Archive for April, 2009

Working at SourceForge

I’ve been at SourceForge for a couple of months now, it’s been great, the work is surprisingly fun and rewarding. There’s a local office, and so I actually get to g and hang out with smart people whenever I want. I can still work from home, but having someplace to go in to has been a refreshing change.

I haven’t gotten to know many people outside the engineering team in Dexter, but they are great guys.

There’s lots of good stuff happening here, support for bazar, mercurial, git, trac, and other options on SourceForge itself, improved feeds, and other API’s for getting at SF data, etc. But I’m only peripherally aware of all that at the moment because I was hired to work on “totally new stuff” which is written in Python.

What I’m working on

Our first new project is a site called FossFor.Us, and it was the vision for this site, and the team that is working on this and other new stuff, that sold me on the coming to work for Sourceforge. It’s written in Django, and it’s been my first really large Django project, and while the experience has been pretty positive, there have been a number of things that have renewed my commitment to TurboGears development — but that’s a blog post for another day.

The backstory to the FossFor.Us site is that open source project hosting providers (Sourceforge and it’s recent competitors) have traditionally been pulled in two very different directions by two very different sets of users:

  • developers of open source software
  • and people who just want to.

And that tension has held us back in the past, we have to serve everybody with the same portal, and it ends up not serving either community as well as it should. But since developers are the most vocal users, it’s been the second class of user that’s been most neglected.


These people are just looking to get things done, and don’t care about the “project” part of open source software, they are, at least at first, only interested in the “product.” In many ways the Free and Open Source Software community has not served these people well. is in it’s first incarnation an attempt to create a window on the free software world, that’s just about finding and using software. But in a larger sense it’s an attempt to help us as a community to connect with potential users better.

I think connecting FOSS geeks and users is actually important

It’s important because people aren’t aware that there are free options, and are paying for software they can’t afford. There’s a prototypical user (based on a real person) that we talk about a lot, who’s a single mom, has an old laptop, and struggles week to week to pay her bills, but who bought Photoshop, because “that’s how you edit photos.” Her family could have used that money to more productive ends, but because she needed to edit photos, and didn’t know about the free alternatives all those opportunities are just lost.

Of course the same thing is true of small business owners, who could use free software to reduce their “overhead” costs, and actually spend money on creating things people love. Free software has the potential to lubricate the wheels of the economy, encourage entrepreneurial activity, and enrich people’s lives.

All of this is to say I think is a way to serve the world by making the product of all the open source developer’s labor more easily available and more accessible to real people. And when my mom actually used it to find some software a couple weeks ago, I knew we’d done something right.