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Big news about the big duck in the open source pond

Black Duck buys Ohloh.net

By Phil Odence on Tue, 10/05/10 - 6:53am.

Today Black Duck announced the acquisition of Ohloh.net from Geeknet.  Here's some of the inside scoop about our impressions of Ohloh and why this is all a good thing for the community and Black Duck.

If you are not familiar with Ohloh, it is "a free public directory of open source software and people." It boasts an active community of 110,000 developers and consumers of open source (or "people" as they call them). That is combined with a searchable database of open source projects with useful information about each. And that's all free.

Everyone's first question is about the name. It was actually our last question. On the day of the close, Scott Collison, one of the founders of Ohloh and an executive at Geeknet, told us that the name was inspired by the Hawaiian word Olo, a really long surfboard used by warriors of the highest rank. Holding developers in very high esteem and desiring to help them surf the open source wave, we have embraced the brand (as evidenced by the Hawaiian shirts we are all sporting today). Just to head off speculation: No, that is not Richard Stallman in the picture.

Black Duck's aspirations for Ohloh are very aligned with those of the founders. We want it to be the destination site for all things open source. If Facebook and IMDB (the comprehensive Hollywood database) had a child and raised it on Java manuals and Consumer Reports...that would be our vision for Ohloh.

You'll find elements of this big idea in other places too. Most forges make available pretty good data on their various projects. Apache.org provides a "committer index" with mini-profiles. But with hundreds of thousands of projects spread across thousands of sites, developers won't be constrained, so we think Ohloh has had the right idea staying neutral and expressly not being a forge, while positioning itself as the one place that pulls it all together.

The open source community has come to suffer an embarrassment of riches and it's only getting--I hate to say "worse"--more pronounced. These days it's not a matter of finding a component that does what you want, the challenge is narrowing down to the best choice among too many, optimizing along multiple dimensions such as function, quality, support, licensing, etc. Between Black Duck and Ohloh, we have an amazing baseline of data, but the only way to keep up is to rely on the community, and Ohloh comes with that solid critical mass of community from which to build.

Ohloh is free. Free like waves of beer. So what's in it for Black Duck? One, it's the right thing to do; and two, it helps our business in the long run. Think of it like the US government aiding people in third world nations: As those countries develop, they turn into great trading partners. We get paid for helping Enterprises manage their use of open source at scale. Ohloh makes it easy for individual developers to use open source, ergo more open source to manage.  Ohloha!