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Why Sourceforge lost its mojo

By getting full information on initial downloaders, commercial open source developers learn who might contribute code, who might buy a license and who is just poking around.

sourceforge ball
Almost since taking this beat I have wondered why Sourceforge is losing ground with commercial open source players.

Most now run their own forge sites, rather than using Sourceforge. Some have .org extensions, others use the word forge in their domain names. Some do both.

A Clue arrived yesterday during my interview with Appcelerator, an Atlanta start-up which is distributing its code only at its own site, at Rubyforge and at PythonEggs.

Jeff Haynie, CEO of Appcelerator
It has to do with tracking downloads, said CEO Jeff Haynie (right). "It’s important for us to understand how to understand the community. It’s hard to get that on Sourceforge."

By getting full information on initial downloaders, commercial open source developers learn who might contribute code, who might buy a license and who is just poking around.

This lets them fine-tune their strategies, initiate sales calls, and create alliances quickly.

In the case of Appcelerator, Haynie said, the company already had its first contributions, and had coders working on a perl port, before announcing the product.

Appcelerator also held its first "boot camp" for developers at its offices last weekend.

"Next year it’s about feeding the community," he added. "We’re still evaluating distribution. We’ll branch out when we see where people want us to be."

Information is a key open source asset. It's an important lesson for Sourceforge as it seeks to get its groove back.