saugus.net] on Saugus.net's Computer Knowledgebase [saugus.net].

        • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:41AM (#15730943) Homepage Journal
          It's ironic (considering this new site) that Microsoft has plenty to say about what their software is but lack in useful documentation. It's literally the opposite of OSS. Microsoft provides pleny of marketing to make sure everyone knows what they offer, yet for the technical they offer little help.
          • I can't speak about most software, but .NET is pretty well documented for most things.
            • Yes, but that's not surprising. Microsoft is all about "Developers, Developers, Developers". I don't use MS products but I'd be interested to hear what the standard of their documentation is for things other than core programming APIs.

            • I was a .NET developer for a few years. The documentation is terrible. The sample code is no more elaborate than "Hello world" and many methods get a one-line explanation with no details of what changes in different scenarios. VBScript has better documentation. Scary.
              • VBScript has better documentation.

                Maybe because VBScript is simple enough that it's easily documented?

                Not sure whether that's a joke or not...

                Alternately, I suspect that the documentation is better because VBScript was (at the time) going up against other scripting languages for mindshare back in the late 90s. Poor documentation might've slowed uptake of the new language.
            • I've found .Net API's to be quite well documented, at least for what I use them for. If I was only developing native .Net applications that never interacted with anything but .Net interfaces, it'd be quite nice. My own problems have come up when interacting with non-.Net API's, which tend to involve unmanaged memory, and I've been quite surprised how many Microsoft products still seem to rely on them given MS's push for everyone to use .Net.

              For me, the Office API has often been really hard to use effect

        • That could be because most normal non-technical people never need or do visit the open source project websites (except maybe mozilla.org). Most people goto software homepages to get the software but in the Linux world, and let's face it thats where most open source software is 'sold', everyone get's it through their distro's repository.
          • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:29AM (#15731209)
            That's not really true. I use sourceforge a lot, for instance, and use their search. That narrows it down a bit, but then you want to make sure the software is right for you. The little synopsis doesn't provide enough detail. So I go to the project's home page, and I'm at a loss to tell you what the program actually does or what platforms it runs on; all I know is it has something to do with the something that I was looking for. Sure, sourceforge can narrow it down some, but it's not always accurate - and it doesn't really let you know that the Windows version differs from the Linux version which differs from the MacOS version...

            Sure, you can usually find out what you need to know if you do enough digging, but the home page of a project, I'd think, should be almost like a brochure. If people are really involved with the project and don't want or need to see that sort of thing, they can link directly to the nightly builds or release notes or something. I just don't think the home page of a project should be the release notes.

            I know a lot of open source programmers have a "take it or leave it mentality", because they've done it for free on their own time and to their own specifications... and that's fine, but you'd think they'd want to give potential new users an idea of whether or not the application fills their need. Even though you don't cry if someone decides not to use your work, it's still better to have more users than few users if you want your project to have any relevence in the long run... after all, if you've worked that hard on a project and release it for free for everyone to use, it's usually because you want other people to use it.
          • You make the relatively large assumption that every person using OSS software is using Linux or *BSD. I try to use OSS in almost every aspect of my life except the OS. (Just to head off any questions as to why: I'm a gamer. I play games that *I* enjoy. These games are *only* found on Windows. I'm not going to not play these games just because someone else thinks they have better alternatives. If I thought as they did, I wouldn't be using Windows. But I don't. So I do. Okay? Good.)

            OSS projects do
        • by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:29AM (#15731214)
          The big problem with a lot of OSS project sites is the lack of basic information about what the software even *IS*.

          Hence sites like freshmeat.net [slashdot.org] - my first port of call if I know the kind of application I want, but not which one (or even what the available options are.)

          Maybe I'm getting cynical, this has the distinct smell of astroturf. How "Ohloh" can you go?
        • Why should they? What's the incentive? All most developers want to do is develope software and *if* it helps someone else, great, take a copy. It's not like they make more $$ for every customer who runs it. In fact, there's a big *disincentive* to inviting the clueless in - then the devs have to spend more time answering annoying newbie FAQ's over and over, troubleshoot their installation problems, etc. If the FOSS world, the more clueful users the better; the more clueless the worse. Ergo, if you don't kno
        • Documentation is certainly the biggest weakness of Open Source IMHO. Almost every library I've seen of useful functions considers an auto-generated class tree and/or couple of demo programs as "documentation." I'd be embarrassed to release something like that, but I guess I'm in the minority...

