Give developers what they want; they’ll get it anyway

Interesting discussion with Red Monk’s Stephen O’Grady

Developers think of a forge as a place to get, develop and share code. Turns out that data on their use of forges is very useful for analyzing development trends and the implications for IT professionals managing development. A study announced yesterday of data aggregated from four popular forges provides some great insights.

If you have any interest in software development and open source, you ought to be following Steve O'Grady, founder of Red Monk and Red Sox fan. It is impressive how he and his organization keep a finger on the pulse of the community. I was reminded of this viewing the webinar in which talked through his analysis and gave real world context to fascinating data extracted from Ohloh (the free open source directory and social networking site owned by Black Duck, my employer).

The webinar overall focused on trends in languages and forges. One big takeaway was that the world of software is becoming much more heterogeneous with respect to languages. This has been a hypothesis RedMonk has been exploring for some time and was confirmed by the data that O'Grady cites. Another confirmed hypothesis was the rise of GitHub, also born out by the data. Very interesting was the next layer down, where O'Grady found that for static languages, Sourceforge continues to be the more active site, but for more modern, dynamic languages (the P-languages, Ruby,  Javascript) Git Hub really dominates.

It's worth getting all the details of the analysis by viewing the recorded webinar. To me some of the more interesting parts were big picture observations about the implications of the trends. There was a great paraphrased recent quote from VMWare CEO, Paul Maritz, "Give developers what they want; if you don't they'll get it anyway." This reinforces a megatrend observed by RedMonk of developers becoming more influential and powerful in software organizations. In this context the shifts to heterogeneity and to GitHub are direct results of developers getting what they want: flexibility, the best tool for the job, and the type of collaborative, parallel development supported by Git. Steve also supplied an interesting aside about forges becoming as important as resumes for employers; you can now verify what a developer says he can do by checking out what he's done for open source projects.

The study was based around commit activity. It looked at in excess two million commits over the last five months on four different forges and sliced and diced the data several ways by forge and language. It was great to see all the data pulled together in one place and even greater to get O'Grady's expert commentary on it.

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