Deprecating Ohloh’s License Discovery Feature

Summary: We’re simplifying how Ohloh displays project licenses, consistent with how most FOSS projects talk about licensing. We’re keeping and emphasizing declared licenses, found on the Project Summary and editable on the edit summary page. We’re removing discovered licenses (see example). Please check your projects’ declared licenses to make sure they’re correct!

When Black Duck acquired Ohloh back in 2010, the site included many features that hadn’t stood the test of time well.  For example, the “journals” feature wasn’t used much with the advent of social media, and so we removed it.  The discovered license data in Ohloh’s project analysis is generated with a simple regex.  This approach has several problems.  First off, the analysis is simplistic.  Beyond the count of files with regex hits, Ohloh provides no additional detail, and you can’t see which files are marked with which license. Second, it isn’t clear how someone should interpret and respond to this information.  And third, there are quite a few projects where the results may be confusing, or even worse make users or committers nervous about these projects without reason.  Still, it is a long-standing feature of the site so we’ve been hesitant to just deprecate it. We’ve given it some more thought and we have to ask, does it even make sense to have this?

Our principal goal with Ohloh is to provide accurate, up-to-date information on FOSS projects, and we feel that this feature doesn’t meet that standard.  Black Duck is the industry leader in delivering valuable information about FOSS, and we feel that it isn’t appropriate for Ohloh to provide misleading or incomplete data about project licenses.  If we re-implement this feature sometime in the future, Ohloh will present discovered license data that you can confidently rely on.

About Rich Sands

I'm the Principal and Founder of RSands Consulting, a developer/FOSS strategy, product management, and marketing consultancy. Formerly Ohloh's PM, Black Duck is now a client of mine.
  • Maybe current aproach is not very accurate, but for small projects, especially when a project is inactive for a few years, it could be only relatively reliable information source. In my oppinion, having some even incomplete information is better than not having it at all.

  • richsands

    @Andrey – good point about Ohloh being possibly the only good info source. We’re just not keen on Ohloh’s existing license discovery being that source! Lets say you want to use code from a small, inactive project. If you dive into its repository and check it out, and find a copying or license file that shows that the project is BSD licensed, you can just pop into that project’s settings and add the BSD license as a declared license. Takes just seconds, and done! Your human eyes are going to be way more reliable than our existing discovery capability. We’d LOVE for you and everyone else using projects without a declared license on Ohloh to feel free to add that metadata and help out everyone coming along after you. Ohloh is, after all, mostly a wiki and editable/improvable by the whole FOSS community. Same applies to anything else you see that you can improve – tags, for instance.

  • Hanno Schlichting

    +1 on removing the auto-discovery.

    One way to retain some data, would be to add the detected data as manual entries to projects. You could do that once, only for projects which have no manual entry and only for licenses that are detected for more than 50% of the projects files (or some other threshold like the top one or two licenses).

  • Arnaud Dovi

    Very handy, Long life to Ohloh !

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