          The second weakness I'm finding out is projects that the original developers have essentially abandoned. You find forums that have recent posts by people asking questions about it but noone with any answers....

        • And when they do try to explain what the software is and does, it is explained in such a way that half of the text consists of abstract jargon and buzzwords. You really need to be in the loop already to even begin to understand what the supposedly helpful explanation is supposed to mean. In my experience, Apache's Jakarta projects are particularly guilty of not being able to explain their components in plain English.
  • by Marcos Eliziario ( 969923 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:38AM (#15730584) Homepage Journal
    Treat your employees well. They will still be around for a long time after they leave your company (unless, of course, your company is the mafia)
  • Slashdotted

    This is what happens to a site when Slashdot links to it on their front page.

    The irony of course is that no one would be able to read it when a Slashdotting occurs...
  • by AngryDill ( 740460 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:47AM (#15730628)
    Larry Ellison has announced a new web site where he evaluates the benefits of PostgresQL and DB2! ;)

    -a.d.-

  • Open Theft (Score:4, Funny)

    by Doomedsnowball ( 921841 ) <doomedsnowballs@yahoo.com> on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:49AM (#15730640)
    In related news, the start of a new project at Microsoft to figure out exactly how much code needs to be changed to patent OSS ideas and inline them into Vista. The lawyers say 80% of the comments need to be altered. The QA testers say 51% more bugs need to be added. And the developers say that you just need to change all the names of the variables, make pointers to everything you can, and cut-n-paste inline assembler code before the linker kicks in.
  • "It's a trap"

    Only kidding, I am sure that a Microsoft employee could turn from the darkside. (I think thats enough starware references for this week)

    Is this any different to any other open source sites out there - is it especially for windows users. (if not, I am not sure of the reference to an ex-microsoft employee)
    • my thought exactly. They are probably plants.
    • by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:08AM (#15730762)
      It's very slow, but I have managed to look at a couple of pages on the site.

      There's a line or so of information about each project (e.g. for Apache Ant it says "Apache Ant is a Java-based build tool", which is not very helpful). And then there's an estimate of the total cost of the project, based on an estimate of the number of man-years that have gone into the code, costed at $55k per man-year.

      WTF is that all about? Are these people perhaps trying to suggest that open-source software is valuable, and that its developers should charge for it?

      • "WTF is that all about? Are these people perhaps trying to suggest that open-source software is valuable, and that its developers should charge for it?"

        Stage 1: Establish tht open source has a cost in real money.

        Stage 2: Get Hired as consultants by microsoft to state this in press releases. .... well, you know the tune
        • "WTF is that all about? Are these people perhaps trying to suggest that open-source software is valuable, and that its developers should charge for it?" Stage 1: Establish tht open source has a cost in real money. Stage 2: Get Hired as consultants by microsoft to state this in press releases. .... well, you know the tune

          I don't think that's what they're going for. I think it's a more good intentioned "this is a rough estimate of what this software is worth if you were to develop it/this is what it cost

          • I have no faith in Lines of Code cost/time estimates.

            Perhaps in a workplace with fixed quota's that might work, but I code at night, or when I'm in the mood, or when I've been for a nice walk, and I seem to be plenty productive enough. I doubt it could be costed easily though.
      • Years of work (Score:4, Interesting)

        by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:48AM (#15730992) Homepage Journal
        That is interesting. But what I'd really like to know is how they determined the time. I've never seen an OSS project which publishes how many hours of work when into writing it. It must be pure speculation. Since they're targeting the OSS illiterate too many people are going to believe these made-up numbers.
        • Looks like they're assuming about 3600-4000 lines of code per man-year, but it varies from one project to another: perhaps they apply a random fudge-factor to disguise the simplicity of their estimating process. It doesn't say whether they are counting blank lines and comments: if so, we'll have to start padding out our code to push its value up.

          Of course, the whole purpose of this will be to point to the "high cost" of free software, when justifying the "lower cost" of Microsoft products.

          The descrip

        • There are plenty of source-lines-of-code value estimators out there. One which I have used out of curiosity was sloccount (http://www.dwheeler.com/sloccount/ [dwheeler.com]), which took various models of code-lines per man-day and extrapolated from there.

