A blog for the enterprise open source community
Ohloh opens code, and privacy debateJay Lyman, January 24, 2008 @ 12:58 pm ET
Open source development and network site Ohloh has open sourced code for its site and service, which tracks open source developers, their projects and contributions. The company is starting what it says will be the opening of all of its code with Ohcount, its source code line counter now available under the GPLv2.
Ohloh is among a new crop of open source software repositories and developer communities offering data and developer information. It has also evoked privacy concerns and even condemnation from some developers wary of Ohloh’s presentation of information on them and their open source development.
The concern is not hard to understand. Some individuals and projects may be concerned with the way they are represented on Ohloh, particularly if they are not actively involved with Ohloh. Some even indicated that they assumed a false name when contributing to open source, and this was recommended as a way to keep personal information from becoming public. The objection to tracking of contributions and comparison to other developers was challenged, however, as being antithetical to free and open source software development, which prizes transparency and openness. Indeed, whether using a pseudonym or real name, it is naturally difficult to maintain anonymity when you are working in a meritocracy.
Ohloh CEO Scott Collison responded in the discussion, arguing that transparency is a strength of FOSS and adding that Ohloh’s information is all publicily available and published freely on the Internet. Collison says if an individual does not want to reveal activities on the Internet, then they should not attach personal information, such as name, to contributions.
The debate itself is a good one, and shows how such issues can get aired in truly open fashion. Ohloh’s spirit of cross-project communication and collaboration, and now code to open its own site and development, should bolster the company’s image and standing among open source software developers. It also gives developers who want more say in the company’s direction a chance to take action.
Still, the larger question of open source software developers and their privacy amid all of that open, transparent, collaborative work remains open as well. What do you think?
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