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October 19, 2006

I call BS on ohloh

It's a very cool site, and has lots of great information.  I also think it does an effective job of cutting through the hype and showing what's really being actively developed, how many people are working on an open source project, etc.  In fact, the headline for today is "PHP eats Rails for Breakfast", showing that while Rails might be the sexy new bling for developers to sport, 1 out of every 5 lines of open source being written is PHP.

Now for the BS part.  The site estimates how much it would have cost to hire a team and write the same thing from scratch.  Scott Hanselman (from whom I learned about ohloh) points to dasBlog, which ohloh claims is currently the equivalent of a 15 man-year effort.  While this project has been developed by superstars like Scott Hanselman, Clemens Vasters, and Chris Anderson, and I have no doubt that they are more productive than the average developer, there's no way that anything close to 15 man-years have been spent on this, so take the Project Cost estimate with a nice chunk of salt.  In fact, that makes me wonder, what would ohloh calculate as the total value of all the open-source which it has analyzed?

Posted on October 19, 2006 at 10:52 AM | Permalink


Hi Scott,

Thanks for checking us out. I totally agree that the codebase cost calculator can be pretty wacky sometimes.

Our calculator currently uses the basic COCOMO model, which is an old and reasonably established software management tool. It is mostly based on lines of source code with some fudge-factors built in. This means it can be easily thrown off if someone happens to copy/paste huge amounts of code or if the repository contains lots of duplicated code.

The COCOMO model was based on a corporate scenario and attempts to include the cost of hiring the designers, spec-writers and QA personnel required to ship the software. While I can't speak for dasBlog specifically, in many cases projects are worth much more than just the coding time. In the open source world it's often the involved users who are under-appreciated - often contributing much value through suggestions and problem-solving.

In Ohloh's defense I argue that it's better than nothing and often helps lay-people understand the magnitude of various projects, for example, people who otherwise wouldn't grok how substantial 100k lines of source code really is.

I welcome you or anyone else to contact us if you'd like to help us out with ideas on how to improve our service. Thanks,


Posted by: Jason Allen | Oct 19, 2006 4:26:30 PM

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