    • "It's a trap"
      -- get an axe.
    • "Is this any different to any other open source sites out there - is it especially for windows users. (if not, I am not sure of the reference to an ex-microsoft employee)"

      You'd prefer that info wasn't upfront, to further encourage the Evil Empire and tinfoil cap crowds? And if IS for windows users, ain't it a potentional switch campaign for open source proponents? Jeez.

      Parisans are so tiresome. Angband rulz Nethack!!!!!!!!!
  • by Kuku_monroe ( 753761 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:58AM (#15730693) Homepage
    Gettin' your feet wet' before diving into the large community of open source.
    Step 1:
    All Open source projects have weird name like "Ohloh"
  • Redemption (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:59AM (#15730697) Homepage Journal
    "Scott Collison!" I exclaimed. "But.. you left Microsoft!"

    "Collison?" He appeared pensive. "Yes... That's what they used to call me. Scott Collison. That was my name." He smiled.

    "Scott..?" I asked, confused.

    "I am Collison the White," he proclaimed, with a twinkle in his eye. "And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide."
  • I wonder why ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rowama ( 907743 )
    I'm having a hard time with this. I get the feeling this is a case of "If we (i.e., M$ employees) build it, they will come." Since ohloh has been slashdotted, I cannot tell if this is just a freshmeat knockoff (with a little sourceforge and krugle thrown in).

    The site is intended as a way for first-time OSS users to 'get their feet wet' before diving into the large community of open source projects out there.

    I got as far the frontpage (hehe), and I think newbies will be afraid to stick their feet in much l
    • I got as far the frontpage (hehe), and I think newbies will be afraid to stick their feet in much less dive-in.

      I got a couple of pages into it, but it didn't seem like it had that much useful information on what things are and I looked at a couple of the "bigger" projects.

      I'm sorry, but how does knowing how much time developers spent on the project, the estimated cost of the project and statistics such as the total number of lines of code help a newbie?

      "This project has over 100,000 lines of code. It ha

  • Well, when you leave M$, might as well go do what you want...
  • The folks behind the site even plan to include a lexicon of terms for very new users. Do they mean terms like: security, robustness, community, help, freedom.....?
  • it's a typo (Score:2, Funny)

    by DrSkwid ( 118965 )
    Oh-noh!!
  • Looks like a market targeted version of del.icio.us to me. Which in itself is not a abd thing as the tagging metaphor works quite well for this type of application. It will be interesting to see if this project has any success.
  • SIgn me up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shmert ( 258705 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:37AM (#15730909) Homepage
    I'm most excited about a central place that does code reveiw of open-source projects. That's really a tedious process when you're wading around in sourceforge trying to find a shared lib for your project. Usually you can tell by the level of polish applied to the project's website how organized the code will be, but I'm certain some well-engineered software gets passed over if this is your only criteria for quality. Someone designing an open-source product shouldn't need to design a flashy website to promote it.

    If there were a comprehensive site I could visit that had evaluated (albeit briefly) some of these packages, that could be a big time-saver.
    • Someone designing an open-source product doesn't need a flashy website - all they need is an informative website laid out in a sane fashion. Too often, open-source projects have only a couple of lines of text on their site that doesn't come close to even explaining what the software does.
  • I would have thought these former Microsofties would have named the site "Ohnoh", pronounced with an appropriate amount of dismay.

    --Rob

  • Freshmeat (Score:5, Informative)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:40AM (#15730937) Journal
    It's hard to tell since their server's cactus, but it looks like it's imitating http://freshmeat.net/ [freshmeat.net] (Disclaimer: another part of the nefarious OSTG network). Freshmeat is;
    • "searchable by project name or keyword, results in a list of suggested software."
    • "has a profile, beginning with a brief synopsis of what the software does."
    • "lists the licenses held for the open-source project, as well as a link to the full text of each license."
    • "offers information such as when the project was started, how many developers are actively working on it"
    • "the languages it uses"
    • "links to the project's home page"
    • "a breakdown of current activities"
    • etc
    and has done for donkey's years. These guys have learned MS techniques well...
  • ho | Ho (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:47AM (#15730981) Journal
    Reverse the name to get the true meaning:

