How SOS Open Source Evolved in its First Year

5 May 2011

SOS Open Source few days ago completed its first year of life, a good time to look back and and see where we have been and to recognize methods and technologies that have helped us on our journey.

SOS Open Source started back in 2009 as a solution to a customer problem: how to find, evaluate and compare open source projects. Having been looking for years at open source assessment methodologies, our first step was to grab the best from all the existing ones, possibly avoiding common mistakes and pitfalls.
Initially we spent time and effort to try to overcome well known open issues:

  1. how to identify a shortlist of candidates;
  2. fill the gap of the lack of an objective way to measure metrics;
  3. create a quick semi-automated methodology.

The Business Readiness Rating evaluation framework was the only one that realized the importance of the first issue, while not providing any practical help, though. Taking advantage of the existence of so many forges, meta-forges and directories, we have been able to create a meta-crawler that blends search engine results with local queries results (SOS Open Source stores locally information about hundreds of thousands projects).  Transforming the problem of over abundance of data into an opportunity, we eventually make easier to create a list of candidates going beyond the ‘usual suspects’.

We strive to be an objective source of information, that’s why our reports are pointing to external and public resources, so that everyone by following the provided links can easily figure out by herself the authenticity of information. Among many public sources of information we wish to public thank Ohloh – making its data available through REST-based APIs – and FLOSSmole and its amazing database, containing data from over 500.000 projects. Other public sources of information include Melquiades and Nemo (of the Sonar fame), and projects’ SCMs, forums, mailing-lists and bug-tracking systems (note that some forges like CodeHaus – using JIRA – or Github and its network graph analyzer, makes a lot easier to measure some metrics, while ‘esoteric’ tools like code_swarm can make it fun!). We used also many other open source tools to analyze projects uncovered by those public sources, and we built a web 2.0 application (Drupal+jquery) to put all our work in.

SOS Open Source metrics have been carefully chosen to encompass common-sense practices, and customers once trained easily assess a project in less than half an hour. SOS Open Source has been designed to be a fast way to identify a very limited set of viable candidates, and its findings serves ad a basis for all further analysis.

The road behind us, the road ahead.
Everything started back in 2009, developing an ad hoc project to solve a customer’s problem, something that was turned into a service in 2010, when we eventually open the website. From 2009 to 2010 revenues grew by 63%, while 7 new customers signed within the first two quarters of 2011 and a reasonable estimate of revenues’ growth is around +150% this year.

Help our customers to choose tools and yet to economically implement them will be our primary focus this year. And yes, we’ll keep making available more white-papers and excerpts of reports!