Yesterday I attended a workshop run by OSS-Watch on building communities. For us as a young open source project it was really useful to get the opinions of the community that we work within but never really think of as a community!
One area that was covered, within the break-out group I was in, was the fact that Sourceforge is seen as a grave yard for projects. This was felt to be especially true for some of the JISC funded projects. These projects are perceived to be added to Sourceforge at the end of the funding and left. As there has been no community built up around the project then this will always happen. However, I feel that there are attitudes that need to be changed rather than policy.
Yesterday, I heard the usual statements of if we release our software early then if it is bad or doesn’t work people will not come back. There was also comments about code belonging to developers. From what I understand of the open source process and community there has been a lot of work done in these areas. It is not just OSS-Watch who have been writing and promoting this concept, Google searches are full of people talking about the concept, and now even mathematicians are getting in on the act. I feel that I sit in the ‘bazaar’ rather than ‘cathedral’ camp even if we are yet to make our first release. So for me this is the first attitude that needs to be altered.
As for code belonging this is an odd concept. For me as an employee, I do not own anything that I do at work. I signed my contract and read the small print. Academic is no different from Industry for this. Due to this I really do not see why some developers become so attached to their code. This though seems to be a common problem for all open source development. I can find examples of large communities (e.g. Eclipse) writing about getting committers to let-go. There seems to be a lack of research in this area, but this could be related to control being an accepted area of development.
With all this, is it no wonder that some of the projects on Sourceforge are no longer really alive and vibrant. It may be that attitudes need to be changed in how they view and see Sourceforge. This then brings us to another idea/ concept that was raised yesterday, do we need another ‘forge’ area for JISC projects. My feeling is that there is no need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ as there is a danger that anything new or similar will end up as a grave yard for JISC projects. This leaves one route to go down, which is to change attitudes. Whether this is the best course of action only time will tell, if this route is take.