    Ohloh -> ho | Ho

    Ex MS employees "helping" FOSS with a project called "ho | HO" (backwards)? Do I need to polish my tinfoil hat, or is that suspicious?
  • Opportunity cost (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wolf87 ( 989346 ) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:02AM (#15731065)
    I think that the most interesting piece of the story has been missed. Ohloh is looking to create a paid service that will assess proprietary software for organizations. Combined with their open-source project DB, I see them building a set of tools that would enable IT managers to assess the relative costs & risks of different solutions far more easily. I would be looking for two developments to make this a reality. First, Ohloh would need to create an estimator of risk for each project based on the available data (a 'risk score'). Second, they would need a way to estimate the cost of customizing existing solutions (open-source & commercial). If they get both of these, they could provide a standardized, risk-adjusted measure of the opportunity cost associated with each development/deployment option. Really hope they are heading this way.
    • ... so um work hard slaves! And don't bitch when I shut you down until you fork over the ran...um royalty!
    • .....and the 'uninteresting' part of the story made the headlines. There are probably 100,000+ ex Microsoft employees. Who seriously gives a shit and what does this have to do with anything?
    • I just hope they aren't doing it for the nefarious purpose of inventing "data" to claim that Free Software is more expensive.

      In fact, it's really too bad: this would be a good thing if it was certain that they'd make a fair and impartial comparison, but the fact that they're ex-Microsoft automatically puts them under enough suspicion to ruin the usefulness of their service.

  • I couldn't find OSS staples of Java development: Tomcat, Hibernate, Rhino, Spring, Xerces, Xalan, JSON, Jakarta Commons, etc. I wonder by what criteria projects were initially included.
    • I couldn't find OSS staples of Java development: Tomcat, Hibernate, Rhino, Spring, Xerces, Xalan, JSON, Jakarta Commons, etc. I wonder by what criteria projects were initially included.
      It's worse than that, they don't even list samba...
  • i can *smell* the evil, but i can't see it yet.
  • Did you noticed how they estimate what it would cost to develop this software if it was propietary?

    Because I don't remember seeing that anywhere else

    • Sorry for the double post but...

      According to them, the Linux kernel [ohloh.net] is cost 78million to develop

      • What kind of QA costs are they assuming? If they're basing their estimates on MS's QA costs, they may be coming in as much as an order of magnitude low! :)

        It doesn't seem to say anything about how they do their estimation. An accurate estimate would have to take into account (among other things) bugs per LOC, a number which is VERY expensive to reduce and hard to measure (especially from the outside).
      • According to them, the Linux kernel is cost 78million to develop

        And according to them, the Linux kernel project started one year ago.

  • CEO: Good news guys, the web devs have completed the search facility and our website will go live next week.
    Lowly Ex-MS Employee: So what domain name have we chosen?
    CEO: Good question, I'll let our CTO answer that one.
    CTO: ahem, well as some of you know, we registered ohloh.org, ohloh.com & ohloh.net through "Proxy" registrars before the final decision was made. In the conference call with Bill we had last week we made our decision.
    Lowly Ex-MS Employee: and?
    CTO: Well the decision was made that "ohloh.or
  • I did a simple search on the site to see how it performed. The results are interesting, but I'm not so sure about the utility of this system.

    Search entry

    First of all, the searches are very simple. I can only enter a topic to search for. I cannot restrict the search by language, environment, license, or platform. Grouping of search terms does not seem to be possible. Searching for project management software returned results for volume and database management as well as project management.

    Sear

  • http://www.ohloh.net/opensource/software/coppermin e [ohloh.net]

    Project Started 2 years ago
    Active Developers 2
    Codebase 189,002 LOC
    Effort (est.) 49 Man Years

    2 x 2 = 49. Hmmm.
  • It's a good thing that stakeholders of MS and open source are finding how they can coexist. In addition to site like Ohloh.net and CodePlex, there are more emerging open source applications for the .NET platform. To avoid IP issues, a BSD license may be preferred by the MS crowd, and is featured in applications such as DotNetNuke [dotnetnuke.com] and ListRing [listring.com]. The idea that it is MS versus open source as a whole is simply not valid as more for-profit organizations get into the mix. It is simply a matter of finding which
  • I think some folks are already doing this, and not just Freshmeat either as some of the previous postings have said. (1) See Alex Boxworth's Swik [swik.net], which is a wiki about Open Source software projects. (2) Also see Business Readiness Rating [openbrr.org] which is a framework for evaluating open source software.

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