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Behind the scenes on SourceForge's acquisition of Ohloh

SourceForge has been on a roll lately, improving services and now acquiring Ohloh, which promises to make the company more relevant to software developers their employers.

SourceForge on Thursday announced its acquisition of Ohloh, operator of, an open-source data and community service. While the acquisition makes sense--Ars Technica dubs the move "the latest in a string of very smart moves that are rapidly turning SourceForge into the collaboration powerhouse that it originally aspired to become"--I wanted to know more about the "how" of the deal.

When did the deal take shape, and how did it come about?

To get answers, I asked Jon Sobel, group president of media at SourceForge, to provide some details.

Q: How and when did this deal first begin to take shape?
Sobel: The companies first began to explore combining about a year ago. We took our time, and got to know each other well. Specific deal terms took shape about one to two months ago.

This is the first acquisition for SourceForge in a while. Was there a particular pain that prompted the deal?
Sobel: No. As we've been steadily building out our platform and thinking through how to most effectively serve our key constituents---developers, consumers, and advertisers---we've felt effective collection and analysis of data is important. We began working collaboratively with Ohloh several months ago, and doing some work together for shared clients. We worked well together, got good feedback from clients and potential clients, and felt this would be a good time for both companies to do this acquisition.

Fair enough. Tell me more about how you are planning to use Ohloh's data to create better targeted advertising.
Sobel: Ohloh's recommendation-based insights will help us better identify, target, and validate marketing efforts with a data-driven approach. Marketers are responding well to this idea in early discussions with them.

Ohloh tracks informations from 3,500 code libraries on developers, users, projects, commits, and lines of code, and is also developing metrics around social activity on developer forums and on Facebook and Twitter. These metrics span a variety of dimensions, such as timme, verticals, open-source licenses, technology and API's, programming languages, IDE's, geography, and operating-system platforms.

With this data, we will suggest to marketers which projects or environments within SourceForge are likely to best match their goals and be most effective in helping them; we will target their marketing accordingly; and over time we will measure changes (both on our forge and on other forges) in the adoption and use of the products and services being marketed.

We do some targeting already, but this takes it to another level. We also hope to offer Ohloh-generated insights about our hosted projects and others' to both our audience and to our clients. SourceForge has historically surfaced only a small fraction of all the data generated on our forge. Ohloh will help us include additional data, and better analyze and show the data we already have.

What changes can SourceForge users expect to see in the future as a result of the acquisition?
Sobel: More data about projects from other forges, more data on our sites, and maybe even a little bit more of Ohloh's AJAXy style. In time, Ohloh may also help us provide links to and services (such as recommendations and reviews) for projects on other forges.

How does this fit into some of your other recent moves like your Hosted Apps and new software configuration management (SCM) support? What can we expect next?
Sobel: This is all consistent with Hosted Apps and our additional SCM offerings. All are part of our parallel efforts to:

  1. Help "creators" by building out our forge's functionality as a modern developer workbench with a more robust data platform.
  2. Improve our experience for consumers, again through better use of data and more modern consumer functionality, such as recommendations.
  3. Serve both audiences by collecting and making available data and insights about projects from other forges.

We're working hard to launch an improved version of our consumer experience within the next two months.

(end of interview)

SourceForge, apparently tired of being taken for granted and watching open-source projects move to Google Code and other repositories, has been active lately on a range of fronts. The Ohloh acquisition is just one more example of a company making some bold moves to reinvent itself.

This bodes well for SourceForge and, in turn, augers well for open source.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.